M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd1/6/102:37 AMPage 48CHAPTER3PERSPECTIVES ON ETHNICITYAND GLOBAL DIVERSITY“Nunavut is an outdated idea, one of the last applications of thepostwar ideal of national self-determination.”—GURSTON DACKS, 1986 (QUOTED IN PURICH 1992, 79)“Nunavut is not just an important achievement for Inuit. It willbe an important inspiration for other Aboriginals in other partsof the world.”—JOHN AMAGOALIK, 1993 (QUOTED IN PELLY 1993, 29)Two reasonable people can look at the same situation and come to very different conclusions. They can use the same data and interview the same people. They can usethe same standards of reason and be of equal intelligence. Still they may come to different, perhaps opposite, opinions and be absolutely convinced that those who disagreewith them are wrong. Such informed, yet conflicting, opinions are based upon the factthat people deeply hold different sets of complex, value-laden ideas about the nature ofthe world and the human condition: the way that things are supposed to be.People use these fundamental notions to interpret all new situations that arise.Academics talk about paradigms and theoretical interpretations, and scholars are taughtto be aware of their influence on the construction of new theories. This same situation istrue of all interpreters, but most people remain unaware of the force of these paradigmson our daily opinions of world events. Since ethnicity, class, religion, and region influence the learning of values and manners of thinking, it is not surprising that similarperspectives are held by otherwise similar people.In this book, these differing sets of interpretive ideas are called alternative perspectives, and we shall examine the most prominent perspectives for each major issuedescribed in Chapters 2 through 9: cultural diversity, economics, ecology, and peaceand war. The point should not be to debate which is the right perspective and which iswrong, but how and why various sensible people approach each issue differently. Forthe current issue, cultural diversity, we explore three such alternative perspectives:Global Primacy, State Primacy, and Cultural Primacy.48
M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd1/6/102:37 AMPage 49Perspectives on Ethnicity and Global Diversity49GLOBAL PRIMACYIndividuals and groups who believe in the concept of Global Primacy assert, as the termsuggests, that the division of the world into specific political or economic entities is outmoded. They see the globalization of the world, not only as the main trend of this time,but as the increasing reality of the future. They perceive the contemporary world as onein which all peoples are joined in complex interactions and one in which all economiesare tied to a true world community. It is just as easy to purchase a Coca-Cola in SouthAfrica as it is in Hong Kong or Chicago. Americans wear clothes made in Mexico andIndia, while Mexicans and Indians watch American television programs and listen toAmerican music. Development projects in Brazil and Indonesia affect the world’s climate. Inventions and disasters in one part of the world are quickly felt in others. In thesecircumstances, according to those who believe in Global Primacy, the only logicalcourse is to encourage further social integration of the world’s people. Denying thesocial and political implications of this growing reality can lead to chaos while a worldcommunity with similar goals and values should prosper and live in peace. Along withthis goes the hope that, in an integrated system, all people will be able to share in theindividual human rights promised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.The question is—how to further this unification? There are two common responsesto this question. First: It is already happening, as the preceding examples suggest. Thereare specific cultures that are becoming universally understood. They are the leaderswho set the standards in global affairs. More isolated cultures are less significant, andthe individuals who identify with them must change or continue to be insignificant inworld affairs. An extreme result of such a policy would be a world governed by the“superior” cultures and populated by people who culturally resemble their most successful inhabitants. The extreme statement of this response echoes the SocialDarwinism of earlier generations. Second: The new world will be a combination of thebest of all societies as globalization allows people to learn more about the diversity ofhuman societies. This response perceives unification where no one existing culture dictates to the rest of the world. This new world culture would include all the best traits ofthe existing cultures and would eliminate those that threaten the rights of individuals. Ineither response, this perspective places a major value on individuals rather than ongroups of people or systems of government. Even if specific cultures become extinct,the descendents of people who identified with those cultures will change and prosper.Change is obviously a key concept in this perspective. An emphasis on externalchanges, and sometimes involuntary ones, that give priority to this new world culture isfundamental to this perspective. Societies, or ethnicities, based on gathering and hunting,tribal, or primitive state organization are outdated. They cannot share in the wealth of theworld as long as they remain in their current lifestyles. Unfortunately, they do not knowenough of the world to recognize this situation. Efforts focused on improving the lot ofsuch people without changing their lifestyle to fit into the world system could be deleterious to them. By viewing isolated cultures through the Global Primacy perspective, asevolutionary anachronisms, one would consider any encouragement of their continuationas they are now as going against historical logic and condemning individuals to primitive, difficult lives. Inherently, this belief is a modern version of the theory of Social
M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd501/6/102:37 AMPage 50Chapter 3Darwinism, which was influential on American and European thought a century ago.Social Darwinism evoked the concept of the “survival of the fittest” and applied it to cultural evolution. Those cultures that were more complex had proven themselves thefittest. This logic was used to justify colonialism by arguing that the colonial powerswere bringing civilization to the less fortunate. This new use of the concept, then, statesthat the contemporary world powers with a vision of universal rights are best suited tolead us toward a new stage in human evolution, a successful world civilization.Assimilation and Acculturation and AcculturationSome advocates of Global Primacy believe that the more backward cultures will disappear when individuals recognize the benefits of the more advanced cultures and voluntarily change their ways. This belief has formed the social policies of many colonialstates. Called assimilation, it holds that, over time, all people will give up the customsof their inferior cultures to become full members of the superior ones.Many social policies are built on the awareness that the road to assimilation goesthrough education, especially of a culture’s youth. Those who do not support assimilationist policies, however, are particularly opposed to this aspect of them. Many indigenous people complain that the national educational policies of the dominant culture area form of ethnocide—the destruction of a culture. The aboriginal people of Australia,for example, have been very vocal on this issue. Thousands of aboriginal children wereremoved from their families at very early ages and were sent to boarding schools wherethey were punished for speaking their own languages or practicing their own religions.The curriculum, created for Anglo-Australians, was based upon the understandings ofEuropean heritage. When the “educated” children were allowed to return home, theywere strangers to their families and their cultures.In a strange way, there is a liberal idea at the core of the assimilationist agenda. Itassumes that the more “primitive” people of the world are capable of being educatedand becoming part of the modern world. Their backwardness is based on their limitedknowledge rather than on any innate limitations. This basic idea has existed throughoutthe history of the United States, not only in its Native American policy, but in its immigration theory as well. The concept of the American “melting pot,” even if it is not reality, is assimilationist in nature. It promotes the United States as welcoming people fromall nations, though immigrants are expected to give up their previous ways in order tobecome Americans.Conceptually related to assimilation, acculturation holds that individuals will modify their cultural upbringing by adapting to a new culture. They will not give up their original culture entirely, as in assimilation, but they will adjust it to fit new circumstances.Assuming the desirability of a global culture, it would follow that people would wish totake on many of the superior traits they find in people of other cultures. Education plays arole, but it need not be forced and it need not replace the original culture completely.Minority groups, First Nations, and nonindustrial nations should be “allowed” to learn thepolitical and economic systems of the successful states and the ideals that support them.Family organizations, art, religion, dress, and other cultural elements, which do not (intheory) impede modernization, need not be changed for acculturation to succeed.
M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd1/6/102:37 AMPage 51Perspectives on Ethnicity and Global Diversity51SyncretismThe mixing of cultural ideas from different sources in order to create a new reality goesunder the name syncretism. Those who regard Global Primacy as the creation of awholly new world culture favor syncretism as the major mechanism that will form thenew world culture. An example of how this has happened with religion involves theadoption of Catholicism by indigenous groups in Latin America. The religions of ruralLatin America that merge the identities of traditional local gods with those of RomanCatholic saints are such examples. The processionals in celebration of saint days inMayan towns echo ancient religious practices as much as Christian ones.However, syncretism is not always acceptable to those who champion acculturationin other forms. The late Pope John Paul II preached vehemently against this modification of the teachings of the Catholic Church but supported the use of local languages inchurch services. Advocates of Global Primacy recognize a difficult challenge. They lookto a bright future in which all people will share in the wealth and rights possessed byonly some today. The cultural difficulty is how to achieve this end without harming therights of people to choose their own futures. The most optimistic assume that all peoplewill share their views of the good life. Others realize that cultural differences run deepand that different people value different beliefs and customs, often more than prosperityand peace. Most advocates of this perspective recognize that the creation of a new globalreality in which all share in a mutually satisfying culture is an extraordinarily difficultchallenge—one that must be done carefully so as not to sacrifice the ways of life ofsome for those of others. They believe that this difficult challenge must be undertakenbecause the end point is so worthwhile.STATE PRIMACYWhile the State Primacy perspective of the world does not define the superiority of typesof cultures, it does privilege a specific type of political organization. The state is viewed asthe most important unit for both national and international interaction. According to thosewho hold a State Primacy perspective, the most important primary political identity for allgroups and individuals should be as citizens of the state of their birth or naturalization.The State Primacy perspective does not argue for universal similarity in cultures or centralized power between states. In fact, it gives states a tremendous amount of autonomy indeciding the nature of their own realms. Its vision of the ideal world, then, includes manydifferent states, each of which determines the ethnic policies of its own residents.PatriotismFrom the State Primacy perspective, there is no inherent evil in the multiethnic state aslong as the state identity takes priority over ethnic identities. Patriotism, the placing ofone’s primary loyalty in the state, is the real key. As long as individuals function first asBrazilians, Indonesians, or Russians, especially in issues of state interest, the interestsof State Primacy prevail. During World War II, for example, Native Americansvolunteered for military service in the United States at a far greater rate than other
M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd521/6/102:37 AMPage 52Chapter 3Americans. Their loyalties to their own First Nations did not inhibit their Americanpatriotism. In fact, the United States benefited in many ways from their cultural skills.The history of the Navajo “code talkers” of that war illustrates this brilliantly. Navajosoldiers assigned to communications sent classified messages to one another in theNavajo (Dené) language. German code breakers were never able to decipher these communications because they were not true codes, and the Germans did not recognize themas a language. Because they were Navajo, these soldiers performed unique patrioticduties as citizens of the United States.While advocates of the State Primacy point of view would likely accept andapplaud examples like that of the Navajo code talkers, they maintain a deep distrust ofthe power of ethnicity, viewing it as weakening patriotism and creating rifts in the statesystem. Numerous cases can be cited to support this concern. Civil wars based on ethnicity have been recently fought in countries from Bosnia to Liberia; ethnic violence,such as terrorist incidents of the Tamils of Sri Lanka or the Irish Republican Army, andpolitical crises, such as the threat of the Quebecois to break up Canada, have redefinedtheir states. All these situations threaten the primacy of the state.The solutions to these problems lie with the states themselves according to this perspective. The state has the right, and perhaps duty, to defend itself from internal andexternal threats. Issues concerning the distribution of rights and privileges between typesof people within the state must be decided within the state. Given the nature of the state,the power to decide such issues resides in an elite group, which controls governmentaloffices. The fact that the elite group is often composed of individuals from similar ethnicbackgrounds is sometimes considered unfortunate, but it is unimportant compared to theneed for state security. It is also asserted that the situation is best understood from thelocal perspective and that outsiders cannot understand the real circumstances.PaternalismThose advocating any of the solutions suggested for ensuring the unification of worldcultures often run into accusations of paternalism, which literally means “acting as afather.” More broadly, it means taking a superior position over others and trying to control their actions. Such control is done “for their own good” because the superior figure“knows better.” The protected individuals or groups are treated like children. Outlawingthe handling of snakes in the rituals of the Holiness churches of the American Southeastcan be considered paternalism. The larger society, which does not accept the biblicalinterpretation of handling snakes, dictates that adults who do find snake handling animportant religious act are wrong; they are endangering themselves and must bestopped for their own protection. Paternalism, itself, is illegal nowhere, but it is rarelywelcomed by those treated as inferiors.Critiques from the Global Primacy PerspectiveAdvocates of Global Primacy reject the State Primacy perspective on two grounds: first,because states are artificial constructs based on historical accident rather than naturalgroupings; and second, because most world problems are global in scope rather than
M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd1/6/102:37 AMPage 53Perspectives on Ethnicity and Global Diversity53pertinent only to the local interests of states. Cooperation is thus negotiated rather thanmandated in this perspective.A particularly troublesome issue that reappears around the world is the position ofthose groups or cultures that straddle state boundaries. In the State Primacy perspective, the state contends that the interests of these ethnic minorities are secondary inimportance to those of the state. Members of the same ethnicity in other states areregarded as different people with different citizenship. The Inuit, as noted below, livein a contiguous circumpolar land that covers four states. They have a national identityas Inuit and political identities as Russian, American, Canadian, and Danish (or now,Greenlander). In the latter identities, they have clear administrative rights and privileges but in the former they do not. General Inuit issues have been championed bynewly formed circumpolar and First Nation organizations. The welcoming of theseorganizations by international agencies, including the United Nations (UN), as newcultural organizations with observer status and the extensive press coverage given tointernational meetings concern state primacy because they regard them as threats tothe important primacy of the state system.Global Primacy advocates see a daunting problem in state primacy advocates putting their faith in the rectitude of nation-states. They do not always seem worthy. Thereis no mechanism, in this view, to deal with the states that harm groups of people withintheir borders. There is no way to deal with the issue of human rights in states that do notcome up to international standards. If a state defines slavery, murder, or active discrimination of a particular group as acceptable, can outsiders legitimately help the victims?The twentieth century case of the former practice of apartheid in South Africaprovides a clear example. Here, a numerical majority of inhabitants in the state, withcultures different than the elite, were legally defined as inferior, and all aspects of theirlives were severely circumscribed. Nearly universal condemnation (supplemented byboycotts) was directed at South Africa; however, because of the nature of the state system, direct action was not immediately effective. If State Primacy were absolute, eventhe boycotts were inappropriate. Many nations, including the former Soviet Union andChina, have made just such assertions when other nations have condemned their internal actions. The example of South Africa can be used to justify the stand of StatePrimacy as well. It was largely the internal changes made by South Africans themselvesthat overthrew the internationally despised practice of apartheid.CULTURAL PRIMACYAdvocates of Global Primacy prioritize a united world; advocates of State Primacy prioritize the state; and the advocates of Cultural Primacy prioritize the autonomous rights ofindividual cultures, regardless of their power. In this view, nations, cultures, ethnic groups,and indigenous peoples are the units of interest. Proponents argue that people identify withthese groups, and, if one believes in human equality, then these groups too must be equal.All recognize, of course, that such equality does not exist in political or economic terms.Rather than seeing continued ethnic diversity as a validation of evolutionary failure, as do
M03 KELL9055 04 SE C03.qxd541/6/102:37 AMPage 54Chapter 3the followers of Social Darwinism, cultural primacy proponents see this as the result of aparticular peoples’ history which is set in a world of institutionalized inequality. Theyargue that the existence of a privileging of some cultures over others sho
Global Primacy, State Primacy, and Cultural Primacy. 48 . the descendents of people who identified with those cultures will change and prosper. Change is obviously a key concept in this perspective. An emphasis on external . Many social policies are built on the awareness that the road to assimilation goes through education, especially of a .
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