Re: Social Engineering (was: Different patriarchy Model)

Gerold Firl (
9 Jan 1995 12:52:42 -0800

In article <> (Richard Spear) writes:
>In article <> (Gerold Firl) writes:

>>... you appear to be concerned about ensuring that no mistake is made
>>about assigning the blame for the origin of these features, where this
>>origin is firmly located elsewhere. Personally, I have very little interest
>>in assigning blame. I just don't think that's a useful exercise. I am more
>>concerned with understanding, and how that understanding can be used for
>>the conscious betterment of the situation. The extreme defensive posture of
>>reacting to any such attempt as "ulterior racism" only perpetuates the

>This isn't an exercise in assigning blame. We need to determine *causes*.
>Interesting that you would view an effort to determine a cause as assigning

No, I don't view *any* effort to determine cause as an exercise in
assigning/avoiding blame. But an ostensible effort to determine *cause*,
which stridently focusses only on oppression, appears to be less
concerned with understanding true cause than with assigning ethical guilt.
Determining guilt is very important in legal proceedings, where individuals
are at risk from social sanctions. But in examining the interplay of
external circumstance and internal reaction in the evolution of culture,
guilt is simply not an applicible concept. Obviously the individuals which
were responsible for transporting and using slaves played a role in the
creation of current demographic, political, and social realities. Obviously
the history of africans in america, and the development of afro-american
culture, is in large measure a result of slavery, post-slavery
discrimination, the civil-rights/human-rights movement, *and* the response
of black culture to these conditions. Interesting that you would chide me
for an artificial stance of scientific detachment; it isn't artificial. I'm
not black, and I have no sympathy for racial discrimination. I can look at
this issue from an objective point of view. I think that results in a
clearer perspective.

The anomolous feature of such an analysis, the one which seems surprising
to me, is the response of black culture to the civil rights victories of
the 60's. In many ways black culture seems like it was healthier during the
days of discrimination than it is now. To me, that seems like an important
fact, one where anthropology could make an important contribution to the
understanding of how and why such unfortunate situations arise.

>Any explanation that does not examine the relationship between the
>particular historical situation of African Americans in the United States will
>fail to understand the root causes of their "failure" to be successful here.

Of course. But a full understanding comes only from knowing not only the
external circumstances of afro-american history, but also the internal
response to those conditions. The response to full legal rights of
citizenship has, to a surprising degree, been one of cultural dissolution.
This is not a statement of blame. Only an attempt to understand.

>You continue to try to distance yourself from the people around you by taking
>an artificially "scientific" stance ... people *oppress* other people and
>cultures interact to the detriment of one of them by choice - by the choice of
>the more powerful culture. A denial of this fact *is* racism, as your
>alternatives place the *blame* on those being oppressed!

No. No blame. Like I said, I don't think the concept of "blame" is useful
to the understanding of cultural evolution.

But lets get back to oppression. Oppression can make people stronger; the
jews might be taken as an example. American blacks, in the face of
oppression, reacted by forming strong communities and thriving art forms;
consider harlam from the 20's to the 50's. Were crime rates any higher in
harlam than in other low-income neighborhoods of new york? I don't think
so, at least not to the extent that they are now. At the same time a
phenomenal efflorescence in music and dance was being created in the midst
of this oppression; compare to the current urban realities. It seems to me
that the sudden relaxation of oppression had some very detrimental effects.
I don't consider that racism, and I think the attempt to label it as racism
is an attempt to evade responsibility by placing the "blame" as far away as

I look forward to continuing this discussion, but I should say that I'll be
out of the country for the next week, so my replies will be delayed
somewhat. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf