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Damn your culture

24 July 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in mind control, philosophy | 5 Comments »

What is culture?

The American Heritage Dictionary has it this way:

1.

a. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.
b. These patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty.
c. These patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture.
d. The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.

I concern myself here not with definition 2. but with definition 1.

Several years ago I found myself arriving at my own definition of culture:

Culture is the excuse we make for our social behavior when we don’t know or don’t understand the reasons for it.

Stefan Molyneux remarks on culture in reference to the first definition, not the second:

All culture that is not based on th[e] simple observable facts of reality is just scar tissue that grows over being lied to as children.

And what is multiculturalism? The American Heritage Dictionary again:

[…] a social or educational theory that encourages interest in many cultures within a society rather than in only a mainstream culture.

I take issue with the use of the word “interest” here. The people most vocally touting multiculturalism do not advocate interest, they advocate acceptance.

And they are not advocating just the acceptance of all those items of culture under the second definition above which are monuments to civilization and true prizes of human achievement. They’re going for the whole ball of wax. In part, the multiculturalists are absolutely right. The world would be worse off were it not for Malaysian cuisine or Peruvian music or Egyptian hieroglyphics or the ǃKung language or some of American cinema, French philosophy, Russian science and Italian opera. These things are rightly celebrated.

At the same time, there is much from that first definition of culture which should be praised, if it is actualized: a culture of liberty, a culture of compassion, a culture of justice, a culture of love, a culture of truth. Even under the cynical definitions that I and Molyneux offer, and even if people don’t always act in full knowledge of what they are doing or why, so long as they uphold these values we can join with the multiculturalists in exalting culture.

What’s wrong with multiculturalism as a guiding philosophy is that there is much in what we call “culture” which is loathsome, which should be shunned, and which should be condemned. We are told to respect, tolerate and accept other cultures. It’s a pity that human language is such an imprecise instrument. Were accepting “culture” to mean respect for those good and valuable things I mentioned above and others while rejecting racism and nationalism and statism and religion and child abuse and fraud and rape and more, I would gladly join the multiculturalists in paeans to “culture”.

But the “culture” spoken of is a collective noun. If we are to accept and respect the good while rejecting the evil, then “culture” must be strapped down to the operating table, anesthetized and vivisected, the poisons and the cancers and the infections removed, and its body then patched back together again as best it can be.

This post was originally going to be a sort of laundry-list jeremiad. Having said enough above, but still loving the value of inflammatory polemic, I will abbreviate.

DAMN YOUR CULTURE

Damn your culture when it teaches children: “Follow me always, and believe my untruth.”

Damn your culture when it hears of a woman brutally raped and says: “She probably had it coming.”

Damn your culture when it places psychopathic gods above human reality.

Damn your culture when it admits “necessary evil” as a course of action.

Damn your culture when it tours ancient temples and palaces, never thinking of the lives enslaved to produce them.

Damn your culture when it says “The majority rules.”

Damn your culture when it wraps murderers in flags and decorates them with medals.

Damn your culture when it cuts off a girl’s clitoris to make her an acceptable mate.

Damn your culture when it tells a child that obedience is more important than truth.

Damn your culture when it produces art celebrating the tyranny of the sword and of the mind.

Damn your culture when it worships greed.

Damn your culture when it puts women “in their place”, “in the kitchen” or behind veils.

Damn your culture when it crushes human individuality and manipulates it as abstract aggregates.

Damn your culture when it sings the praises of collectivism.

Damn your culture when it says: “For me but not for thee.”

Damn your culture when it accepts crime as justice.

Damn your culture when it extols ignorance and brutality.

Damn your culture when it determines that a man harming himself is better off in prison or the grave.

Damn your culture when it nods approvingly at the greatest immorality so long as the actor wears the right uniform.

Damn your culture when it says to accept the culture before accepting the person.

Damn your culture when, asked “why?”, responds: “We’ve always done it that way.”

Damn your culture when it makes a mockery of morality.

Damn your culture when it transmits these things to children.

Damn your culture when it allows all this to happen without screaming.

Damn your culture.

Further damnation is welcome in the comments.

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  1. 5 Responses to “Damn your culture”

  2. By andar909 on 11 August 2008

    hi, andar here, i just read your post. i like very much. agree to you, sir.

  3. By lynx on 1 October 2008

    you had me right up to “Damn your culture when it sings the praises of collectivism.”

    if by “collectivism” you mean the recognition of the fact that no human being can own the earth – or any part of it – because none of us created it and that the common heritage of humanity (as kropotkin put it) belongs to all of humanity, then damn you for rejecting collectivism.

    and if you’re using “collectivism” as a catch-all term for authoritarianism then damn you for your sloppy and misleading definitions.

    we are social beings, just as the group (collective) is nothing without individual self-actualization, individuals are incapable of self-actualizing in isolation. Collectivism and individualism are not opposed, they are two halves of the same process.

    otherwise, I’m with you.

  4. By Mike Gogulski on 1 October 2008

    Lynx,

    Without agreeing with Kropotkin or admitting the communal-property ideal, I do recognize that society is necessary as you describe.

    What I hold to be collectivism is a moral outlook which subordinates the individual to the group. I hold the liberty of the individual as the greater value.

  5. By BroadSnark on 10 May 2010

    I’m quite sick of people using “culture” to justify hatred, prejudice, and insularity. Although it is usually the people who loathe the idea of multiculturalism who I tend to have the most problems with. That said, I do see your point. There is a certain moral relativism that some people embrace along with their multiculturalism. But many of those people also embrace a universal human rights framework that limits the moral relativism to some extent.

  6. By Mike Gogulski on 10 May 2010

    @Mel: You’re right, and I could have phrased things better to point out that distinction. It’s the relativism that’s the problem… well, besides the pure evil which lurks at the heart of some/most of the damnable cultural artifacts I mentioned.

    Thanks for stopping by!


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