Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Gerold Firl (
29 Jun 1995 12:34:12 -0700

In article <3stept$> (Todd Michel McComb) writes:
>In article <>,
>Gerold Firl <> wrote:

>>Every culture on earth is currently being influenced by the west.
>>This is not the result of any ideological warfare.

>Perhaps true in some sense, but also highly dependent on the
>(historical) desire of the West to *go places*. This is certainly
>motivated by ideology; the "warfare" part is semantics.

"*Go places*"? I'm not sure what you mean by this.

Western culture has traditionally been aggressive, violent, and
expansionist. Combine these qualities with a relatively egalitarian
social structure and the placement of the rational, questing individual at
the center of the mythos and you have the prerequisites of the 16th century
european breakout and world conquest. I guess you could call that "going

The reason I find a term like "ideological warfare" inappropriate for the
description of current culture exchange between the west and the rest is
because of the unusual extent to which the west has voluntarily abjured the
traditional rights of conquest. The only precedent I can recall was the
conversion and enlightenment of ashoka the great, in india, around 250 ad.
After conquering most of india, amid the usual bloodshed and strife, ashoka
was overcome with remorse and converted to buddhism, triggering a brief
florescence of indian unity. A similar enlightenment was re-enacted
following western global conquest.

The traditional phase of conquest *was* marked by ideological warfare;
from the anthropological perspective, the missionary effort to eradicate
non-christian beliefs was terribly destructive. But that is over. There are
still traditional elements within the west who continue to prosthylize, of
course; the mormons being a prime example, but they now represent a fringe
element. Mainstream western culture explicitly recognizes the right, and
indeed the value, of all groups maintaining their local identity.

>>People are attracted to the western lifestyle; as a result, they
>>adopt certain western practices. But that is not ideological warfare.

>Your opinion, presented with zero documentation of the purported
>forces at work.

Many people prefer nikes and jeans to bare feet and legs. It's easier on
the feet, and your legs don't get scratched so much. What sort of
documentation do you require? This isn't rocket science.

>>Most people, if they need to travel more than a kilometer or so, prefer to
>>drive than to walk. No ideology involved. If they have to transport more
>>than about 5 kg, they prefer to use motorized transport, even for shorter
>>distances, rather than carrying their burden manually.

>Your opinion, completely false in my case (for example; not that it
>nullifies your "most").

You may have a different threshold, but at some point, you will prefer
motorized transport to shanks mare. If not, then you are a very unusual

>>This is physiology, not ideology.

>Says you. I find the suggestion absurd.

Really - perhaps you could explain why. It is a physiological fact that
humans have a limited ability to carry heavy loads over long distances.
Surely you are aware of this, since you prefer not to use vehicular aids.

My point being that regardless of ideology or cultural background, the
technology of the west is valuable to people, and they are willing to make
an effort to acquire it. If that means moving to the city and getting a job
in an assembly line, they will do it. Millions have done so.

Western medicine and sanitation has resulted in an enormous population boom
in the third world. Traditional agriculture can not produce enough food to
feed everyone. This implies either changes to traditional ways (what raja
calls "ideological warfare") or mass starvation. To the traditionalist,
*any* change is viewed with deep suspicion. If it comes from outside the
tribe, then it is viewed as an attack; in this case, an extension of
"western capitalist ideology obviating hegemonistic exploitation etc etc".

You've stated that you find my POV absurd, and complained about my lack of
documentation; I'd like to invite you to propose an alternative, and while
I don't demand any documentation, I'd like to see some rational arguments
to back up your position. "Says you" just isn't a very convincing counter,
as far as I'm concerned.

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