Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Trumpettes: Even a small snake has a tooth

Politicizing anthropology.

What do anthropologists talk about when they talk about Africa?  “The relationships between the colonial/apartheid and the post-colonial/post-apartheid,” is on the docket at the African Critical Inquiry Programme.  This is the echo in that empty auditorium.  Africa like the rest of the world still has a great deal to teach us about what is fundamentally human and what varies from group to group.  But “postcolonial” theorizing is what we get after the serious questions go to bed.  It is post-anthropology.  And it is part of the fog, along with the proposed Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions, the Declaration on Anthropology and Human Rights, and the skirmishes between neo-decolonialists, postmodern ontologists. Anthropology today is dominated by hatred of science and civilization.  

when political correctness takes over and lets you deny truth or morality exists, but you hate the evil Jews.

in a time when understanding is needed, where do you find what you need to know if the "experts" have an agenda? Pure data is worse than useless: without putting the beliefs into perspective, you end up with nonsense.

Reminds me of the "poisonwood bible": Although Atwood lived in Africa, she based her novel on the marxist interpretation of evil Westerners in Africa, not her own observations from real life...you will get no insight into Africans in this "award winning novel", but since her protangonists are not real people but one dimensional straw men invented to bash missionaries, it is considered a "great" novel (DUH).

Uh, missionaries (including docs like myself) who work in multicultural situations have to cope with reality, including the dirty little secret that you can't rely on books to instruct you.

When I worked in Africa, my guide to tribal customs was written by a local doctor, not an anthropologist. Later I came across a PhD thesis written by one of our sisters, which described what both I and the first writer pretty well had covered: how people act. In the second book, part was an observation on the change in how people related to each other as they became educated and urbanized. Lots of nice details.

What was lacking in both these books: How people think. Compare and contrast with Ruth Benedict's book on Japanese culture, written to instruct the US why these strange people acted the way they did.

When I worked with the Navajo, I asked what book I should read to understand my patients, and they said a lot of the anthropology stuff was distorted because people lied about private things, and you learned about quaint customs but not about people per se.

But then one rcommended the books by Tony Hillerman (a white Okie who grew up and went to school with the Potowanamie). And you know, they were right: Because part of the plots include a contrast in worldviews.

In Africa, it was a spirit filled world where people saw each other in a context of hierarchy, and often defined themselves by family. Often they coped by being "passive aggressive". This leads to peace but the flip side is witchcraft/voodoo...the powerful using rituals to get more power, but the powerless reminding their enemies that "even a small snake has a tooth".

If  person was sick, or a deformed baby was born, they did not search for germs/dirty water/chemicals in the environment. They went to the n'anga to find out who "bewitched" them, or if the sickness was sent to punish them for their sins. A good N'anga would point fingers and hold a ceremony. A bad one would point fingers to an enemy. (and if you think this is superstition: well, look at the hysteria against Vaccines that save millions of lives, and and finding a scapegoat, but not see there might be a problem because of drug use or chemicals in the environment).

An Anthropologist being non judgemental might be able to explain why people do such and such, but do they use these examples to destroy western ideas of right and wrong, as did Margaret Mead, because they had an agenda, or worse, will they make straw men to push the agenda instead of anthropology?

Anthropologists circa 1980 seemed to come equipped with an internal alarm that went off any time someone generalized about humanity. If you said, “But all parents love their children,” an anthropologist of the era would be sure to say something like, “Not so! Among the Mundugamor of the Sepik River in New Guinea, parents consider their children a vile nuisance.” Generalizing about humanity based on the ideals of your own culture was “ethnocentrism,” of which there was no more terrible thing. To be ethnocentric was to be intellectually shallow and uninformed about the sheer variety of ways humans can go about being human.
But then anthropology touched its relativistic bottom. In the 1980s it collectively decided that anthropology itself was ethnocentric.  The things anthropologists studied such as marriage, family, and kinship were deemed no more than projections of the anthropologist’s own culture. This was in many ways absurd, but it caught on and many anthropologists decided their only option was start staring into the mirror. They wrote subjective stories about how they felt when confronted with “the other.” They studied their own communities. And increasingly they embraced ideologies that turned them into “post-colonial” activists, environmental activists, feminist activists, and so on.  The discipline of anthropology un-disciplined itself in favor of political action.

Hence the Poisonwood bible, which has little or nothing to do with Africa or missionaries, but is hailed and pushed because it promotes a PC political statement

It is PC to insist we should not change cultures.

This last part is why naive westerners think "missionaries" shouldn't "convert" Africans. Uh, most Africans don't need outsiders to teach them morality: Their culture is already very moral, and now they are  coming to the decadent west to convert you.

Well, you know, when you go to convert (either to a religion, or to instruct people on how to avoid disease), you don't tell everyone what they believe is wrong and evil, You actually present Christianity (or healthy living) within their culture, as Gregory the Great instructed Augustine of Canterbury when he went to convert the heathen Anglo Saxons. Or as one expert on Anglo Saxon culture explained:

 'How is a man to judge what to do in such times?'
As he has ever judged,' said Aragorn. 'Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

So what you get when you bring Christianity into a tribal Asian culture is the Philippines: Customs similar to our Indonesian (Muslim) and Chinese (confucian) and VietNamese (Buddhist) neighbors, but interpreted as being Christian.

But cultures change, and when people leave their villages, culture no matter is there to stop selfishness from being the rule.

You need a new vocabulary to teach right and wrong. 

Hence, the Evangelicals convert "heathen" Catholics here in the Philippines, into the virtues that will enable them to survive in the slums and become stable middle class workers. ... Think Wesley. Essentially, they make them into mini me Bible belt "christians". 

Is this good or bad? Anthropologists would say it's a no brainer: They are bad.

Ah, but if you are running a business, this is good (they won't steal).

But they are less generous to their extended family, more judgemental against gays and women who become sex workers to support their families, and of course, less fun at parties. (see Fukuyama's book Trust, on the intersection of modernity and evantlical Christianity is changing South America: how their trust turns from family or village compadres to those in the same institution, eg church).

So which is better? Pope Francis wanting socialism and condeming capitalism, lamenting poverty contrasting with the rich in modern societies, but ignore that his solution is letting all those happy generous natives thrive in their primitive culture with disease and malnutrition and disaster when the rains don't come?

Or do you change the culture, to make people work hard and be honest and letting them move to the city where they don't have to work so hard, and can become middle class, with all the middle class evils of owning "stuff", eating meat, and getting fat?

The dirty little secret is that the secret of getting rich is by being converted to western values (or in the case of SE Asia, where most of the businesses are run by the Chinese diaspora, Confucian values?)

One of the anti Western biases of political correctness ignores the culture part of this.

Do you think good and evil exists, and is written on the heart? Do you believe in absolute truth, or does a tiny exception make any generalization wrong? Do you believe making money means selfishness and stealing from others e.g. bad, or do you see it as a way to serve God by hiring people and making the entire community prosperous? (Jean Val Jean call your office).

Or do you bow to the gods of Political correctness and get published? again from Wood's article:

 Not so many years ago, anthropologists were in a kind of arms race to see who could carry cultural relativism to the greatest extreme. Everyone knows roughly what cultural relativism is. If we can look at the world through X’s eyes, we can understand why X does what he does. If you just looked at the world through the cannibal’s eyes, you could see cannibalism was a sensible cultural choice.
What isn't noted: why this was done. Was it done out of hunber? Or as a ritual? Or to corrupt people to commit evil?

and did locals think it was good, or evil?

Such subtlety is missed by those experts who have a narrow agenda or grew up in a monoculture of relativism.

I cringe when I hear "Whiteness" or "white privelege". Please define. "no Irish need apply"? My kids were "white" because they didn't have a proper Hispanic name. (alberto Fujimora, Bernardo O'Higgens call your office).

The firing of a white US Professor for threatening violence to a student journalist covering "black" protests is becoming the poster child for this absurdity.

Most of those writing on the kerfuffle don't notice: she was threatening an Asian-American student. Tim Tai and photographed doing so by a guy with a middle European name.


Video of a confrontation by Schierbecker on Monday showed allies of the Concerned Student 1950 movement berating another student-journalist, Tim Tai, who was trying to photograph a campsite that protesters had established on the university's quad. At the end of the video, Schierbecker approaches Click, who calls for "muscle" to remove him from the protest area. She then appears to grab at Schierbecker's camera.
White privlege? Asian Privlege? Ethnic Privlege?

Racism exists, but when you and your family are harmed by polices that sends your job to China, your neighborhood to immigrants getting more welfare then you get by working hard, you lose your scholarship to college when it is decided you are not in a politically correct minority, and your kids in schools are threatend by thugs, maybe you get mad.

"Even a small snake has a tooth."

This is why political correctness was the reason the elite media in the US missed Trump's minions: ordinary people were loathed and when they tried to articulate their worries, they were dismissed as racists. And as Trump's triumph in the North East shows, he will attract a lot of working class ethnics aka Reagan Democrats.

Hopefully, the Trumpettes will be now noticed, even if he loses, and there will be peace, not civil war. That is the reason for the long American electoral cycle: Airing out grievences.

America goes nuts every four years in order to defuse tensions that otherwise could cause a civil war.

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