Monday, September 14, 2009

International Dialogue, the Politics of Iran and Cultural Relativism

The Politics Behind Cultural Relativism

My understanding is that this conversation appeared on international TV. However, I do not know when or where exactly it was televised. This article appeared at a site entitled (butterflies and wheels .com). Although I was not able to discover the expertise or the credentials of the two conversationalists, the conversation contained an intelligent forum and to me was worthy of a post.The theme of the discussion fits perfectly with the theme of my blog:

"Maryam Namazie: You mentioned earlier that there is a political reason behind the depiction of Iran or other ‘third world’ countries as having one homogeneous culture. That it is ‘our culture’ and ‘our religion’. It’s interesting that when you look at the West, for example, you don’t see one homogeneous West, you see different opinions, different movements, different classes, religions, atheism, socialism, etc. But when it comes to countries like Iran or Afghanistan, it just seems that everybody is very much the same as the ruling classes there. Why is that the impression that is always given?

Bahram Soroush: You are absolutely right. When you talk about the West, it is accepted that there are political differentiations, that people have different value systems, that there are political parties. You don’t talk about one uniform, homogeneous culture. But why is it that when it comes to the rest of the world, suddenly the standards change? The way you look at society changes. It doesn’t make sense. But it makes political sense. We are living in the real world; there are political affiliations; there are economic ties; there are very powerful interests which require justifications. For example, how can you roll out the red carpet for the Islamic executioners from Iran, treat them as ‘respectable diplomats’ and at the same time dodge the issue that this government executes people, stones people to death, carries out public hangings, and that this is happening in the 21st century. It’s a question of how to justify that. So, if you say that cultures are relative; if you say that in Iran they stone people to death and they veil women because it is their culture, your conscience then is clean. This is the reason that we are seeing that something that doesn’t really make sense to anyone, and which they would not use to characterize anyone else in the Western world, they use it to characterize people from the third world. In fact it is very patronizing, euro centric and even racist to try to divide people in this way; to say, it’s OK for you. For example, to say to the Iranian woman that you should accept your fate because that’s your culture. This is part of the larger discussion of what lies behind this sort of thinking, but the motive is very political."

I am quite a bit in agreement with this simple philosophical approach to the"real world" approach to cultural relativism that the respondent utilizes in his analysis to the question posed. However, where he is going exactly at least with "its very political" I am not quite sure. What might he mean by this? Maybe you readers can comment me and help me come to a better conclusion to his interpretation of the questions answer. I know he has a point here, just what the heck is it? What exactly is very political?


No comments: