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Saturday, June 28, 2003

On Culturalism



Patrick Belton quotes from a Saudi Q&A session on rights:
Q: "....But Saudi Arabia's courts lack the basic minimum standards of justice."

A: "Britain is only familiar with the Western system of justice and cannot envisage any other. [...]"

Thing is, I must have been lost in the modern academic varieties of the fields of sociology and comparative religion for too long -- this sounded entirely normal to me, and only by bashing my head on the desk a few times was I able to comprehend that most normal people would find the whole Q&A ridiculous. I fully expect people to say, "your concept of 'rights' and 'justice' is entirely bound up with western philosophy; expecting us to adhere to your ideas is just cultural imperialism [or the new 'in' word, 'culturalism']." The best gem I've found is the argument that historical and archaeological discussion is impossible cross-culturally, as westerners have notions of "science" and "fact" and things like "well, the great wall of China is sitting right there, so I doubt it used to be two hundred miles to the east and made from rainbow fragments until the day it walked across the land and changed form before sitting down," notions that are too constrictive for the deeper-thinking Orient. I have no idea how to argue with people who say things like that (or with erstwhile esteemed Boston College professor Mary Daly, who's convinced that any woman who does not feel herself oppressed has been brainwashed and is nothing more than a fembot -- and who is also convinced that gynecology is a conspiracy designed to control and physically damage women). Anyone got any idea how to discuss things with people who say that "logic" is patriarchal and unacceptable?

(And one by one the penguins stole my sanity.)

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