A Right-Winger Recants
Today I come before the public to bare my soul, confess the evil I have done, and make a clean breast. I will state my crimes as plainly as a drunkard at a recovery meeting, who says, “I am an alcoholic.” In honesty only is there surcease.
My mea culpa: I have, for all my long life, thought some cultures superior to others. I was wrong, deeply wrong, perhaps unforgivably so. Cultures are all equal, as our great and reliable media, notably NPR and the New York Times, have told me.Cultures are just different, not better or worse. How can I have doubted it?
The blame for my rests entirely with me. I will no longer attribute my error to those false gods of the Radical Right: observation, common sense, morality, and an inability to escape the obvious.
For example, I find from Reuters:
“BENI Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – A crowd stoned to death a young man in northeast Congo on Friday before burning and eating his corpse, witnesses said, in apparent revenge for a series of attacks by Ugandan rebels.”
Here we have (I now see) a case not of grotesque animalism, as I once would have said, but of cultural versatility. Moslems eat beef but not pork, Hindus eat pork but not beef, but Africans eat both, and each other. They are simply freer spirits, not constrained by dour Eurocentric conventionality. This dietary quirk may be an evolutionary adaption to life in a region afflicted by famine. There is nothing wrongwith cannibalism. In it we simply see another way of looking at things.
I concede that my tendency to regard anthropophagy as barbaric was reprehensible Euro-supremacist bigotry. I recognize now that Congolese culture is as admirable as any other, such as Swiss. In penance, I will carry packets of garlic and other seasonings in case I am hit by a truck. If I cannot serve my fellow men, I can at least let them serve me.
As a Europhallocentric colonial male, or perhaps colonoheterophalloceuric supremacist, or fellowphallo hetero….well, one of those, I can never keep them straight, so to speak…I once worshiped at the shrine of cultural Mammon. Yes, I admit it. I pondered thousands of years of European history, of literature and philosophy and science, of mathematics and medicine, of politics—and thought them good. No. I am again evading. I thought them superior.
I considered the slow progress of Europe toward approximations of democracy, the gradual realization that women were people and should study and work and do as they wished, and I thought these also superior. I erred. Sending a young woman to Swarthmore is no better than performing an enforced clitoridectomy without anesthetic and keeping her in compulsory ignorance. It is just different.
Worse, I read of Chinese culture, and studied Chinese, and thought themmagnificent. Oh, ‘tis true. I was not content in my arrogance about my own civilization, but had to be vicariously arrogant about that of the Chinese. Their art, the writing that seemed almost alive on the page, appeared glorious to me—that is to say, superior. I could read their classics only in translation ( I tried, but what in God’s name is the character for “roe deer?”) but they seemed of highest quality. In my delusion, I thought Chinese culture—forgive, forgive me—actually better than wearing a loin cloth eating bugs.
No. No. I was wrong. But the scales fell from my eyes. I now understand that dim ignorance, illiteracy, shiftlessness, stupidity, parasitism, uncontrolled violence, primitivism, frolic bastardy, and a habit of barbecuing each other are quite as noble as the polity of Tokyo. And who am I to say that stoning women to death for adultery is any worse than giving them a parking ticket?
Bias is bias. Let us admit that a sub-basement of unreason underlies the cultural haughtiness of the Far Right. I now know this. For example, reprobates, Republicans, conservatives, and Klansmen have regarded the indigenes of Papua-New Guinea as stone-age primitives. No evidence existed for this slander, except that the natives were primitives and lived in the Stone Age. The Republican view was purely Europhallocolono or—oh hell, anyway it was bad.
In fact the indigenes lived simply, nobly, at one with Nature and cherished Her ways. They understood the Oneness of all things, their harmony with the crocodiles and marmosets of the ecosystem.
It is an inescapable fact that no tribe in Borneo ever designed a Caterpillar D9 or built a mega mall. Nor do they use incandescent bulbs.
How did I miss this for so many years?
Note that a Euro-capitalist-hetero-and-so-on civilization uses needless complexity to opress nobler and simpler peoples by confusing them. But complexity is no virtue. I have read of a tribe living on the banks of the great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo, all set about with fever trees—OK, I stole that from Kipling, but he won’t notice—whose number system consisted of one, two, three, and “many, many.”
How simple! How clear! How democratic, how accessible to the masses! Surely this is preferable to Euroheterosupremophallic etc. notions like computational fluid dynamics. All airplanes do is pollute the environment.
In my uncharitable days I reflected that if we Eurowhatsits have a decimal system because we have ten fingers, then a one-two-three many-many system would suggest evolution from the three-toed sloth. There is no evidence for this. But the point here is that having fewer numbers is not inferior to having many of them, just different. When you have only a few, you get to know them better.
Now I shall build me a house, of clay and wattles made, and lie in it, reflecting on my new and welcome cultural humility.