Thursday, December 07, 2006

An Interesting Thought from an Anthropologist

Like all anthropologists, I am a cultural relativist. This position most often takes the expression that "modern Western culture is not intrinsically more valuable than traditional ones". But it goes both ways, really. Traditional cultures are not intrinsically more valuable than the modern Western one. Indeed, no culture has any value at all except in relation to Human Rights: they're all constructed anew each morning anyway. It is of no value to a society, nor to ethnic minorities themselves, that they be encouraged to stay on reservations and in ghettos and remain stuck in unemployment and drug abuse.

In my opinion, the only way that ethnic and phenotypical minorities can actually have equal opportunities is if their members assume places inside majority society through education and employment. Reservation life is just a pale shadow of what these cultures were like in the pre-colonial past. I don't see why it would be useful to anyone that some people be kept, and keep themselves, as cultural museum exhibits. Most reservations were selected as such because they were undesirable to majority society: often awkwardly located patches of badlands. The first priority for members of modern ethnic minorities should not be to remain ethnically distinct and preserve their traditions, but to thrive and contribute to whatever culture works now. Adapt and survive

This was written wrt to the aborigines of Australia. However, it definitely applies for any minority. Or could.

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