Thursday, August 25, 2016

Actual Reasons for Cultural Stereotypes

One constant refrain I hear from partially educated people is that one should avoid stereotypes and generalizations. They may find it unbelievable, but I actually have an informed response to this claim. When something exists at a rate greater than chance, there is going to be a reason for it; although it may be a completely different reason from what you would expect.

Most stereotypes and generalizations have roots in reality. The explanations that are given however are typically wrong. Instead of addressing these wrong explanations, the academia seeks to shame them; which then reinforces the claim by conservatives that the academia is forcing a party line down people's throats instead of giving them actual education.

These, then, having seen their wrong explanations not refuted but censored or shamed, return to them and teach them to other people. On one side we see bigotry; on the other side we see artificial blindness. The two reinforce and strengthen one another.

The solution is not doing away with “stereotypes” or “generalizations.” The solution is finding out the actual reasons for these things. Once again: If something exists at a rate greater than chance, there will be a reason for it; and the academics should not dismiss such things but use them as grounds for more research.

Has Africa been, as many people claim, a mess? Yes. The reason is not racial inferiority but history. These countries had been governed by alien powers for centuries, and they did not know how to govern themselves. They are getting better at it, and the world's highest rates of economic growth in the last decade and a half have been recorded by African countries.

Is Israel, as many people claim, full of fascists? Yes. The reason is not that the Jews are evil but that they have learned their lessons from Second World War too well. If you have had your ancestors espouse liberal pacifism and work hard and peacefully to better other countries only to wind up in gas chambers, you would want your own country as well, and you would want to make sure that nobody can destroy it. They have taken a legitimate sentiment too far, to the point that they use the military for all sorts of things that can be better solved through trade or diplomacy. The reason is not any kind of an ethnic evil but a legitimate sentiment taken too far.

Is Europe, as many people claim, full of gutless people? Yes. The reason once again is a lesson from Second World War being learned too well. If you've had your continent run over by a bunch of hyper-nationalistic homicidal maniacs, you would hate war and nationalism as well. The Europeans became pacifistic – for a legitimate reason – to the point of being accommodating to regimes that should not be accommodated. The reason is not moral corruption on the part of the Europeans; the reason, again, is a lesson learned too well.

Is the Muslim world full of wife-beaters? Yes. That is because Mohammed tells them to be wife-beaters.

Is Russia full of rude, drunken, violent men? Yes. I do not know why that is; it appears to have been the Russian way for as long as anyone can remember.

In all of these places, there are people who take objection to the main thrust of their cultures, or try to. These people find themselves in the middle of a war. They rightfully see the wrong in their cultures, but they have no knowledge or experience of any other way. This sets them up for failure. If they fail in any manner, it reinforces the claim by everyone around them that their way is the right way. And if they succeed, they are seen by the people around them as infidels, traitors or dangerous antisocial individuals.

The solution is neither false bigoted explanations nor deliberate blindness. The solution is finding the correct cause.

If the academia seeks greater credibility in society, it will not teach artificial blindness. It will look for real explanations for social phenomena. These will solve two complementary problems – bigoted beliefs and artificial blindness posing as intelligence and education – at the same time.

It will also return the academia to its original purpose: As a place where people learn thinking habits and knowledge, not a place where they are being taught a party line. Conservatives are right to regard political correctness as fascism masquerading as tolerance. In a democracy, wrong ideas are meant to be met with better ideas and rational refutation rather than with censorship.

But the academics and the intellectuals have become lazy. They have decided to teach artificial blindness instead of thinking skills. This has vastly reduced their credibility. The American anti-intellectual climate is not only a result of demagoguery. It is a result of the fact that the folks in the academia are failing to speak to them.

There is in fact a legitimate task for the contemporary intellectuals and academics. It is to confront wrong explanations with right ones. It is to explain rightfully why some things exist at a greater rate than chance, that beget correct stereotypes but not correct explanations.

That will get rid of bigotry for real. And it will restore the academics and intellectuals to their rightful standing in society.


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