Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cultural Assholes

Here is my question. Is it okay to point out a behavior in a culture at large as being negative or "assholic" as the case may be?

For example, this recent dust up over the Danish cartoons. It's strange that this issue has become a real touchstone. No one doesn't have a strong opinion about it. Here's where I stand: I understand that there are prohibitions against depicting Muhammed and that this is greatly upsetting to Muslims. The cartoons were in questionable taste, but free societies can publish what they want.

Okay, that's the standard bipartisan answer. One side of this thing is behaving like a bunch of assholes. And I fear that political correctness prevents us from pointing that out. So it leads me to a deeper question, certain cultures engage in some pretty assholic behavior. I'm sorry, there's no other way to put it. But is it "-ist" to call a spade a spade like that?

I tried to hit at this point with a post a while ago about Athens and Sparta, but I think I was being a little too oblique. So here's the thought, it is wildly inappropriate to make a judgment based on someone's race or sex because that is something immutable and uncontrollable. But behavior is not either of those things? Should assholic behavior be awarded some deference just because it occurs on a cultural scale or is it really okay to say, "Hey, man, don't cut off that woman's clitoris." Or "hey, man, it's kinda shitty when you just grab a woman's ass like that." Or "Hey, lady, I was in line first."

Now, here's the thing. I realize those vague comments I just made could be considered "stereotyping", but A) stereotypes can be true and B) when stereotypes are true (ie, a large majority of a given populace shares a certain behavioral trait) don't we just call it "culture" anyway?

I leave you with that.

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