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Anthropology

Anthropology

Recognize that power and culture are inseparable, one does not exist without the other, and currently the dominant form of culture is based upon industrial production requiring essentially infinite energy supplies – which do not in fact exist. So we collectively face a terrible problem. And yet the greatest burden of this problem is being borne by those least able to do anything about it, while at the same time those who benefit most from the economic inequalities imposed by the culture of industrial production are unwilling or unable to recognize that things cannot continue as they are. This is our dilemma; one we must solve now or ignore and risk facing unimaginable chaos later.

 

Concerned about the ultimate implications of his theories about space, time and energy, Einstein pointed out that 20th century problems would never be solved by 19th century thinking. Indeed, by the same token, 21st century problems will not be solved with 20th century thinking either. The same can be said for oversimplified false dichotomies between ‘conservatives’ and ‘liberals’ and particularly ‘capitalism’ and ‘communism’. The latter binary opposites are 19th century ideas while the former are legacies of the 20th century.

 

We are well beyond the political and economic circumstances that informed such artificially limited conceptualizations of the human condition in many, many ways. And yet, these same tired inaccurate philosophical cages are still supposed to encompass the almost infinite variety and subtleties of contemporary global and local political economies. This is essentially the problem Einstein was concerned with when he noted the conceptual poverty of such willed ignorance. Our technological capacity has outstripped our cultural mechanisms of maintaining social control (consider greed: how much is enough?) and amplified our ability to impose physically violent solutions to complex and entirely negotiable problems. Our challenge now is to reassert the primacy of compassion and respect for difference in the name not of sacrifice, but of abundance and better lives for all.

 

It seems that there is a striking disconnection between ideals of freedom (largely understood in terms of free enterprise), and the values of concern for public health, or more particularly the well being of family, friends and community. Social science has long struggled with the problem of what Karl Marx called “false consciousness”, the curious phenomenon whereby ‘the proletariat’ (those who must sell their labor to survive) assume the values of ‘the bourgeoisie’ (those who own what Marx called ‘the means of production’ both financial and industrial). Marx tried to show why the ruling values of society are generally those of the ruling class by suggesting that the proletariat labor under a false consciousness, believing that if they play by the rules they will achieve upward social mobility, never grasping the grim reality that the rules are what in effect keeps them in their place, that following the rules means that they will always be members of the working classes.

 

Anthropologists have largely rejected this analysis in favor of a subtler conceptualization of inequality that takes culture into account. Social status is measured in a variety of ways, not just in terms of access to capital, goods, and/or services. Indeed, social class is but one form of social status; others are gender, ethnicity, and even personal characteristics such as charisma, or prestige. And the problem of false consciousness is not so much that people fool themselves on the one hand, and cunningly seek to deceive on the other, but that we all draw our conclusions from observations of those around us, an unrepresentative data set if ever there was one, and as a result rarely recognize that what appear to be individual troubles are actually broad phenomena, affecting vast aggregates of people from many different social statuses, ethnicities, etc. And what complicates matters is that individuals can often embody a dizzying variety of social statuses, depending upon context.

 

Referring to the book What Matters, discuss your view of the intersection of biography and history, how individual lives impact and are impacted by broad social phenomena such as illness (especially the increasingly common Cancer, as well as chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Heart Disease and Obesity), or unemployment, or debt, or violence (sexual or otherwise), or any of a myriad other circumstances that are all too often understood as individual troubles and not part of much wider currents.

 

An exmaple of an answer: 

Around the world illness, unemployment, debt, and violence are handled differently. In western cultures, board-licensed doctors, law enforcement or the government handles these subjects. Heart disease and diabetes are typically linked with obesity and being overweight. Some may say, “They did it to themselves,” but that’s not always the case. Illness may be causing these people the inability to easily lose weight or to partake in physical activity. Often times people judge others without thinking what the other person has been through. Unemployment and debt are typically linked as well. Our government helps those who are struggling until they get back up on their feet and are able to find a job. Some may say that getting help from the government makes people lazy, but I don’t think that’s always the case. Violence and crime are far too common it seems, but law enforcement and the government handle it while also keeping in mind human rights. I believe that in western cultures these problems are tackled as a whole. Although individuals and families experience these problems separate from others, our system is set up to care for those living in our country.

In other cultures, though, these topics are handled much differently than in western cultures. Often times illnesses become epidemics because health care services are not as prominent. What Matters states that, “Treating AIDS patients in Africa, where two-thirds of all HIV-positive people now live, is particularly difficult because Africa’s health-care infrastructure is in such a dire state. This means treatment programs are expensive and difficult to administer, even when the drugs are practically free” (Cohen 276). Treating AIDS anywhere is nearly impossible, but with the lack of resources in Africa, it makes it even more difficult. People who are suffering from AIDS may be “thrown out of their houses, scorned by their relatives or quietly fired from their jobs when their status became known or even suspected” (Cohen 279). This is drastically different than in western cultures, as it is typical for family and friends to stand by when a loved one is fatally ill and suffering. Crime and violence are also much different than in western cultures. There are civil wars happening around the world, mass killing groups of people who practice different religion. What Matters references the genocide in Darfur, “25 million Darfurians have been ethnically cleaned from their villages and farms and penned in concentration camps, surrounded by marauding, predatory government-supported Janjaweed militiamen, Darfur’s supercharged version of America’s Ku Klux Klan” (Cohen 99). Although in the past America hasn’t always been free of mass killings, now our nation is considered the “land of the free.”)

 

Another exmaple of an answer: 

Human’s lives are impacted by different things depending on who that person is. This being said, we all are influenced socially. The idea to fit in or what is “cool” is something many individuals mentally process everyday, when around other people. The argument about what is normal is also something people are trying to figure out. The majority figures these out. I say this because, we try and shape our lives around who we associate with. We like to think we form our own personality and way of life on our own, but most of the time we try to be someone we aren’t because we want to be in the same social class or group as those certain people, or those are people we just wish to be. Most people are not happy with who they are or think they need to “find themselves”. You don’t need to pretend to be someone in order to find yourself you just need to make your own decisions, and know that the decisions your making have a consequence, and to be ready for that consequence. 

    When it comes to certain problems that people tend to see as “individual problems,” I agree to see those problems as individual problems due to how I was raised and who I was friends with. When someone has cancer, I would try and comfort them but at the same time if they were negative or brining other people down, I would get a little angry. I understand that they are ill and maybe are dying, which sucks and I cannot really relate to that, so I am sorry for that, but I like to believe that if that was me and I was dying I wouldn’t want people to pity be and give me attention only because I had cancer. I would want them to live their life and do everything I couldn’t do because I want them to be happy and not have to suffer with me. Others may think differently, I see these troubles as individual troubles and that’s it while others may see it to be a bigger issue. I see it this way because my family taught me to care for others but not impose on peoples live with my own problems. Others, may think they need to involve everyone in order to get through it or because the attention of pity is what they need. They like to believe they don’t deserve it and whatever happened isn’t fair, and maybe they are right. Bad things happen to good people way too much. I like to see that as the power of the universe, so ones dharma. This type of stuff, we can’t control, but we can control how it is handled.

Another exmaple to make sure you understand: 

 I believe that in the past settings broad social phenomenons like cancer, debt, unemployment, and so one were something that impacted one person or a whole family at a time. When a family experienced some sort of social setback, they would deal with that as a family, accommodating there setback and hopefully over coming it too success and happiness. Unfortunately many families couldn’t do this one there own and would receive some sort of help from their state or maybe even federal government, which is great because our governments should help its people out if they cannot do it on there own. In the past this would happen at a moderate rate and would only be a single persons problem or there families problem, but in todays times there are too many people are impacted by these social dilemmas. Cancer rates are through the roof compared to decades ago, same goes with obesity, diabetes, and unemployment. The cause of these violent increases vary, most of them though can be pointed at the works of our elites. For example recent cancer increases have been pointed towards the illegal dumping of hazardous materials that have poisoned  water and food supplies nation wide.  But since too many people are experiencing these dilemmas it is now becoming a problem not only for them but for all of us to handle and show some sort of cooperation to reform the too high rates of these social setbacks. In short I believe that current social problems, that are usually deemed as just impacting one person for them to deal with is false, because the statistics of these issues has become overwhelmingly too much for our society to handle as a whole. Therefore I believe these problems are no longer just effecting one person but all of us as a wider current.  

It is not an essay but a Blackboard discussion.


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