On 3 Sep 2004, at 19:08, wikien-l-request(a)Wikipedia.org wrote:
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2004 23:11:37 -0700 (PDT)
From: Geoff Burling <llywrch(a)agora.rdrop.com>
Subject: Re: [WikiEN-l] So write an article about it (was: Anent
On Thu, 2 Sep 2004, Christiaan Briggs wrote:
> Well, its good advice, but my point wasn't to tell you all why I think
> the West falls short of its rhetoric. My point was simply to make
> people aware that at least some of us find comments such as Geoff's
> ethnocentric and offensive. People can take from that what they like;
> that an intense discussion ensued is not surprising but it wasn't my
Geoff Burling wrote:
If that was your intent, then you failed miserably,
your emails communicated to me was that you have a poor opinion about
Western Civilization, & have expressed it so vehemently &
that I don't see any point in responding to what you have to say. Or
First of all, it's good to hear from you! After the email dispute that
developed following your closing remarks to this email
I was unsure whether you had left the list, because you fell silent at
a certain point. It's good to still have you around and despite our
differences, I would like to say that I value your input and I believe
it's a good idea to have discussions about our differences. So lemme
discuss, shall I?
As I've already hinted at in this email
I don't necessarily endorse Christiaan's way to communicate his
convictions and feelings. However--and without trying to be a back
seat-driver--I think not reading Christiaan's email is a Very Bad
Thing. The moment we stop listening to what our opponents have to say
is the moment we start heading down the slippery slope of ignorance and
negligence. If I was Karl Rove, I'd make darn sure to watch Fahrenheit
9/11 the first day it comes out. If I was Michael Moore, I'd make darn
sure to go to the Republican convention (I think both did do just that,
though I don't have proof positive in Rove's case).
If you go back & read what I wrote, you will see
that I showed an
that not everyone might agree with me. And I attempted to express
in a way that any reasonable person would not find offensive
Well, I consider myself a reasonable person and, ok, I do not
personally find your remarks acutely offensive, but I do find them very
worthy of criticism and I find them ''potentially'' offensive--I am
absolutely convinced that there are people out there who (IMHO not
without reason) will find such remarks acutely offensive.
-- or at least
not say things like "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Seeing his reaction, I think Christiaan might be one of them.
And then when I read your stated belief that:
I never argued that these people died and
_because_ of these ideals. My argument is that our culture has
extensively used and abused such ideals simply to make its membership
feel good about itself when collectively implementing the opposite
(imperialism, intolerance of other economic models, war, etc.)
I'm left with an unclear sense how you want us to react. If these
are nothing more than opiates to distract us from the fact we members
Western Civilization are wreaking evil upon the rest of the world, then
should we dispense with our collective denial & destroy every trace of
our culture & kill ourselves in hope that will cleanse the earth of our
crimes? Or should we simply all accept that we are little better than
thugs & Storm Troopers, & instead take pride in how we oppress &
other peoples & nations?
Moot point (of ridicule) -- it's obvious that neither of your
rhetorical options are sensible. Neither collective civilizatory
suicide nor voluntary perpetuation of civilizatory terrorism are gonna
be helpful -- not even to ourselves. Modesty however would be a good
start. [[Aldous Huxley]] once wrote:
> Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed,
is a most
> undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what
> amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better
> next time. On no account brood over your wrong-doing. Rolling in the
> muck is not the best way of getting clean.
If I read Huxley right, then that's a plain indictment of the not
infrequent notion of wallowing in guilt. It also is a roadmap: 1st --
Repent (honestly). 2nd -- Make what amends you can (no more, no less).
3rd -- After (1) and (2) are completed, try to mend.
Let me openly admit at this point that I used to be one of the
guilt-wallowers. Speaking only for myself: It felt good wallowing in
guilt. Because in doing so I implicitly exhibited: "Look,
ashamed of my group." In being that I could internally and externally
distance myself from the group and consider myself kind of ''exempt''
from the evil I loudly denounced.
In hindsight, I can say that as a "guilt-wallower" I was just as daft
as a "cultural imperialist by default and ignorance":
The ''ignorant imperialist'' doesn't want to know about things that
be wrong about his group, so he doesn't have to feel bad about himself.
The ''guilt-wallower'' relentlessly exhibits the wrongdoings of his
group at every possible time, opportunity or no, in order to exempt
himself, the "enlightened critic", from any- and everything that has
gone wrong in connection with his group, so he doesn't have to feel bad
The only sensible way of course is to do as Huxley proposed, and in the
order Huxley proposed and not to address any step halfheartedly. Yes,
the road is painful, but it leads to a better place.
I am not being ironic here: your view of Western
Civilization is so
condemning & so extreme that I find nothing I can discuss about it
And frankly, from what I've read that you have written, I don't feel
you will be happy on Wikipedia because there are many people
to Wikipedia who will be praising the ideals, products, & other results
of Western Civilization far more fulsomely -- & most likely more
than I will ever do.
This section actually reminded me of SCO -- because what you say there
is wrong in so many ways:
1.) To call somebody's POV "extreme" is a hollow attack. It's a
non-argument, lacking merit, logic and--worst of all--content. It's
"full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I could call your POV
"extreme", you could call mine "extreme" or Christiaan's (as you
done). But what's the point? The label "extreme" only makes sense
against a reference frame -- and especially when it comes to not
infrequently held political POVs, the "extreme" label, while frequently
abused in seeking to ostracize the opposing speaker, ultimately rings
2.) I put it to you that your refusal to discuss Christiaan's POV has
far greater potential to alienate yourself from the Wikipedia community
(and it from you) than any supposed "extremeness" of his stance.
3.) I further am slightly shocked that--after all these emails--you
still write as if you hadn't noted what some people--myself
included--found so objectionable about your aforementioned email
closing remarks. Maybe I'm misreading you, but to me you seem to
implicitly again identify "willing[ness] to engage in a conversation
about [one's] contributions" and similar ideals to be "Western"
achievements. They're not. I thought at least with this email:
I had made clear my point that we as "Westerners" hold no monopoly on
any of such ideals. I wrote that "we're HARDLY the sole inventors or
champions of these ideals". I mean it. It is simply unwise to
unconcernedly and unqualifiedly repeat a point that some people
strongly object to -- especially after you have already made it and
after you already have found yourself challenged over it. I somehow
don't think you intent was malicious, but I must say: Usually, if a
person does such, it's to ram their view down the opposition's throats
or to pick a fight. Surely you cannot be hellbent on either of the two?
4.) Telling someone of an opposing POV that you "don't feel [he] will
be happy" participating in a project which neither he nor you own is,
again, a non-argument: What are you trying to tell that person? "Go
away, for people won't like your ilk over here"? Or "I represent a
majority and you don't, so please leave"? Especially in case you are
right (which you quite possibly are) and the Wikipedia /is/ slated and
biased into your direction, then isn't that all the more reason for
seeking to actively include and retain contributors who differ?
And as a last point, find another word than
"ethnocentric" to apply to
what I have asserted. The word "ethnocentric" means to "hold one's
as superior to all others" -- & I feel your use of this word accuses me
of being racist. That I am clearly not, & except for throwing this word
about, you have failed to show that I am so -- unless somehow by my
definition of "Western Civilization" you believe that I have excluded
non-Caucasian members of this culture such as Asian Americans, Black
British, French of North African origin, & countless more groups I
recount. And one could only believe that by abusively misinterpreting
what I have written.
If you really mean what you said in your said email closing remark,
then IMHO you unfortunately will have to live with some people accusing
you of racism: If you really persist in claiming that "tolerance,
pluralism, & unfettered speech" was an /exclusively/ "Western"
invention (warranting us to be missionaristic, of all things!), then
you simply will face such accusations, sooner or later. While you have
a valid point saying that many ethnically diverse groups are now
integral parts of "Western" society, the balance of power with regards
to "Caucasian" and other "races" is a point of an ongoing argument and
historically in particular there have been huge racial injustices
perpetrated and perpetuated within and by various wider "Western"
communities. It is thus not without base to closely identify "Western
civilization" with the "Caucasian race". Thus, unduly proclaiming
"Western civilization" to have a historical and ongoing monopoly on the
said ideals can very well be seen, by some, to smack of racism. Let me
be clear: neither I nor, I believe, others on this list did call you
racist, and I am not calling you thus now either. However: If it's
hurtful to see yourself getting uncomfortably close to such labels,
then maybe it's time to reexamine your position.
Let me add:
You wrote in this email
that you were "unaware of any serious argument that this tradition of
thought was introduced from Africa, India, or China". That's a huge
fallacy. Our ignorance of other cultures does not entitle us to
monopolize nobler human achievements as exclusively our own. This is
not patent law where you can stake a claim, however frivolous, and have
it granted purely on the basis that proof of prior art/competing claims
are not produced by persons of limited knowledge within a limited
jurisdiction and timeframe.
As your own choice of words in your initial email shows, you are well
aware that portraying these noble ideals as the sole invention of the
West, is sub-par: You wrote "soapbox". You wrote "chauvinist". After
having given the reader of your email such clear indication that you
are well aware of the rather widespread reservations about the opinions
you then proceeded to express, you honestly cannot subsequently be
surprised and say: "Wow. All of this verbage just because (...)". You
knew what you were getting into and your own words prove it.
On a related note, you may (or may not) know the closing scene to
Fahrenheit 9/11 (which I just saw today): It fits my argument
perfectly. For from what I gathered on the web, Americans were laughing
about the fact that Bush misspoke (which is very human to do), that he
failed to correctly deliver the "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me
twice, shame on me" saying. You see, some Europeans who were laughing
during that scene were NOT laughing about Bush's verbal stumbling. They
were laughing about the fact that Bush attributed the adage to both
Texas and, tentatively, Tennesse -- when in fact these words are an old
Claiming that all the acceptedly good things were invented by one's own
community (note: rhetorical exaggeration) -- that's what REALLY
attracts sneers, ridicule and resentment. Why go there when we know
-- Jens [[User:Ropers|Ropers]]