Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Gerold Firl (
28 Jun 1995 12:37:05 -0700

In article <> (x) writes:

> 'The comprehensive sweep of your misunderstanding is vast' says little
>of what exactly you think I 'misunderstand.' The 'abstract distant enemy'
>is neither distant nor abstract. This enemy speaks through the
>ideological warfare of the capitalist system.

Every culture on earth is currently being influenced by the west. This is
not the result of any ideological warfare. People are attracted to the
western lifestyle; as a result, they adopt certain western practices. But
that is not ideological warfare.

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. This is physiology,
not ideology.

People like telephones. They can use them to talk to others, even when
separated by long distances. It's not an ideological issue. People like to
talk, that's all.

But installing a telephone system is a non-trivial task. It takes time, it
takes money, and it takes expertise. If people want to have telephones,
they need to pay for it somehow. It's really quite simple. There are lots
of companies which install telephone systems, but they can't do it for
free. But they don't care about your beliefs, your personal habits, or the
color of your skin. It's strictly business. No ideology involved. No
country is compelled to accept western communications technology. If they
want it, they can get it. It turns out that basically everyone wants it.

Can you give an example of this warfare you speak of, this clash of
cultures? It looks different from the western perspective. In the US, there
is enormous interest in other cultures. We are constantly learning from
others. This isn't seen as pollution, because we assume that we want to use
whatever works best. That is a big part of why we have things like the
internet. The alternative, rigidly clinging to tradition, is the way of

I can understand why it looks different from the other end. Western culture
can assimilate the ideas and values of other cultures with less dislocation
than our partners on the other side of the exchange; we've been doing it
for the last 500 years, and we already contain a large variety of competing
points of view, all coexisting within a cultural environment which
tolerates diversity. No other culture is so open to foreign influence. That
presents some challenges, but I don't see any way around them - they will
have to be surmounted.

>Since European capitalists engaged in global
>aggression on an increasing scale at the time, anthropology had to arise,
>in order to give legitimacy to their actions.

Wrong again. We've gone over this before. Anthropology has consistently
operated to *diminish* xenophobia and ethnocentrism.

> Late 19th century saw some of the most demented forms of European
>thought arise, particularly with respect to non-white peoples of the

Can you name any society on earth which isn't racist?

Western culture is evolving into global culture. In the last 30 years, this
has resulted in a deliberate, conscious repudiation of tribal racism.
Notice that while japan has very successfully adopted western economic
systems, it still lags in some of the less-tangible areas. Japan is much
more racist than any western country, as is china.

A true global culture, including all of humanity, must necessarily be
non-racist. The west is attempting to create such a culture. You are
attempting to safeguard the purity of your tribal culture; what I have been
trying to tell you is that your attempt, in the form you currently pursue,
is doomed. Tribal cultures can not survive the advent of electronic
communications technology.

But all is not lost. Local subcultures will persist. But understand this.
They must come to terms with global culture. They need not adopt global
culture completely, but local variations must make sense to local people.
Otherwise they will not survive.

That was the cultural aspect of integration. The other primary issue is
economic. You get what you pay for, and there is no such thing as a free
lunch. But this is no cause for dispair. You simply need to find something
where you have a competitive advantage. The outsourcing of manufacturing to
underdeveloped nations is an opportunity to learn western techniques. The
next step is to creatively develop your own products, your own techniques.
That is how wealth is created. It's not easy, but it can be done. It is
being done. Look at taiwan. Taiwan has *adapted* to a changing world, and
is soon going to join the ranks of the wealthy nations. And they did it
with their own intelligence and hard work. Who's next?

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