Thursday, August 29, 2002

Den Beste gets mad at cultural relativists who constantly criticize US today (link via ekr). There's a lot of detail of practices in Mid-eastern or African cultures that should by all rights have horrified Western feminists and all opponents of capital punishment. I was already thinking along the same lines, so what interested me most was the thoughts about why these people are so horrified by the US:
  • It's the drunk looking for his keys under the streetlight. It's only when it comes to a country like the US that these people have a chance of getting heard; it's not because US is the best place to make improvements.
  • If they believe that all cultures are equal, then they must beat down American culture because it is so infective. The belief that all cultures are equal is so primary to them that facts must get reinterpreted to fit with this belief. Thus, the American culture is infective but low, unsophisticated, cheap, materialistic; therefore not in fact better in any way!

Coincidentally, this evening I also ran across a speech by Larry Wall, writer of the Perl programming language, in which he says that cultural relativism is ... the notion that everything is as good as everything else, because goodness is only a matter of opinion. It's like claiming that the only thing you can know absolutely is that you can't know anything absolutely. I think this is really just another form of Modernism, a kind of existentialism really, though unfortunately it's come to be associated with postmodernism. But I think it sucks.

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