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“Culturism”

Some years ago, I came up with that term (ask my wife), and according to Google and Merriam-Webster Online, it doesn’t exist as an English word. So, I’m claiming it and defining it; here and now.

What I mean by it is:

Culturism: 1. The judging of one or more cultures as superior to one or more other cultures; 2. The establishment of a hierarchy of moral standing from ideal to evil with respect to human cultures.

It’s nothing like the prejudgment inherent in racism: culture does not depend on race. A person of any race can be born into any culture, but can later leave and adopt any other culture.

Therefore, I can proclaim unabashedly that I am a “culturist.” That is, having lived in both Asian and European cultures for significant time, and having experienced all other mainstream cultures in my world travels, I judge that all cultures on Earth are to varying degrees inferior to the idealized American culture (according to my standard of value, which is conscious human life). Moreover, I judge some cultures to be predominantly evil, such as certain Middle-Eastern sub-cultures. I wouldn’t classify the greater Arab culture to be evil, but I would classify it as generally ignorant and primitive. The American ghetto sub-culture, populated predominantly by blacks, is stupid and self-destructive — through and through. The American redneck sub-culture is ignorant and trashy.

Consequently, I bear a certain prejudice (to varying degrees) against any adherent to any culture that’s not idealized American, including irrational American sub-cultures. This can vary from a simple air of superiority to outright disgust and hatred. But, as I said, anyone can at any time escape one culture and adopt another, so my prejudgment here is not based on anything that a person can’t change. That’s a critical distinction.

Another important identification is that it’s utter rot to suggest that race determines culture or that a person can’t escape the cuture into which he’s born and raised. This is just a way of making excuses when a person’s culture is toxic, idiotic, or evil. “Hey, man, your culture’s fucking stupid. If you’re not stupid, then do something about it.”

All that said, it’s important to point out that I do also appreciate cultural diversity. There’s a lot I love about Asian culture. I enjoyed living in France and traveling around Europe. After all, those are my roots. My wife is of Hispanic origin, and though her family is far more American than Mexican, I enjoy a lot of the diversity they’ve retained.

And, in fact, that’s what makes American culture the best culture. It’s capable of absorbing the best from all other cultures. In so doing, American culture is, on the whole, far greater than the sum of its constituent elements. It’s also why people from the world over want to come here. It’s not just the dream. It’s that the dream is part of an idealized culture, a culture big enough to absorb everything good.

I bring up this bit about culture now because Thomas Sowell (a black man and an intellectual) has an interesting theory about culture. Go read his article summarizing his new book about how modern Black sub-culture is a direct descendant of ignorant American redneck sub-culture.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

12 Comments

  1. Gary on July 28, 2005 at 13:17

    I agree that culture, since it is not congenital, is fair game for criticism. I also agree that some cultures are inferior to others.

    Cultures include morals and taste with some overlap. For example, the tendecy of some cultures (e.g. third world primitives, American youths) to permanently deface their bodies as a fashion statement is a taste issue that reveals a moral position of disrespecting one's own body.

    But some matters of culture are simply matters of taste. These are the ones we should be most tolerant of. I despise rice wine but that doesn't make me morally superior to anyone.

    Good post.

  2. Kyle Bennett on August 10, 2005 at 18:06

    Doug,

    There's a difference between judging a moral action and claiming moral superiority. I too believe that tatoos and piercings are defacement, and are not only immoral in themselves, but indicators of deeper immoral beliefs. You can add to that most cosmetic surgery, particularly breast enhancement.

    That said, I've known many people with a variety of the above (not including military tattoos, which are in a different class, for reasons I won't go into here), who are decent people.

    I wouldn't claim moral superiority on the basis of one single factor, (I'm not even sure that "moral superiority" is a legitimate concept), but I will judge that factor for what it is, and will consider that judgement as _part_ of my overall judgement of the person. Unlike hair, eye, or skin color, defacing one's body is a choice, and as such has both moral causes and moral consequences.

    You used the undeniable ownership of one's body in support of your opposition to moral judgement in this case, but I will just say that moral judgement goes far deeper than whether someone has a right to do something.

    I would never try to force someone to not do so, but if they choose to do it, I will take into account of what it says about them that they so choose in my future decision about how much to let them affect my life.

    Yes, the Jihadist has the right to go out in the desert and blow himself up (property rights issues aside), but it's still my job to judge him for that action – except that there's not much point in it anymore once he ceases to be a moral agent.

  3. Doug on August 10, 2005 at 16:25

    A little rational commentary on cultural differences:

    I wholly concur with Richard's assesment that it is within his right to make moral judgements *for himself* (and possibly for his underage children) regarding which cultures add or detract value to/from his life.

    I'm taken aback, however by Gary's assertion that any modification at all to one's body constitutes "defacement", and thus indicates inherently inferior moral values. While I personally have no piercings or tatoos of any kind, I fail to see how decorating one's own body (which in any reasonble society undeniably belongs to you) confers even one iota of moral superiority or inferiority. I would take issue with anyone who claimed a position of moral superiority because they were naturally blonde, or blue-eyed (and I am both) and would similarly take issue with someone who claimed moral superiority because they had bleached their hair blonde, installed blue contact lenses, or applied all the culturarly appropriate shades of makeup.

    Moral superiority comes pretty much from the acceptance of a single notion: "I am the master of my destiny, *and other people are the master of theirs*. One does not gain or lose on the moral balance because of how they choose to decorate themselves, or even how they choose to deal with themselves in any fashion. The Jihadist that goes out alone into the desert and blows himself up can't be judged morally superior or inferior for that single act, because he is taking action with his own life to support his own value system.

    That Jihadist assumes a position of moral inferiority only when he steps into a disco, or onto a bus, or boards a plane, and then denonates… thereby forcing his value system (fatally) on other people.

    One is not morally superior because of how they chose to decorate/cloth/feed/use their body… they are morally superior because they accept that they have the right to control their destiny, and *other people have the equal right to control theirs*.

    The notion that some group of people is morally inferior because of [insert desired cultural difference here] has been the cause of countless atrocities in the course of our existence… including the atrocities of the recent wave of jihadists.

    'nuff said.

  4. Richard Nikoley on August 17, 2005 at 18:38

    I think we need some distinctions. It seems odd to conflate acts such as tatoos and piercings with blowing one's self up (suicide).

    I reason that the only objective moral standard in a personal context (no known cause force against others) is that which is good for the human organism (physically and emotionally) vs. that which is bad.

    So, body modification can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances. If one is on the very low side of the bell curve of natural beauty, then enhancements can be completely rational, even virtuous. It engaging the human mind and abilities to improve upon the arbitrary dictates of nature.

    Suicide, too, can be good or bad. Bad if done for irrational, manipulative, or silly reasons. Good if a person has no better alternative (i.e., living in a no-hope, totalitarian and/or torture situation).

  5. Doug Wolf on August 17, 2005 at 21:29

    Kyle,

    I absolutely agree with you that it is our right and duty to judge people for the purpose of deciding what degree of influence to allow them in our lives. I've always felt that people who say "never judge others" are either hypocrites, or have no grasp of the process by which rational decisions are made. (Or possibly both.)

    Each of us gets to decide what qualities of a person are important to us, so please don't think I'm belittling your defacement stance (even though I happen to disagree.)

    I personally have neither tattoo's nor piercings (though I have seen both of them well done and poorly done on others, my opinion of course.) I'm curious though why you consider earings to be "defacement"? And why is a military tattoo not defacement? (This is more a curiosity issue than any attempt to make a rational argument.) It strikes me that the issue of whether tattoos are "moral" is a cultural argument more than an objective debate.

    Richard, my only purpose in drawing the comparison between the guy who blows himself up in the desert and the guy who tattoos himself was to indicate that there's little point in demonizing a person for what they choose to do to their body. I care far more about how they think (and what they're thinking of doing to *my* body) than I do about their treatment of their corpus.

  6. Kyle Bennett on August 18, 2005 at 08:15

    Doug,

    There's different levels of defacement. Earrings on a woman, while I dislike them, are mild to the point of hardly worthy of notice. On a man, it bothers me a little more, adimittedly because of a cultural bias, but not much. At the other end are genital piercings and extreme cosmetic modifications, such as the guy who has modified the bones in his face to look like a lizard.

    Though this isn't the root of my objection, one thing that really bothers me about the piercings crowd, and to a lesser extent some of the tattoo people, is that they value the pain. That to me is profoundly immoral, and may even rise to the level of mental illness.

    The military tattoo issue for me rests on some complicated and subtle principles of my objectivist philosophy, of which you are probably not even aware, and would not agree with if you were. It would really take more time than I have to explain it.

    Lastly, I don't recognize any mitigation of the immorality of something because of culture, except to the extent that I may judge someone much less harshly for a very mild immorality (such as ear peircing), if there is a strong cultural bias for it. I judge culture from moral principles, not the other way around.

  7. St0ne on January 17, 2006 at 03:00

    I have to agree at least that there should be a word called culturalism, it's something i've been noticing increasingly of late and the media is of course simply calling it racism, both of which is sad to see. I haven't read your post fully yet but I'll get to it, you may even find something about it on my blog later.

  8. Carol E. Cox on July 4, 2006 at 23:31

    I must take exception to the post from Doug on August 10, 2005.

    Doug, the blue-eyed blond, says that blue-eyed blonds are not morally superior and that bleached people with blue contacts are not morally superior.

    I, a blue-eyed Blonde, say that blue-eyed Blondes are morally superior TO bleached people because bleached people use bleach as an excuse to despoil, degrade, and devalue someone elses name and racial identity.

    Blonde is a human identity. Bleach is a product. Blonde is not par with a cheap toxic chemical.

    Most bleachers are Brunettes and Bleached Brunettes are not represented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. EveryONE gets one share of the right to dignity for their race, colour and ethnicity.

    Bleaching your hair to assume the image and name of another person's race, colour or ethnicity does not entitle you to any dignity for that. Brunettes get one share. Brunettes do not get two shares because they forked out $5.99 at Walmart.

    If there is any dignity in being a Bleached Brunette then let them show it by using their own name with the appropriate disparaging words attached; "Dumb & Bleached" belong to the Brunettes.

    The statistics are: Brunettes – 95% of all adult women in the USA; Bleached Brunettes -40% of all adult Brunette women in the USA; Blondes – 3% of all adult women in the USA.

    That's why there are all those Dumb jokes. They are all directly aimed at the Dumb Bleached Brunettes but they miss the target because people call them Blondes. Stop calling them Blondes. They're not Blonde.

    On behalf of Blondes I hereby declare that Blondes are morally superior to Bleached Brunettes.

    Morality is more than what you personally won't do, it's also what you won't allow others to do. The Bleached Brunette group is composed of people who are personally immoral and also socially immoral.

    Bleached Brunettes all voluntarily join this group and they can unjoin anytime they've made people hate Blondes too much. Blondes can't unjoin.

    Pass it on. Tell Dumb Bleached Brunette jokes and then duck, I mean, come on, can you imagine how these bleach-tossing kinderwhore types will react when people call them what they are? Watch out.

    The (I do apologize) kinderwhore thing is quoted from The Vancouver Sun in a review of a 'performance' by Britney Spears; "blonde kinderwhore Britney Spears…pole-humping in front of a crowd of pre-pubescent girls". Of course I told the Sun that Britney is a Bleached Brunette kinderwhore but they're still on the Blonde gravy train because there are NO limits on what Bleached Brunettes will do for money, in the name Blonde, no limits at all.

    carolecox@blondfrombirth.org

  9. Richard Nikoley on August 27, 2006 at 12:18

    Any published citations, such as this date-stamped blog?

    Hey, I'm more than happy to acknowledge that someone came up with it before I did, but as I say in the post, I'd actually started talking about it years earlier, like as early as '96 or '97, or maybe even as early as '94 when I was doing a lot of political writing. Now, I've no way of providing evidence of that, except perhaps for a affidavit from my wife, if she even recalls, but short of you being able to cite some dated publication, then your claim to 1999 and 2002 carries no more weight than my assertion of '97, '98 or earlier.

  10. Teddy Graham on August 27, 2006 at 12:10

    I feel that Martin Luther Kings dream has come true. Are we judged by the color of our skin or content of our character? Could it be "popular American" culture discriminates against a "hip hop" culture? A culture that encourages and attracts people who believe in violence to solve problems; in having children out of wedlock; in putting gold and platinum in your mouth or "grill”; selling drugs is ok; college is not necessary; speaking broken and slang English is the norm; work ethic is not strong. Those are stereotypes for a culture. Discriminating against those values is not racism. I call it ‘clturism’.

    Theodore Graham
    December 1999
    ——————————————————————————————————————————-

    Since racism is such a stretched and hateful term (and thing), I have started to use 'culturism' as a definition of what I tend to. While racism stigmatizes the individual by his race, prohibiting all further personal insight, culturism solely judges a culture apart from the individual. Let me illustrate:
    I, personally, hate traditional mexican culture. I have found it to be inefficient, counter-productive and utterly aggravating in a business sense. Some of my friends are Mexican. The difference is that those friends of mine are not representative of what I have experienced in Mexico in general. In a similar notion, someone native to Mexico and adjusted to such a lifestyle might despise the netizen worker culture. The key item in this is that the individual is not branded for his/her race or customs.

    Bob Ellis
    October, 2002

  11. Teddy Graham on November 19, 2006 at 16:50

    let's pretend I did not post the dates. I believe there should be a word. I am not trying to say I came up with it first but to give examples that get to the point. I think people who have responded do not get it. (except 'stone'). here in america we use the term 'racism' when a person is discriminated because of how they act,dress or speak-when that person belolngs to the hip hop culture. In this country hip hop culture morals,dialect and fashion are synonymous with the black race. for this reason a black person being discriminated because of how they dress is not discriminated against because of thier skin color. The problem is there is no word for this. I agree with you 100% – btw here is the url to some dated blogs http://www.everything2.net/index.pl?node_id=790729
    \
    http://thecicero.blogspot.com/2004/07/culturism.html

  12. Tiberiu Bazavan on April 19, 2007 at 22:55

    Hey,

    The word "Culturism" in Romanian means Body Building, and as you may think is not related to Culture at all, its related to Muscles.

    We even have a joke here regarding the Body Builders, that have so much Culture that they are Culturism Leaders LOL

    LOOOOLLL

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