Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Analyzing the Source

When Idi Amin died, a Ugandan responded to Western condemnation of him by saying that the Ugandans are tolerant. I asked him, “What are you willing to tolerate, and in whom?” I think that it is important that every place has that debate.

I am willing to tolerate all sorts of people, including many whom nobody else tolerates. I am not however willing to tolerate lies. Wrong beliefs lead to wrong action; and whether the belief is a deliberate lie or an intellectual error, in both cases consequences are destructive. It is valid to tolerate people, and I do so with many people who are nothing like me and who, in some cases, are pariahs. It is not valid to tolerate rackets, and nobody should.

With cultures, the issue becomes more complex. Most cultures have some things right with them and some things wrong with them. In no way is it right to seek a monoculture that denies one's people the contributions of useful things from abroad. But neither should one, as many in multiculturalism claim, respect all cultures. I see no reason at all to respect a culture that thinks it right to throw sulfuric acid into the face of a little girl for going to school, and I see no reason why a feminist should either.

When cultures do mix, frequently people do not understand the source of the influence. When I came to America, the American kids – and many adults – saw in me all sorts of things that they did not like. They held me personally responsible for them. They called me all sorts of ugly things. As they've dealt with more people from Russia, many of whom expressed these traits to a much greater extent than I did, many of them realized that I was not the source of the problem. At which point many of them realized that I was not the bogeyman and that I was only bringing with myself all sorts of things from elsewhere.

As of course does just about everyone, wherever from they may be.

I knew a man from Louisiana who said, “You can take the boy out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the boy.” I am pretty sure that you can in fact take the South out of the boy, but it appears to be a very dangerous process. Even if the boy did not like it in the South, he will still have a lot of the Southern attitudes, which he may cling to fanatically and see anyone attempting to deconstruct them as being evil. This is not unique to the South; this will be seen everywhere.

Then there is the idea that any number of people have told me that some attitudes – such as for example romantic attitudes that I have – are childish. My response to that is that the age at which one was exposed to the influence says nothing about the influence. That I read The Count of Monte Cristo when I was 10 does not mean that Dumas was 10 when he wrote The Count Of Monte Cristo. For that matter, I was exposed to both Communism and capitalism when I was a child. That does not mean that either is childish.

As for the influences that I do see, it is rightful to trace them back to their source. People have influence of all sorts of others, whether or not they know it, and whether or not they are able to articulate it. Many people are not all that intelligent, but they have influence of all sorts of highly intelligent people, and the correct thing to do is not to dismiss them as being unintelligent but finding out what influence has been responsible for shaping their views. Even the most bigoted people have influence of great thinkers. They may not be all that good at understanding or articulating; but the source of the influence does. Look then at the source. At which point it becomes possible to actually understand these people and deal with them rightfully.

When the source is analyzed, it finally become possible to be effective. Either you agree with the source and change your approach, or you see where the source has gone wrong. This then becomes a viable approach, and one that can be useful for anyone involved in any kind of cultural debate.


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