carter pate (CPATE@UTCVM.BITNET)
Fri, 6 May 1994 16:04:02 EDT

I hope Tibor Benke doesn't think he's a certain talk show host, but I want to
send Tibor a "ditto" on kinship. He's stated it well. The contrast with
various principles of social organization which cut across kinship enables many
in the dominant urban nations of today to suspect that the declining influence
of kinship will lead it to disappear. Why do some people continue to try to
force a straight-line trend on data when it might any kind of a curve which
approachesm, but neve reaches a limit?
Kinship becomes ever more significant when whe realize our difficulties in
understanding what (for want of a better word) might be called the tribal
principal in most of the Muslim world. Even religious sects--Shiites, Sunnis,
Druzes, etc.--are really not demininations, but clusters of lineages ready to
go to war with each other at the slightest opportunity. We had better under-
stand kinship as a principle of social organization, if we want to avoid
wasting much of our human and material resources in repeated conflicts like
in Somalia!
Maybe we need a new set of kinship categories, with a little more "oomph"
to them. But what to me seems less surprising how with all our knowledge,
which tends to show that GENERATION has become a dominant organizing princi-
ple for us, overshadowing kinship, and we still only analyze our generational
society in terms of moral derogation: Lost generation, baby-boomers, X-
generation, etc. As part of the "limits of relativity" to which the cultural
record seems to witness, is that kinship is supported by some sort of univer-
sal pressure, while none of the principles which seem to overshadow it at times
is ever strong enough to remove it completely! From this perspective, to
understand our own society, we need to look at its GENERATIONALISM more objec-
tively. Is there an extreme of generationalism at which all things fall apart
since the new generations now believes older generations have absolutely
nothing to say to them? Can we forge a perspective in which kinship and non-
kinship principles correct the excesses to which each is prone, and balance
each other in ways which assure both cultural continuity and cultural flexibi-