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Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 09:29 am
Racist robots

48CommentReply

qscrisp
qscrisp
Sat, Mar. 19th, 2005 01:30 pm (UTC)

I have seen the future and it is here.

On a slightly more serious note, if that's possible, one of the greatest things to stay with me from my time in Japan was a rather depressing dilemma that may not be universal, or inevitable, but has the appearance of such at present, and is currently being acted out on the world stage in the form of war between Christian and Muslim countries. That dilemma is to do with cultural tolerance, or intolerance. To say that we have racism beat, as some people do, usually to protect themselves, is to ignore the present reality of global racist conflict. The difference between Western racism and Japanese racism, as Momus has pointed out, is that Japanese racism is isolationist, whereas American racism is evangelistic.

When I was in Japan, and still now, this dilemma depressed my unutterably. Is that our choice as human beings? I wondered to myself. I still wonder. If that really is our only choice then it seems there's not much future for humanity. Just being in Japan, and Taiwan, where I also lived for a while, I felt guilty for historical events. It's a bit like the destroying the otherness you love dilemma presented in China Girl - "I'll give you television/I'll give you eyes of blue/I'll give you men who want to rule the world." Is it impossible to love the alien up close without, in some way, destroying the alien? Of course, not everyone even acts out of motives of attraction to the other. And many might say that events have moved on since then, which, to some extent, of course, they have. But I still had to ask myself, would it not have been better if Commodore Perry had never come here, if there had never been a Meiji Restoration etc. etc. And going further than that, would it not have been better if Europeans had never been expansionist etc. etc. Even if we put aside their imperialistic intentions, is the result of cultures meeting each other always conflict or racism in a passive or active guise? The idea of universal isolationism certainly seems a depressing one to me. And yet imperialism under the mask of 'globalisation' seems, well, not much better.

My own personal, perhaps temporary answer to this dilemma is what I call individualism. In other words, quite simply, if we interact purely as individuals, with our loyalties to humanity first and culture later, then this minimises cultural clashes. Of course, some individuals will necessarily claim groupism of some sort as part of their individual identity, and problems with this philosophy arise here. Nonetheless, I cannot see any better solutions at present.

One way this individualism is manifest is that comparisons of culture to see 'which is best' should immediately become redunant. I agree with anonymous above that you should not have to list the faults of your own culture before criticising another. This implies cultural competition, which is the very problem we should be trying to overcome. Of course, one may wish to make comparisons, but we should be careful that we are doing this in order to learn rather than in order to compete.

There's more, but I'll leave it at that for now.


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