Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Todd Michel McComb (
29 Jun 1995 14:30:29 -0700

In article <>,
Gerold Firl <> wrote:
>"*Go places*"? I'm not sure what you mean by this.

Your subsequent description was good enough for these purposes.

>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.

I agree that blanket terms like "ideological warfare" are not useful.

However, I think you understate the relationship of the current
economic situation to this catch-phrase. Economic *competition* is
a term I often see; I think you can see that competition and warfare
have similar loci, and I don't think that dismissing this connection
out-of-hand is appropriate.

Further, a case can be made (and indeed it is an open topic in many
circles) that the shift to "economic competition" (in its current
guise) from "traditional rights of conquest" was marked by practicality
as much as anything, and -- in effect -- involved no abjuration.

I think that these are the sorts of issues that should be discussed
if you are to claim to discuss the situation objectively, regardless
of where the balance ultimately lies.

>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.

>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.

How about some discussion of the _other options_? I mean, people didn't
all go around with bare legs and feet before there were nikes and jeans,
now did they?

>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

If for some reason I wanted to transport a truly large object, that
might be true, but I have never had such a need in my day-to-day

>>>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.

Let us not forget that you claimed that "most people" want to use
a motorized vehicle to carry loads "much in excess of 5kgs" for
reasons of physiology rather than ideology. Let me note that this
is the approximate weight of a gallon of milk.

Do you believe it is a physical hardship for "most people" to carry
(let's say) 2 gallons of milk home from the corner store (posited
as, say, 2kms away)? I find the suggestion absurd.

You have also totally neglected to mention intermediate solutions:
carts, etc. For instance, I cart my two-year-old boy over distances
of much more then 2kms and find it not a hardship at all. I even
carry my infant daughter, plus other cargo, at the same time.

>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.

Exactly how are you using the word "ideology"? I guess I am unclear
on that.

I would like to know how the purported desire to avoid more than the
slightest physical exertion (apparently only in certain contexts at
that) is unrelated to ideology.

But, yes, I agree that millions have done what you say. I also claim
that your causal analysis is simplistic in the extreme.

>If it comes from outside the
>tribe, then it is viewed as an attack;

Do you have any particular reason for making such bold generalizations
on complex phenomena?

>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.

First, I am not trying to make claims about why people do what they do.
I tend to find such things objectionable on principle, especially when
presented in short sentences without the slightest qualifier. Maybe
that is fine in everyday speech, but it seems totally inappropriate to

I do not find your POV "absurd" per se, since many people no doubt
agree with you. What always irritates me is the way you make these
claims in sweeping terms while pretending to speak objectively.

These issues are very complex, and I simply do not appreciate your
bald assertions. Perhaps that is a flaw in my own character.

Todd Michel McComb