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Much Ado About A Destructive Nothing

Updated: Jun 14

How Cultural Relativism Escaped Its Boundaries and Infected Society

In 2014, waves of "refugees" began flooding into Western Europe. At the time, they were met with open arms by European nations. You see, for decades, Europeans had been taught a speculative worldview, based on their post-war desires and experiences. These speculations, perhaps noble in their intent, posited that all people are the same the world over, as are all cultures. If given the opportunity, they suggested, all people would want freedom, oppose violence, and accept the many other values that Europeans hold dear.

This idea, sometimes called "magic soil theory," premised that there are no "bad" cultures, just as there are no "bad" people. Any violent regions of the world are that way due to external factors (often blamed on the West) and, therefore, the people that make up such regions are simply innocent victims of circumstances aching to be like us here in the West. In this worldview, only systems matter. Therefore, if differing peoples and cultures step foot within our systems, they can and will become as British as Queen Victoria or as American as Ben Franklin, simply by osmosis.

This perspective is based on "cultural relativism," the idea that there is no universal standard by which one can measure a culture or behavior. Though it has gone through rebranding over the years (you may remember "political correctness"), and eventually morphed into its most current iteration, sometimes called "wokeism," the foundational ideas of the concept remain largely unchanged.

The Relativist position is that the norms and values of one culture should not be evaluated using the norms and values of another. Therefore, who are we to judge another culture or people for the behavior they might display? Its successor, moral relativism, which heavily influenced both the United Nations and the European Union (both driving forces in mass immigration), posits that there is no real difference between cultures; and that all cultures and peoples are interchangeable like parts on a bike.

However, as Europeans soon found, something was missing in this hypothesis.

Following the inflow, came waves of violent crime, rape, child molestation, human trafficking and terrorism. To make matters worse, European courts handed out lenient sentences, or in some cases no punishment at all, for individuals who committed repeated heinous actions, based on "cultural differences." Canadian courts have also allowed weakened sentences for similar heinous crimes based on the idea that cultural differences mean the person responsible should not be held fully responsible. This lenience only seems to increase the frequency of these horrific attacks.

In every scientific discipline, there are tools created to be uniquely suited to, and meant to be used solely within, the confines of that discipline. For example, psychologists have the DSM, a detailed manual by which they can determine if someone is suffering from a mental disorder. But, that manual is meant for trained mental health practitioners. There are details involved in diagnoses that would be missed if an untrained (even if knowledgeable) individual attempted to use it to self-diagnose.

Sometimes scientific tools and ideas become popularized among the general public. For example, the concept of "Schrödinger’s cat" became quite well known after it was presented in a TV show. The actual idea is supposed to be a simplified illustration of the highly complex theory within the field of physics. However, the show misrepresented the illustration and as a result, millions of people now walk around quoting an illustration of an idea they don’t even realize they don’t understand. 

Cultural relativism found its way using both of these misapplications. It was founded by "the father of American anthropology," Franz Boas, an adherent of the Gramscian approach to Marxist conquest. One of Boas' early influences, Abraham Jacobi, was a close friend of Karl Marx and went on to advise Boas throughout his career.

The idea of cultural relativism was initially supposed to be applied specifically by anthropologists studying foreign cultures. It was a tool that was meant to help one put aside their experience in the West and approach foreign, often primitive, even horrifically violent, cultures and tribes from a "blank slate" perspective. Boas believed that one could not fairly represent the subject of their study without first setting aside "prejudices" they might have. While that is an arguably reasonable position for an anthropologist in a professional setting, it began to be applied to society at large.

During the early-to-mid 20th century, it became a mark of elite status for people, particularly women, to attend lectures on scientific topics. The attendees would then go out to social events and share their 'knowledge' and newfound insight with their contemporaries. Soon, as Niall Ferguson pointed out, the ideas of the time, even ones meant as field-specific applications, regardless of their quality, spread throughout upper-class society, and slowly trickled down from there.

By the 1960s, while the long march through the institutions of the West was finding its stride, students were taught that cultural relativism, no longer just a tool for academics, was an admirable worldview to be embraced. It was gauche to have a crucifix in one's home, but a statue of a Buddha was very, very cool. By the 90s, those same acolytes of progressivism had found their way into the civil service, departments of state, and positions of leadership from the White House to Whitehall, from Brussels to the Bundestag.

It is from this generation, raised in these notions, that the Angela Merkels of the Western world decided to permanently change their nations based on an untested hypothesis that had no comparison in either human nature or history. Even after the signs stopped waving and the public grew weary. Even after admitting that the multicultural experiment was a failure, this ideological position drove them forward with the stubbornness of an indebted gambler rolling his last dice as the loan sharks walk menacingly toward him, claiming "We can do it. This time it will pay off."

What Europe had missed in their hypothesis, what had been left out of their Gramsci-, Boas- and Marx-infused worldview, is that the world has developed the way it has for a reason. It was not "the evil of the West" that made it so, but the greed and fallen nature of mankind. People and cultures prefer to live in places where they can live out their traditions and culture, and pass it on to their children. While many among the nations of the earth truly do want to live free, in peace and harmony with their fellow man; there are just as many who see kindness as a weakness of which to take advantage, who see those unlike them as outsiders to be exploited for their gain; and who look at the history between Europe and their homelands as a cause for revenge.

It is against this reality that we are currently positioned. And, it is with this reality in mind that we must consider the errors of our worldview till now. By no means does this suggest we must hate anyone. But, as instructed by Our Lord, we must be wise. Many millions have fought and died under Catholic and Christian banners to ensure a home for their children. Are we so arrogant that we believe our ideas of relativism, ideas taken far out of context and over-applied, are more important?

As Edmund Burke so famously stated, we are the link between past and future. We owe it to both to wisely preserve a home for our children and a place of safety for believers.

Arthur is a former editor and consultant. Born in India to missionary parents, he spent his early career working in development for NGOs in Asia, Central America, and Africa.

Arthur has an educational background in history and psychology, with certifications from the University of Oxford and Leiden in the economics, politics, and ethics of mass migration and comparative theories in terrorism and counterterrorism. He is currently launching CivWest, a company focused on building capital to fund restorative projects and create resilient systems across the Western world.

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6월 07일

Another fine piece, Arthur; much to chew on.

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