Re: Justice, Singaporean style

Wed, 20 Apr 1994 11:51:41 -0400

>Is it really cultural relativism or more of the myth of "the good savage
>and the bad colonialist"?

Not sure, Alexandre. The Singaporeans are Other to us - they are in the
East, we are here in the West - but they are hardly "savage." In terms of
the flow of global capital, they are part of the core, not the periphery.
Technogically, economically, and even politically (with regard to their
authoritarianism), they are not so Other to the West. They are right there
in the centre of the emerging global information/high-tech order... most
people, I doubt, think of them as "savage," but their system of justice may
merit to my eyes this appellation.
This is an unrelativist judgement on my part, of course. This, I
guess was my original point: no culture, as I see it, can argue for their
use of torture on the grounds of "cultural tradition." But I am not saying
that the U.S. lives up to my idea of justice, either, so it's not the case
of imposing my society's viewpoint on others; I think that most people, in
the U.S. and elsewhere, still confuse justice with vengeance or "an eye for
an eye." Or "teaching people a lesson."
Some people call it "caning." I call it what Amnesty International
does: "torture." And a human rights violation. Sure, corporal punishment
has a long history in the U.S. and elsewhere. Paddling is still an
important part of discipline in schools. Physical repression remains,
whatever people might say to the matter, much more effective than other
forms of discipline, in creating an authoritarian, rigid society.
But what really is the "myth of the good savage and the bad
colonialist?" Sure, not all "savages" or colonialists fit in one category
or the other. But you're not arguing the old, equally tired myth of "white
man's burden," that colonialism did the "savages" a favor?

>I think it is more of the latternd so may be as absurd as PC can be.
>Genuine cultural relativism is rare outside the academic community but is
>pretty much common inside this community.

Oh? It's not even common in many anthropology depts., let alone
international studies or area studies depts.

>This may help us believe that
>in time it'll "reach" to media. But I tend not to rely on mass media
>because this manner of transmitting information is totally incompatible
>with lenghty elaborations and still doesn't encourage reflexion.

Well, you'll have no disagreement from me on the flaws of the mass media.
But it remains a unique insight into the mass psyche. If it didn't get
ratings, they wouldn't air it. Hence, the Menendez brothers and Tonya
Harding have now come to the screen in their own docudramas...

>Alexandre Enkerli Ethnomusicologie, Ethnolinguistique,
>Dept. d'Anthropologie Anthropologie symbolique...
>U. de Montreal Afrique de l'Ouest, Irlande, culture
> Afro-Americaine
Seeker1 [@Nervm.Nerdc.Ufl.Edu] (real info available on request)
CyberAnthropologist, TechnoCulturalist, Guerilla Ontologist, Chaotician
Matrix Master Control Node #3, Gainesville, Fl.
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