Of all the recent corruptions of language and forbidden subjects, those who have read me a while know that the one guaranteed to make me foam at the mouth is confusing culture with race.
I think it started, somewhere, in the entire Marxist subculture, where they believe everyone is full of secret thoughts and keeps conspiracy within himself, which is why we get the bizarre idea that people can have “false consciousness” that works against them. It is a thing of mystery religions – and Marxism has always been one – to fold thought upon thought until it means something quite different from what the plain words mean.
I think it started at the top, or in the inner circles, in the sacredness of faculty lounges, and went something like this: if you criticize Islam’s treatment of women, you’re not really criticizing that because you’re a dirty capitalist pig (or an un-enlightened worker) so you can have no solidarity with these women (something reserved for Marxists.) So, your outrage about making women going around covered in ill-fitting slip covers which hamper their vision and cause all sorts of issues, MUST really be raised by the fact that most practitioners of the religion are three shades darker than the average Englishman, or about the color of your Italian on a summer day. Thereby, the appropriate answer to “I think the whole Burka nonsense has got to stop. Sure, a woman can do that to herself if she wants to, but in these cultures, what choice do they have. We should – at the very least – talk against it.” is “Racist!”
However, as other religions heavy on theology have found, what is decreed in the inner circle and makes perfect sense after lengthy discussion, is corrupted to a tautology among the foot soldiers. The Catholic Church has long compounded with this and allowed the worship of old pagan gods under a Christian name because once the masses get something in their heads there’s no getting it out.
At the foot soldier level of Marxism – at the level that middle school assignments are written and news articles are spun – the whole justification behind responding to criticism of a culture with cries of “racism” was lost. It might in fact not have made much sense to the every day man. Well, think about it. It couldn’t. How is criticizing Islam’s treatment of women racist, but criticizing Italian Catholics morality rules not only not racist but strongly encouraged. Having – more than likely – the blood of both in my veins, I challenge you to look at my younger son and tell me whether he has Greek features, Roman features, Jewish features or Arab features. (Actually you could drop him into the middle of a New York City Jewish enclave and you’d never find him again. But us living in the west, normally people think he’s Mexican, which goes beyond making no sense, but never mind.)
People on the street have a way of seeing these things very clearly, not being educated enough to suspect themselves of heresy or to interrogate their own motives when the motives are plain as the nose on their face.
So, faced with the high-priests of Marxism which are also, for our sins, the high priests of our culture and education (I have great hopes this will change with the new media) and their absolute certainty that criticizing (certain) cultures is racism, they had to find their own justification.
The justification they found was the one that made sense. The fact that it ties into very old prejudices and is IN FACT one of the supporting pegs of racism makes no difference, because to the people on the street, the high lords of culture MUST know better, so this must have been proven by studies or something.
And now, in schools and newspapers, I keep stumbling on this thing: culture is race and race is culture. Culture runs hereditary in the veins; is transmitted through the DNA.
Sarah, you say, you got this by the wrong end. It can’t possibly be true. No? Let’s leave aside for a moment the idiotic assignments that they give the kids in school, in which they are to write about their culture – by which they mean their ancestry. (Don’t believe me? Test it. Have your kid write about his culture as an SF fan. But most teachers make sure the kids know it’s their ancestry, in the written description of the assigment.)
As someone who comes from a different culture, I tell you that not a week goes by without someone asking me – in cocksure assurance they’re on the side of gods – whether I’ve taught my children their culture. (The answer can get very interesting depending on how p*ssy I feel that particular day.) By which they mean, of course, have I taught them Portuguese? (Actually I lie, given younger kid’s look and my accent, they mean have I taught them Spanish or Russian. But never mind that.) This despite the fact their father is of (mostly) Anglo Saxon stock with a few more exotic encrustations.
I think the two kids have spent – if you aggregate all the visits – a grand total of three months in Portugal in their entire life. Usually in two-week installments. Sure, they like my parents. Sure, they like the monuments. Sure, they’re horrified by the drivers on the roads. BUT ultimately they visit Portugal like one visits an exotic location. It is not their culture. It will never be their culture. Heck, after twenty eight years, it is no longer my culture. I have nothing against Portuguese culture. (I lie. I do. But that’s because I think it shackles its people, who frankly, deserve better.) I have fond memories of growing up in it. Some things – drivers education, (paradoxically), marriage (where civil and religious are strenuously separated) and teacher education it even does better than we do. But, by and large I prefer America, which is why I made the choice I did. HOW could this make Portuguese my KIDS’ “Culture” unless they believe it’s inherited?
There are other instances. Considering “Hispanic” a race by government fiat is one of those. Oh, sure, Mexicans are somewhat more distinct (though I’ve seen many a Mexican who could blend unnoticed with the peasants in a Portuguese village.) HOWEVER (even if they’ve now rationalized it by making Portuguese also Hispanic, probably driven mad by the idea that Fernandez was Hispanic, but Fernandes wasn’t. Or Marquez and Marques, or…) your average Portuguese or Spaniard can – and in my case does. Hey, do YOU have anything against discounts in ethnic restaurants? I don’t. I only have writer money – pass as Greek, Italian, Arab, and – in some circumstances – Russian.
This assumption is part of what is buggering up our – needs to be tossed out and start clean – adoption policy too: the reason that they try to place “ethnic” children with “ethnic” parents, even though there might be a hundred white yuppies ready to adopt them. (No, the explanation is NOT that the child should look like the parents or horror ensues – if it were, then someone would by now have mentioned the hundreds of Asian children brought up by white parents who are Valedictorians in half the highschools across the land, and by and large as well adjusted as any of their generation.)
[I would like to blame on this the “put child with birth parent if absolutely possible, even when prospective adopter is healthy, wealthy and wise, and birth parent has three convictions for child abuse” but I’m afraid that’s just Rousseaunian stupidity.]
And then there was the genius who accused me of racism for writing a story in which China was full-throttle capitalist (parallel world. Split around the fourteenth century) while the west was mired in communism. Because, you see, the Chinese soul cares for other things than individual achievement, and certainly not for money. They are communal and they– Sorry. Gagged on a bit of irony there.
But Sarah, you say, there IS a correlation between race/sub-race and culture. You can see traces of Germany in Pennsylvania. You can’t deny that areas of heavy English colonization are British-feeling. You–
Oh, my sweet auntie Mary. Please. Areas of colonization means entire groups of people who came here together. Culture is a function of the group, not the individual. Say instead of moving here alone, my best friend and her sister – the three of us were inseparable much of our growing up years – had married guys who went to school with Dan, and who found jobs together, and the six of us moved around in a mini-enclave. THEN my kids would have Portuguese as at least a sub-culture. Because it would be impossible for us, together, not to keep some of the behavior, gestures and attitudes we grew up with. The kids would then get it. It wouldn’t be their dominant culture, but it would be there. (My best friend and her sister, in fact, married Frenchmen and live near each other, and their kids retain some Portuguese culture as a result.)
There have been estimates that some tenements in NYC were entire Italian villages. Trust me, in those circumstances, the culture remains, at least as traces.
But take a person alone – particularly take an infant – and drop him into another culture, with no one to teach him to behave as his ancestors did, and he will simply learn the new culture as his. There are countless examples, and not just of cross-cultural adoptions in our day, but of children kidnaped during tribal raids, or children-hostages taken very young, and becoming as much part of the host culture as anyone born to it.
There might be a very weak correlation between certain hereditary traits and certain cultures, but I doubt it. Most cultures extant are simply not old enough for genetic selection to make any difference. Take Chinese, probably the oldest, literate culture around, with a continuous history. That culture has changed. For certain regions and certain times, individualism (even if on different terms than in the West) was an esteemed trait (this is what I based my story on.) And certainly the children raised in the US by American parents aren’t any less individualistic or competitive (!) than their peers.
Culture is a thing of the group, not of the individual. As such we can and SHOULD be able to criticize cultures for their worst aspects – and that includes our own, but shouldn’t be limited to it. I think for instance that burkas are a ridiculous and demeaning impairment on women (And please, please, please, hold your breath on how they are beautiful and a sign of respect. I have an idea, let’s respect arab men too. Let’s see how they like living under bed sheets.) I think that Portuguese are a very capable people shackled to a culture that promotes – nay, encourages – sloppiness, lack of zeal and patronage (there are reasons for all of this in Portuguese history, ranging from the patronage of the Roman system – which is why it extends from Greece to South America, the same bizarre corrupt system based on nepotism and side-dealing – to the fact that at various times the area that’s now Portugal was occupied by alien overlords, be they Moorish or Germanic. Sloppiness in fulfilling orders is only sense in that case.) And I think our own cultural confusion of culture and race is insane, and possibly suicidal.
Race can’t be changed. What’s bred in the bone will come out in the flesh. Culture can. It can be changed at an individual level, when a culture is simply hampering a human being. And it can be changed at a whole nation (or national group) level. For instance, we now bathe everyday, something that would have horrified our ancestors. And no longer is wife beating no longer acceptable, neither is child-beating. (About child-slapping I’m somewhat more ambivalent, but that’s a subject for a whole other post. I’ll just say I too disapprove of child-beating.) These are major structural culture changes. So you can change the culture without changing the race.
That is, if we are willing to stop playing Marxist games and assuming that the reason people disapprove of forced child marriage in Islam is that Arabs tan as dark as Italians.
If we’re not, the human culture that carries the torch of human freedom and improvement of human conditions will shift – possibly slowly – somewhere else – possibly India.
And whatever the culture is that promotes the most freedom for the individual, from private choices to wealth production will be the culture I’ll endorse, whether most of the people in it are white, black, purple, or striped like Zebras (well, you never know. Aliens and Gen mod.)
You see, I am an unabashed culturist. And when it comes to culture, the one I prefer is the one that allows each person to pursue his enlightened self interest. None of them will be perfect, but I’ll choose the best I can.