Wednesday, June 13, 2007

On Punditry and Culturalism

For whatever reason, I can never seem to find a radio station that suits me. Whenever I drive to or from work, I am continually flipping through the various stations. Since my taste in music is diverse, sometimes I forego listening to the music stations and I listen to talk show radio. I'm not sure why I subject myself to this as I find most of the talk show pundits to be obnoxious blowhards who pander to the lowest common denominator. You would think that always being right would wear off after a while, but with these guys, it doesn't. The worst offender has got to be Michael Savage of the Savage Nation. It goes beyond simple disagreement with what he says; I worry about the negative impact that his ideas have on the general public. His rantings can only be described as political pornography. I feel physically ill after listening to him.

I understand that ratings and the all-powerful dollar drive a lot of radio commentators' rhetoric, but do we really need such odious polemics every day? The sole purpose of these shows is to engender hate, not debate. I would not, however, classify these people as racist, sexist, or homophobic. Those labels have been so overused as to be completely meaningless today. These people are what I define as 'culturalists.' They have a disdain for any culture that is not a 'traditional' American culture and are antipathetic to any culture (i.e. European, Islamic, Hispanic, etc. and I use these terms very loosely) that does not fit to that mold. Dogmatism is born of provincialism and talk show radio commentators are provincials at their absolute worst. If you only look at the American experience and deem it the best, you are excluding a lot of good ideas and values that America does not currently possess.

Culturalism is bad for two reason. First, it is absolutely fallacious to argue that America is worse now (and getting worser by the day) then it was twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago. Just because it's different, doesn't mean it's worse. Who wants to go back to the crime and poverty of the 1930s, even if it means more bodies go to church on Sunday? Second, it ignores the great learning opportunities that are attendant to it. I don't believe in 'tolerance.' I believe that it is a morally-bankrupt word. It can (and has been) twisted to mean anything. However, I believe that divergent beliefs should be shared, not so much that people can arrogate themselves to how accepting they are, but because you can learn from what people do differently. I have lived in the United States for the past four years and I can see what is good and what is bad. I don't think that it is all good or all bad, but I think there are many things that should stay the same, yet at the same time be changed. Tolerance would imply that I could make no value judgments as to the differences between American culture and my own culture, but that I had to accept it as it was. We shouldn't be neutral to what we encounter, we should engage it, critically examine it and discard that which is of no value.

1 comment:

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