It’s Charlie Chaplin or Uriah Heep: The unbearable triteness of cultural relativism


(Uriah Heep: Patron saint of cultural relativism…)

‘Cultural relativism’ is one of those strange and joyless territories where utter arrogance and a creepy form of Uriah Heep style humility meet.

It’s a bit like ‘tolerance’, in that way – which is one of the most preposterous terms & concepts ever dreamt up by Western man.

What would you do if some snooty little git would come up to you and tell you, from great self-important height, that he tolerated your thoughts, beliefs and life style?

Indeed – and so it is, in a way, with cultural relativism too. We, in the West, have decided that we can give our Seal of Approval to all other cultures as well. Isn’t that ever so kind and understanding of us; and ever so fucking patronising, of course?

So, that’s for the arrogant part. Uriah Heep, Charles Dicken’s very humble clerk, comes into it through another reeking aperture, insisting that, compared to all others, he is the least of creatures.

In other words, those who pray in the church of cultural relativism will hold that you shouldn’t judge any culture (but your own, of course.) That baptizing an infant with a few drops of sanctified water isn’t in any way different from female genital mutilation. That a Jewish mitzvah is perfectly comparable with throwing a widow on her late husband’s funeral pyre. That teaching people to turn the other cheek is as appropriate as encouraging them to throw homosexuals from the top of high buildings… etcetera, etcetera.

Anyway, enough of that disgusting madness.

Although, come to think of it, there is one thing that cultures don’t necessarily have in common but something that every culture needs, if it aspires to cultivate and develop what is good and reform or get rid of what has outgrown its use or has turned rancid over time – and that’s a good kicking in the collective butt, from time to time.

Not necessarily – or even preferably – by outside forces but from within the system itself. Like those cells that move through our blood stream, healing and cleansing the system.

In other words, every culture, at some point in time, will need its own version of Monty Pyhton’s ‘Life of Brian’, Salman Rushdie’s ‘Satanic Verses’, some Luther hammering his credentials to a church door or, of course, the equivalent of those Danish cartoons.

All of the above, Monday evening ramblings inspired by this short article in the TimesOnline:

“He fought fascism in the 1940s armed with little more than a crumpled suit, a bemused look and funny walk. Now Charlie Chaplin is embroiled in another battle of beliefs, this time with India’s Hindu extremists.

On Friday, Hindu radicals in the southern state of Karnataka stymied plans to erect a 20m (67ft) statue of the film star, on the grounds that he was a Christian.”

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