Wednesday, February 24, 2010

French Make Close Culturist Call on Trains!

French officials put out a warning that Romanians have been stealing bags on trains. Calling it 'racist,' in the apology the French train service said it strives to not make any "distinction based on "origin, social class, or nationality." This event raises some serious culturist issues.

Here a very few are sullying the reputations of many. Romanians may be stealing more than others. If true, do you want to announce this fact? Whenever you make generalizations, you impugn the reputations of some innocent folks. And here the percentage of Romanian thieves may be very small. And, getting your luggage stolen is not a life and death situation. So do you sully the reputation of Romanians for the sake of safe luggage? That is a judgment call.

Whereas there should be a discussion, the French officials are putting out a blanket statement against any and all distinctions. But could "origin," or "nationality" not tell you something about a group's behavior? For example we Americans think it is racist that Latinos drop out of high school at a higher level. Could culture not have something to do with it? Could Latino culture, not American racism, be at fault? When we make a virtue of being blind to all distinctions, as the French have here, we lose the ability to discuss such important issues.

We all distinguish based on origin and nationality. This is rarely racism. It is often culturism. We can statistically determine if Romanians steal disproportionately. If they do and we publicize it, that would be useful information to citizens. It could inform immigration laws and policing measures. On top of that, it would give Romanians cause to discuss morality with their fellows. They could work to mend their reputation by reforming their behavior. Then they could point out improving statistics yearly. Crying racism and intimidating folks who discuss it does no good for them or society.

Since the official who made the offending signs did not do much research, Romanians may be being unfairly blamed. And since being careful of all when traveling likely does just as much good as just looking for Romanians, I think the signs unjustified. But, it is pathological, in the name of fighting racism, to embrace cultural blindness. Sometimes, as in young Muslim men getting on planes, this can be deadly. In such a case we must use culturist profiling. To do so we must be able to distinguish between irrational racism and rational culturism. Our lives and civilization can hang in the balance.
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