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ANTHROPOLOGY: Varied Opinions



The role of anthropology arouses strong passions. While I recognize the need for factual objective studies, I am deeply sympathetic with the compassionate attitude of Linda Nyquist. She was brought up by nuns, and she must have some phrases tucked away in her subsconscious: "Although I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am becoming as sounding bronze or a tinkling cymbal." Linda thinks that because she is a socialist she cannot be a Christian. Untrue. One who cannot claim to be is an academic who said we should do nothing to fight rampant disease because it was nature's way of controlling overpopulation. Long live the plague! It is saving the world.

Today, John Gehl devoted his marvelous "Honorary Subscriber" series to Barbara Ward, a distinguished and compassionate economist: "Among her penetrating works on international relations are "The West at Bay," "Policy for the West," "The Interplay of East and West;" "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations," and "Nationalism and Ideology." Two of her books of particular interest are "Progress for a Small Planet" and "Only One Earth," which she co-authored with the bacteriologist Rene Dubos. The first deals with the three principal threats to the global environment: pollution; over-consumption by the affluent; and the growing tension between the rich and poor nations. Refusing to accept these conditions as inevitable, the second book describes new technologies for recycling waste, for energy, for 'getting more for less', and links them to "ordinary people's working lives."

Tim Brown has sent a long description of his dealing with the suffering of primitive peoples and concludes: "always let them decide for themselves. Inform yes, impose never. Tolerance and respect are the keys. Honor them with respect and one is often astonished at just how intelligent undereducated people can be; just how attuned to harsh environments we do not understand "primitives" are; just how honorable and compassionate they can be. In my experience as much injury, pain, and suffering can and often is caused by outsiders with the best of intentions as by those bent on evil." [Well no. How could a kind person do more harm than the Nazis? RH].

In another long message, Tim berates the activists: "More and more linguists, political scientists and, to a lesser extent historians, have become deliberately proactive because they see their mission not as a search for truth but as a search for change towards whatever they personally consider "the better." In other words they no long just observe and analyze, but rather also seek to change outcomes. Of the two approaches, it is the pro-active post-modernists who have by far caused the greater injury to their subjects Because their victims are not numbered in the ones, or tens [some premature deaths, an individual's suffering] but in the thousands and even millions [ entire societies disrupted, revolutions prolonged, conflicts depened].".

My comment: Take your choice.

Ronald Hilton - 9/01/00


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