Why post-modernist absolute relativism crap bugs me

Cultural practices – be their genesis religious, political or whatever – that discriminate against and validate the physical and psychological brutalisation of people based on their gender, their sexual orientation or their age belong in the museum.

When we (in the Western cultures) read our History books, we tend to be quite relieved to live in such a civilised, plentiful and humane culture, comparatively to what it used to have been. So why is it that some Western folks, when they look at other cultures, feel the urgent need to preserve them no matter what and feel extremely guilty about any sort of influence we might have upon them?

This kind of paternalism allows for a desensitisation of our disgust response before a cultural tradition that, if practised below our own roof, would make us contort in revolt. It’s their own culture, their own truth, we say. Somehow, I think that pain receptors are oblivious to cultural nuances and that someone being thrown stones at will definitely feel it, independently of where in the globe they were lucky to be born.

And yes, there’s a difference between colonising other nations and fighting for the universal protection of human rights. Of course there are political and commercial interests at stake when a country tries to intervene on another country’s practices. There’s no need to replace a hypocrisy tinted lens with naivety glasses. We just need to realise that not all cultural diversity is good. And keep reminding ourselves that just because we happen to be more tolerant in some realms, we’re not perfect either.

PS: I was lucky to grow up in a cultural mix. I was raised by a Portuguese family in Portugal going to a Portuguese school were I was taught by Portuguese teachers, but I also got the chance to make friends with people from other cultural backgrounds. I read, watched and listened to foreign cultural products – a lot more frequently than my own country’s. I wouldn’t be writing this post in English if it had been otherwise. And I feel extremely lucky that I can incorporate the products and practices of other cultures that appeal to me. Of course that cultures closer to my own appeal more to me than cultures radically different. But the point is that I’m in no way against cultural diversity. I don’t even think that should be the focus of the debate. We don’t have to know how to bark to realise if we’ve hurt a dog or not. So why does it seem so hard to identify if a person’s being hurt the moment they speak another language? Culture preservation shouldn’t be an excuse for brutality, full stop.

2 thoughts on “Why post-modernist absolute relativism crap bugs me

  1. I agree with you full heartedly. I attend colloge and there are several other cultures here. I pay attention to try and learn more from them about all the different ways of doing things and languages. I think it is cool the way we interact and when we finally get something right like the meaning or pronounciation of a word is estactic. If only the world would come together

    • Technological developments, which have allowed for faster travelling and global communication, have already brought us closer than ever. I don’t have a utopian view of the world, because the concept in itself is impossible to be applied to reality – what’s perfect for one person is not perfect for the next – but I do feel lucky to live in a time when people are becoming more autonomous and mobile and more “citizens of the world” than ever.

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