Skip to comments.The perils of designer tribalism
Posted on 02/27/2002 8:04:51 PM PST by GeronL
The logic of aggression is at work in Third World solidarity, and this has made it a continuation of the Cold War by other means. Being non-European is enough to put one on the side of right. Being European or being supported by a European power is enough to make one suspect. The bloody messes in banana republics, and butchery of political opposition and the dictatorial lunacy by their petty chieftains are all brushed aside. Such trifles will not restrain the progress of these peoples toward socialism. What seems criminal in Cuba, Angola, and Guinea has the real purpose of washing away the far greater crime of colonialism.
[A] life without piety, including piety to the past, courts grief and does damage to the life of the living individual.
They are very gentle, and know nothing of evil.
In 1983, the French writer Pascal Bruckner published Le sanglot de lhomme blanc, an astringent, intelligently disabused attack on recent European efforts to sentimentalize the Third World. Duly translated into English a few years later as The Tears of the White Man: Compassion as Contempt (Free Press, 1986), the book excited a brief spark of interest among conservatives and then sank without trace into the tenebrous limbo of the out-of-print.
It was an unfortunate, and undeserved, fate. Bruckners book is a vigorous indictment of Third Worldismthe odious species of romance that glorifies everything foreign, exotic, and primitive while simultaneously railing against civilization, science, and modernity. (That other social philosopher, W. S. Gilbert, was right to save a place on his famous list for the idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone/ All centuries but this and every country but his own.)
The very power of Bruckners indictment helps to explain its neglect. The message he brought was distinctly unwelcome music to the ears of politically correct intellectuals, whose smugness and sense of moral superiority, then as now, was inextricably bound up with the mendacities of Third Worldism and kindred specimens of emotional blackmail. (Just listen to Susan Sontag on Kosovo or Michael Ignatieff on Rwanda.) Solidarity with oppressed peoples, Bruckner wrote,
is above all a gigantic weapon aimed at the West. The logic of aggression is at work in Third World solidarity, and this has made it a continuation of the Cold War by other means. Being non-European is enough to put one on the side of right. Being European or being supported by a European power is enough to make one suspect. The bloody messes in banana republics, and butchery of political opposition and the dictatorial lunacy by their petty chieftains are all brushed aside. Such trifles will not restrain the progress of these peoples toward socialism. What seems criminal in Cuba, Angola, and Guinea has the real purpose of washing away the far greater crime of colonialism.Clearly, Bruckners message is as pertinent today as it was in the 1980smore so, perhaps, since the attitudes it chronicles, if often less histrionic, are today more thoroughly institutionalized, more thoroughly absorbed into established opinion.
It is worth pointing out that, unlike many Third Worldists, Bruckner had firsthand knowledge of the problems about which he wrote. Having worked as a member of the International Action Against Hunger, he animated compassion with deeds. If this tempered his romanticism, it also sharpened his vision. Bruckner did not march arm-in-arm with Jean-Paul Sartre. He was not a beneficiary of UNESCOs extortionist escapades. He did not rail against Western oppression. He did not curse the evils of colonialism. On the contrary, he understood that the Wests real crime was not pursuing but rather abandoning its responsibilities as a colonial power.
Part of what makes The Tears of the White Man such an important book is Bruckners sensitivity to the aerodynamics of liberal guilt. He understands what launches it, what keeps it aloft, and how we might lure it safely back to earth. He understands that the entire phenomenon of Third Worldism is fueled by the moral ecstasy of overbred guilt. Bruckner is an articulate anatomist of such guilt and its attendant deceptions and mystifications. An overblown conscience, he points out, is an empty conscience.
Compassion ceases if there is nothing but compassion, and revulsion turns to insensitivity. Our soft pity, as Stefan Zweig calls it, is stimulated, because guilt is a convenient substitute for action where action is impossible. Without the power to do anything, sensitivity becomes our main aim, the aim is not so much to do anything, as to be judged. Salvation lies in the verdict that declares us to be wrong.The universalizationwhich is to say the utter trivializationof compassion is one side of Third Worldism. Another side is the inversion of traditional moral and intellectual values. Europe once sought to bring enlightenmentliteracy, civil society, modern technologyto benighted parts of the world. It did so in the name of progress and civilization. The ethic of Third Worldism dictates that yesterdays enlightenment be rebaptized as todays imperialistic oppression. For the committed Third Worldist, Bruckner points out,
salvation consists not only in a futile exchange of influences, but in the recognition of the superiority of foreign thought, in the study of their doctrines, and in conversion to their dogma. We must take on our former slaves as our models. . . . It is the duty and in the interest of the West to be made prisoner by its own barbarians.Whatever the current object of adulation the wisdom of the East, tribal Africa, Aboriginal Australia, pre-Columbian America the message is the same: the absolute superiority of Otherness. The Third Worldist looks to the orient, to the tribal, to the primitive not for what they really are but for their evocative distance from the reality of modern European society and values.
It is all part of what Bruckner calls the enchanting music of departure. Its siren call is seductive but also supremely mendacious. Indeed, the messy reality of the primitive worldits squalor and poverty, its penchant for cannibalism, slavery, gratuitous cruelty, and superstitionare carefully edited out of the picture. In their place we find a species of Rousseauvian sentimentality. Rousseau is the patron saint of Third Worldism. Ignoring the real human race entirely, Rousseau wrote in a passage Bruckner quotes from the Confessions, I imagined perfect beings, with heavenly virtue and beauty, so sure in their friendship, so tender and faithful, that I could never find anyone like them in the real world. The beings with whom Rousseau populated his fantasy life are exported to exotic lands by the Third Worldist. As Rousseau discovered, the unreality of the scenario, far from being an impediment to moral smugness, was an invaluable asset. Reality, after all, has a way of impinging upon fantasy, clipping its wings, limiting its exuberance. So much the worse, then, for reality. As Bruckner notes, in this romance adepts were not looking for a real world but the negation of their own. . . . An eternal vision is projected on these nations that has nothing to do with their real history.
The Australian anthropologist Roger Sandall does not mention The Tears of the White Man in The Culture Cult, his  new collection of essays. But his discussion is everywhere informed by the same spirit of salutary impatience. What Bruckner criticizes as Third Worldism, Sandall castigates as romantic primitivism and (marvelous phrase) designer tribalism. What is romantic primitivism? In the words of Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas, it is the unending revolt of the civilized against civilization. Sandall begins with a small but telling contemporary example. In 1996, the actress Lauren Hutton took her two young boys to Africa to witness a bunch of Masai warriors and their witch doctor perform a tribal dance, slaughter a cow, and drink some warm blood straight from the carcass. The whole spectacle was captured for the television audience by Ted Turners minions. Miss Hutton loved it: according to Sandall, Wow! was her frequent refrain. But her young children, one of whom burst into tears, were terrified. Quite right, too. The purpose of the television show was to show that Masai culture is just as good as Western civilization, if not better. Miss Huttons enthusiasm was sparked by the display of authentic tribal passion. But her children saw the episode for what it was: a glimpse into the heart of darkness, the abyss of uncivilized barbarism.
What Sandall describes as the culture cult dreams of a new simplicity: a mode of existence that is somehow less encumbered, less rent by conflicting obligations than life in a modern industrialized democracy. It is a vain endeavor. The romanticization of the primitive only emphasizes ones distance from its simplicities. Romanticism in all its forms is an autumnal, retrospective phenomenon: the more fervent it is, the more it underscores the loss it laments. It is time, Sandall writes, to stop dreaming about going back to the land or revisiting the social arrangements of the past. Miss Huttons happy ejaculations were prompted by such dreams. What she heard among those Masai savages as they danced about and drank blood was Pascal Bruckners enchanting music of departure. But it is, alas, a departure to nowhere. As Sandall observes, life is about ever-extending complexity. To deny that is to neglect the Big Ditch (Ernest Gellners term) that separates the modern world from its primitive sources. On one side of the ditch is the rule of law, near universal literacy, modern technology, and the whole panoply of liberal democratic largess. On the other side is what? Most traditional cultures, Sandall writes, feature domestic repression, economic backwardness, endemic disease, religious fanaticism, and severe artistic constraints. If you want to live a full life and die in your bed, then civilizationnot romantic ethnicitydeserves your thoughtful vote.
The Culture Cult is partly a brief for the Enlightenment values of universal culture and scientific rationality, partly an attack of the various atavisms that Sandall sees impeding the growth of those values. Its method is not systematic but exemplary. Sandall proceeds through a number of illustrative case studies. There are not many heroes in this book. One finds kind words for Ernest Gellner and for Karl Poppers book The Open Society and Its Enemies, written in the 1940s when Popper was in New Zealand. For the most part, however, The Culture Cult is a tour through an intellectual and moral rogues gallery. There are suitably wry bits about anthropological fantasists like Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, anti-industrialist utopians like Robert Owen (founder of the New Harmony commune), and randy utopians like John Humphrey Noyes (founder of the Oneida Community). Sandall also devotes whole chapters to Isaiah Berlin and to the bizarre anti-free-market rantings of Karl Polanyi. It is useful to be reminded that Polanyi, writing in 1960, believed that West Africa would lead the world and that record-keeping with pebbles and rafia bags in eighteenth-century Dahomey rivaled the achievements of IBM.
Most of the figures Sandall deals with are familiar. Like Bruckner and many others before him, he singles out Rousseau and the eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann Gottfried von Herder as the spiritual grandparents of romantic primitivism. Rousseau contributed the hothouse emotional sentimentality, Herder the völkisch celebration of cultural identity at the expense of assimilation and a recognition of universal humanity. (As the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut observed, from the time of Plato until that of Voltaire, human diversity had come before the tribunal of universal values; with Herder the eternal values were condemned by the court of diversity.)
Sandall's real target is the assumptioncommon coin among anthropologiststhat culture is a value-neutral term and that, as Claude Lévi-Strauss put it in 1951, one had to fight against ranking cultural differences hierarchically. In his book The Savage Mindwhich argues that there is no such thing as the savage, as distinct from the civilized, mindLévi-Strauss spoke blithely of the so-called primitive. (It is significant that Lévi-Strauss should have idolized Rousseau: our master and our brother, of all the philosophes, [the one who] came nearest to being an anthropologist.) One of Sandalls main tasks in The Culture Cult is to convince us that what Lévi-Strauss dismissed as so-called is really well-called. Sandall does not mention William Henrys In Defense of Elitism (1994)another unfairly neglected bookbut his argument in The Culture Cult reinforces Henrys accurate, if politically incorrect, observation that
the simple fact [is] that some people are better than otherssmarter, harder working, more learned, more productive, harder to replace. Some ideas are better than others, some values more enduring, some works of art more universal. Some cultures, though we dare not say it, are more accomplished than others and therefore more worthy of study. Every corner of the human race may have something to contribute. That does not mean that all contributions are equal. . . . It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose.Henrys quip about the bone in the nose elicited the expected quota of outrage from culture-cultists. But the outrage missed the serious and, ultimately, the deeply humane point of the observation. What Sandall calls romantic primitivism puts a premium on quaintness, which it then embroiders with the rhetoric of authenticity. There are two casualties of this process. One is an intellectual casualty: it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the truth about the achievements and liabilities of other cultures. The other casualty is a moral, social, and political one. Who suffers from the expression of romantic primitivism? Not the Lauren Huttons and Claude Lévi-Strausses of the world. On the contrary, the people who suffer are the objects of the romantic primitives compassion, respect, and pretended emulation. Sandall asks:
Should American Indians and New Zealand Maoris and Australian Aborigines be urged to preserve their traditional cultures at all costs? Should they be told that assimilation is wrong? And is it wise to leave them entirely to their own devices?Sandall is right that the answers, respectively, are No, No, and No: The best chance of a good life for indigenes is the same as for you and me: full fluency and literacy in English, as much math as we can handle, and a job.
This is a truth that was broadly recognized at least through the 1950s. With the failure of colonialism, however, came a gigantic failure of nerve. (It might be said, in fact, that the failure of colonialism was a gigantic failure of nerve.) More and more, confusion replaced confidence, and with confusion came the pathologies of guilt.
Since the folly of locking up native peoples in their old-time cultures is obvious, but it is tactless to say so, governments have everywhere resorted to the rhetoric of reconciliation. This pretends that the problem is psychological and moral: rejig the public mind, ask leading political figures to adopt a contrite demeanor and apologize for the sins of history, and all will be well. Underlying this is the assumption that we are all on the same plain of social development, divided only by misunderstanding.But this assumption, Sandall emphasizes, is false. And it was recognized as false by governments everywhere until quite recently. Around 1970, the big change set in. Then, instead of attempting to help primitives enter the modern world, we were enjoined to admire them and their (suitably idealized) way of life. As Sandall observes, the effect on indigenes of romanticizing their past has been devastating.
If your traditonal way of life has no alphabet, no writing, no books, and no libraries, and yet you are continually told that you have a culture which is rich, complex, and sophisticated, how can you realistically see your place in the scheme of things? If all such hyperbole were true, who would need books or writing? Why not hang up a Gone Fishing sign and head for the beach? I might do that myself. In Australia, policies inspired by the Culture Cult have brought the illiterization of thousands of Aborigines whose grandparents could read and write.
The statistics are grim. Between 1965 and 1975, Sandall reports, Aborigines arrived at one college with sixth-grade reading levels; in 1990, after primary education had been handed over to local Aboriginal communities, that had fallen to third grade. Today most Aborigines arrive at the college in question almost completely illiterate.
This social disaster was the result of specific political policies. But the policies themselves were the result of a moral attitude, one that many anthropologists have actively nurtured. In part, the attitude is a reflection of the Lévi-Straussian non-hierarchical view of culture: the view which denies that there are important distinctions to be made between la pensée sauvage and the mind, for example, of Claude Lévi-Strauss. In part, what we might call the anthropological attitude is a coefficient of the ideaalso fostered by Lévi-Strauss, among many othersthat culture is at bottom a narrative, a product of social construction. And the results of that developmentcorrosive skepticism, blasé nihilism, irresponsible relativismhave helped to place anthropology in the intellectual slum wherein it now molders. For more than twenty years, Sandall writes, anthropologists have written about constructing reality as if the world and everything in it were mere artifact, about building identity as if any old self-glamourizing fiction will do, about creating the past as an enterprise more exciting than history, about inventing tradition as if traditions were as changeable as store windows. As if, indeed. Sandall is very good on all this, and I only wish that he had devoted more space to discussing the work of the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, who is mentioned only in passing. He is one of the most influential and oleaginous proponents of the all-is-narrative, all-cultures-are-equal position now writing. He is a real postmodern culture-cultist who would have benefitedwell, we would have benefitedfrom a closer look.
It is part of the ethos of designer tribalism to foist all of ones own attitudes and longings onto the apparently blank canvas of whatever primitive populace happens to be in vogue at the moment. To some extent, this is simply a matter of ignorance, as illustrated, for example, by Christopher Columbuss report that the people he discovered are very gentle, and know nothing of evil. But the culture cultist supplements ignorance with heavy helpings of ideology and idealization. He looks at an exotic culture and, lo and behold, he finds himself looking into a flattering mirror. This is one reason that natives always seem to be non-smoking, vegetarian, sex-worshipping, drug-taking, eco-conscious, progressive-thinking pacifistsaccording, anyway, to the press releases distributed by the culture cultists.
Sandall speaks in this context of anthropologys tendency to normalize the primitive while treating civilization as aberrant. Consider the Maoris. In contemporary New Zealand, Sandall notes, one finds a miscellaneous army of teachers, academics, government servants, clergy, radical lawyers, progressive judges, journalists, and numerous other bien pensants promot[ing] the revival of traditional Maori culture even more fanatically than the Maori do themselves. He cites an Anglican priest who rails against the monocultural grip on all our institutions that British colonialism supposedly still exerts (if only!), and cites various teachers who wish to return the education of Maori children to the tribes. In the background is a rose-tinted view of the Maoris as a peace-loving, ecologically conscious, spiritually delicate people who have been abused for two centuries by hard-bitten, materialistic Europeans.
In fact, the ecological record of the Maoris would not win any plaudits from the Sierra Club. Shortly after paddling up to New Zealand in their canoes eight-hundred years ago, the Maori indiscriminately burned huge swathes of forest. They also decimated the wildlife. Actually, decimate is far too weak a word. Within a short time, Sandall notes, some 30 percent of the bird life on New Zealand had become extinct thanks to the depredations of the Maoris. All twelve species of moa, for example, a large, flightless bird without natural predators before the Maori arrived, became extinct some six-hundred years ago. According to Sandall, it was perhaps the fastest megafaunal extinction ever recorded. Not that the Maori were particular about where they got their protein. Divided into numerous tribes, they were incessantly at war. Prisoners were routinely baked and eaten. But all of this is papered over. And even as the Maori past is systematically distorted and rewritten, so their future is jeopardized by government policies that, in the name of bi-culturalism and preserving tribal customs, dooms its beneficiaries to a life of second-class citizenship.
Sandall is at his best when puncturing over-inflated reputations. Many of his subjects, it is true, have been repeatedly punctured before. Somehow, though, the gas keeps seeping back in, so new puncturings are always in order. For example, it is pretty well known today that Margaret Meads book Coming of Age in Samoa (1928) should be filed under fiction, not anthropology. Mead herself acknowledged that in populating the South Seas with sexual libertines she was pushing speculation to the limit of acceptability. But Meads book, along with Ruth Benedicts investigation of the pueblo life of the Zuni in Patterns of Culture (1934, another work of what Sandall calls didactic semifiction), was immensely influential. Both were part of the tsunami that legitimized the bohemian counterculture of Greenwich Village, first in the universities and then in the 1960s in the culture at large. We cannot be too frequently reminded that what was presented as anthropology is really a species of fantasy.
The Culture Cult is a valuable addition to the literature of common sense. It goes some distance in doing for the discipline of anthropology what Keith Windschuttles book The Killing of History did for the discipline of history. That is to say, it exposes the reign of ideology and mystificationin an academic pursuit, first of all, but also as it has spilled over into the culture at large. If Sandalls book is finally less effective than The Killing of History, that is largely for two reasons. In the first place, it is more miscellaneous. The chapter on Isaiah Berlin, for example, contains some valuable observationsanything that lets a bit of air out of that inflated reputation is welcomebut it offers a discussion that is a tangent to Sandalls discussion of the culture cult.
It must also be said that The Culture Cult does not operate at the same intellectual level as The Killing of History. One of the things that distinguishes Windschuttles book is its patient trek through the historical record. If Michel Foucault said something silly about asylums in the Middle Ages, Windschuttle went to the trouble of reading through Foucault and then through a number of independent sources in order to establish what actually happened. Sandalls discussion tends to be much more second-hand. His treatment of Rousseau, which relies heavily on Paul Johnsons discussion in Intellectuals, is a case in point. I have an appropriately low opinion of Rousseaus character and believe there can be no doubt that his influence on politics and education has been almost wholly malign. But Rousseau was more than the sum of his failings, more than an interesting madman (as one of his mistresses described him), and his writings about the state of nature, however preposterous, were more than an expression of his paranoia and resentment against Paris.
I agree wholeheartedly with Sandall that cultures differ profoundly, and these differences have profound effects. I also share his judgment that the future, if we are lucky, belongs to the values that made Europe the economic, political, scientific leader of the world. Sandall is right also to contrast the wealth-producing cultures of Western Europe and the poverty-producing traditional cultures admired by romantic primitivism. Nevertheless, his simple opposition of culture versus civilization needs to be taken with a grain of salt. For one thing, his hunt for romantic primitives turns up some distinctly unlikely candidates. For example, in Civilization and Its Malcontents, Sandall tells us that T. S. Eliot and Ludwig Wittgenstein were drawn to the all-inclusive anthropological concept of culture, something which is the antithesis of High Culture, and which would undermine its status and fatally weaken its defense. Ill leave Wittgenstein to one side, except to say that anyone who can dismiss the author of Philosophical Investigations as endorsing a world of groupthink, grouptalk, group action, all cozily packaged in a Gemeinschaft world is not a reliable guide to the philosophers work.
And Eliot? Sandall quotes (but cites the wrong page) Eliots statement, from the appendix of Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, that by culture he means first of all what the anthropologists mean. But to think on that account that Eliot endorses the non-hierarchical, all-cultures-are-equal view that Sandall attacks is to completely mistake Eliots purpose. On the very same page as the passage Sandall quotes, Eliot observed that there are of course higher cultures and lower cultures, and the higher cultures in general are distinguished by differentiation of function. Reflecting on his work at The Criterion, Eliot spoke of his colleagues common concern for the highest standards of both thought and expression, . . . a common curiosity and openness of mind to new ideas and our common responsibility . . . to preserve our common culture uncontaminated by political influences. Sandalls discription of Eliots somnambulistic ruminations is itself a piece of somnambulism, coaxed into action, perhaps, by too rigid and superficial a distinction between culture and civilization. The sociologist Edward Shils was certainly no enemy of what Sandall champions as civilization. But in his book Tradition (dedicated, incidentally, to the spirits of Max Weber and Eliot), Shils observed that a mistake of great historical significance has been made in modern times in the construction of a doctrine which treated traditions as the detritus of the forward movement of society. If romantic primitivism is an enemy of civilization, so too is the view that piety toward the past is always an impediment to progress.
W.S. Gilbert, the ne plus ultra wordsmith , ALWAYS has something quoteable, to fit every situation. The brief quip, from " THE MIKADO " , in this article, is a case in point.
I can find no quible, with what has been written. I agree with it completely, and it is gratifying, to see so many truths, in one article. The question is ; however , just HOE do we fight this malignancy of " equalities of culture " gatnage ?
I remember when Mead was proven the fraud that she was. She not only made things up, she was also LIED TO , by the people she kept nagging to tell her about their sex lives, in the South Pacific . I am surprised, though, that he left out Boaz ... as he was Mead & Benedict's mentor.
I have been blasting away at Rousseau, myself, for many decades, and all of that " NOBLE SAVAGE " garbage. Having had to live through the stupid Hippy " BACK TO NATURE " and the elevation of the primative stuff, I can tell you that that IS exactly what led to the " diversty junk of today ... same crowd; just as WRONG today, as they were back then.
will they want a monarchy?
It's a really great article. I am SO glad that you posted it. Now, I want these books . : - )
What Bruckner criticizes as Third Worldism, Sandall castigates as "romantic primitivism" and (marvelous phrase) "designer tribalism." What is romantic primitivism? In the words of Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas, it is "the unending revolt of the civilized against civilization."
What Sandall calls romantic primitivism puts a premium on quaintness, which it then embroiders with the rhetoric of authenticity. There are two casualties of this process. One is an intellectual casualty: it becomes increasingly difficult to tell the truth about the achievements and liabilities of other cultures. The other casualty is a moral, social, and political one. Who suffers from the expression of romantic primitivism? Not the Lauren Huttons and Claude Lévi-Strausses of the world. On the contrary, the people who suffer are the objects of the romantic primitive's compassion, "respect," and pretended emulation. Sandall asks: Should American Indians and New Zealand Maoris and Australian Aborigines be urged to preserve their traditional cultures at all costs? Should they be told that assimilation is wrong? And is it wise to leave them entirely to their own devices?
Sandall is right that the answers, respectively, are No, No, and No: "The best chance of a good life for indigenes is the same as for you and me: full fluency and literacy in English, as much math as we can handle, and a job."
Since the folly of locking up native peoples in their old-time cultures is obvious, but it is tactless to say so, governments have everywhere resorted to the rhetoric of "reconciliation." This pretends that the problem is psychological and moral: rejig the public mind, ask leading political figures to adopt a contrite demeanor and apologize for the sins of history, and all will be well. Underlying this is the assumption that we are all on the same plain of social development, divided only by misunderstanding.
But this assumption, Sandall emphasizes, "is false." And it was recognized as false by governments everywhere until quite recently. Around 1970, the big change set in. Then, instead of attempting to help primitives enter the modern world, we were enjoined to admire them and their (suitably idealized) way of life. As Sandall observes, "the effect on indigenes of romanticizing their past has been devastating." [End Excerpts]
Thank you for posting and pinging. I enjoyed this immensely! There is so much truth in this and reminded me of something I posted just the other day.
Two tribes split on Alaskan oil plan--In recent weeks, members of both tribes have come to the nation's capital to plead their cases: The Inupiat contend that opening a portion of the refuge for oil exploration is critical to their survival; the Gwich'in say that doing so will destroy them.
The two groups are not new to the debate nor to Washington, but as the Senate prepares to take up energy legislation this week, advocates and opponents of opening a section of the refuge for oil exploration have increasingly put the native groups at the center of their lobbying efforts.
Let's try to keep this thread bumped . It a valuable article, and what makes FR worth reading.
I just go to the website though (I think its a monthly, but I'm not sure)
Thank you for treating us to this piece!
This is the sort of thing, which more people SHOULD be reading and responding to, as opposed to things like : what's your favorite 80's rock band, your favorite movie line, why everyone but people who live below the Mason - Dixon line are horrid and shouldn't be allowed to live, and the like.
Rousseau is the patron saint of Third Worldism
No kidding. The Rousseauian "Cult of the Primitive" has generated more human misery in the last 200 years of "civilization" than the previous 6000 years of barbarism. To wit: Rousseau begat the French Revolution, which begat Marx and Engels, which begat world communism, which begat over 100 million dead in the 20th century alone. The lure of "tribalism" is not some esoteric, academic malady -- it has serious, real world consequences.
BTW, the book mentioned in passing above, Paul Johnson's Intellectuals, is to be highly recommended!
Man without technology isn't a noble savage: he's a dead, naked, and hairless ape.
Having had to live through the stupid Hippy " BACK TO NATURE " and the elevation of the primative stuff, I can tell you that that IS exactly what led to the " diversty junk of today ... same crowd; just as WRONG today, as they were back then.
Courtesy of the Marine Corps, I often lived at one with nature.
The concept is vastly overrated.
the enchanting music of departure.
Compassion ceases if there is nothing but compassion, and revulsion turns to insensitivity. Our soft pity, as Stefan Zweig calls it, is stimulated, because guilt is a convenient substitute for action where action is impossible. Without the power to do anything, sensitivity becomes our main aim, the aim is not so much to do anything, as to be judged.
Too bad he didn't mention Franz Boas who was responsible for the advancement of this 'all civilizations are good' nonsense.
I found this particularly outrageous:
In Australia, policies inspired by the Culture Cult have brought the illiterization of thousands of Aborigines whose grandparents could read and write.
I also agree completely, with your post.
Great reply ! Yes, a dead, naked ape, indeed.
Yes, it's one of the best. Also check out http://www.aldaily.com/ which highlights at least three new links daily. It's not entirely conservative but they've featured New Criterion articles more than once.
I now see that you did. As they say, great minds ....
The Australian anthropologist Roger Sandall does not mention The Tears of the White Man in The Culture Cult, his  new collection of essays. But his discussion is everywhere informed by the same spirit of salutary impatience. What Bruckner criticizes as Third Worldism, Sandall castigates as romantic primitivism and (marvelous phrase) designer tribalism. What is romantic primitivism? In the words of Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas, it is the unending revolt of the civilized against civilization.
BTW- make sure to peruse the New Criterion archives
and I am writing a story about designer tribalism now, hehe
The Age of Designer Tribalism
by Floyd Looney
splunk, splunk, splunk...
That incessant dripping noise has woke me up again, I can't see where its coming from but I know it has part of the concrete floor wet. The moldy smell has gotten stronger on a daily basis since I came to be here. It is so dark, I can never tell what time of day it is. How did I come to be here, in this cell that would make Satan proud of my torturers? It is a story I have recounted and retold to myself more than once a day since I woke up in here the first time.
It wasn't all that long ago that a majority of citizens of this country were prosperous, even our 'poor' were doing better than the vast majority of the worlds population. I personally had been fired as a history teacher from a school because I taught real history not what the bosses called the 'correct' history. The 'correct' history was full of lies and absurdities.
I found a job as a salesman for an upscale business selling home appliances, this wasn't the Maytag stuff you see on TV commercials. This was the shiny brass, chrome and copper stuff that you see in the kitchens of the rich and famous. It was truly beautiful kitchenware.
Anyway, on the side I wrote for a conservative journal dedicated to reviving the real history of the United States and the world. We called the purveyors of the 'correct' history names like 'revisionists' and 'third worlders'. The New History Review did okay, I suppose, but even with thousands of readers it couldn't hope to compete with ten thousand schools, large publishing houses and the traditional media.
It wasn't history that was at the forefront of the battle, we were fighting a skirmish and only seeing a small part of the problem. The worldview that brought us 'correct' history was much broader than we knew at the time, we were in a culture war. The designer tribalism of the leftist cult was succeeding in all but destroying the United States' own culture.
You know the people I am talking about, the culture I am referring to. Its the same culture that makes a TV program where its a child that lectures adults on the ways of the world. It is the adults who think we should live like nomads on the plains. These people who believe that bringing education, commerce and technology to the third war to replace cannibalism and tribal wars is something akin to a holocaust.
Normal people would call them weirdo's, probably even full out freakish.
As a teacher in a public school I was involved with showing a film for students, it was on a DVD and a big screen actually but someone needed to hit the light switch. The film of the day was about a tribe in Africa and their culture, we didn't teach American culture of course. It portrayed a paganistic ritual where the participants slaughtered a calf and drank its blood while it was still warm. The stab in the side of the calf allowed the blood to be pumped by its still beating heart into the wood-carved bowl.
The bonfire and hypnotic drumbeat added to the cultish feel of what was going on, we were watching a culture that revered gods of death, pleasure, war and animals. A culture that tolerated and celebrated deadly raids against neighboring tribes. Soon the film ended and I turned the lights on.
The children sat stunned and looking positively sickened. Rightly so, for we had a glimpse into darkness of 'savage' people. Their instict told them that what tbey saw on the TV screen was inherently evil and part of what should be in the past. The United States and the ways of the west were far superior with its medical care, freedoms of religion and speech, technology and even the fast foods.
The other teachers though were giddy and excited and they lectured the students about how the film showed a remarkable and different culture, but one equal or even superior to our own. The fact that it seemed primitive to us only showed that we are not an enlightened people. Our people had once oppressed these people with colonialism and slavery she told them as if they were both equally awful.
Colonialism was an attempt to bring the enlightened primitive peoples things like language, religion, technology and health care. This was a bad thing, of course. The part that was really bad was not the colonialism part though, it was the modernizing of the backward societies that outraged the leftists. The superior primitive societies had a right not to be educated, not to be given health care or language or commerce or technology. It was also somehow wrong to give them a choice.
This squeamish policy of letting a group of people rot while modern culture moved forward is why the Aborigine of Australia to have reading level by college age to drop from sixth grade and even thid grade levels. Now Aborigine students might arrive at college wholly illiterate, although their grandparents could read and write.
What a sad unculture indeed where the uneducated child with no life experience can be considered the better teacher than adults with decades of learning and experience. It was like the line in William Henry's 1994 book ,b>In Defense of Elitism where he argued, "It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose".
Of course that book had been banned at all public and most private schools years ago.
Was the Taliban culture in Afghanistan worth preserving even though it destroyed historic statues and persecuted anyone who didn't toe the line? The culture of the Taliban was one of the most ultimate of tribal primitism on the globe. They oppressed their women, forced their children to work and beat, mutilated and killed those who didn't obey the laws put forward by those in charge.
Was this culture worth preserving and superior to the west because it was primitive? Except for a few gasps from the left when a particularly outrageous insult occured, the answer was yes right up until September 11, 2001. For some the yes continued even afterwards.
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