In Praise of Ethnocentrism

September 27, 2007, 10:15 am; posted by
Filed under Articles, Steve  | 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking lately — all these people who tell me that diversity is the world’s greatest value, that all cultures are equally worthy of honor, that the West is ruining everything? Those folks are on to something.

I’ve always known and believed that all people are equally worthy of respect and life. But it’s only recently that I figured out that (1) we can’t judge between cultures, but (2) if we could, our culture is totally the worst!

Think about America. Is it really the land of the free, home of the brave, with democracy, liberty, apple pie and all that? I used to think so! Then I found out some Americans don’t have enough to eat, others are being oppressed, and some don’t even have jobs. Soon the whole ball of lies came unraveled.

Can a ball come unraveled? I guess a ball of lies could, if lies are like strings or rubber bands or something.

Anyway — America, freedom? Nonsense! If we were free, couldn’t everybody come to our nation, like the Statue of Liberty promises? And wouldn’t everything BE free? Obviously our central value is hypocrisy! How can speech be free here if everyone can just disagree with you in public?

I guess my real point isn’t that America’s bad — although it is. . . really bad . . . like, awful — what I’m telling you is that we can’t SAY any other cultures are bad, because that would be rude and mean and judgmental and petty.

We’re all the same, you see? It’s great to be the same! You’d know that if you understood diversity! All cultures are equally wonderful!


Don’t get me wrong — I’m not moving to Burkina Faso anytime soon. I take my cues from the experts, and they’ve taught me that understanding and solidarity have limits. It’s fine and dandy to express my beliefs right here, from the comfort of home — or better yet, my local coffee shop, with free wireless and expensive mochaccinos. See, the oppressed know that I’m with them, because I sign strongly worded petitions and wear hemp.

Don’t hassle me, pigs, I wear it, I don’t smoke it!

Where was I? Or rather, where wasn’t I? That’s Palestine or Tibet or Iran — basically anywhere trendy to talk about that doesn’t demand personal knowledge of the situation. That goes double if The Man thinks the country is dangerous or whatever. I mean, how ethnocentric is that, right? So a leader calls us the “Great Satan” or talks about wiping Israel completely off the map, right? Is it my place to judge? No! It’s my place to try to understand where he comes from! Culturally! And then he’ll do the same, I’m sure!

I’m sure China would be very understanding.

Wait, wait, I know what you’re thinking! You’re saying, Steve, don’t some people do bad things in their cultures? Don’t some subjugate, rape and oppress women as a matter of religious dogma? Don’t some of them actively seek our forced conversion to their beliefs at the price of our lives? Don’t some bind feet, mutilate genitalia, and marry pre-pubescent girls to the local equivalent of Phil Spector? Don’t they even torture political prisoners, kill babies as a national policy, and commit genocide against their own people?

Chill out, man, try the hemp! First of all, you’re forgetting that some Americans are homeless and that George Bush doesn’t care about black people. They stone homosexuals — we don’t let them marry each other. Same thing, dude!

And you’re thinking all Western again anyway! “Bad,” “good,” “right,” “wrong,” what does it all mean anyway? Why choose? We sort of do all that stuff too, or almost the same, like putting people in Guantanamo with just 1 copy of their holy book, limited access to exercise, and only 3 meals a day!

We’re talking cultures here, the way people live their lives! Who are we to judge???

I mean, we can’t look at cultures based on what they produce, or how they’ve improved the world, right? The United States has a GDP of $13.13 trillion (a measure of production), which is 28% of the whole world’s total (source: IMF). You might think, wow, America’s awesome. But wait! We also use a LOT of energy, like, way more than our fair share! 21.5 percent, according to international statistics!! Gotcha, USA!

Plus, some of that GDP is from McDonald’s, so it doesn’t count, okay? Fascists.

Could we possibly fairly judge a culture by the values it espouses? I already told you that we in the West are hypocrites — doesn’t honesty count? I’ll take a madman who’s clear about ruling me based on his interpretation of ancient scripture, including child abuse and chopping off hands, over a guy like our President, whom I just know wants us all under Methodist rule, with mandatory potlucks and baptisms and stuff.

My eyes have been opened and there’s no turning back. Rather than judging cultures based on objective criteria like their accomplishments, respect for life, or peaceful tolerance of dissent, I look at the world through innocent, unbiased eyes. People are basically good, right? So that means we can’t go wrong. I mean, if it was right to judge cultures — if there was an inherently superior way of living, of doing things, of treating people — well, that would mean that someone was wrong.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are a lot of people like me.

People who would rather die than point out what’s wrong.


2 Comments to “In Praise of Ethnocentrism”

  1. David on September 27th, 2007 5:30 pm

    Nice. If the sarcostrophe was available for general use it might make this a little more explainable when it surfaces at your confirmation hearings down the road.

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