Re: what exactly do anthropologists do?

Gerold Firl (
10 Jul 1995 13:51:14 -0700

In article <3thta8$> (Todd Michel McComb) writes:
>In article <>,
>Gerold Firl <> wrote:

>I think this thread has reached the end for me; instead of defending
>your grand generalizations, you now seem intent on showing that the
>Western world is not "all bad". Since I have no desire to dispute
>that point, I have nothing else to say on the subject.

Lets see, what exactly were my grand generalizations? I was examining the
last few centuries of world history using a long-view perspective, a global
view, as opposed to the local, tribal view. I was describing the effects of
cultural blending, as travel and communications technology brings all the
cultures of earth into simulataneous contact, with western culture acting
as focus and mediator of the interchange.

I found it interesting to have three very disparate representatives of the
reactionary opposition posting simulataneously: first, the "swami" posting
from australia, who takes the purely religious tack - he objects to
westernization because the bhagavad gita doesn't mention it. Second, the
"swamy" from msu, who takes a doctrinaire marxist/third world approach - he
objects to westernization because can't conceive of any method for
generating wealth other than stealing it. He can only view the wealth of
the west and the poverty of the third world as the result of theft. And
third, we have you. You take the post-modern approach, which has the
advantage of plausible deniability; the vagueness of your terms allows you
to backtrack from anything you say.

You now say that I'm trying to show that the western world isn't "all bad".
Wrong. I'm simply saying that your negativity is entirely subjective, and
is not based on an objective analysis of history or current events.

>>Western culture has problems; it is good to focus on solving those
>>problems. But don't fall into the trap of seeing nothing but the
>>problems, and then compound the error by convincing yourself that
>>everything is wrong.

>To my knowledge, I have never made a statement even resembling the
>characterization above.

You wouldn't say such a thing, of course. But you refuse to accept that the
hazards of the market economy are more benign than the traditional
expediant of massacre and slavery for the losers in human competition. You
deny that modern science has largely conquered disease. You employ an
imagry of victimization to characterize the cause of poverty. What this all
adds-up to is a philosophy of negation and defeat, in which everything
looks bleak. And while it is not as explicitly reactionary as the nostalgia
of the religious fundamentalist, or as rigidly doctrinaire as the
fossilized marxist, neither is it forward-looking.

The origins of this kind of negative postmodernism are complex, and I'm
still trying to understand just where it comes from. Undoubtedly part of it
can be traced to the same anxiety over change which motivates the more
primitive reactionary, but other interesting forces are at work as well.
Feel free to contribute your own perspective, but I'll understand if you

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