January 27, 2011

How not thinking about race cripples philosophy

From the Chronicle of Higher Education's philosophy columnist:
Us v. Them: Good News from the Ancients
By Carlin Romano

"Us against them" seems a staple of human psychology ... Looking through a recent New York Times, you couldn't help thinking that the notion merits a separate daily section to organize stories efficiently: North Korean vs. South Korean, North Ivorian vs. South Ivorian (those hard geographical divisions help), e-book reader vs. traditional book lover, New York Giant vs. Dallas Cowboy, boomer vs. Gen X'er, man vs. woman.
Are we just boringly binary?

As opposed to excitingly unitary? This shouldn't be news to a professor of philosophy, but contrast is the essence of information. You can turn data into a stream of 1s and 0s, but you can't turn it into a stream of all 1s.
And why, as both Rodney King and distinguished science writer David Berreby asked, for different reasons, can't we all get along?

Back in 2005, Berreby tried to open our eyes on the subject with his noncontentiously titled Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind (Little, Brown and Co.). We can't help being tribal thinkers, Berreby explained, because organizing other humans into kinds is "an absolute requirement for being human." It is, he wrote, "the mind's guide for understanding anyone we do not know personally, for seeing our place in the human world, and for judging our actions." There is "apparently no people known to history or anthropology that lacks a distinction between 'us' and 'others,'" and particularly others who don't rise to our level.

Our categories for humans, Berreby elaborated, "serve so many different needs, there is no single recipe for making one." Categories for other people "can't be understood objectively." We fashion them in classic pragmatic style to suit our purposes in solving problems,

The notion that objectivity and pragmatism are obviously at odds is a curious one.
... particularly that of generalizing about people we know by only a feature or two. We make these categories—often out of strong emotional need. We don't discover them. American suburbanites need "soccer moms," Southern kids need "Nascar dads," Yemenites need neither.

Those are obviously silly examples of the horrors of Us v. Them thinking, in part because there was never any Us in them. The categories "soccer moms" and "Nascar dads" weren't dreamed up out of strong emotional needs by soccer moms and Nascar dads, they were cold-bloodedly invented by marketing researchers and political consultants to help their clients succeed focus their marketing better for inchoate groups of indivduals who had certain tendencies in common.
... "The issue," Berreby observed, "is not what human kinds are in the world, but what they are in the mind—not how we tell Tamils and Seventh-day Adventists and fans of Manchester United from their fellow human beings, but why we want to."

Well, uh, if you can tell that person you are talking to is a fan of Manchester United, you might want to compliment Wayne Rooney on his superlative soccer skills. If you can tell that person is a fan of one of Manchester United's rivals, however, you can feel free to mention Wayne's face.

Look, the motto of Faber College in Animal House offers words to live by: Knowledge is good.

Is it too hard to notice that there are differences between people, that these differences ("diversity!") make humanity infinitely more interesting than if we were all a homogeneous mass; and that noticing differences accurately is useful?
True enough. The problem remains that this habit of hostility to the "Other" seems inescapable, even if it's not hard-wired into us. We've been talking like Tarzan since the ancient Greeks. Me Athenian, you barbarian. Me Roman, you Carthaginian loser. Me Greek, you dumb Egyptian animal worshiper. Me better, you worse.

Again, as with Berreby's study, a book can help us if not save us—a small tool to pry the fetishisms of "Us vs. Them" from our minds.

Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, by Erich S. Gruen, out this month from Princeton University Press, like all excellent scholarship massages the mind in useful new directions. Gruen, a Berkeley professor emeritus of history and classics, wields his command of ancient sources to shake a widely shared historical belief—that ancient Greeks and Romans exuded condescension and hostility toward what European intellectuals call the "Other." For those Greeks and Romans, that largely meant peoples such as the Persians, Egyptians, and Jews. Even if Gruen doesn't wholly convince on every ground that Greeks and Romans operated like Obamas in togas, regularly reaching out to potential enemies, his careful readings of Aeschylus, Herodotus, Tacitus, and others introduce us to a kinder, gentler ancient world. His analysis confirms how even back then, tossing people into a category and then hating them en masse was a choice, not an evolutionary necessity.

Gruen doesn't deny the transhistorical phenomenon of "Us vs. Them" itself. "The denigration," he writes at the outset, "even demonization of the 'Other' in order to declare superiority or to construct a contrasting national identity is all too familiar." What bothers him is the degree to which analysis of "such self-fashioning through disparagement of alien societies" has become "a staple of academic analysis for more than three decades" (he respectfully mentions Edward Said's Orientalism and the progeny it sparked), rendering the factual phenomenon under examination too unquestioned.
As a result, Gruen reports, works of classical scholarship such as Fran├žois Hartog's The Mirror of Herodotus (University of California Press, 1988) and Edith Hall's Inventing the Barbarian (Oxford University Press, 1989) leave us with the firm understanding that "negative images, misrepresentations, and stereotypes permitted ancients to invent the 'Other,' thereby justifying marginalization, subordination, and exclusion." A natural conclusion when it comes to "Us vs. Them," Gruen writes, is that "the ancients are thus to blame."

The concept of Projection suggests that the people who are really filled with Who? Whom? hatefulness are the post-modern academics who are always denouncing it in others.
Far from rejecting evidence for the standard view, Gruen helpfully sums it up: "Jewish writers excoriated Egyptians for zoolatry and shunned admixture with Canaanites, Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines. ... The Romans scattered their biases widely with negative pronouncements on easterners and westerners alike. They dismissed Greeks as lightweights ...

The Romans conquered the Greeks and ruled them from 500 years, but they continued to take cultural direction from the Greeks. A better case could be made that the Romans were too in awe of the Greek cultural contributions, which slowed them down from coming up with more of their own.
Gruen's mission, however, is to unpack the contrary story, far less told: "that Greeks, Romans, and Jews (who provide us with almost all the relevant extant texts) had far more mixed, nuanced, and complex opinions about other peoples."

His examples span the ancient Mediterranean and beyond. In his opening chapters, he concentrates on four pieces of evidence—Aeschylus's Persae, Herodotus's treatment of the Persians, Xenophon's Cyropaedia, and our knowledge of Alexander's cooperation with the Persians—using them to reject the "prevailing scholarly consensus" that Greeks held a consistently negative image of Persians. ... Gruen says his aim is to show that "the descriptions and conceptualizations, far from establishing simplistic stereotypes, display subtle characterizations that resist reductive placement into negative (or, for that matter, positive) categories."

You could flip through Herodotus's Histories (which are a sort of sprawling travel book that eventually resolves into a history of the Greco-Persian Wars) for 20 minutes and come to the the same conclusion. The Greeks were really proud that they beat the Persians in 490-480 BC because the Persians were the top dogs. Herodotus's Greek audience was very interested in learning more about the rich and powerful Persians.

Perhaps, someday, revisionists scholars might sit down and carefully read, say,The Bell Curve and Human Accomplishment and notice their similar judicious nuance.

On the other hand, it's essential to remember that Herodotus's division between Oriental despotism and Occidental liberty was part of the Greatest Leap Forward in human thought. The confidence the Greeks gained from defeating the Persians at the beginning of the 5th Century, from the notion that they were not just different but better than the superpower of the era and that they should emphasize their differences, helped set off the most concentrated age of human accomplishment ever.
Rather, his point is that the ancients, like us, enjoyed options in how they categorized others, drew upon others, and defined them in the process of shaping their own cultures. They sometimes chose—more often than one realized before reading Gruen's book—to do so in a spirit of admiration and respect. Contrary to much received opinion, we have some classical role models in resisting "Us vs. Them."
A simple line, in Obama's Tucson memorial speech, captured the existentialist antidote to that ugly psychological strain.

"We may not be able to stop all evil in the world," the president said, "but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us."

We also get to decide how we categorize one another. And who we include in "us." If we included everyone, what might follow from that?

Ignorance.

This is not a sophisticated point but it eludes philosophers when thinking about human beings -- categorization is essential to knowledge, the solution to bad stereotypes are better stereotypes -- but it's one that gets lost all the time when intellectuals try to think (or, more precisely, to not think) about race.

42 comments:

AMac said...

> Greeks and Romans operated like Obamas in togas

Great line!

Nice to see that this otherwise-dreary essayist has a light touch when it comes to gentle expressions of inchoate sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

"The confidence the Greeks gained from defeating the Persians at the beginning of the 5th Century, from the notion that they were not just different but better than the superpower of the era and that they should emphasize their differences, helped set off the most concentrated age of human accomplishment ever."

Steve, I think you're mixing up cause and effect. European minds + high population density = high culture. Middle Eastern minds + high population density (as along the Nile, the Tigris & Euphrates, etc. millenia ago) = middling culture. Any sort of minds + low population density = simple rustic culture.

European minds first evolved in areas of relatively harsh climate, and therefore of low population density. When enough of these minds eventually conquered areas with a warm climate (Greece, Italy), areas that allowed for high population density, high culture was born.

High density allows for urbanization, Rustics, no matter how smart, don't come up with high culture (see Finland 300 years ago).

According to McEvedy and Jones, Greece had something like 3 million people around 400 BC. That was an enormous number - 4 times more than England of that time, 3 times more than Germany of that time (which is obviously much larger).

A high population density among Greeks meant something very different from a high population density among Egyptians or Persians. Why? Because the people themselves were different.

Steve Johnson said...

"Again, as with Berreby's study, a book can help us if not save us—a small tool to pry the fetishisms of "Us vs. Them" from our minds."

But don't worry, we won't be exterminating it in their minds.

An article like this is a really clear example of how progressivism is like an immuno-virus. A major aim of the enterprise is to destroy the ability of the host society to distinguish friend from foe - precisely because progressives act as foes of the host society.

agnostic said...

Getting pragmatic, what have been the results of de-emphasizing the Us vs. Them mindset over the past 15 to 20 years? Just read Stuff White People Like.

Rather than warmly embracing all the world's peoples, white people have separated themselves from everyone else and devolved into petty one-upsmanship against rival white people.

The only way to include more tribes in the Us camp is for an enemy to rise and threaten Us and the former-Others as well -- the NVA, the Soviets, the Predator, the Terminator, the bugs from Aliens, etc.

Then again, who wants to root for blacks and whites teaming up to whoop ass on a plague of ghosts threatening New York City or to outfox a bunch of German terrorists who've taken a large Christmas party hostage? I mean, that would be, like, *so* racistly jingoistic.

Who is Us said...

"We also get to decide how we categorize one another. And who we include in "us." If we included everyone, what might follow from that?"

He presents this as if it's a hypothetical utopian choice rather than the dystopian immigrationist integrationist nightmare that has already been imposed.

We know what follows. Crime. Violence. Overcrowded roads, schools, hospitals, and prisons. White flight. Bankruptcy.

We had many nice countries. They are all being actively, intentionally destroyed.

Anonymous said...

Celebrate Diversity -- Deny Difference!

The multiculturalist dogma in four words.

Anonymous said...

How about no more 'us smarties and you dummies' and open up elite universities to everyonea?

Anonymous said...

Steve you really are the smartest writer on the internet. Thanks for having the courage to write whatever you want to write.

Anonymous said...

'us vs them' can be offensive but also defensive. When it's defensive, it can be noble and beautiful. Even the evil Soviet Union rightfully took pride in its defense of the motherland in WWII. Irish would not have been able to preserve their unique Irishness had they totally forsaken us-vs-them and accepted the British as fellow brethren. Same with Tibetans in China. If anything, it's the Chinese who are trying to make Tibetans feel as 'fellow Chinese' to vanquish Tibetan identity. Chinese are coercively inclusionist.

We should distinguish among racial, regional, cultural, religious, and ideological us-and-thems. Racial and regional are most elementary. Even people who speak the same language and live in the same nation can be divided by race.
Regionality also matters. Anglo-Americans were racially same as Anglo-Brits, but geographical divide eventually led to mutual distrust and hostility. And there was the War of 1812 between Anglo-Americans and Anglo-Canadians.

Then there is culture and language. Serbians, Croatians, and Bosnians mostly look alike but, boy, did they slaughter one another. Same race and even near-identical languages couldn't hold them together. Cultural ethnicity pulled them apart.

And then you have Hindus vs Muslims in India(and between India and Pakistan) though both are racially the same. And there was the horrible Shia-Sunni war in Iraq. And Thirty Years War in Eurpoe between Catholics and Protestants.

Then, there is ideology, which was the case between S. Korea and N. Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan during the Cold War. The Korean division was imposed ideologically and politically by the two superpowers. Ideological conflict can be bloody, but sometimes it's not only about ideology but history. Communism is a dead ideology but North Korea maintains its system because the elites want to keep political power. There is even a spiritual element since the Kims have become like gods to worship.
In the case of China and Taiwan, the mainland is no longer communist in any real sense and wants to do business. Even so, because of the history of separation, Taiwanese, though Chinese, got used to their own independence and don't want to unite with the mainland.

Anglo-Americans tried to suppress us-vs-them at least in America in order to pressure new immigrants to assimilate into the American mainstream. 'We are all American as apple pie.' Also, whites, even as they discriminated against blacks, yellows, and browns in a us-vs-them manner, sought to suppress us-vs-them mentality among non-whites for such racial consciousness could lead to resistance and rebellion against whites.

So, suppression of us-vs-them can be as conservative as liberal. Even as the British saw the drunken Irish as 'bloody something or the other', they wanted the Irish to abandon their own us-vs-them mentality toward the British and feel as happy loyal subjects of British Empire. It enforced exclusion in terms of power but promoted inclusion in terms of loyalty.

Anonymous said...

Just because we wish to include 'them' doesn't mean they want to be included. Suppose a Mexican-American community wants to include blacks. Would most blacks want to be part of Mexican-American culture/commuhity? White Christians have long wanted to include the Jews by religious conversion and/or political alliance, but most Jews have different ideas and agendas. There are plenty of white churches that will welcome Woody Allen or Larry David, but I don't think either will take up the offer anytime soon.

Also, inclusion through 'us' can be violent and coercive. To create modern Germany of united national consciousness, Prussia militarily imposed its 'inclusion' on weaker German states. And the preservation of the Inclusive Union necessitated massive bloodshed in America. And North Vietnam 'included' South Vietnam though a horrible war.

When we say we wanna 'include' others, there's an element of imposition. And this is necessary to create and maintain a nation. Without forceful political imposition/inclusion, nations can fall spart like the USSR. It also happened in China during the era of the warlords.
Japan became one nation--or all 'Japanese' got included--as a result of bloody wars of unification. Because the game of inclusion can be violent and problematic, it should be handled cautiously and pragmatically, not mindlessly.

The newer forms of progressive inclusion are less coercive and violent but they are naive and dangerous. Do all those Muslims in Europe want to be 'included' in the secular liberal state? Do blacks wanted to be included by and play by white rules? Will some rapper gangsta drop his crazy act and become a good boy if a nice white liberal shook his hand and said 'you are my brother'? More likely, the dude will think, 'this white boy must be some gay mothaf---- or soemthing.'
As far as I can tell, La Raza people don't want to be 'included' in white America. Even as they demand full rights and all benefits, they want to maintain their own identity and interests. McCain bent over backwards for them, but what did most Hispanics think of him? 'Weak white guy'. They smelled blood.

Anonymous said...

Imperialist inclusion: I can enter your house but you cannot enter mine.

Liberal inclusion: You can enter my house but I cannot enter yours.

Justin said...

Odd how the article focuses on the Greek and Roman supposed ethnocentrism. They were, after all, multi-ethnic empires, governed under the principles of religious tolerance.

The Jews, on the other hand, were xenophopic, racist, and separatist in the extreme. They pretty much embodied the pure archetype of "Us vs Them" tribalism, didn't they?

I wonder why they aren't used as the primary villains in this universalist morality tale?

Anonymous said...

http://www.democracyjournal.org/19/6789.php

Relevant to this topic. Though most rightists attack THE ENLIGHTENMENT as the beginning of leftism, the post-modern left also rejected it in favor of a leftist reading of Nietzsche via Foucault and others. There developed an idea that history is really about power than ideals. So, even stuff like 'progress', 'rights', and 'freedom' came to be regarded as new tools of oppression under the guise of 'justice' and 'normality'. Though Foucault was arguing against statist control, his ideas came to be used by PC bureaucrats.

Another thing, most Enlightenment figures were 'white males', so that proved inconvenient for the new 'inclusive' left.

Anonymous said...

> You could flip through Herodotus's Histories for 20 minutes and come to the the same conclusion.

For real... it doesn't take Martin Heidegger re-reading it in a mountain hovel for 4 years...

Same with De Germaniae... it's no straight-up hit piece, you can see that Tacitus finds them interesting. Caesar appreciated the resolve of the funny little dudes he met in the Northwest.

The Romans engrafted Etruscan culture early, and later took up Anatolian, Persian, and Egyptian worships. Alexander adopted Persian customs, though his old friends were not charmed. These facts aren't exactly household conversation, but they're no epiphany to the dabbler in classical lore.

Simon in London said...

"They make a wasteland and call it peace"

Words written by a Roman, about Romans, and placed in the mouth of a 'noble savage' about to be conquered by the Roman empire.

This ability to see humanity in and even exaltify 'the Other' as superior to oneself seems peculiar to Western civilisation. It has an obvious downside when it blinds one to the Other's actual faults, and even in extreme cases the Other's inimical nature.

Re the Romano article, I think what is significant is not that he rejects classification, but that he criticises, at least mildly and obliquely, Said's demonisation of the West as uniquely Evil/Other-obsessed. I've been seeing a lot of this within the progressive-Left mainstream recently, rowing back from and even criticism of various aspects of the hardcore cultural Marxist project to destroy our society. These criticisms are limited and specific to the particular area (here, history), not an overarching attack on the entire project, but they do add up and I think they're significant. At the very least they represent an erosion of Marcuse's Liberating Tolerance principle - "no enemies to the Left, no friends to the Right" - that you never criticise those more radical than yourself, or praise those more conservative.

Laban said...

As well as Calgacus' speech, Tacitus gives us something similar by Caractacus.

I think Berreby's tilting at a straw man. Conquerors have frequently noted the virtues of the conquered, although I'm not sure this would apply to every conqueror. The Brits had the term 'gone native' for people who appreciated the local culture too much. anyone know what the Spanish wrote about American or Filipino natives, or the Arabs and Turks about their conquests in Africa and Europe?

RandyB said...

Yeah, we really need a rejoinder to the diversitarians who still talk about belief in racial or ethnic differences in terms of "ignorance" and "prejudice." That might have been justified 50 years ago, judging from old films of anti-civil rights rallies.

But if the opposition is proudly uninterested in the work of Charles Murray, Heather MacDonald or Arthur Jensen, then who's being prejudiced and ignorant?

Big Bill said...

"The Jews, on the other hand, were xenophopic, racist, and separatist in the extreme. They pretty much embodied the pure archetype of "Us vs Them" tribalism, didn't they?"

Not really. Jews welcomed new members to the Jewish tribe until after the fall of the Second Temple. They willingly scattered throughout, settled, and did business in the ancient world before the Diaspora. Yes, they did have zealots who tried to prevent Jewish absorption into Greek culture in Palestine (and therefore extinction as Jews), but that is surely understandable.

Oddly enough, Jews celebrate their zealots/terrorists and their resistance to Greek influence and civilization every Hanukkah, yet they have become the "Greeks" to the rest of the West now, with their modern cultural shift to "tikkun olam", "healing the world", and "bringing light to the Nations".

Rohan Swee said...

"They sometimes chose—more often than one realized before reading Gruen's book—to do so in a spirit of admiration and respect."

What do you mean "one", white man?

As you suggest, a classic bit of projection.

Simon in London: Re the Romano article, I think what is significant is not that he rejects classification, but that he criticises, at least mildly and obliquely, Said's demonisation of the West as uniquely Evil/Other-obsessed. I've been seeing a lot of this within the progressive-Left mainstream recently[...]These criticisms are limited[...]but they do add up and I think they're significant.

I think anyone with a half-way decent mind would be left unsatisfied by such meretricious intellectual fare, no matter how far down the garden path his early career might have taken him. (That it infested so much and reigned so long is a tribute to institutionalized mediocrity.) The bad news is that we're going to spend the next quarter-century being bored by "public intellectuals" who think they're blowing our minds by repeating what our grandparents (or some guy with a blog) told us a long time ago.

David said...

Yes, contrast is essential to knowledge. It's even essential all the way down to sensory perception: if there were no differences to be detected among things, nothing could be seen, heard, or felt.

What today's "philosophers of diversity" are advocating is that humanity simply have its brain removed.

Formerly.JP98 said...

A lot of people, especially in academia and government, have this idea that if the unwashed white masses are given the least bit of encouragement to "notice differences," the next thing we'll get is Kristallnacht. It's all of a piece with the elites' fear of middle America. They don't realize that most Americans are not atheists and moral relativists like them.

Anonymous said...

Posts like this remind us why Sailer is a journalist's journalist.

Dutch Boy said...

Ancient Greece was a slave-based and class-conflict ridden set of societies that eventually evolved into despotism (the Hellenistic monarchies and then Rome). It is a reminder of the pitfalls of over-emphasizing liberty at the expense of community cohesion.

Anonymous said...

How about the Blue-Whites vs. the Red-Whites? That's something new isn't it?

Before that it was the Red-, White-, and Blue-Whites vs. first the Nazis and then the Soviets.

Anonymous said...

Steve you really are the smartest writer on the internet.
How did THAT slip through Komment Kontrol?

Anyway, I keep asking how can we keep ignoring reality? when does our wealth cushion run out?

Progressives neocons, etc. look down on the middle ages but we are far far more out touch with reality, especially considering what we SHOULD know.

Anonymous said...

Aw come on, this Chronicle article's just another damn warm-up for the revived Dream act.

Anonymous said...

"his careful readings of Aeschylus, Herodotus, Tacitus, and others introduce us to a kinder, gentler ancient world."

He must be smoking something. My 12 year old son and I are currently reading Herodotus and he is absolutely repulsed by the descriptions. I tell him he needs to read it himself because idiot professors will later try to tell him this exact kind of pure BS.

Kylie said...

"...when intellectuals try to think (or, more precisely, to not think) about race."

Or, even more precisely, when intellectuals try not to think about race even as they lecture white non-intellectuals on how to think about it.

Anonymous said...

European minds + high population density = high culture. Middle Eastern minds + high population density (as along the Nile, the Tigris & Euphrates, etc. millenia ago) = middling culture. Any sort of minds + low population density = simple rustic culture.

It can't be as simple as that.

There have been many high-density cultures in the West, but few if any have equalled Classical Greece. So "European mind" is not a sufficient explanation.

Cennbeorc

Us or Them said...

David Berreby's identity.

Erich Gruen's identity.

Anonymous said...

Look, the motto of Faber College in Animal House offers words to live by: Knowledge is good.

I love it Steve....consider using it as a byline!

none of the above said...

The problem is more when people try to think, but they know ahead of time what answers are expected or acceptable/unacceptable, they overwhelmingly find a way to get to the acceptable answers. That's true, even when they have to ignore evidence to the contrary, make huge logical errors, change definitions, and become stupid about things they're otherwise pretty smart about (like, say, statistics, genetics, and history).

It's incredibly hard to overcome this. That's why we have double-blind tests for medicines, right? We don't want even the doctors--unusually bright and capable people--knowing what answer is hoped for or expected, lest they somehow f--k up their evaluations or treatment in such a way as to bring those hoped-for answers about.

This is the value of finding data carefully compiled for unrelated reasons and using it to answer emotionally or politically sensitive questions--the people recording and compiling the data don't know who's in what treatment category, because they don't know ahead of time what treatment categories will be used.

none of the above said...

Us/them thinking is built into all of us for evolutionary reasons. (As best I can tell, I have less of a drive in that direction than most people, but maybe that's self-deception.)

The thing to understand about it, and the related intuitions and stereotypes and such that grow from it, is that:

a. It's powerful in many ways. Those intuitions often describe the reality of group conflict pretty well. Us/them thinking makes a lot of worthwhile stuff, like armies that defend big nations, possible.

b. It's flawed, just as many other built-in-by-evolution mental models are flawed. In particular, it's easy to let us/them thinking make you really stupid and blind to the faults or problems of your own group. It's all too easy to be swept up in that us/them frenzy and do really horrible things to "them," things you regret (or should regret) later.

Dave R. said...

It sounds like the author reviewed is in effect making a case against the reflexive, conventional characterization of "us vs. them" thinking as being crude, bigoted and one-dimensional. But he and his reviewer feel the need to wrap that up in... a further affirmation of multi-culti diversity and denouncement of us vs. them thinking. Okay then.

Though I will say I'm impressed at how far they got, carrying that burden.

Simon in London said...

none of the above:
" It's flawed, just as many other built-in-by-evolution mental models are flawed. In particular, it's easy to let us/them thinking make you really stupid and blind to the faults or problems of your own group. It's all too easy to be swept up in that us/them frenzy and do really horrible things to "them," things you regret (or should regret) later."

A lack of us/them thinking can be equally dangerous - if group A thinks of group B as "Us" and group B thinks of group A as "Them", A is in big trouble.

Unconditional acceptance by A also means there is no incentive for B to integrate, to think of A as "Us".

Example: Surveys show that across all Europe, the natives of Britain have the most positive view of Muslim immigrants, while the Muslim immigrants of Britain have the most hostile view of the host population.

This contrasts with eg France, where the natives have a much more negative view of the Muslims, and demand a much higher level of integration from them to be accepted as "us". And despite the riots, surveys show the French Muslims overall have a much more positive view of the native French than the British Muslims do of the native Britons.

Anonymous said...

Continental philosophy is as dumb as analytic philosophy is not-dumb.

Yikes.

It's stunning people can get away with this garbage after the Sokal Hoax. Why don't these pseuds just go away and die?

JSM said...

"It's all too easy to be swept up in that us/them frenzy and do really horrible things to "them," things you regret (or should regret) later."

Instead of lecturing US, why don't you go tell the La Raza -ers that? Hmmmm?

Reginald said...

But if Obama doesn't distinguish between Us and Them, then how can he destroy the middle class as commanded by his masters at the UN (see Agenda 21, and also, the Venus project)?

Anonymous said...

Erich Gruen
Professor of History and Classics
Erich Gruen

Ph.D. Harvard University, 1964.
Focus includes Roman and Greek history, Jews in the Greco-Roman world.
Author of Heritage and Hellenism: The Reinvention of Jewish Tradition (1998), Culture and National Identity in Republican Rome (1992) The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome (1984); and Studies in Greek Culture and Roman Policy (1990). His most recent work, Diaspora: Jews Amidst the Greeks and Romans, was published in 2002.
gruene@berkeley.edu

Descartes said...

An analysis of greek culture just gets more ridiculous here. Some sort of distinct European and Middle-Eastern mind, reading the second blog post, is laughable at best.

As much as enjoy the "HBD" spin on everything, its co-opted by a broader justifying inherent ethnocentric racism by misinterpreting science sector of the blog readers.

Felix M said...

So why did the Greeks and subsequent Europeans do so well?

Perhaps because they stumbled on the alphabet.

Having an alphabet liberates you from spending a heck of intellectual effort which would otherwise be spent in acquiring basic literacy.

rob said...

Felix,

what makes you think they "stumbled upon" an alphabet? Surely anyone can notice that
1) Words are made of sounds.
2) The number of words is far larger than the number of sounds

Upon noticing 1) and 2), an intelligent and creative person might decide that having symbols for sounds is much more efficient than having a symbol for each word.