Lieber the Shallow

Thomas W. Rimkus (trimkus@COMP.UARK.EDU)
Mon, 13 Feb 1995 17:16:42 -0600

OK, Mike, I read your posting again and you are correct. It is, in fact,
on the surface, a small minded personal attack. But I also re-read
Johnson's. I fail to see anywhere in his text that he claims to represent
the people of Chiapas as you note. How are your reading skills, lately?
Whether you agree with his position or not or see him as self seeking or not,
the issue he addresses is:

"What is the proper response of the Anthropological community to the
suffering in Chiapas"?

This was the message you responded to and you cannot, after the fact,
redefine the context in which your comments were posted. I might note
that you did, in your posting, reference "the interests of post-modernist
capitalism" and "Chiapas" as wall decoration in your attack. Many jokes
would still be jokes without a racial slant, but when put in a racial
context, become repugnant to those who somehow have maintained a
sensitivity to human feelings and suffering. What you have done, whether
you know it or not, is to appear to have come down on the side of
"expedient business interests" rather than the people of Chiapas. If you
did not want to be so exposed, you should have attacked someone else posting
on some other issue.

Now, take your own advice about trimming up reading skills and
note that my comments were not on what you wrote on the surface, but on
your underlying attitudes (mirroring, I am afraid, the views of a large
number of self-satisfied and self-important members of our "superior"
culture). And you say I have difficulty with comprehension! To talk down
to someone does not make your position valid, it only takes you out of the
context of philosophy and puts you into the company of Sophists. Hide
behind their mental skirts if you need to, but the real world and modern
scientific thought says the map is embedded into the territory.
Pseudo-intellectualism cannot change that.

(To help you along here, I'm talking both about your attempt to
seperate your attack on Johnson from the context within which it rests
and about the relationship of Anthropology to its subject matter.)

If anthropologists claim a right to poke and peek, they have an obligation
to seek to understand their effect. While it may be true that, on the
whole, this is a psuedo-debate, as REBECCA JOHNSON has pointed out, I
believe the issue of effect is both relevant and largely ignored with the
exception of certain published positive results.

Which is worse: to be unable to understand what others write,
or: to be unable to understand what you write?