Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

raja (
Fri, 07 Jul 1995 18:06:43 -0500

In article <>, (Gerold
Firl) wrote:

> 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.

Mr. Firl,

Your assertions once again point away from the gist of the argument and
quite foolishly reveal their shallow intentions in doing so. Quite
understandably, you have embarked on a tirade meant to divert readers
attention away from the issues and into cheap personal exchanges. However
I'll spare you the honor of legitimacy, by sticking to the argument. If
you are no more interested in this line of exchange, I take it that you
have accepted defeat at the hands of historical facts. If not, then in
the name of whatever the hell inspires your cowardice, continue.

> 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.

Recognize, you do, but what have you said of the struggle against it? So
far very little.

> 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.

Ridiculous at best. At issue is not virtue, but power. Euroamerica has
to understand that its days of dreaming are soon going to be over.
Cultures are relationships. Relationships that help maintain particular
soci0-political orders. Comprendez? Now, the insight that the cultural
onslaught of Euroamerican power expressed through ideological
institutions, helps shape and maintain particular socio-political orders,
is a discomforting one for those accustomed to the benefits of these very
orders. For many others, this insight is liberating, since it helps them
see better how their understandings of the world are shaped and how they
themselves engage in reproducing these unerstandings. The contradiction
between what their 'understandings' tell them, and what their experience
tells them, is the key. For instance, the contradiction between the
ideology of individualism (ideologically acceptable 'understanding') and
the experience of isolation, leads many in the west to challenge the basic
tenets of individualism and discover its connections and committments to
the ideology of contemporary capitalism. How do explanations offered by
the ideological institutions account for the actual experience of people
in the world? This is the question. Where people find out gaps and
unexplained realities, they work out, through the power of self-reflection
and social praxis, explanations that can liberate them from the
debilitating effects of their false consciousness. Every game has its
rules, Mr. Firl, and rules make people do things in certain ways; never
forget however that people make rules. So if they realize at some point
that the rules of the game are serving the interests of their own
oppression, they're going to want to change the rules, with the power of
their collective will. Neither the flood of commodities nor the numbing
of the consciousness through the imagery of capitalism can stop that from
taking its desired course.

> 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?

Virtue is that which will help me defeat my oppressor..Check Frantz Fanon
for that one. Indian people will stand up and defeat their oppressors
just as surely as the American people will stand up and defeat theirs.
Just as oppression knows no national boundaries, liberation knows no
national boundaries. Solidarity of working peoples of the world will only
ensure the complete defeat of the leisuring leeches of capitalism. Of
course, Mr. Firl, you will surely find that completely illogical; I think
its a rather humorous understatement.

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

Why? Where there are classes, you probably imagine there to be a happy
and contented relationship of mutual complementarity?

> The model for the rise of the mauryas was alexanders conquest of the indus
> valley in 300 bc.

What model are you referring to here? The Mauryas (Nandas) were in power
even before Alexander's dumb adventure (falsely called a great conquest).
It was the fear of having to fight the Nanda state that drove Alex to head
back towards Europe, an intelligent decision, which his descendents could
have learned much from.

> 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.

"oriental mythology?' sounds more like european mythology. 'Hinduism' a
term coined by euroscholars in the nineteenth century. So you assert on
the basis of this mythology that 'hinduism' came back from the brink
because "'somebody'" absorbed greek influence. You should read your own
euromythology books carefully before you venture to make half-cooked
undigestables like that.

> 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.

Why do I feel like I've heard that kind of retort before? AAh Newt the
great, made some similar statement, about him being a revolutionary and
those who criticized his views being reactionaries. Just use the words
thinking people are stupid enough to accept them without knowing their
meanings. Perhaps I should call you a 'communist,' but I will spare you
the 'honor' and stick to the issues instead.

> 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.

Actual reason: Europe could not hold on to any of these colonies
anymore, because Europe was in pieces. Of course, cant say they didnt
try. The Indian people were simply too eager to kick them out. And dont
even start this 'gave independence' talk! Whose was it to be given in the
first place? Making it look as if Europe was so generous that they gave
it all away kind of nonsense. You could surely embarass even the most
conservative ideologue Mr. Firl.

> 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.

Vietnam: 3 1/2 million Vietnamese people killed in the name of such
'bloodless divestiture?' Surely you need to see a doctor if you believe
Many more examples, but we'll get to that later.

> 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
> result.

'Confucian cultures?' ridiculous! have to continue on this one later..

Mr. Firl, think about it, you cannot argue against reality. Or maybe you
can and wander about in some fantasy world imagining nice black and white
documentaries where everything was so nice and complete; the reassuring
voice of the confident white narrator hidden from view for the benefit of
minimum responsibility and maximum self-denial..thank you very much..

with good intentions.. be continued..