Re: family and development

Bjorn Conrad Fry (bear@USNET.US.NET)
Fri, 2 Dec 1994 16:53:21 -0500

Dear Mike,
I greatly appreciate your response and have taken the liberty of
forwarding it to others. I do want to point out though that I'm not a
scientist and would definately not be qualified to do the type of research
you are recommending. This is not to say that I would not recommend that it
be carried out. I think that it would be a potentially rewarding endeavor.

You seem to see the way cultures define "the individual" as being
critical and I agree it is important. Granted, I believe in a relatively
absolute notion of the individual, however, I don't really think that my
views on the subject are as pertinant as one might suggest. It seems to me
that the individual or individual rights must be respected in order for
there to be justice and fairness in any society, regardless. No
individually can fairly be held responsible for all the actions or non
actions attributed to his or her group. It simply is not within his or her
power, usually, to totally control their group. This is even the case in
groups as small as a marriage. I have yet to see anyone hold one spouse
responsible for the actions of the other, regardless. I am not speaking
here of compelling or even suggesting that an individual must apply some
notion of "enlightened self interest" in order for their to be a chance of
"development;" no matter how one might define it. Once the rights of the
individual are sacrosanct, that individual should have the right to pursue
even the most selfless or even self-destructive course. It then becomes a
matter of personal choice modified by cultural priority. My profound hope
is that what we are addressing here is the cutural priority not the
individual rights that also have as a natural byproduct, for better or for
worse, personal choice.

I don't quite understand how you or anyone else could seperate
human rights from some concept of "personhood" that exists as part of a
collective system; if indeed that is what is being done. Or, am I to
conclude, that the issue of human rights really stands at the core of the
debate? Should I therefore recognize that obsticles to human rights in the
Third World, and much of Latin America, are a direct reflection of coersive
attempts to main the collective cultural status quo? I have already
attempted to make the point that justice and fairness can not ethically be
collectivised, due to the inalterable nature of human responsibility, for
lack of a better way of stating it.

The parochial aspects of all this has not been overlooked. Given my more
wholistic definition of culture, I find it impractical not to exclude them
in that defininition.

Am I wrong to perceive a certain reinvestigation of the merits of feudal life?

I hope all this isn't too abstract.

It would be nice to "hear" your views or the views of anyone who wishes to
"debate" these issues further.

>Dear Bjorn,
> It sometimes gets nasty, as you see. You've raised a legitimate issue
>which any anthropologist with some field experience can relate to. What
>struck me most about your posting was the apposition of the family on the one
>hand and the individual on the other. This is one version of the venerable
>individual vs. the collectivity opposition, which is a legitimate ethnographic
>issue in those societies in which people define the person as an individual.

Let it be said, once again, that most of what is wrong, and of
what is most perfectable in this world, is located between our
own ears. If we don't first start living our own lives to the
fullest, as individuals, in just fashion, and as empowered exam-
ples, instead of languishing in the addictive maelstrom of blame,
dependency, and its powerlessness, there is little hope for us.

Bjorn Conrad Fry - American
Bethesda, Maryland