Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Gerold Firl (
6 Jul 1995 13:10:32 -0700

In article <> (raja) writes:

>In article <>, (Gerold
>Firl) wrote:

>> 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 reason you find the term ideological warfare inappropriate is
>understandable. Apologists for aggression usually like to believe their
>cause is one of unquestionable virtue.

Raja, you have a true gift for packing a large number of misconceptions
into a single sentance. Now, I realize that you aren't interested in
learning anything new, and your house of dogma is complete, and neither
facts nor logic interest you in the slightest. This dialog has become
fairly pointless, since you're starting to repeat yourself. But lets have
one more round anyway.

Aggression has happened, is happening, and will happen. That's life, that's
history. I make no "apology" for it, but I do recognize the existance of
aggression and the role it has played in creating the world as it is.

Secondly, the concept of "virtue" does not transfer well from the level of
the individual interacting with other individuals, either within the same
culture or spanning different ones, to the level of one culture interacting
with another. Is it virtuous for a pawn to take a knight, but not for rook
to take a pawn? Every game has its own rules.

Was it virtuous for england to conquer india? Keep in mind that the rulers
displaced by the british were largely the descendants of the mogul
conquerers who destroyed the hindu cultures which succeeded (by violent
conquest, of course!) the buddhist kingdoms of the kushanas, greeks, and
mauryas, who built their empires on the ruins of the society built by the
indo-european sanskrit cultures which had destroyed the indus valley
cultures, which were probably already run using an apartheid-caste system
4000 years ago! Where is the virtue? Where is the evil aggression? Who can
believe that any culture, any cause, can make a claim to "unquestionable
virtue", unless they have a naive *need* to believe in a fairytale world of
good guys and bad guys?

>> 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.
>Both the example and the analogy you draw are problematic. Ashoka, ~250
>B.C. (not A.D), has been romanticized as an exemplar of moral

You're right - thank you for correcting my error.

>However, this view does not account for the fact that the
>real force in ascendence in India at the time was the rise of the lower

Oh dear. You are explaining the rise of the maurya dynasty using a *class
struggle* model? Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

>Ashoka himself was descended from a lineage of Shudra kings and
>the rise of Buddhist social philosophy, with its popularity among the
>lower classes enabled the rise of imperial ideological foundations, since
>the common factor at work was the rejection of Brahmin/Kshatriya
>(priesthood/warrior) hegemony.

The model for the rise of the mauryas was alexanders conquest of the indus
valley in 300 bc. What possible justification can you cite for your claim?
It appears instead that buddhism was a sect which appealed to the
sophisticated ruling class, and hinduism, as the folk religion of the
masses, quickly reasserted itself once the greek influence had been
absorbed. Read campbell, _oriental mythology_, for an excellent synopsis.

>Now that the above transformation is placed within the correct historical
>context, the analogy you draw needs consideration. Western Global
>Conquest is a continuing phenomenon.

Not conquest. Influence. Western influence is a continuing phenomenon,
because the west has developed technologies which everyone wants and needs.
You object to the fact that non-western societies have to change in order
to acquire these benefits, both because of your narrow ethnocentrism and
because of your traditional conservatism. You are a conservative, a
reactionary. You fear change, yet you want the goodies. Until you reconcile
those contradictions, you will be unhappy.

>There was no comparable romanticized catharsis which led to any
>significantly different behaviour among Euroamerican elites. True there
>have been very important changes in western societies, particularly
>arising from those quarters whose experience is closer to the experience
>of the third world than to anything else.
>Even the bloodbaths of 'World' War 1,2,..did not lead to anything
>substantially different. The triumph of American power following ww2 was
>marked as a major transformation, a 'new age,' and many versions of such

The bloodbath of the world wars resulted in enormous changes.

1. Colonial divestiture: within 20 years of the end of WWII (1965),
virtually *all* european colonies had been given independance.

I can not think of any examples in history where territory won by conquest
was relinquished as gently as the post-WWII european colonies. Can you?
Note: I'm not saying that the colonies were given independance without any
bloodshed or strife, only that they were released with *less* bloodshed
than ever seen before.

2. Full democracy in the west *and* japan: after WWII, all the countries of
the west, plus japan, were able to make the transition to democracy. You
could even say that india did the same, as well as some of the smaller
confucian cultures did the same, albeit imperfectly. This is a major

This is getting a little tedious raja; don't be too surprized if I don't
respond to you in the future. But feel free to rant all you like. And while
you regurgitate all your buzzwords, you might even consider *thinking* for
a minute, questioning your assumptions, looking at things from a different
perspective momentarily; who knows what might happen? Do you know the sound
of one hand clapping? You've been beating your drum so long, maybe you
should give it a rest and think things over.

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