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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Culturist Movie Review - No Country for Old Men

The movie No Country for Old Men was fantastic. It raised important philosophical issues and refused the easy happy ending. The movie follows people in pursuit of a sociopathic hit man and features a lot of random violence. But the violence is not gratuitous as it is the point of the film; extremely brutal actions are an increasingly common part of our culture. This must alter our sense of this world; we should expect to increasingly see life as more arbitrary, violent and out of our control.

Through the ruminations of the sherif who chases the sociopath, played by Tommy Lee Jones, we are repeatedly told that the crimes now are of a different nature than those which previously plagued us. One scene contradicts this theme. It tells of ruthless violence from a much earlier epoch. As a culturist, one concerned with our culture, this is not a small discrepancy; it tells us to give up and be resigned to the violence engulfing us.

From a wide historical perspective, America has consistently diminished violence. The Native Americans were extremely violent. The Puritan's wars with them were equally brutal. Any conflict from that age would make the few random acts of violence in this film seem tame. But with the advance of civilization, this violence diminished. Within living memory, we had nearly taken violence out of our society; it was nearly relegated to fiction. But recently violence has not only deeply penetrated our film and music, lawlessness has become increasingly common in real life.

From the point of view of social commentary, the fascinating part of this film is its location. No Country for Old Men is a border film. We go in and out of Mexico several times. The violence and drugs gets traced up to American corporations, but they come across the border. Out continuing comparatively low levels of violence result from a slow process of instituting values and the creation of a state apparatus to crush violence. American history teaches that areas that are not civilized are violent. "Winning the West" was a civilizing process.

The location of this movie is not incidental. The wide open spaces remind us of the brutality of frontier life. All Americans should know that Mexico's crime is, for our taste, so brutal it can be easily descibed as savage. Corrupt police often partake in the sort of drug violence depicted in this movie. The idea that when criminals want to escape they run away to Mexico, the idea that people are less likely to be caught there, is not just fiction; that country has less law and order than ours. Every illegal immigrant is sign of lawlessness - they show our nation is out of control. Worse yet, drug runners who take advantage of our broken borders are importing a brutal way of life into our culture.

A good portion of our increase in violence is homegrown. As this movie's location subtley reminds us, we also have an infusion of violence coming across our border. This film aptly portrays the sense of helplessness and despair that accompanies a culture of violence. No Country for Old Men is, however, not just a metaphorical art piece. Our broken borders have resulted in large parts of the Southwest again becoming "the Wild West." The beauty of this film is its consistent focus on nostalgia and cultural decline. How the West was lost could have served as an apt alternate title. No Country for Old Men should wake us up to the fact that we are allowing our nation to go slip back to a time of lawless savagery.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Culturists, Libertarians and Ron Paul

Yesterday I went to a libertarian meeting. I wanted to see if their ideas squared with culturist ideas. Libertarians are deep political philosophers. If they give you a policy suggestion and you ask "why?" a long answer will come your way. I applaud all people who take political thought and the fate of society seriously. They were able to present interesting challenges to culturism.

Libertarians believe in total individualism and miniscule government. Culturism holds that we have to manage our culture and that means government. Herein lays a potential disagreement. Culturism holds that majority cultures have a right to define, protect, and promote themselves. That implies democratic communitarianism. What to do?

Well the fundamental disagreement comes about when we consider what me mean by self-government and self-determination. Libertarians, often, take this to only apply to the individual as an island. Culturists believe that self-government and self-determination are collective as well as individual. We collectively have a right to choose what we want to do. Culturist would, of course, use the courts to protect the rights of minorities. But in the end, we stand with democracy, not individual rights as the way to have direction and self-government.

Much of the intellectual backing for this disagreement can be traced back to the Declaration of Independence. Libertarians put a lot of emphasis on the phrase "unalienable rights." By this formula, no one can tell another person what to do. Culturists have sympathy as individualism is a cornerstone of the American culture. However, the Declaration of Independence declares our collective independence from Britain rather than our individual independence from each other. Furthermore the Constitution - a more fundamental document - lays out a system of collective governance, not a form of anarchy. Culturists emphasize the "we" in "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Culturists recognize "we the people" are the first three words of the Constitution.

Culturists and Libertarians agree, however, on many things. Whereas Libertarians think that government should be limited on a matter of absolute principle, culturists believe it should be limited because of the lesson limiting government teaches. Limiting government teaches self-responsiblity. When the government does not take care of charity, community philanthropy has a reason to exist. When the Federal government determines all policy there is no reason to be involved in politics locally. But this is the rub. Culturist do not invoke, as Libertarians often do, absolute principles and extremes. Culturist believe we must look at actual situation and decide what to do on pragmatic grounds. Perhaps my home town might decide to tax for a road. Doctrinaire Libertarians would outlaw all non-private efforts as a matter of principle. Culturist might agree in theory, but see the benefits of public roads. Culturists are more pragmatic. That said, we both believe in limited government whenever possible.

This agreement is something that culturists can work with. Ron Paul believes that our Constitution entitles us to sovereignty. He believes that, to the extent possible, we should not interfere with other nations. Likely, he believes in these policies because he holds it to be a truism that government should be limited to enforcing our security and that is all. Culturists come to the identical policy conclusions based upon the idea that our culture is unique and needs defending. Culturists connect this supposition with the affirmation that other cultures are unique, will defend themselves and also have a right to do so. So, on slightly different bases, we arrive at the same conclusion. Culturists are not dogamatic and will agree with those who defend Western Civilization on any principle. We would hope that Libertarians would also be pragmatic and return the willingness to cooperate for our collective greater good.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Our nation is under attack!!!

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately. I'm transitioning back into school and work.

You may not be aware of it, but "the nation" is under attack. It is under attack intellectually in academia. I do not mean policies are under attack or that people are being anti-American. I mean the very concept of "nation" has for some time been denigrated as an "imagined community" with no basis in reality. This common perspective has some validity, but it can be questioned on numerous grounds. Furthermore, reinterpreting the facts can teach valuable culturist lessons.

Nations, it is true, are not as old as we often imagine them to be. Followers of this line of thinking particularly like to point out the not-too-distant disconnect between royalty, the people, and the nation. Under monarchy, the king was deserving of veneration, not a nation. The people spoke many different languages and thought of themselves as subjects, not citizens. The King himself often spoke a different language than those in administrative posts. It was only with the rise of republics that the people became attached as a community to a nation. "Nations" did not really exist until popular revolutions identified the people with the state and national destiny.

The newer nations of South America and Africa present even more stark cases of creation. The boundaries of these newer nations represent adminstrative divisions and not indigenous cultural of geographic features. Early maps did not even have nations. When Bolivar told people to think of themselves as Peruvians, he was creating a new category of peoples. Westerners discovered Cambodia's Angor Watt and Mexico's Chichen Itza. Before they were exploited by new nationalists, they meant nothing to the locals. History creates artificial ties to the past in the name of reifying unnatural categories of persons.

This position, first championed by Benedict Anderson, has some validity. It helps understand that nations are not eternal forms of political and identity organization. That said, we must, as Anderson does, make sure that we differentiate degrees of this reality. Some nations have virtually historical precedence. But some, as in England, have real and cultural ties to the past. English may have been standardized recently, but it was not invented out of whole cloth. It's selection by England as their language, was not totally arbitrary. The person who best represents this view (in the sense of being a great scholar and a great read) is Anthony D. Smith of Oxford. He has pointed out that Western connection to Greece, for example, while it has ebbed and flowed, is not arbitrary. No Western nation ties its existence to something that did not occur on its soil.

What if, though, nations are "imagined communities?" First of all, they are not so imagined anymore. After 230 years, the American nation has a history. We have a political founding, a Civil War, national politics, and collectively fought international wars that prove our national "narrative" is not totally fictive. Our nation has an undeniable basis in reality. Beyond this, though, why would nations being invented be a bad thing? In the West we celebrate invention. Is the lightbulb less valuable or more valuable for havinng been an invention? Our constitution is ingenious. We do not deride it because it was just "imagined." We should be even more proud of our nation for its being imagined and subsequently implemented.

The real issue herein, however, are the motives of those who started the debate being described. While the search for objective understanding might have merit, the need to "problematize" the idea of the nation is not a motive that can be said to be neutral. Many of these people are the same ones that championed social history in the 1970s. They said we should focus on ordinary people and not just politicians. If that is neutral it is fair enough. But when they are then hostile to including any great men, presidents or other political leaders in history, they distort more than rectify history. There was a backlash against not having governments in history. Now "Atlantic history" seeks to show that all governmental histories are intertwined. So when we cannot focus on happenings below national sovereignty, we transcend it internationally. The idea that nations are imagined falls suspiciously within the post-1970s pattern of nation depricating by historians.

Nations are good things! One definition of nation is an area within which there is peace. Rather than having warlords and tribes fighting eachother every two miles, you now have large regions in which there is no war. Historians seem to have not heard that modern anthropologists have established that life was previously very bloody. Since nations have risen, war has declined. Furthermore, communities, real or imagined, bring good feelings. Nature, anthropology and common feeling show that people like to belong. On some level it is ridiculous for me to identify with my sports team (GO LAKERS!), but I love it. Beyond this, common languages and trust, a sense of shared history and destiny, facilitates economics and democratic politics. We can trust eachother in business and in politics to not be ruthless. We agree that, when all is said and done, Democrats and Republicans are Americans and want what is best for it. Without this shared narrative, we can break into hostile groups and violence can errupt.

This brings us to the role of historians in the world. Everyone who writes on this topic notes the centrality of historians to the process of nation creation. Historians have to find old heroes and literature and bundle them to concoct a national heritage to celebrate. One can look at this and see it as an artificial manipulation of the identities of generic people. But, first of all, this overlooks the fact that before nations people still had imagined communities and shared cultures; the world before historians was not peopled with unattached individualists. Secondly, we can celebrate this as an act of valuable conscious creation of community. Like the story tellers of old, historians have fostered unity. To the extent that they have used Western sources, they have done so on a moral basis we should celebrate. Historians used to glory in telling of the deeds and values of our past, they should again.

As a history teacher my goal is to reify and glorify our great community. This noble role goes back to the days of the shamans. It is fact-based story telling. I kept this definition of my purpose especially close to my heart as I taught high school history. Teachers and culturists both know very well what people without larger role models can degenerate into. Teachers and culturists both know that without identification with a larger, imagined community, people naturally break off into sophmores and seniors, or races and conflict erupts. For our historians to spend their time deconstructing the nation is pathological. It undermines their profession's great contributions to the world. It, ironically, shows little appreciation for the historic role of historians. It is an abrogation of duty. Worst of all, belittling our nation as "imagined" can destabilize the Western world. And, if we forget to remember the values and examples of our forefathers, I don't want to imagine the very real horrors that might take its place.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Day History Lesson at an Unnamed University

Me and my big blogging mouth! For those who do not know, I am in academia. I have been seriously hammered for my opinions. I have gotten in trouble for saying things one should not say. And, I have decided that it is better for me to not say what I feel to a group of 12 people, go placidly amidst the noise and haste and not suffer what I perceive to be retribution and harrassment. My resolutions: 1) Don't talk much. 2) If you do talk, make the statement tentative, phrase your statement in the form of a question.

The topic on my first day visiting an unnamed university was the Enola Gay exihbit controversey. In 1995 the Smithsonian Institute exhibited the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the event. When the academic curators presented their proposal for review, a firestorm broke out. They wanted to tell both sides, ours and the Japanese. They wanted to utilize the new post-national history now hip in academic circles. They also wanted to frame the event as the beginning of the nuclear age and arms race. Veterans groups were mad as hell. They wanted to celebrate, not ponder or bemoan, the end of World War Two.

History can be spun. Our article for the opening class of the semester took the position that there was no objective way to tell the story. From the perspective of someone incinerated (if incinerated people still have one) it was a tragic day. From ours it was a better day. The article challenged the idea that we even had a unified view of the war. The article reminded us that the bombing only saved our soldiers lives, possibly not lives overall. When decrying Japanese imperialism, it reminded us that we had taken Hawaii.

"Yes," there was no way my resolution to not speak would realistically ever hold in any situation "but, even though there are multiple perspectives and each has some validity, could we could use the perponderance of evidence to create an overall picture that has more truth than others?" "Perhaps we have a controversey because back then the perspective was clear about who was good and bad, and it is only with hindsight that alternative views can be considered? In doing history, is it our goal to uncover the past or make a judgement about it?" I was proud at my tentative responses. But as the discussion went on I felt myself slipping. "Don't speak. Questions, not statements" I reminded myself.

But finally, I HAD to ask the big one, "leaving the Japanese, could we say that the Nazi regime was in some sense objectively evil?" To my surprise, someone actually asked me what they had done that was evil. I smiled nervously, having to make a statement. I ventured tentatively but with undisguisable emotion, "well, genocide?" A student who was free to make statements, having the confidence of the majority said, "That is only our perspective. From their perspective they are doing right." I nodded and held my tongue.

At some level I was just plain stunned. At another level, I understood the absence of absolute truth. Culturism holds that each culture has its own truth. Genocide is the hard case. My having been arguing so much about absolute truth lately primed me to pause before screaming about right and wrong. Moments later I recalled the culturist reply. In general, our interfering in other's wars gets us into bad situations; we end up protecting Tutsi maniacs. In Sudan, though it is clearer that we have a cultural affinity with those being murdered, we still have to make a pragmatic choices about intervening. But Nazi Germany was Western. We can judge absolutely that from Socrates on the West has largely held the individual conscience to be sacred. More basically, Jesus said thou shalt not kill. The Nazis went against the Western ideals of freedom of speech and the separation of church and state too. Their ravaging the Western world gave us no choice but to condemn and fight them.

Tentatively, after class I approached the woman who had said Nazi's had their side too. I asked, "The question then becomes, should government exhibits which teach our population, be neutral? Are we obligated to present the idea that the holacaust was good?" Her response further silenced me, "Well, some people think that the holacaust never happened." Silence, John, silence. Silence!!! Another woman chimed in, "We shouldn't judge right and wrong, we are historians. You cannot understand both sides if you have judgement. "So we should teach the Nazi doctrine in our exhibits of World War Two and in our textbooks without judgement?" "Yes. We'll can present their side and then let people decide what they think. That is good history." "Even in public venues?" "Yes." "Okay." I walked away silently.

Too many thoughts. The holacaust is amongst the best documented events in history. There must be some standard of evidence whereby we can nail down facts, even if we want to argue interpretation. Less obviously, if all is interpretation, then we still have a side. These scholars want to work towards a post-nationalist point of view. That is said to be more accurate. But if this leads us to having to say Nazis were right, I don't want it. It may be only our side, but our side holds that Nazis were wrong. We fought, and I would fight, to the death to keep that sort of thought system from sweeping Western civilization. The Nazi's very existence tells us that our values are not obvious. If we do not explicitly teach our values as being right, we cannot assume they will continue. Ultimately, I do not believe in objective interpretations of history. But even if I did, considering the Nazis objectively may make us better historians, but it does not make us better people, and it certainly will not help define, protect and promote our values.

Historians should not check their cultural and moral perspective at the door. I say that even though I largely held my breath and kept my outrage and arguments to myself after entering the classroom. I cannot be proud that I was silent in the face of evil arguments, but I want to graduate. I don't need to go through harrassment over my views at the hands of professors ever again. When I graduate and teach I'll be able to argue my positions from the pulpit of a university position. And though I did not fully express myself to them, I got to express myself to you. That is more important to me. Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The perils of multiculturalism in schools

The National Literacy Panel on Language Minority Children and Youth concluded that not even one study showed that culture-based education improved achievement in reading and writing. Some, in an article about this in the January 8th issue of Education Week, say the lack of evidence is due to the inherent difficulty of measuring when the student’s culture has been properly integrated and the limits of standardized tests. Only one study has ever shown math increases. It was performed on Yup’ik second graders in consultation with the tribal elders. But this study’s uncorroborated results are strange in light of the lack of evidence that language achievement is enhanced; you would think language would be more sensitive to culture-based education than math. Furthermore one would have to ask if isolated Alaskan communities have the same dynamics of urban youth. Even without any evidence, California and Florida mandate teachers training in multicultural understanding. One researcher said nonchalantly, “If . . . there’s no evidence it does harm, then let them do it.”

The problem is that cultural-based multicultural education is not only about achievement. It is political. Much of the reasoning (the word “research” does not apply) in this area goes as follows: The theorists note that there is an achievement gap. As groups, Asians and whites do better than Hispanics and blacks in all areas of academics. They then correctly note that this cannot be due to racial differences. The significant fraction of Hispanic and black students who do excel disproves that race is important. But whereas culturists would now suggest that culture is important, these researchers do not take culture seriously. Culturists note that some cultures do more homework and are more gung ho about education. Culture-based education proponents hold to the multicultural view that all cultures are to be celebrated and do not account for much more than food, fiestas and fashion. And once they exclude racial ability and cultural diversity as explanations, they assert that the achievement gap results from systematic institutional racism.

We then go off the deep end of education theory. We look for obvious signs of racism in the system and do not find them; laws specifically prohibit this. We then have to look for subtle racism to find the source of the achievement gap. Ultimately, these multicultural educators conclude, it is not individual acts, but the fact that the entire system uses “white” culture to teach that alienates the youth of color. For example, if “white” English is the standard by which proficiency is to be judged minority students are viewed as deficient. Their self-esteem goes down. This is the basis of “whiteness” studies. Being aware about how Standard English "privileges" "white culture" is said to be crucial to equalizing power relations. Books such as the widely popular, “the Skin That We Speak” do correct our tendency to only see non-standard cultural styles in terms of deficits. But the assumption that white culture equals racist oppression that social justice requires challenging, teaches a dangerous lesson.

If culture-based education is measured by its ability to help children learn, the evidence is inconclusive to negative. But when cultural-based education is promoted as a way to challenge "privilege" and bring "social justice" it becomes destructive. It teaches children that society is unfair. It undermines individual responsibility. When it teaches minority victimization it primes entire groups of people to be angry and that their cultural habits should have no impact. It calls failure noble as it is justifiable "resistance." It contributes to the commonly noted complaint from black students that doing homework is “acting white.” To the extent that it labels confrontation a cultural mode of expression it undermines addressing discipline problems for fear of being called racist. When it emphasizes Ebonics, culture-based education causes the school to fail to teach the skills needed to get ahead. Whether right or wrong, American – not to mention Chinese and European – businessmen do not respect reports written in Ebonics. It is certainly not the case that no negative consequences can come from culture-based education.

The worst result of multicultural, culture-based education is that when we teach all cultures are inherently equal – sans the oppressive “whiteness” – we cut youth off from inspiration. This multicultural notion fails to distinguish the unique moral contributions of the West. For studying the Aztecs to give you pride, you would have to embrace human sacrifice and endless war for victims. Contrary to popular belief,in terms of percent dead, the prior century was the most peaceful in the history of the world. We are the culture that came up with freedom of speech, separation of church and state, democracy, due process and the idea of fighting irrational discrimination. Non-Western nations do not embrace these concepts. Western culture has invented nearly every modern convenience the students enjoy. When we fail to teach the inspirational achievements of Western culture, contributing to society loses its nobility. No one wants to contribute to an oppressive racist white society. All of our students, regardless of background, should be proud to contribute, know they have a duty to contribute, to the Western project of rational self-governance.

Ultimately, however, student achievement is not the only issue at stake. If our students fail to achieve, our economy can flounder. If our schools fail to create a connection between our students, balkanization can emerge. Poverty, balkanization and a culture of blame are dangerous for society. No cultures are more concerned with fairness and equal opportunity than Western ones. If the West falls behind or falls completely, we may be forced to find out just how culturally barbaric and insensitive life can be in the school of hard knocks.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Culturist School Lessons

Yesterday I had a long talk with Jimmy. Jimmy's name has been changed for this article. But, Jimmy is a real American of African descent, teacher and basketball coach in Harlem. He runs a program that is making a difference in young black men's lives. He said he had four students go to four year universities last year. When I asked, "On basketball scholarships?" Jimmy replied, "No, on academic scholarships." His program is working and he is a great man.

Jimmy was alarmed, as all culturists should be, about the state of young black American males. He threw out the familiar statistics about more black men being in prison than college. Woefully, he chalked this up to single motherhood. The mothers make them the center of attention and the difference between home life and school life sets them up for failure.

My culturist contribution was to note that groups have philosophies. The idea that society is unfair, you have no hope and to do schoolwork is acting white are common thoughts in the black community that must be overtly confronted. Jimmy told me about his elderly mother who would walk great distances to a segregated school in the South to get to school. Once there, she did not complain, she did not resist and rail; she did what her teachers said and got an education. That, I replied, around the time of Little Rock Arkansas battle for integration was, by-and-large, the default attitude towards education among both races.

The lesson here is not that one should accept segregation, but one might. That is because our attitudes are not pre-set by nature. Youth come into this world keyed to absorb the cultural milieu in which they find themselves. This is a culturist fact. In tribal times 25 % of men died violent deaths. If you expect to give no guidance and expect respectful, peaceful males who respect women, you need to study more. Western norms, all norms, are absorbed, not consciously thought out generation after generation.

If we do not provide covert guidance as to what we expect, esteem and don't tolerate, we should not expect great behavior to emerge spontaneously. The assumptions that inform the anger of young men need to be confronted overtly. We need to teach that our level of social mobility, while not perfect, is better than any other country you can name. Furthermore, the lack of mobility that exists is not all society's fault. It is in your interest and, due to our forefather's sacrifice, a duty to strive to be productive; youth need positively contribute to the society that positively contributes to them. Different values emerge from this teaching than the ones that are currently fostering anger and defiance.

Furthermore, the attitudinal and behavioral norms and guidance Jimmy and I discussed must be established early. Males confront for status. Being told that the school is the top dog gives it authority. The school's having pretentions to this without it being backed up invites challenge and disrespect. From an early age, the school must be strict and announce what it will and will not esteem. When we give pregnant teens jobs in the front office, when we allow boys to dress in a way that disrespects the institution they are in, we set a tone that informs attitudes. We need to differentiate good and bad behavior from an early age without regard to Freudian self-esteem issues. We are doing culturist psychology, not individualist psychology.

Jimmy applauded these ideas. He had been taught by educationists to think that more student relevant thinking was needed. But he was convinced during our hour-long conversation, that institution relevant - culturist - thinking was needed. He recognized the disconnect between his fabulous program's constantly telling the kids what to do and the education school's abandonment philosophy. This philosophy says the kid fails to do their work due to a lack of interest. It then advocates letting them guide the curriculum or not participate. This model puts too much pressure on the child to reinvent culture, gives them an excuse to fail, and does not adequately give them the cultural guidance they seek by nature. When the streets take up the slack we should not be surprised. We need more program's like Jimmy's that guide youth from an early age; these need positive messages and strong values delineation; they need to be behaviorally prescriptive; they need to go until 6 pm. We need to, like Jimmy, be fathers to these kids.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Culturism Versus Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism holds that we should celebrate our differences. Culturism suggests that we celebrate our unity. In the history of the world every tribe, nation and group has thought it wise to emphasize their unity. But multiculturalists have the strategy "celebrate diversity" as a radical new idea. Robert Putnam has recently put the two sides to a test.

Robert Putnam is the author of the wonderful book Bowling Alone. In this work this Harvard political scientist employs sociology to investigate the concept of "social capital." Social capital is a measure of cultural connectedness. This would include networks with other people as well as access to understanding the language and skills involved in getting ahead. Those without social capital are not woven into the social fabric of society.

In Bowling Alone he finds that social capital is rapidly dwindling amongst Americans. This means that they trust less and have less in common with their fellow citizens. They volunteer less, vote less, and are generally less involved in their communities than ever. Bowling is up, bowling leagues are down. Americans are increasingly bowling alone. Putnam found social capital to be associated with health, wealth, and low crime rates. In his earlier study of Italy he found that social capital even explained the ability for democracy to emerge.

Putnam's recent study on diversity involved nearly 30,000 people in 41 communities. He found that the more diverse neighborhoods are the less social capital they create. People in diverse communities volunteer less, give to charity less, vote less and work on less community projects. The simple fact is that people do not trust people they share little in common with. As President Clinton's Secretary of Labor Robert Reich pointed out, the rich do not want pay taxes to help the poor when they do not see any commonality with them.

Putnam said, "It would be unfortunate if a politically correct progressivism were to deny the reality of the challenge to social solidarity posed by diversity." These findings were not racial. Putnam said those in diverse communities "distrust their neighbors, regadless of the color of their skin." Ethnic tensions did not arise so much as a general civic malaise. Some have argued that diversity helps economically, many have argued against that conclusion. But all agree, as Putnam says, when it comes to social connections between people, diversity "brings out the turtle in all of us" he said.

Culturism does not hope or expect diversity to be eliminated. Anyone who does is silly; diversity will always be a welcome part of America. But if we do not stress our unity, we may lose our conntection to our fellow Americans altogether. This may undermine our sense of connection, political action, and sense of trust we might otherwise feel with our neighbors and those less fortunate. In the end, Putnam's Italian studies show that emphasizing multiculturalism over culturism may even undermine our ability to have a sustainable democracy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Western Civilization and Your Rights are Under Attack!!!!

Recently there have been a rash of attacks on the uniquely Western institutions of free speech and the separation of church and state. To inquire about the attacks on Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, click the title of this blog. To learn of those against the Englishman named Lionheart go to http://lionheartuk.blogspot.com/2008/01/british-police-have-been-charged-with.html.

Ezra Levant has republished the Danish cartoons which caused riots and protest all over the Muslim world in Canada and is being prosecuted for it. While we are supposed to understand and tolerate Muslim culture, they do not try to do so for ours. Free speech is an essential part of Western culture that does not exist in Islamic nations. They should appreciate and tolerate it. The extreme shame of it is that it is a Canadian governmental body that is prosecuting Levant for exercising his free speech. The government complaint form allowed the plaintif to check a complaint of religious discrimination. Essentially the same thing is happening in England, with Lionhart, and America with Marc Steyn (using Canadian laws).

Multiculturalism says there is no main culture in Western nations. There is one; it celebrates separation of church and state and freedom of speech. These are not universal cultural characteristics, they are Western. The complaint against Steyn says it seeks to "protect Canadian multiculturalism and tolerance." But as some cultures do not celebrate free speech and separation of church and state, they are not Western. Some cultures advocate Sharia law and some are cannibals. Canada is not multicultural, it is Western.

Instead of multiculturalism, we must realize we are unique and practice culturism. That means that just as Islamic and Asian cultures protect, promote and privilege their cultures, Western governments should protect, promote and privilege Western cultural traditions. We have a unique tradition to protect or lose. It is not the default of world culture. In Islamic nations their laws can, and do, promote what they want. In Western lands freedom of speech and the separation of church and state must be held sacrosanct. If muslims do not like the promotion and practices of Western culture they are free to leave it.

My previous statement is not racist, it is culturist. In England Lionheart has been jailed on "suspicion of Stirring up Racial Hatred by displaying written material contrary to sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act 1986." First of all, they were factually true. But that aside, culture and race are different. Warning about a religion is not racist, it is culturist. Silencing discussion of culture under the guise of stopping racism is misguided, inaccurate and dangerous. Race is not a productive or rational basis of discrimination. Culture is a productive and rational basis of discrimination. This post is not racist, but it is culturist. This post defends some cultural precepts and denounces others. Unlike making racial distinctions, the freedom to make cultural pronouncements is essential to all societies.

Western culture is not universal. That this is not widely know is shown in the name of the commission prosecuting Ezra Levant: "Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission." Individual rights are not "human" or "universal" they are Western. If we do not protect them, as they do not exist elsewhere, rights will disappear.

All Canadians should post Ezra Lavant's offensive articles on their blogs. All Englishmen should post Lionheart's offensive articles. Will they jail all of you? Counter suits for publishing the hate filled Koran is also necessary.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Culturist Thought of the Day - America is NOT Racist

My descriptions of Western culture mention that we believe in democracy, women's rights, the separation of Church and State, and individualism. People are surprised to hear that these are not universal beliefs. I explain that Americans often incorrectly think their values are universal. But when I describe the West as anti-racist I really get indignation. "Surely we are very racist" comes the reply. Silence follows my response that we are amongst the least racist places on earth or in history. While Barack Hussein Obama's campaign has gotten the issue into international news, we need to set the record straight; Western nations like America lead the world in the fight against racism.

Americans, again, too often fail to take notice of the rest of the world's difference. Korea is very racist. My wife is Korean. Walking there we have had strangers stop us and tell her she is a disgrace. At a jazz concert two years ago rocks were thrown at us. That is their culture. I do not bring this up to say we should condemn them or invade them to make them follow "human rights." I bring this up to say that such behavior would be considered outrageous beyond belief here. Even if we were brave enough to whisper support for such thoughts, we would be rightfully scared of acting on them. In our society, I am proud to write, few things are worse than to be called a racist.

But racism is not just about attitudes. Korean, Chinese and Japanese laws are overtly racist. If you are not of the proper racial category you cannot become a citizen of these nations without marriage to one of them. If you marry someone from the right lineage and wait some years you might be able to get Asian citizenship. But even then, your "mixed-blood" child would not be allowed in the army, they may be excluded from public school, and many government and private jobs will be impossible for them to attain. This is not to condemn them, this is how they anchor their identities. Our notion that we should not discriminate on the basis of race is noble, but it is only ours. We should, however, be very proud that our laws, unlike those of other countries, actually forbid racism.

Until the United States and for much of our history, most nation's identities were based on race. German was not only a type of citizenship, it was a race. Japanese is a racial designation. I can tell you what a Filipino looks like. I cannot, however, tell you what an American looks like. We are the exception to the rule in that we are not race based. The traditional Indian caste system is largely based on color. And in countries like those of Latin America, to the extent that they have it, mobility is much more constrained by race than it is here. Western nations are pioneers in the concept of a race-blind society.

I am bragging. Yes I am. But this is necessary. While racial discrimination is illegal here, while we have affirmative action programs to help minorities, while we even have an African American candidate for President, we still hear that America is a very racist country. This results from our comparing ourselves to some unattained ideal and NOT from the rest of the world. While Barack Hussein Obama is running for President and getting race discussed, it is important to note that he is running. That he is considered a viable candidate to be our national leader is remarkable. Those who would take this point of pride from us need to be confronted with a factual comparison. While the world watches our elections it is important for us to brag that America is among the LEAST RACIST NATIONS ON EARTH. This fact should be proudly featured in any description of the West.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Culturist Q and A

How does culturism's view square with the “culture war?”

The "culture war" is seen as divisive.

Both secularists and religious folks in our country can look back on a a long Western cultural tradition that holds mens’ spiritual attributes to be more valuable than their physical attributes. Plato said that men’s souls were higher than their bodies. He said reason should rule appetite. Freud said the same thing. Jesus did too. It is sad that so often Christians and feminists agree on issues, but the way they frame them divides them.

Both the religious and the non-religious can invoke the primacy of mind / soul over body to anchor morals and critiques of our current culture. Why do we not feature sex on television or in the classroom? Because both insult man as a mental being. This is not just purely a cultural preference; real results come from it. We have a first world economy and opportunity today because we applied our minds to the problems of this world.

The FCC should make public airwaves an island of decency. This would create a safe zone for kids. We should use zoning laws to keep strip club billboards away from our main thoroughfares. In the age of of the internet the idea that this will bar people's access to information does not hold water. These culturist policies will promote essential cultural values.

The Culture War is often framed as a secular versus progressive battle. Culturism seeks to unite the sides around common Western values.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Culturist Thought of the Day - Iowa and New Hampshire

As you know, Huckabee won Iowa and McCain won New Hampshire. To a culturist this is very bad news. That is because both of these candidates are pro-Amnesty. That means that they are likely to naturalize illegals in terrorist cells and further erode our national sovereignty.

It is also bad news for culturists as it, perhaps, indicates that culturists are out of touch with the American people. Polls show, however, that immigration is a top issue of concern with voters. It has been a focus of the debates. Huckabee even brought Jim Gilchrist, a founder of the minutemen, aboard to get an immigration enforcement image.

So what gives? This culturist's theory has to do with geography. Our system allows people from Northern cities to winnow down the candidates. Iowa is one state away from Canada and three states away from our southern border. It is one of the least likely places in America to understand the impact of immigration. New Hampshire actually touches Canada. Other than Maine, it is our Northernmost state.

Hang in there Paul and Romney. If this culturist is correct, when we get to states further South we'll see very different results. Immigration will be a deciding factor in states that don't border Canada. In the long run, we should work to get the nomination process changes so that it doesn't start with states that are so geographically remote. Early inclusion of at least one state from the South or Southwest would make the process more likely to reflect the concerns of most Americans.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Culturist Thought of the Day - Romney, Obama and Multiculturalism

It would be extremely rich for culturists if Mitt Romney and Barack Hussein Obama were the nominees of their respective parties. Romney is, of course, a Mormon. Obama has many ties to Islam.

Normally, assuming America has any culturist sensibility at all, Obama's ties to Islam would disqualify him from the presidency of the United States. He went to a madrassa as a child, his father and stepfather were Muslim. Obama visited Kenya, the country of his youth where his muslim stepmother still lives - and supported the Muslim leader in their now bloody conflict, Raila Odinga. But media's blackout is based on its buy-in with multiculturalism. To multiculturalists all cultures are interchagable and equally worthy of celebration.

Romney's Mormon religious roots are problematic too. Many Mormons still believe in Polygamy. Culturism, the book, explains why accepting this on an individualist level makes sense, but culturist reasoning rejects it. What happens when pimps start to marry their whores? When bad men collect women? Mormon's have, in Romney's life, been outwardly racist. Culturists know that even when you are clearly talking about cultural issues you are likely to be smeared as a racist.
Nothing gets you exiled from reasonable discussions faster.

If these two get their party's nominatios we'll get to look at two very unseemly, (Western standards) cultures closely. If multiculturalists qualify their celebration of diversity, they are actually culturists. Either they would have to say they love polygamy and racism, Jihad and honor killings or ignore these examples of diversity. That is what they normally do and strive to do. But the temptation for Romney to use the Islam card and disqualify Obama would be huge. Obama's temptation to uncover the unseemly side of Mormonism would be equally large. If either exposed the other, multiculturalist's unqualified love of diversity would take a hit. Culturist issues would be raised and perhaps our culture would realize that Western values are unique and not to be taken for granted.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Gathering Storm Culturist Interview

Yesterday I was on the Gathering Storm Report blogtalk radio program put on by Always On Watch. You can find it via clicking on the title of this blog. It was a great show as their extended format really allows deep exploraton of ideas. The format allows you to go deeper into ideas than the typical 15 minute slot allows. But still, there was one line of reasoning in which I don't think I responded to the host, W.C., well enough.

At the top of the show, W.C., Always (the co-host) and I discussed my biggest disagreement with almost everyone else who writes about Islam; I do not spend any time vilifying other cultures in other countries. I do not support Islamic Fascism Awareness Week. I do not decry what muslims do in muslim countries.

People that decry other nations for not being like us utilize the same globalist thinking that the open borders crowd does. It holds that all can come here because everyone in the world basically agrees that being an American is the future or shortly will agree. I don't think that China agrees that democracy is good or that Islamic nations agree that the separation of church and state is good. As pockets of no-go areas in France testify, people who immigrate to the West do not naturally assume our ideals or assimilate. Diversity exists. Challenging Islamic countries to hold up Western ideals is like asking a pig to walk on two feet.

This globalist thinking also justifies our forays into other nations. Our trying to turn Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan into progressive democracies is based on the idea that all people basically agree in our human rights, democratic, individual conscience fostering, vision. But as soon as democracy came to Palistine they voted in Hamas. The popular vote does not automatically lead to Enlightenment-based policies. Democracies result in such only when the people in the countries in question believe in them. Diversity exists, our nation is special.

W.C. put me in the most difficult spot of the night when he asked me what should be done about Islamic expansion. My first response was to find a point of agreement. All who worry about such things recognize that we should stop muslim immigration to Western nations immediately. What I did not mention is that culturism does not respect nation's rights to have nuclear weapons. It is totally Kosher, from a culturist perspective, to go in and bomb Iran's nuclear facilities; to kill Osama for attacking us; to invade and dismantle Pakistan's nukes. What is not legitimate is to then occupy the country and try to reprogram its culture to where it can support a democracy. This denies the existence of diversity or the importance of culture. It, again, is the same thinking that justifies open borders. It assumes there is no diversity and it is like trying to get a lion to be kind to zebras.

Ah, but I still had not answered W.C.'s great and challenging question. What to do about Islamic expansionism. The strategic practicality answer is the one I should have emphasized. Is it affordable or practical get militarily involved in country after country where the Western notion of rights is being violated? We might get into enforcing other's borders, but we often do so to stave off one Islamic foe from another. We then end up sending money to support an Islamic nation. Why on earth do we send money to Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine? Are these our friends? NO!!! At best they might vote for a couple of years, then they revert to being our enemies. We should protect and back Western nations only. If we want Western values to survive, to remain a possible light upon a hill for others, our money is best spent protecting Western borders and economies.

That is my best answer to the most challenging question I was asked. It went to the very heart of my disagreement with others who write on this issue. I'd utilize any means to protect us, whatever is practical. I just think that we get better bang for our buck defining, protecting and promoting our culture domestically - being culturist - than spending our money in and on Islamic nations in the hope of turning them into Western ones.

Thanks to WC. and Always for having me on The Gathering Storm Report.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Culturist Letter to a Globalist

Dear Globalist,

Obviously, I do not agree with the view that all cultures are becoming ephemeral. Drinking Coca-cola does not make you American any more than eating Chinese food makes me Chinese. I was a high school teacher for eight years. The achievement gaps between cultural groups has budged very little. That is because some cultures value education much more than others. Some value teen pregnancy. Both drink Coca cola. These are very significant examples of diversity; they have a huge impact.

You may say that all cultures will inevitably agree that education and low teen birth rates are the goal of life and what they wish. You are not the only one to posit the idea that all cultures are becoming one. But when we make that assumption we assume that they are becoming united behind Western ideals. Islam will adopt a separation of Church and State. China will become a democratic respector of human rights. Even if you believe that we are destiny, I do not think this is what they would say. As China gains in power they are increasingly unwilling quietly accept scold for not adopting Western "Universal" values. Islamic countries are not giving up. Until they give up the "illusion" of keeping their culture, it is unsafe to assume that they are just little "modern" Americans in the making.

Interestingly, people who believe that globalization is making us and our model the international default simultaneously claim that the world is diversifying. Borders are breaking down. However, that is not true. China, Japan and Korea still only give citizenship to foreigners who marry into their culture. Even then the rights are exteremly limited. Having spent time in each, I can tell you that they are not increasingly diverse. Islamic countries are not opening up to diversity. Saudi Arabia doesn't even let in non-muslim symbols, let alone people. Africa is not polyglot. Only the West is diversifying. We are globalizing by breaking down our borders. It is dangerous that we are the only ones experimenting with dismantling our culture and sovereignty. At very least we should check this trend with more rigor than asserting slogans about "celebrating diversity."

Those who think all are the same, culture has no import and diversity doesn't really exist promote open borders. They believe that all people are Americans deep down. People come here in droves; but not necessarily because they love the U.S. They want the money. They take welfare, don't pay taxes, and send their profits back home. This does not show overriding concern for America. It is not certain that we can maintain a first world economy on such a basis. Worse, many people who come here settle in enclaves and are actually hostile to the West. We do not see that so much in America yet. But Europe has no-go zones and Muslim enclaves where hostility to women's rights, freedom of speech, and the separation of church and state are not believed in.

Racism is stupid and dangerous. Because of this we have become afraid to speak of cultural differences. This is behind much of the reason that we have gone for multiculturalism. We have decided not to judge anything; to just, as the slogan goes, "celebrate diversity." It is not healthy to be blind to basic truths. Cultural diversity exists and it is important. Racism is totally irrational and dangerous. Culturism is necessary. Multiculturalism has robbed us of our ability to make value judgements. Culturism can restore our ability to make value judgements. We will have more realistic and productive debates if we identify ourselves as "culturists."

PS Culturism is defined as saying that cultures have a right to define, protect, and promote themselves. It respects the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia, China and Iraq. By definition it is not globalist, pro-sovereignty, and against attacking other nations in the name of Western - what non-culturists mistakingly call "universal" - values.

Sincerely, Culturism

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Culturism's "Western Abolition Celebration Day" Idea

The New Jersey legislature is considering issuing an apology for slavery. Assemblyman William Payne asks, "If former Confederate states can take action like this, why can't a Northeast state like New Jersey?" Here is my response and a suggestion.

Every conservative will respond to this by asking if 640,000 dead is not an apology? After giving 640,000 lives and countless injuries in the name of stopping slavery, saying, "we want an apology too" is sort of Monty Python.

Beyond this we forget that every country since the beginning of time has had slavery. Native Americans had slavery. Africans had slavery. The Islamic slave trade totally dwarfed ours. Much less than 10% of slaves that came to the New World were destined for these United States.

Western civilization is the only one to have ever had a problem with slavery. We are the ones who decided it was wrong. We fought a Civil War over slavery. Brazil got the bulk of slaves that came to the New World. Did they have a war to stop it? No their slavery continued until 1908. How about Saudi Arabia or Libya? They enslaved Europeans until Jefferson sent the marines, as the hymn has it, to "the shores of Tripoli." The British spent decades fighting against slavery in Africa. They were unsucessful in stopping indigenous and Islamic slavery. But they tried.

Rather than apologize, we should have an annual celebration of our unique efforts to stop slavery. We should celebrate the British and American efforts. I cannot for the life of me think of a good name for this suggested holiday, but it would be something like the "Western Abolition Celebration Day." We could celebrate those thinkers and warriors who struggled to convince people slavery was wrong and gave "the last full measure of devotion" (their lives, Gettysburg Address) to stop it.

New Jersey Assemblyman Payne said an apology would comfort black residents of New Jersey. Calling someone a victim, treating them like a sulking child, insults them. Furthermore his proposal is designed to make America feel bad. Does it help people to think their society is bad? Is such an attitude conducive to striving within that society?

It would be much healthier for all concerned if, instead of another silly and tired apology from pompous pandering hypicrites who would likely not have given their lives in battle, we had an annual celebration of being a part of a country and civilizatio that was so marvelous as to be the first to condemn slavery and fight to abolish it!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Culturist Thought of the Day - History Lessons

History started around campfires in tribal times. It was a central part of that which kept the tribe thinking itself important, creating cohesion and passing on values. History serves an essential function within society.

Academic history has forgotten what the historic function of history has been up to now. They have gotten into the debunking business using scientific accuracy as a tool. Mr. Moses you are correct. Grand narratives are said to be dead and inaccurate. We need multiple perspectives. There is merit in that, but too much of it, as Dr. Wilson suggested, is a cloak for fabricated Marxist ideology. Rather than serve the central function that history is to serve within a culture, they use history to destroy and debunk the culture. This is enormously destructive.

The popularity of history can be seen in the existence of the history channel. Many best selling books concer historical topics. Many top movies depict historical events. Histories popularity results from its tribal roots. Academic historians who have stripped the positive messages and narrative of history do not sell. This should tell them something; we need our myths.