Thursday, November 29, 2007

More on "Bread and Circuses"

from Plato Jesus, in response to "re: Bread and Circuses":

First, is the Frank Miller quoted the same Frank Miller who, when running for the highest office of his country (Canada), refused to debate the opposition? Or, is it Frank Miller the filmmaker who inaccurately glorifies Dorian Spartans -- who practiced slavery and human sacrifice, fought against Athenian democracy, and incidentally were the ones who made homosexuality part and parcel of military indoctrination -- and in contrast to historical records, paints the multicultural Iranian Empire, which tolerated and integrated a variety of Semitic peoples as well as introduced Cuneiform, as savages in the film 300?

Both are great illustrations of the Western mentality that feels it knows everything and has no need to engage anyone else.

Now to the merits of the comment:

First, at no point does Wyatt Doyle (or me for that matter in my comments) celebrate other cultures or try to say they are equivalent or equal in their merits. We only critique the representation presented. So this comment does not refute our points -- that most political representations of other cultures are more alarmist then informed.

Second, as someone who teaches in "American Higher education" -- if such a monolith exists, which is unlikely -- it is a total myth, if not outright fabrication, to say it promotes equality of cultures. Most college classes do not dwell on other traditions; indeed, core requirements are based on the Western cannon of the ancient Greeks to deconstructionism and critical theory out of European traditions. Beyond esoteric advanced classes or obscure graduate programs, there is absolutely no equal treatment of other cultures. The "cultural relativism" movement has been relegated to the margins at most universities.

Third, the whole "clash of civilizations" thesis, particularly as applied to the Middle East, is flawed. Empirically it is not culture at the roots of armed conflicts. For instance, such a representation cannot explain the Sunni-Shiite divide, tribal rivalries in Iraq, NATO's intervention on behalf of Muslim Albanians against Slavic Orthodox Serbs, or the current civil war among Palestinians. If we scrutinize history over time, a vast majority of cultural interactions have not produced conflict, but cosmopolitanism. Look at Jerusalem, Sarajevo, or most world cities at the crossroads of cultures, ethnic and religious groups live together peacefully for most of their history. It is when politics interjects this grievance and creates this macro-narrative that ignores some divisions and embellishes others.

If we do want to think of cultural units -- and by that I mean, aggregate the actions of countries that are in a particular tradition -- which civilization has promoted worldwide conflict more than others? It's by far the Judeo-Christian traditions of the Western world. This is not to say other cultures aren't violent or aggressive at times, but in terms of attacking, and indeed destroying foreign cultures, as well as occupying their traditional lands, it's the West, hands down. By the start of the 20th century, European imperialism had conquered nearly 90% of world. That is to say, if a comparison of violence based on a sense of cultural superiority is to be made, here the West can rightly proclaim its pre-eminence.

We're #1! We're #1!

copyright, © 2007 Plato Jesus

for more on this topic, see: