John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Fri, 15 Sep 1995 12:43:36 +0900

Tibor Benke writes,

"I think we can agree, that dispite two centuries of anthropological
research, neither culture nor ethnicity are well understood as
social phenomena. We can also agree, that ethnicity (in some
sense) has been used since before the rise of the Summerian
Empire as a way of organizing the large scale insanity of agression
known as war. I think, hardly anyone on this list would dispute
that ethnic identity, whatever else it may or may not be, is socialy
constructed, and hence a dynamic (almost in the cyberjargon
sense as in dynamic memory) phenomenon. And many of us, as I
perceive the author of your quote and you, as well, heartily wish
that ethnicity would just go away and we could all become
rational, pragmatic, individuals."

He later suggests that,

"However we deal with the concept of ethnicity, I think we will
never be able to define it precisely nor forget about it entirely.
And as long as there is socio-economic inequality, the processes
which go to make up the social construction of ethnicity will
continue to operate because, at the risk of oversymplifying, it
seems to be the result of some built in human propensity for
social differentiation."

To which I reply, belatedly, that I agree with most of what Tibor
says. I think, however, that he overstates the case when he
suggests that Brackette Williams and I "heartily wish that
ethnicity would just go away and we could all become rational,
pragmatic individuals." For myself alone I would say that I have a
more modest goal: to develop some rules of engagement that allow
people from one group to interact with people from other groups
in ways more civilized than either brute exploitation or war. I
must thus stand opposed to any who see in one or another ethnic
identity a higher value than the shared humanity which links us
all. As one of my culture's heroes put it, "Here I stand, I can do no

John McCreery