|Cultural relativism... legitimate or not?
||[Oct. 14th, 2006|05:39 pm]
A discussion came up about a new video game where you undress girls who look like they're about maybe 12-15 years old. Though the game probably claims they are legal age, it seems to me to be an undeniable fact that they are meant to LOOK young, which is the appeal.|
I of course was disgusted. Many others were as well, though many were saying things like "well it disgusts me but I can't judge this because this is just Japanese culture and things are different there."
Is that really a viable excuse?
First off, though I know little of Japanese culture outside video games and anime, I highly doubt ALL of Japan is ok with this kind of thing. I'd bet many of the women aren't big fans of it, and yes, probably many of the men aren't as well. How do we even define what a "culture" is and how many people in that supposed culture actually are supportive of the more seedy aspects of the culture?
Second off, even if many are... does that mean you can simply write it off as "culture" and therefore untouchable by judgement?
Let's take a look at US culture. We are supposedly arrogant, greedy, money hungry, willing to step on others to get what we want, our men desire dumb blond women with big T&A, and all in all we are (again, supposedly) an incredibly shallow culture. This is sort of the "overview" of how our culture is presented, especially in the media, and probably in many ways it is true. Certainly many of our heroes seem to be movie stars and athletes and many of them are highly messed up people. Yet I have never seen anyone make excuses for the US due to culture. When we do things that are messed up, they are messed up, and the rest of the world seems to have no problem pointing that out. And good for them, I say, more people SHOULD point out messed up things in cultures and not let them pass.
Maybe this is an insane idea, but I believe every human being has some sort of self-realization and intelligence within them. Certainly our cultures can affect us, but they CANNOT tell us what is right and wrong unless we let them. I know when I look around at the way US culture works much of it straight up disgusts me. Sure I could run around doing various things, then if anyone points a finger at me start blaming culture. Or my schools, or my parents, or the government, or... the list goes on and on. But when it comes down to it there is only one person responsible for the way I think and act... and that is me. And if I am thinking and acting in a morally reprehensible way, it is my DUTY to stop and use that intelligence within me and think about what I am doing, not just pass it off as my culture.
Furthermore I almost think that some of *our* insistance to not judge other cultures stems from something almost akin to racism. I don't think anyone would claim the Japanese lack intelligence, but there are many other cultures who seem to get a pass because I think some people, deep down, can't imagine them actually having the intelligence to stand against their own culture if it is messed up. We know that WE, as in the typical white middle class Americans, don't have to do whatever we are told by culture because we know that we have minds of our own and can use them. So why is it so hard to believe that people in other cultures also have this intelligence? And by the way when I use the word intelligence I don't mean IQ or anything, I mean something that pretty much anyone can have if they look inside themselves.
I don't know, just something that bothers me. Whether in my culture (though it is very hard to think of US culture as MY culture) or in other cultures if I see something that seems to be very wrong I will speak up about it. I'm not talking about wanting every culture to have the exact same values (and even if I was I definately wouldn't look to the US to define those values) but just simple human rights and simple moral issues that don't have much grey area to people with some inate common sense. Uh oh, I just used another forbidden word, "common sense."
As an aside, there actually came to a point in the discussion where someone said though they don't *personally* believe in the female genital mutilation that happens in certain very backwards cultures, they can't say there is anything wrong with it because it is just *their* culture. Which of course leads me to ask... WHOSE culture? I'll put money on the fact that if you remove the females from the oppressive male environment they certainly won't see any need to continue mutilating their daughters genitals just because it is supposedly their culture. If we are going to start accepting things because of culture we better damn well make sure that the people within those actual cultures are truly accepting of these things first, and aren't being oppressed themselves.
I know it is an unpopular opinion, but it IS possible to take "acceptance" too far.