24 April 2012

Embrace Culturalism

Popehat | Clark | #ObamaDogRecipe: first take one dog, then write a DHS grant proposal for $10 million in inner-city 'locavore' cooking classes

Racist is not the same as culturalist.

Racism is bad. Culturalism is not, because culturalism is really about VALUES. Folks who want to stamp out culturalism know – at some level – that most people are not only culturalists but feel pretty darned good about being culturalists, which is why they never say things like "attacking a foreign culture for eating dogs or cutting off clitorises is bad". No, they first map a culture to a race, so that if you CLAIM you dislike people who engage in blood feuds and cut off clitorises the TRUTH is that you really dislike brown people. [...]

I don't hate Obama because of his skin color (I don't even "hate" him at all).

I loath Obama because he's a member, not of some Islamist culture, but because he's a member of the American leftist culture where "clever ideas", credentials, left wing shibboleths, good intentions and personal contacts trump actually delivering value.

As such I see that tying Obama to Indonesian culture is funny, but a bit silly. Obama gives no evidence of having internalized any Indonesian culture, so it's an attack that has no body to it.

Attacking Obama on his ACTUAL culture of American corporatist / group-rights / technocratic / top-down centralism makes much more sense to me.

(Note: feel free to replace "Obama" with "Romney" in the above rant)
Amen! "Culture" is just a set of decisions. Excusing behavior because "well that's just their culture" is a non sequitur. (Yes, yes, of course you must take context, including cultural context, into account. That doesn't make "it's a different culture" a get-out-of-jail-free card.)

As I've said before, bring on the "Culture War". We're going to be doing it anyway and politics isn't about policy so let's (1) be honest about what we're doing and (2) attempt to steer clear of the more purely aesthetic cultural decisions.
Culture is the result of a shared outlook on life and the world, and that outlook in turn is the result of something approaching a governing philosophy. That political battle lines are drawn over culture should be expected since culture is just a short hand way of arguing about the paradigms we use to interpret the world. Deism, Hobbesianism, Capitalism, Humanism, Evangelicalism and all the other -isms coalesce into our culture, and they are all worthy topics of political struggle. If that undercurrent of world view (combined with the sometimes regrettable specifics of our electoral system) happens to draw people into two discrete camps who define themselves as much by who they aren't as who they are, then so be it.

Granted, debate should rarely focus on the more purely aesthetic manifestations of culture, but culture itself is foundational. Mr Hodgman wants us to "focus on the issues," but more often than not issues can not be separated from culture.

As far as the culture war goes, I don't need people claiming that they represent the "real America." And I'm not interested in hearing about the Starbucks crowd versus the Dunkin' Donuts crowd. I don't really care what my politicians tastes are in hot, caffeinated beverages because the way they like their coffee doesn't say anything about them. But I also do not think it prudent to remove people's eating and drinking habits from discussion entirely. Joining the locavore movement says a lot about the value one places on the environment and what one know about economics, as well as how rational one is and whether one is more swayed by emotional or scientific arguments. (Ditto people's consumption of cloned meat and their opinions about biotech.) That's a piece of culture that I'm perfectly willing to include in the culture war. Generally I don't care what kind of pants my politicians wear, or cars they drive, or beer they drink. But if they only buy Wrangler jeans, drive Fords, and (formerly) drank Budweiser because they wanted to buy American, then I know a lot about where they stand on nationalism and free trade and probably immigration as well.
PS "You criticized a thing which is correlated with race, and so — since I can look deep into your soul and know your own motivations better than you yourself do — I know the real reason for your criticism is actually racism." I hate it when people pull that shit.

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