Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Racism vs. Culturalism
Published on November 27, 2006 By Draginol In Philosophy

One of the ongoing issues people who want to discuss the nature of Islam or other cultures is that inevitably, someone will come on and accuse everyone else of being "racists".  The goal of calling people racists is always the same -- to prevent a given topic from being discussed.

I am not a racist. But I don't really care if people think I am. If someone wants to think I'm some sort of bigot because I'm not a fan of Islam then I'm perfectly okay with that.  The reason being, I only care about the opinions of people who matter to me. And the opinions of dumb people don't matter to me at all.  Someone who thinks a culture and a race are interchangeable is not someone whose opinion I value.

Personally, I find racism not just loathsome, but foolish. If you discriminate people based on their race, you are missing out.  As an evil capitalist, I wish there was more racism because it would give me, since I'm not racist, an economic advantage by allowing me to hire even better talent.  But racism isn't nearly as widespread as most people think today.  I can't imagine any company not hiring someone because of the color of their skin these days.

But culturalism is a different matter.  If race is the hardware, culture is the software. And I think some cultures are inferior to others. I'm a culturalist.  I don't like Islam whether it is practiced by caucasians, arabs, or africans because I think, as a whole, it promotes violence.

While researching for this article, I found an article (linked at bottom) that talks about this issue. Different cultures achieve different levels of achievement and prosperity. 

Now, some people might argue that who are we to say that those are measurements are valid measurements of what one society "better" than another.  Insomuch as they are also probably the same people who would argue that living in mom's basement until they're 40 doesn't mean that person is a failure. I mean, we wouldn't want to be judgmental right? 

I happen to be a big fan of western culture. It has created relative wealth and propserity and freedom for its citizens.  While it's not perfect and has a checkered past as it has evolved, looking at where it is today I can say "Not bad." 

But when trying to come up with tangible solutions to complex problems, it's not helpful when people start equating racism with culturalism. If we're not willing to stand up for our own culture, then we deserve what we get. 

Culture is something we choose (though most people are not aware that they're choosing). Race is something we're born with genetically. And like hardware, no matter how good it is, if you put inferior software on it, you'll end up with a poorer experience.

Comments (Page 1)
on Nov 27, 2006

I liked the linked article. He presented a good arguement.  I think most people are culturalist, as they chose the best culture for them.  However, when people start equating race with culture, then everyone loves to run and hide for fear of being labeled a racist. 

I find no fault with being labeled a culturist.  Indeed, I am one as I stated.

on Nov 27, 2006
I like the hardware/software analogy. And I agree 100%
on Nov 27, 2006

Excellent, excellent, article.

I love the hardware/software analogy and plan to use it next time this subject comes up with friends.


on Nov 27, 2006
double post..
on Nov 27, 2006
Heh, heh...anthropology. I believe thinking one's own culture is superior is called, "ethnocentrism".

Actually, race is a social creation as well. Race is how we divide people based on what we see. Basically black, white, brown, red, and yellow in the US. Ethnicity is the one that's more scientific because that includes african, european, hispanic, etc.

Yeah, I'm taking an anthropology class...just thought I'd chime in with what I learned.

on Nov 27, 2006

Actually, race is a social creation as well. Race is how we divide people based on what we see. Basically black, white, brown, red, and yellow in the US. Ethnicity is the one that's more scientific because that includes african, european, hispanic, etc.

Indeed. In a couple thousand years, the concept of race will likely largely disappear as we'll all be so mixed up it's pointless.

My children, for instance, have a mix of all kinds of things in them. But we call them caucasian because they are still predominantly European (and even there we've largely dropped the difference between Irish, Scotts, and Englishmen because of the intermixing).

on Nov 27, 2006

Yeah, I'm taking an anthropology class...just thought I'd chime in with what I learned.

Hopefully you are the future.

Thanks for an education.

on Nov 28, 2006
Indeed. In a couple thousand years, the concept of race will likely largely disappear as we'll all be so mixed up it's pointless.

Interesting point and one I agree with!

My children, for instance, have a mix of all kinds of things in them. But we call them caucasian because they are still predominantly European (and even there we've largely dropped the difference between Irish, Scotts, and Englishmen because of the intermixing).

Another interesting point and one I can say that relates to mine as well. Regardless of what my children's mixture are; Black, European, Latino, English and even traces of chinese,they will always be Black because of me. At least in the American culture.

I don't believe it's racist to evaluate cultures at all. How else do we learn about each other?

I like your analogy as well. And that article was a really interesting one!
on Nov 28, 2006
I think one reason that people have been so frightened by interracial relationships is the inability we have to separate race from culture. You have a black family next door you don't like, you can toss the 'n' word and complain about them racially. If they have white members, hispanic, etc., it becomes more complex. Racism is just a way to brush people off without really devoting thought to your problem with them.

I think one telling fact is how oversimplified race is getting these days. We have white, black, asian, jews, arabs, and hispanic for the most part that get venom from racist, and Jews are rarely thought of as a race anymore. Go back a few decades and you had poles, germans, swedes, italians... there was a whole spectrum of race within 'white'.

Our grandparents might, when having an altercation with the white neighbors, brushed them off as italians, or poles. We don't do that anymore for the most part. The holdouts in terms of cultural diversity seem to fall as much in contrast of skin tone as real culture.

I've noticed around here people have a misguided idea of 'arab', for instance. Iranians aren't, for the most part, arabs, any more than pakistanis or afghanis. Neither are people from Turkey, but when people talk terrorism or hate for the west they tend to lump them all together. The more we divide culture from race the better equipped we are to address the real problems.

I don't think criticizing culture is racist, but I think we could do more to separate out the problems with cultures from the cultures themselves. Sometimes problems that seem to be almost universal in a culture have a lot more to do with world history, or economics, or even trade. The situation in the Middle East, for instance, owes a lot to the cold war, WW2, and the alliances during and after each, but we never really look at it; instead we just talk about culture.
on Nov 28, 2006
(I'm a culturalist. I don't like Islam whether it is practiced by caucasians, arabs, or africans because I think, as a whole, it promotes violence) on the contrary, Islam abhors violance. Extremists use twisted logic and interpretions of the verses in Qura'an to support what they do but that doesnt make the religion itself guilty of that. Fanatics of all religions always use their faiths, in a twisted way, to support their evil actions. the problem is not in the religions it is in the people who hijack them, twist their meanings and commands and then use that for their own agenda. it happens all the time. We shouldn't be fooled by that.
on Nov 28, 2006
a bush dictionary>

I looked briefly at this "dictionary", and the only thing i would say is this: Using GWB's statements and actions and those of other politicians and special-interests groups as a base for talking about Jews (or Christians or Muslims for that matter) is not really fair. The three religions and the people who believe in them can not be responsible for the acts of the few who hijack these great religions and use them for their own political or economic purposes. Lots of Jews, and lots of Christians, and lots of Muslims do not agree or like what these politicians and special interest groups are doing to their religions. The only hope is that the peoples of the world dont broad-brush any group or religion based on the actions of the fanatics of that group.
on Nov 28, 2006
I wish it were just a few, ThinkAloud, but I think it is safe to say that it is far, far more than that.
on Nov 28, 2006

Few here is certainly refers to the percentage who are messing up the whole world. Their absolute numbers are not few. but the huge majority of the faithfuls (more than 80% of them according to all surveys i read) are very reasonable and moderate people. It is very upsetting (to me at least) that people in general think they are different from others, in beliefs, culture, values ...etc. They really are not. and that is not an opinion or just happened by accident, the three religions originate from the same source and flourished and spread from the same region. no matter how people moved or spread across the globe, the majority of them retained their original roots in their genes. it is biology and origin that controls human actions, environment modifies that to a degree, but it never changes the nature of it.

Come to think of it, that also applies to humanity in general, regardless of the faith. We all came from the same parents and from the same family. The three religions stress that point to a great length. I am sure that was not just for hubris. it is for a good reason. sadly, we just forget that often to our own peril.
on Nov 28, 2006

Well I fully admit to being anti-Islam. I'm not anti-Muslim which is a distinct difference.

I can think Linux is a crummy OS but that doesn't mean that people who use Linux are crummy people.

on Nov 29, 2006
Hollywood has produced many blockbusters, but few as exciting yet also thought-provoking as The Matrix, starring Keanu Reeves. I have noticed some rather interesting parallels between its major concepts and how Muslims perceive life and reality, based on their scriptures. I find that people often find it difficult to grasp such matters when explained in everyday terms, let alone religious terms, but how about Hollywood terms? The ideas of the movie were believable enough for countless customers who flocked to the cinema to see it, and also rushed out to buy it on video and DVD. Perhaps then, some of the ideas I want to convey will be made easier to understand and believe by comparing them to those of The Matrix.

To begin with, for those who have not seen it, I shall explain briefly what the film is about. It is some time in the 22nd century, and intelligent machines have conquered mankind, now using them to generate power for their own running. In order to keep humans unaware of what is happening, their minds are connected to a program that exactly mirrors reality as the humans once knew it. The humans think they are living full lives in a real world, but in fact they are in the Matrix: a reconstruction of late 20th century life. Morpheus, an enlightened human who has escaped the Matrix, explains to the film\'s hero, Neo (Reeves):

\"What is the Matrix? Control. The Matrix is a computer-generated dream world, built to keep us under control in order to change a human being [holding up a battery] into this.\"

The first point from Islam that becomes relevant here is the belief that the world around us is transitory. It is not the true home of humans, and this life is not our full life. Rather, we are on earth for a prescribed period of time, say 70 years, as a test of whether we shall obey God or whether we shall succumb to our desires and reject Him. One way of looking at this situation is to say that God has created a \"Matrix\" for us in order to test our faith. He has given us free will and bestowed gifts upon us in varying measures. Those who pass this test will be admitted to Gardens of Paradise, bliss beyond imagination, to dwell therein forever. Conversely, those who fail will be punished for their deeds, but whoever has the slightest faith in God’s oneness will eventually enter Paradise.

\"Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world . . . and the real world?\"

The point Morpheus makes here is a very significant one. How can we be sure that what we perceive to be reality is in fact the true reality? People often complain that there is no way of observing the Hereafter scientifically, but as Morpheus says, someone in this world would be oblivious of another, more real, world. As far as many people are concerned, this life is all that is in existence. The only way to understand the reality of the Hereafter is through reasoning and belief. The comparison between this world and a dream is a very clever one, as both seem completely real until one wakes up and realises that it was all in the mind. Furthermore, the vivid dream is quickly forgotten. In a similar way, the believers will not suffer from memories of their toil in the previous life, nor will the unbelievers benefit from memories of the pleasures they once enjoyed. Morpheus also asks:

\"What is real? How do you define real? If you\'re talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.\"

This is a very interesting point, because it flies in the face of those who claim that matter is an absolute reality, and that nothing exists beyond that. Muslims believe that God created matter, but how do materialists explain the fact that what they perceive to be absolute reality is in fact mere perceptions in their brains? Even their brains themselves are part of this perception. What this demonstrates is that we are beings with souls that are beyond physical reality, as in the film people do not exist solely in the Matrix.

\"The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us, even now in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes, to blind you from the truth.\"

This passage from Morpheus brings forward a new concept: that this life is a deception. The world itself is not evil, as God has created much good in it. However, Muslims believe that Satan wishes to deceive us into denying the Hereafter so that he can drag us down to Hell with him. He tries to delude us, using worldly temptations, into thinking that this world is all that exists. This may make you wonder: would God leave us to be tricked like this? The simple answer is \"No.\" God has given us ample opportunity to learn the truth and attain His reward. First of all, He has given us the ability to use our bodies and minds to make decisions:

\"Have We not made for him a pair of eyes?
And a tongue, and a pair of lips?
And shown him the two highways?\" (Qur’an 90: 8-10)

As well as this, He has sent human messengers to mankind who taught their people about God and taught that He alone should be worshipped. They called towards good and away from evil. Some of these messengers, or prophets, are known from both the Bible and the Qur’an, for example, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, to name but a few (may God’s peace and blessings be upon all of His messengers). The Matrix brings forward a similar idea where Morpheus says the following:

\"When the Matrix was first built, there was a man born inside who had the ability to change whatever he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was he who freed the first of us, taught us the truth: \'As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free.\' After he died, the Oracle prophesied his return, and that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war, bring freedom to our people. That is why there are those of us who have spent our entire lives searching the Matrix, looking for him.\"

Muslims believe in many such enlightened people who taught their followers the truth about reality. The last of these was Muhammad (on whom be peace) who had the greatest mission: his was universal, to all of mankind. It is interesting that the quotation above speaks of prophecy, as Muhammad was prophesied as the last messenger of God in the holy writings that preceded him. By following the message he brought, the words of God in the Qur’an, we can be free of the deception of this world, just as \"the One\" mentioned in the film would free people from the deception of the Matrix. Just as they defeat the intelligent machines, we can defeat the Devil by seeing this world for what it really is!

Many people today are trying to spread this message, not for personal gain, but in order to save people from a Fire of which they are oblivious. Morpheus also talks of this concept, as he sees himself in such a position, a position of responsibility because of what he knows. When he brings Neo out of the Matrix and shows him the real world, Morpheus feels the need to apologise:

\"I feel I owe you an apology. We have a rule: we never free a mind once it’s reached a certain age. It’s dangerous, the mind has trouble letting go. I’ve seen it before and I’m sorry.\"

It is certainly difficult to abandon what one has always believed about life and one’s position in the world. Morpheus too, is well aware of this fact. However, there are many people who have abandoned their false ideologies and embraced Islam: I know some personally and have read the testimonies of many more. The mind can in fact be freed at any age! The following passage is most interesting:

\"The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you\'re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.\"

Muslims do not regard individual non-Muslims as their enemies; rather it is the systems of disbelief that must be defeated. Anyone who fights against Islam is its enemy, but still has the potential to become a Muslim and be forgiven for his or her past. There are numerous examples of this in history. Another interesting point that arises here is that most people are happy to go on living in ignorance, and would in fact put up a strong resistance to any truth that is uncomfortable. I know from experience that people put up barriers once they realise that Islam makes sense. They do not want to be removed from their zone of comfort, that of denying the Hereafter. At the end of the day, it is up to every individual to make his or her own choices, a point which Morpheus makes most eloquently:

\"I\'m trying to free your mind, Neo, but I can only show you the door. You\'re the one that has to walk through it.\"

Finally, we come to a character in the film who may well surprise most people. His name is Cypher and he is one of the humans who have escaped the Matrix and form a resistance movement. Cypher eventually betrays the others, and nearly destroys all hope of humans defeating the machines. What is the reason for his treason? He explains to his former colleague:

\"I\'m tired, Trinity. I\'m tired of this war. I\'m tired of fighting. I\'m tired of this ship, being cold and eating the same goop every day . . .\"

The world of reality is far less attractive and comfortable for him than the world of delusion. This is paralleled by the fact that if we want to attain the real comfort and satisfaction of Paradise, we have to give up certain luxuries in this short, transitory life. A true believer is glad to make an investment for the Hereafter. Cypher, on the other hand, cannot handle proper obedience:

\"Free? You call this, free? All I do is what he [Morpheus] tells me to do. If I have to choose between that and the Matrix . . . I choose the Matrix.\"

He prefers being \"his own man\" in the Matrix to being a real man in the real world. Unfortunately, many people today would prefer to obey their own desires than to obey God. They choose this life rather than the Hereafter! This is even more sad when they actually know about reality, as Cypher knows that the Matrix is an illusion:

\"You know, I know this steak doesn\'t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy, and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realise? [Sigh] Ignorance is bliss.\"

Despite knowing about the real world, Cypher chooses the Matrix. He revels in his ignorance! This is a wake-up call to all those who claim to believe in the Hereafter yet do not act as though they do. If there is truly a Paradise for us, then we need to work for it.

Despite all the similarities between The Matrix and the concepts of Islam, there are some significant differences that I should point out. The \"real world\" of the film is cold and inhospitable, and we have to wonder why anyone would want to be free of the Matrix. We can almost agree with the choice of Cypher, who preferred ignorant comfort to harsh reality. On the other hand, Muslims believe that any pleasure in this life cannot compare with the joy awaiting those who strive for Paradise. There really is no contest as far as a believer is concerned.

Additionally, it seems that the scriptwriters failed to complete their thoughts. We notice that the Oracle has the power of prophecy, but where does that come from? We see that there is a person with supernatural powers within the Matrix, called the One, but why is this so? We witness a \"miracle\" when Cypher is stopped from killing Neo, who is the One, but who performed this miracle? Clearly, there is a framework there, but the picture is not complete until we add the concept of a Being beyond both the Matrix and the \"real\" world, the Being Muslims call Allah, or God.

I hope that this article has served as a thought-provoking introduction to some of the basic concepts about reality believed not only by Muslims, but also by Christians, Jews and others. I also hope that it will encourage further study, and serious consideration of the truth of Islam.

\"What is the life of this world but play and amusement?
But best is the home in the Hereafter, for those who are righteous.
Will you not then understand?\" (Qur’an 6:32)