published Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Roberts: Americans have no right to disrespect other cultures


by Dalton Roberts

I saw a framed print the other day that read, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.”

Cultural stupidity and arrogance are the fundamental plagues of humanity. Nazi arrogance needed a minority to look down on, and they selected Jews. Nazi culture was deemed to be the salvation of the world, and if they had gained the power, it would have been driven down the throats of every nation and culture on the planet. Can you think of a more sterile and inhumane world?

Cultural arrogance enables a group to dehumanize other groups and cultures. Once they are dehumanized, it’s acceptable to do anything to them. If someone is viewed as less than human, it is just fine to treat them inhumanely.

My father was on a genealogical kick the last few years of his life. The best I can figure my ancestry was Scotch, Irish and Cherokee. I am told that the Irish were met with a lot of disfavor when they started coming to America in large numbers. They eventually were accepted. What a loss it would have been in my family to not have the Irish gaiety of my maternal grandmother.

At one point in our national history, Indians of all tribes were not accepted. They were considered enemies by early European settlers. When famed Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was fighting Indians, he was so against them that he instructed his troops to kill all the women and children when they raided Indian villages. Such an attitude today would be strongly opposed. Much of the best of my family’s culture came from my mother’s Cherokee grandfather.

As great as America can be at her best, we have no right to cram what has become our amalgamated culture down other nations or to disrespect other cultures.

Personally, I do not like the king/queen kind of cultural hierarchy, but if England and other nations choose it, why assume they are experiencing a failed attempt at being us?

There has probably never been a culture in the history of the human race that did not develop some uncommon artistic and sociological strengths and beauties. Just because those strengths and beauties differ from the strengths and beauties of our culture, why reject them? Wouldn’t we all be gloriously served by honoring all the strengths and beauties of all cultures?

One reason people travel is to see the magnificence of other cultures. While we cannot all travel to distant lands, we can all travel one mental step forward to an affirmation of our willingness to see the good in all people and places.

Nothing would save more lives. Nothing would seed more progress. Nothing would make life more deeply rewarding. Nothing would do more to make humankind a kaleidoscope of breathtaking color and soul-elevating grandeur.

It’s such a simple thing. Why do we make it so hard? Cultural arrogance is intransigent only because we have not seen it is a correctible mindset. Maybe it would help us to realize human survival is at stake.

How much more ennobling to do it for beauty’s sake.

E-mail Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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steve_smith_tn said...

Of course we have the right to disparage other cultures, just as we are free to disparage our own. Dalton rightly disrespected the Nazi culture in the article above. That is because it is not worthy of respect.

Cultures are not equal no matter the measuring stick used. Some are better than others at various and sundry things. Some are successful. Some are extinct. Ours has no guarantee of sticking around. We had better find things worthy to praise and unworthy to chastise.

Culture matters. All of them can be improved.

March 1, 2011 at 4:16 p.m.
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