Examples of Cultural Relativism Around the World


—“Curt: What are some examples of cultural relativism around the world?”– quora user

1) Bride Kidnapping (actions)

Just to pick a controversial one. While less than two hundred years have passed, we have lost cultural memory of the reason women wanted to be married: independence. It is better to be in command of your own house over your own children than under command of your parent’s house in the service of your brothers and sisters. And to begin insuring you would have children to care for you in your old age. Sex and affection were a perk. A family meant economic independence, social status, and investment in the future.

In primitive societies, particularly those of horse culture (raiders), of steppe, tundra, and desert, children are part of the household workforce. So husbands must (a) ‘compensate’ parents for the loss of the labor, (b) demonstrate the capacity to provide income for the daughter on the other. (c) provide insurance in case the marriage fails and the family must support the daughter and her children.

However, in these same societies (i) banditry is heroic and in the family interest (in their world bravery), so is (ii) deception (in their world cunning), and (iii) some parents seek unreasonable prices for their daughters. (iv) some daughters are forced to care for their parents (like slaves) at their own expense.
So when negotiation is impossible the boy’s family can arrange a kidnapping, and the women of his family will try to convincer her to join their family (she can refuse).

Or couples who are interested in each other, can arrange a kidnapping, to escape the extraordinary demands of the girl’s parents, or disapproval of her parents, sometimes for reasons against her interests.

And of course, girls from hostile tribes can be kidnapped, captured and raped at which point, they are ‘unmarketable’, and will escape or stay.

So, this is why :

… i) MORALITY is universal: Morality is always decidable, and consists of self-determination, by personal sovereignty, and interpersonal, social, and political reciprocity.

… ii) Moral NORMS differ in different places at different times because the constitution of moral actions requires accounting for many conditions.

2) Corruption (Actions)

In germanic civilization above the Hajnal line (or rather in germanic civilization alone) Europeans practiced bipartite manorialism from about 700AD onward. This had a dramatic effect on the behavior of the population, by limiting access to farmland to young marrieds who had demonstrated good character and suppressing the reproduction (and increasing the starvation and disease) of those who were not. It meant that peasantry was literally children of the manor under legal rule of the manor, until they had their own land at which point they were subject to common law like adults. And if you could somehow through achievement join the trading class, nobility, or god forbid, aristocracy, you would gain legislative influence over your trade, over your territory, or over the nation. In much of european history we see this same pattern: child-slave, teen-serf, adult-freeman, responsible-citizen, accomplished-sovereign. And everyone knew the requirement for moving up that pyramid.

And that pyramid was jealously guarded with skepticism, demanding you perform successfully to climb it. (all though not to fall from it). And while your rights were individual, your membership was to an insurer. That insurer was your family, or your church community, or the manor, or the state.

Corruption in this world was only suppressed above that line in Europe and in japan. The rest of the world is notoriously corrupt, from the Italian church to the french bureaucracy to the european Mediterranean, to Russia, India, china. But worst of all in the middle east, where they still cannot form a bureaucracy or an army because the ethic is purely familial and tribal. India suffers from the same devotion to family and village-tribe. China of course, has a long history of disregard for human life, and it’s civility is contrived purely as posturing.

That’s because in most primitive civilizations deceit and theft is in the family interest. As civilizations evolve, corruption is in the family and regional interest. And for unique reasons, Europeans specialized in the development of commons which were in everyone’s interest. But it’s only because the prosecution of ‘cheats’ was so severe, and the privilege of access to land, freedom, and law, so precious, and that the bureaucracy evolved from the military not state or priesthood.

Corruption is expected family behavior in most of the world. And it’s expected family behavior not to in the west.

3) Truth (Words)

Might as well stick with another controversial topic: **truth before face** (western egalitarianism), **face before truth** (eastern harmonialism), and **face by deceit** is honorable (Middle Eastern and African familism-tribalism). This spectrum describes truth as serving the political interests of everyone (western), the social interests of everyone (eastern), and the familial interests of everyone. This is because heterogeneity produces tribalism, and homogeneity not. Europe and East Asia provided cutural homogeneity. Africa and the Middle east didn’t. The middle east didn’t because Islam solved only the problem of disempowering the chieftains, but not the problem of tribalism – it only exacerbated it.

Those two are all I have time for although they are excellent examples of the problem.

Leave a Reply