Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn
dachte

Guarding against tumours

I recently saw an argument made on Wikipedia that's kind of interesting. Someone was complaining that a group of Indians were being described as Shudras (very low caste) rather than Kshatriyas, saying that it was an insult to their group to be described as being part of the lower caste. One immediate response was that the humiliation the person felt was evidence of racism itself -- another interesting response that I'd like to focus on was "As racist and strange as the caste system might sound to us I really think it is inappropriate to refer to it as a racist system, after all, it is followed by millions of hindus, I really think we shouldn't pass judgement on it". Two points of investigation: Should we accept this argument, and what is the basis of this argument, how is it applied, etc. I believe that this argument is a position on the spectrum to the question of how universal our social values are, a topic that's occasionally been in the news with political commentators like Coultier. To some, national borders are an appropriate place to draw between an in-crowd where one is deeply involved in fighting for certain values and social arrangements, and an out-crowd where much more is excused (in modern times politically aware people generally don't extend this to genocide, with female "circumcision" generally being the level of issue that's contentious, the same issue being a red flag in one's own nation). Another possible perspective (which might mix a bit with the nation care-border) is to divide the world into often-fuzzy zones of culture, such as West-central Europe, Islamic zone, Africa, etc. "To each its own" seems to be a common phrase, with the borders of each being an interestion question. I suspect thinking this way extends from the home, in that immediate families are usually based on the authority of the parents over their children, and almost never significantly to children in other families. We might liken the reluctance to "interfere" with another culture's "sovereignty" as interfering with an interaction between another parent and their child. Should we, and when?

One specific basis for not being inclined to judge or interfere with other cultures is that we often don't fully understand them. In the case of nations and cultures there are patterns that span generations and sets of myths that give a deeper meaning to (some) members of that community. In understanding any more heated dispute, there can be understandings or contracts that are reached that span generations, or long chains of action-response that make "who started it" a futile (and often irrelevant) path of approach. To the extent that people identify with these groups, it also can be difficult for their pride to accept involvement from those they see as outsiders, and they may develop a great deal of hostility towards even allowing others to learn and claim knowledge about their group. My intuition is that this cements conflicts into permanent feuds, as their national/ethnic mythos would best be served by not only demanding victory, but demanding it in a certain traditional way.

I don't believe there's a non-value-laden solution to the question of how we should feel on this issue. As a liberal communist internationalist, I don't accept these borders. I want to extend Liberal Communist governments across the entire world, from America to Saudi Arabia and China (I believe China has strayed too far from its early goals to even be called Red anymore). I do hope to see a good amount of personal and local autonomy on matters pertaining to culture, when compatible with the liberal ends of the state (meaning a certain amount of structured comprimise would be involved).

That's my understanding and my position. Anyone who wants to add either of theirs is welcome to.

Tags: wikipedia
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