“Culture” Too Often a Smokescreen For Barbarism

There’s been a lot said about “culture” on this blog lately. My complaints about the RWC opening ceremony sparked a fair amount of criticism. Most of it appeared to come from semi-literate simians with no doubt some degree of Maori blood in their veins, but strangely, most were reluctant to say just how “Maori” they were.

Vicious, intolerant, hateful, the justification for their incoherent rants was that their “culture” had been insulted. Not good enough. If a culture does not have some degree of civility and refinement to it, how can it be a culture due any pride? Should someone be as culturally proud of mastering the craft of shrinking heads (for example), as they would be of playing Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 on a Stradivarius?

Too often some twisted perception of “culture” is used to justify some pretty barbaric behaviour. I came across an old article I had stored in 2007. About the conduct of Aborigines in Alice Springs. It provides as good an example as you could wish for of the concept or culture being used to excuse utterly monstrous actions-

It seemed to me that Aboriginal men were using the defence of cultural traditions to get away with rape and murder. But it’s not only that. The statistics on Aboriginal domestic violence and sexual abuse are so much worse than in the general population, as has been highlighted in the 40 reports produced on the issue since 1999.

The Alice Springs hospital provides a clear example: about 800 Aboriginal women were treated for domestic assault last year, up from 351 in 1999. The rate of domestic assault in indigenous communities is eight to 10 times that of non-indigenous communities and the sexual abuse of girls is so widespread that one-third of 13-year-old girls in the NT are infected with chlamydia and gonorrhoea. In fact, the situation has become a calamity.

The whole article is still up, and you can read it here. If you’ve got a strong enough stomach. That such an appalling situation can apparently be forgiven on the grounds of “culture” seems like a terrible failure of responsibility somewhere in our society.

Merely because some common practices are labelled as “cultural” does not mean we should automatically prostrate ourselves in their presence, and shield them from rational criticism.

If some people regard the haka (for example) as an offensive and threatening barbaric ritual that breeds violence and savagery in our society, they should be free to say so, and those views, given the state of violent crime in NZ society, should be due a rational response rather than knee jerk and infantile reactions we so frequently observe.

9 thoughts on ““Culture” Too Often a Smokescreen For Barbarism

  1. “Culture” is retained behaviour that that used to “pay” off in the social organisation and success of a skin group.
    The problem with most historical examples of culture is that they all fail as the world changes…..Aboriginal and Maori culture are fine examples of clinging to behaviours that are failed responses to the 19th let alone 21st centuries.

    I have no problem with that as long as I’m not subsidising the predictable results of these catastrophic failures on the slow learners who still claim the right to use their superseded culture as guidance in modernity.

    The outstanding successful culture of the last 200 years is Western Culture, the slow learners can
    get with it or disappear.


  2. The real tragedy is that Aborigines were adapting, by getting jobs as stockmen in remote cattle stations and gradually joining the working world of the white man. Until socialist bloody do-gooders intervened (Wave Hill station etc) and substituted welfare for work.
    Which had the effects of destroying an developing work ethic and helping destroy a traditional lifestyle without offering anything to replace it.
    I’ve spent years in these remote communities and they’re the perfect laboratory for observing the effects of welfarism and just how much damage well-meaning idiots can inflict on a people.


  3. Giving any minority, whether it is native or otherwise, a sense of cultural parity with the nation state which culture allows for the sustenance of the minority’s very existence is an extreme act of folly. We are now reaping the ‘benefits’ of that folly through a gradual increase of racially based acts of violence by those minorities, against the culture and its people of the nation state. The genie is out of the bottle and its now going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to fit it back in.

    On the Haka. Anyone exercising their God given common sense cannot fail to appreciate how aggressive and confrontational performing the Haka truly is.


  4. “aggressive and confrontational performing the Haka truly is.”

    Errr….yeah….so what?
    I must be missing your point.
    That’s a bit like criminalising speech because it’s “offensive”…in all the subjective glory of that word.

    Let’s see what happens when an AB refuses to participate in the haka because it’s “culturally inappropriate” for him.


  5. Sika, my point is that the Haka is supposed to be a welcoming ceremony? To any rational mind the tongue poking and the aggressive gestures are hardly welcoming and which performance of as an initial ‘greeting’ must also reflect on the Moari culture as being inherently violent! And who is AB?


  6. An AB is usually an All Black.
    I can see a white AB one day refusing participation.
    Haka is a challenge to fight…nothing wrong with that.
    It’s neither pretending to be a welcome nor an initial greeting.
    It is what it is.


  7. Actually, I believe there is quite a bit of dissent in the camp already over performing the haka. At one stage they were considering dropping it because the players didn’t like it. That was two or three years ago. (maybe more)


  8. When U.S and Canadian ice hockey teams came for several exhibition matches they received a “traditional welcome”. Spear shaking and tongue poking. “I don’t know what that was all about- but it made me wish I had my hockey stick”.
    Boiled frogs here see nothing wrong with welcome threats. This tribal bullshit mentality has infected way too many.


Comments are closed.