Monday, May 30, 2011

Philosophy in Anthropology

Now this is something that has frustrated and irritated me for a while, as holding any philosophy will. Holding a side will always have the other side scorning your extremest of stereotypes. "Damn commie liberals!" "Damn ultrareligious conservitives!" But what I hold isn't a political philosophy, thats not what's attacked on a regular basis now. It's my anthropological beliefs that come constantly under fire, and I'm getting a little worn down.

Theres an anthropological philosophy of the world now thats phasing out of practice, although I cant recall what its phasing to. The idea is that all cultures are equal adoptions to the environment. It was thought up with the intention to curb the idea that spear-wielding hunter gatherer bands are just backwards, or the mockery of certain cultures for their esoteric laws. No way of doing things comes out of a vacuum, and it doesnt remain just because the people are dumbnuts. Hunter gather bands function better in savvanah than farmers do. Japan's system of honorifics came from a highly structural feudal reign, which itself came from perceived need for strict discipline over a united Japan, which came from so-on-so-forth ect.

If it hasnt occurred to you already, there is one major weak point, one stabbing flaw that every. Single. Person. Brings up.

Nazis. Fucking Nazis.

They dont even have to argue about it, I say "all cultures equal!" and they say "Nazis" and that's my cue to shut up. If I argue, people are aghast that I'd defend Nazis. If I dont argue, people get to gloat over a stupid anthropologist while they go back to being the smartest of historians. Rock, hard place, I lose a little face and go with the second option.

Whats incredibly irritating is that no one will ever, ever being up some classical example. No Aztecs, no Mongols, no Vikings. No, those can be clearly defended, because its not recent. People didnt live through that. Mongols and Aztecs killed anybody who they couldnt control. In the name of their god or in the name of just taking their shit. But we can look at Aztecs and say "oh, thats their religion" or try and find a weak excuse like "oh, the area was overpopulated." Because these people were just backwards and stupid and har har.

And you know what? You know whats going to happen in a thousand years? People are going to look at Nazis and say "It was because they were Christians" and nobody's going to bat an eye. Something so inflammatory today and everyone in the future will consider it as just another opinion to be processed and studied. They'll think its a new and fascinating take on an old culture, just like we make takes on Aztecs and Mongols.

And as for what I'd say for defending the Nazi's? Well, morality is  transient and-
Oh wait, thats another philosophy everyone hates. Boo grr boo

I gotta stop this somewhere and wrap up my thoughts, or I'll move on to how I'm supposed to nod and smile at racists.

Let's end on me defending those goddamn Nazis. With a lot of simile.

What they did is a horrible atrocity, even by thier own Western standards. What I want to say is that this didnt just develop out of a vacuum, that this was an adaption to the environment, just like anything else. Its not something that Hitler could just pop out of his head, fully formed, and people would just follow it like lemmings. Germany was poor, downtrodden, shamed, better than this, better than anyone. And like the quiet guy who brings a gun to school, things spiraled into scary from there. Racism against Jews (and Romani to a lesser extent) was rampant. People disliked Jews like America disliked Communists. It seems stupid looking back, but if you were in the thick of it, fuck those guys. When Jews started to be treated like second class, well, they were, so it wasnt a problem. And then things started winding worse and worse, one step at a time, and the people went along with it. Party leaders pushing party members (who couldnt refuse because those were orders). And if everyone in the party was going along with it, well, you hated those Jews anyway. And why use the Jew's things, their bodies? Well, you are poor, there is a war going on, and its not like Jews are people.

Everything makes sense in context, everything develops into its own adaption. This is what the philosophy of equal cultures is about for me. Not that we shouldnt have steamrolled those Nazis, because they're a precious gem of a culture. But that the people saw this as a viable option, equal if not better than other methods. And for what they were trying to do, it worked. Its not a good thing that it worked, of course it isn't.

Wait, was this defending it from a cultural ecology standpoint with the equality thing mixed in?
Dammit, cultural ecology is old hat now. Those historians are gonna bite my face off....

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