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Monday, October 29, 2007

Culturist Historical Re-Write

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Culturism works!!! That was the message I took from Clare Lyons' Sex Among the Rablle - An intimate History of Gender and Power in the Age of Revolution, Philadelphia, 1730 - 1830. The intended take away message from this work is that pre-revolutionary Philadelphia's "pleasure culture" was shut down by patriarchy and quashed female liberation. But, inadvertently, from a culturist perspective it provided a very different set of lessons.

Bastardy or out-of-wedlock births, Lyons argues, were accepted in pre-revolutionary America's culture. She demonstrates this by showing that no punishment was attached to single mothers in poor houses as the organizers searched for the "fathers" and wrest support from them. Bastardy and prostitution being allowed gave women options and so made them more free from patriarchal restraint. Alas, she tells us, when levels soared to 6.6 percent, Quaker organizations such as "The Association of the District of Southwark for the suppression of Vice and Immorality" and the "Magdalen Society" were formed to combat women's freedom.

The punitive organization to suppress vice and immorality did not meet with success. But the Magdalen Society provided shelter for prostitutes who would reform and had many takers. The Guardians of the Poor, the group that sheltered pregnant single women, started taking a more punitive outlook. Men had to be identified for support, housing was limited, children could be made servants in other's homes to pay for the upkeep, and care was given in an alms house. In the meantime, public prostitution was driven indoors, the ideal of virtuous women was pushed, and print was somehow cleaned up. This combination of helpful, moral and punitive measures lovered the rate of out of wedlock children from 1 in 101 to 1 in 149 between 1814 and 1822!

Lyons paints this effort as punitive and mean. But it is hard to see why single motherhood is liberating. Prostitution was an additional choice for women. But would you see the wide proliferation of whorehouses as good for women? If they were in your neighborhood, and you had kids, wouldn't you move out or fight them? Lyons' documentation of the widespread venereal disease did not sound too pleasant or liberating. Single mothererhood and childhood poverty go hand in hand. Lyons' focusing on personal pleasure and ignoring of the needs of children and society are symptomatic of the pervasive individualism that necessitates culturism.

If we were to lower the out of wedlock rate by 50% it would help our society and children. But Lyons is right, it would be at the expense of lessening public support for the "pleasure culture." Reducing out-of-wedlock births would require affirming that we consider it an undesirable practice and applying modern versions of our culturist traditions. The question is if we still have the will, legal right, desire and spine to be at all culturist or if individual rights and pleasure now trump any social considerations and assertions. Despite herself, Lyons shows that the Founding Fathers created a system of self-governance, not of anarchy; she showed that we have a long culturist tradition and it works!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Long Panic Blog with Foreign Policy Considerations

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Culturism will temporarily take longer for Amazon to ship when you order it. This perhaps boring blog will tell you all the gory details concerning why that is so. If you want a shorter and more controversial blog go to the one below this now!!!

The delay results from a last minute panic over the definition of culturism. In writing the book, it didn’t occur to me that my original idea had taken on another nuance: that of having a right to define and defend majority cultures. I mentally tossed and turned for days over whether or not to add this right to the philosophy and practice of culturism already in the definition.

It meant that I really had to ask myself if I believe in culturism all the way down. I got to this question by way of the use of the word “right” in the possible definition amendment. As culturism, the book, explains, rights only exist in countries that believe in them and can afford them. Having “right” in the definition seemed to undermine this nuance. It seemed to create a metaphysical obligation. The problem is that it implies that there is a universal value that we have to defend. That is very unculturistic.

Worse, this meant that the definition gave sanction to some completely unsavory behaviors. If there is a right to defend cultural majority behaviors we have to say that at some level honor killings and female genital mutilation have the sanction of culturist rights. This impass caused deep soul searching and remembering of arguments.

In fact, the people who do honor killings and female genital mutilation think they are upholding morality. We have fundamentally different morality. As a secular progressive American, I cannot stomach such things. But that is due to my cultural programming. YES! I reaffirm that they have a right to do such things IN THEIR COUNTRY. NOT HERE. Yes, deep down and all the way, I recognize that there are others, there is diversity, and no one has a metaphysical hold on who is right.

But saying they have a right to defend such behaviors still means that I could be called upon to defend them. This brings us to international relations and Iraq. Does giving people the right to defend and define themselves give aid and comfort to those who are currently attacking our soldiers in Iraq? For many hours I thought about whether I could write anything that implied that I would ever root for our enemies or against the U.S. Mercifully, two solutions came to mind.

First of all, for clarification, we are not at war in Iraq, we are on a peace keeping mission. They are bombing each other and we are trying to stop them. That said, honestly, I do not hold up much hope of Iraq’s stabilizing as a democracy. Yes, to be honest, I think isolation is the culturist way and we should not have gone. I am willing to try and hope that I am wrong. But, as a culturist, I feel they hold too many values that run counter to the ideal of peaceful co-existence for it to work. If I pull punches on that now it won't help us to understand this culturist lesson in the future.

Secondly, my saying you have a right to define and defend yourself does NOT MEAN YOU DO NOT KICK ASS. If part of your culture is preparing and carrying out Jihad, our defining and defending ourselves means stopping you. Also, stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons is part of defining and defending ourselves. Nukes are not a part of Iranian culture. But, here the culturist message is that a strike (ala Israel on Syria) is enough. We do not need to go and reform your culture. Apart from having nukes and training camps, culturism says go ahead and do what you will with your country.

Pragmatism was the final reason I decided to include the right to define and defend yourself in the definition of culturism. Other countries already believe they have a right to define and defend themselves. We do not. Ultimately, I am not concerned with what is happening internationally. I worry about America and other Western nations. We, of all cultures and nations, need to realize that we have a right to define and defend ourselves. This book is for America. We will be safer if we have a value that makes us pause before we try to reform others AND makes it clear to us that we have a right to define and defend ourseles! Nuances concerning rights aside, changing the definition serves a pragmatic purpose.

Anyhow, that is why Amazon shipping now takes longer. When the book arrives it will have the newest version of the definition and - hopefully - have more impact.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What is a good American?

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In speaking about culturism I’m asked what is an American – what is the majority culture of which you speak? This question is, of course, hard to answer because we are not easily defined, like other countries, by religion or race. We have a shared history and ideals and a shared future. But beyond that you have so many options that it boggles the mind: Gay ministers are good Americans and conservative gun proponents are good Americans too. We are a nation full of liberty and spectrum. But some general answers come to mind.

First of all, to be an American is to want what is best for America. This sounds like the utterance of a politician, but we have forgotten it. If you violate our laws and only complain about America you may not be a good American. Like being a Lakers fan, being a good American requires love. Fans can complain about their team –when will Kobe get some serious help and Mitch Kupchak leave – but at heart you have to really want your team to win.

The analogy with sports breaks down at the level of action. As a Lakers fan I am inactive. As an American, I speak with people about what I think will make America better. I attend rallies. But more than that, I try to improve myself and be a really good person in order to do credit to my grandfathers and our forefathers and our traditions. I work hard at what I do and take my work and role in America seriously.

If we need to change our institutions for your cultural group you are probably not a good candidate to be an American. For example, Muslims are currently challenging our basic holidays – holiday – build footbaths in quasi public institutions; change our photo identification laws and who gets served in markets and taxis. This is a bad sign. People are not fitting in. They are not conforming and in an era where individualism has eclipsed culturism, we are caving. We have to remember we have a culture and it requires some accommodation. If you are too inflexible to meld to our ways, you are probably a bad candidate for being an American.

Immigration that does not recognize the rule of law is another area of concern. Again, if we need to change our institutions to fit you, it is a sign you are not fitting in. Many immigrants believe that we need to dismantle our border laws to suit them. It is not clear that they want this because they think it is best for America. When people do not pay taxes once they are here or overuse public services and send money “home” it is not clear that they have America’s best interest at heart. A good American has upholding American institutions, fiscal stability and reputation as a goal.

This gets us to our last category. If you are a businessperson who puts profit above nation, you are a bad American. Divesting from America and running sweatshops domestically undermines our tax base. It enervates the middle class – which is a foundation of liberal democracies. If this country devolves into class hostility and violence – ala Mexico – we will lose liberties. Where will the businessman then live and enjoy a good quality of life? Do you really want to be secluded from America? Would it not feel better to be a part of an America that is strong free and something you can proud of? When your conscience is so checked out that you think porn on television and gangster rap on radio and no social questions arise, you have forgotten that we are all in this together. And remembering that we are all in this together is a big part of being a good American.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Happy Culturist Columbus Day!!

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Columbus day is a very appropriate and interesting day for culturism to finally be available on amazon. That’s right!! You can now buy culturism on Amazon!! Culturism’s availability is important because it very directly addresses the Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day controversy. Some people, 83 of whom got arrested at Denver’s Columbus Day Parade, want to remind us of what a disaster Columbus’ arrival was for Native Americans by renaming the holiday. As such, they have a point. But this point hides their larger agenda: equating all Western Civilization with genocide and terror. This hidden agenda requires a much closer and accurate look at history and anthropology.

Columbus was ruthless and brought a wave of violent conquistadores in his wake. But his settlement in the Caribbean and the conquistadors’ incursions into what became Latin America were very different than the British incursion nearly one hundred years later. The British derived much of their self-worth from contrasting themselves with the “Black Legend” and cruelty of the Spanish conquest. Rather than coming to plunder, rule and leave, the early Americans came to stay and live. So not all Westerners were equally villainous. Furthermore, nearly all of the “genocide” that happened resulted from the unintentional spread of diseases.

But the largest readjustment in the thinking the protesters need has to do with their understanding of indigenous peoples. Their righteous stance comes from their imagining the natives in the iconic mold of the noble savage. As chapter four of culturism details, natives the world around were largely brutal, superstitious, and violent. Somewhat near Denver, the Anastazi Indians had deforested and ruined the environment as well as turning to warfare and cannibalism for sustenance before Columbus arrived. A major reason the conquistadores in Columbus’ wake were able to conquer so many folks with so many men is that indigenous people were tired of being hunted for human sacrifice by the Aztecs. The Aztecs and Mayans hunted tens of thousands, ate their flesh and wore their skins!!! The British settlers largely survived by providing natives protection from each other. Environmental ruin, starvation, and warfare were widespread before Columbus arrived.

Yes, indigenous people sustained damage due to Western incursion. But here we should, again, remember the long sweep of context. “Indigenous peoples” also includes Africans. Our 300 years of slave trading was an extension of “indigenous” Islamic slave trading that went on for over 1000 years. That slavery was larger in scale and resulted in fewer survivors. Native Americans had slaves too. America, England and Western Civ are not unique for having had slavery; we are unique for having stomped it out. Previous to Western civilization 25% of indigenous peoples died violent deaths. Even in our previous century only 1.5 % of males died in battle. Very few people die in war now. Certainly people died at the hands of European expansion. But they died in greater numbers before and have subsequently had the benefit of living in a peaceful world.

Culturism does not judge cultures. If you ask people that practice female genital mutilation they will, whether your Western ears believe it or not, tell you it is a good thing. Human sacrifice and constant warfare likely give life a great sense of gusto that we fail to appreciate. But if the protesters for Indigenous Peoples do not like war, early death due to disease, starvation, human sacrifice and slavery they have imbibed Western values. They should remember that many indigenous peoples today kill for God, engage in slavery, hang homosexuals, denigrate freedom of conscience and commit honor killings. The values these protesters revere are Western, not indigenous. They should join all Western cultures in applying Western standards of judgment to Columbus. Then they should celebrate the spread of Western values they embrace and celebrate Western cultures’ spread by buying culturism on Amazon right now!