mistaken identity - mistaken identity new humanist,...

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mistaken identity new humanist , july/august 2008 It is one of the biggest complaints about globalisation: that as market forces sweep across the world, so does Western culture. In the end, many fret, whether you are in New York, Rome, Beijing or Mumbai you will buy the same pair of jeans in the same shopping mall, drink the same overpriced latte in the same coffee shop, and watch the same dreary Hollywood blockbuster. Local culture will be no more. Ironically, though, the greatest Western cultural export is not Disney or Starbucks or Tom Cruise. It is the very idea of local culture. A notion that originated in late-eighteenth century Europe, in the Romantic backlash against the Enlightenment, has today the whole world in its grip. Every island in the Pacific, every tribe in the Amazon, has its own culture that it wants to defend against the depredation of Western cultural imperialism. You do not even have to be human to possess a culture. Primatologists tell us that different groups of chimpanzees each has its own culture. No doubt some chimp will soon complain that its traditions are disappearing under the steamroller of human cultural imperialism. We’re All Multiculturalists Now observed the American academic, and former critic of pluralism, Nathan Glazer. And indeed we are. The celebration of difference, respect for pluralism, avowal of identity politics - these have come to be regarded as the hallmarks of a progressive, antiracist outlook and as the foundation of modern liberal democracies. At the heart of most multicultural philosophies is the belief that an individual’s cultural background frames their identity and helps define who they are. If we want to treat individuals with dignity and respect we must also treat with dignity and respect the groups that furnish them with their sense of personal being. We cannot, in other words, treat individuals equally unless groups are also treated equally. And since, in the words of the American theorist Iris Young, 'groups cannot be socially equal unless their specific, experience, culture and social contributions are publicly affirmed and recognised', so society must protect and nurture cultures, ensure their flourishing and indeed their survival. One expression of such equal treatment is the growing tendency in some Western nations for religious law - such as the Jewish halakha and the Islamic sharia - to take precedence over national secular law in civil, and occasionally criminal, cases. Another expression can be found in Australia, where the courts increasingly accept that Aborigines should have the right to be treated according to their own customs rather than be judged by 'whitefella law'. According to Colin McDonald, a Darwin barrister and expert in
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2011 for the course ENGLISH 101 taught by Professor Parkin during the Summer '11 term at Wilfred Laurier University .

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mistaken identity - mistaken identity new humanist,...

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