Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Todd Michel McComb (
29 Jun 1995 19:52:47 -0700

In article <>,
Gerold Firl <> wrote:
>You seem to view competition as a ruthless, cut-throat, destructive
>process; it can take those forms, but western business law, and customary
>practice, attempts to prevent such action.

I view war as a form of competition. The specific transmutation
of this competitive urge is still a major part of western ideology,
as witnessed by the extremely competitive forms that business
practice can take.

>In the early phase of capitalism, this wasn't understood. Hence the
>development of anti-trust legislation. Such legislation recognizes the
>danger of overly aggressive competition, but also the benefits. Can you say
>the same?

I have studied economics extensively. I am an expert in modern finance
and Wall Street trading strategies.

>The perils of the marketplace aren't in the same league with the
>realities of the battlefield and the slave block.

I suppose.

>You don't like simple answers to complex questions, and I don't blame you,
>but this is just a usenet post, not a book, so simple is all we have time
>for. Capitalism gave the world the means to drastically cut infant
>mortality and childhood disease, along with high-yield agriculture. This
>has led to very rapid population growth. Like it or not, this is a case
>where a malthusian analysis is very apt. Europe had several centuries to
>ramp-down fertility as death rates were controlled; the third world did
>not. Population grew faster than the ability to support it. Hence calcutta.
>In my opinion, vaccines, sanitation, and high-yield agricultural techniques
>were given to the third world with no ulterior motives. The consequence has
>been a population explosion which has stretched planetary resources to the
>breaking point.

That seems a reasonable viewpoint.

>>>Mainstream western culture explicitly recognizes the right, and
>>>indeed the value, of all groups maintaining their local identity.

>>Again, I find that statement a little hard to believe.

>The evidence can be seen in both the popular and corporate culture.

It depends on the people with whom you interact, I'll wager. But,
"all groups maintaining their local identity"... I remain skeptical;
I have only seen certain sorts of groups being granted this kind of
"legitimacy", and rarely on their own terms (not that I claim that
the latter is necessarily possible).

>Of course not. But when given the option of woven reed sandals and nikes,
>they prefer nikes. Jeans give a good combination of strength, flexibility,
>durability, comfort, and low cost. For most environments, you can't beat
>them. People wear jeans and tennis shoes *not* because they've been
>brainwashed into thinking that they can't be cool, hip, and modern without
>them, but because they *work*. If they didn't work, they wouldn't be
>fashionable; only dupes would wear them.

I still find this simplistic. I would need to see some hard evidence
on this point, especially as it relates to your larger conclusion.

>Ever gone grocery shopping? I've done it both ways. When I didn't have a
>car, I would walk, ride a bike, or take the bus to get groceries. I have a
>car now; it is much more convenient.

And prioritizing "convenience" (BTW, everything else aside, it
seems more convenient to me too, but then one _cannot_ put everything
else aside) is physiology rather than ideology (if those are indeed
are polarities)?

I guess I'd also like to know why some of the very same people who
have to drive their fancy car to go down the block also spend more
resources to "work out" in a gym.

>I wouldn't go so far as to call it a hardship; nonetheless, most people
>prefer to drive. Call it laziness, call it local optimization; that's the
>way people are.

And why is that? Because they've been given the opportunity to
always take the easy way out? Do you have any thoughts on how this
idea might relate to the fact that it is youths who are swayed most
easily by western ideas?

>Western cultures are unusual in their desire for novelty.

I claim that "progress" is only another form of stasis, in that
it *insists* upon a certain mindset for its leaders.

>Anthropology *is* the science of man. We try to understand why people do
>what they do. Why do you find that objectioable?

I prefer to understand what people do. I do not object to your desire
to ask why, but rather your claim to have easy answers to that question
on so many ocassions.

>Just because people agree with an opinion, it isn't absurd? Majority rules?

I don't blame you for your culture, as it were.

>It seems to me that many opinions which are widely held are absurd, or


>Lets call it a given that *every* statement, made by every person, is just
>a reflection of their personal opinion. Of course, sometimes what they say
>is objectively true, and sometimes it is utterly false. Sometimes it is
>purely subjective. But if I say something which looks wrong to you, I would
>hope that you'd point-out my error. How else can we learn?

Well, perhaps I'll make more of an effort to respond substantially if
you'll make some effort to modify your discursive style. Frankly, my
impression is that you believe you do not have any conditioned biases
or at least that you are able to speak around them. I suppose I cannot
really convey how your ideas look to me.

Todd Michel McComb