By “white supremacy” I do not mean to allude only to the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. I refer instead to a political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings
NB: I’m going to be using “white” and “western” interchangeably here, which I’m not comfortable with and wouldn’t do but for the conflation of “white” with “western” that seems now to be mainstream with social justice warriors, even if by definition culture, as a series of learned behaviors and attitudes has no relation to biology. If they want to make race and culture the same thing then for the purposes of this blog post, so will I. The curious thing for me is that the two groups who conflate biology with culture are white supremacist hate groups, and social justice warriors.
Only someone who has grown up in the west and never really left the west for any protracted period or taken any interest in non-western cultures could say this. This is a westerner who doesn’t understand the west, which is typical of westerners.
In my late teens and early twenties I read almost exclusively about what’s labeled “eastern philosophy” Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Bushido. I’d studied classics, that is western classics, in sixth form but never really taken them seriously partly because, at the time, I considered them inferior to anything I’d read from other cultures. I really got into classics via a route that went from Buddhism to Stoicism to Platonism and only then did I really start reading classics seriously.
I’ve done my year of not reading books by straight white men which I’ve come to realise, paradoxically, is typical of straight white men. Incidentally that straight white men should succeed brilliantly at an art form invented by straight white men and as an expression of the culture of straight white men I do not find all that amazing.
Anyway, I feel that it’s only by reading the books of other cultures that a full appreciation of the west can be achieved, a point of comparison is needed. This white supremacy thing can only come from people who have never had a point of comparison; they’re insiders looking at things from the inside out.
When you have an outsiders point of view or you understand enough about how another culture sees the world to understand the differences between your view as a westerner and their view none of this white supremacy stuff makes much sense. For instance Yasunari Kawabata is one of my favorite authors and so I’ve read a bit about him and Japanese literature of the time and what’s interesting is that writers of his time were in the first or maybe second generation in Japan to be introduced to the idea of a novel. These ignorant westerners don’t realise that the novel is a western art form so they’re shocked by how many novels, and how many really good novels, are written by westerners and they think that this is because “privileged” white people are refusing to give equal ground to “marginalised voices”.
It never occurs to them that what they’re actually seeing is not “white domination” and “non-white subordination” what they’re actually seeing is white people reproducing white culture. It’s not we have privilege because we don’t get anything that we as a group don’t produce ourselves. Remember what kind of a culture this is: It’s the culture that for at least the three centuries, and maybe more, has overwhelmingly dominated just about every field of human endeavour. It’s the culture that produces the most scientific research, the most medical research, the most art, the most literature, the most philosophy.
It is so hard for someone who doesn’t have a serious interest in non-western culture to understand the enormity and complexity of western civilisation and how difficult it must be for someone from a non-western or quasi-western back ground to navigate.
The other thing that strikes me about this notion of white supremacy is that it rests on an assumption that the west isn’t superior. This isn’t an assumption that is backed up by anything, no argument to this effect is ever made, it is simply assumed and asserted usually on moral grounds: White people colonised and enslaved like no other people in history therefore white people are culturally inferior to whoever, or at least are not culturally superior. This can be seen in jokes like “What’s the difference between white people and yogurt? After two hundred years yogurt develops it’s own culture” because they think that white people “culturally appropriate” everything and have nothing of their own, which goes back this idea of being on the inside and looking out and not seeing the west in perspective.
If we said to these people that the fact that they think that they’re on an oblate spheroid planet orbiting the sun is because white people and their science they’d probably have a fit. We had an eclipse yesterday; but for white people most of humanity would still think that eclipses happen because some supernatural being is eating the sun. The Chinese would still be out banging gongs at it every time it happened in China to scare off the demon.
So as a westerner who is passionate about western culture I find myself asking these people: Which culture is there that matches our achievements in science, mathematics, philosophy, medicine and exploration. Not which cultures have these things, which cultures are on an equal footing. I could throw in art but the supposed counter to that is that is art is subjective; personally I’m thinking more about the volume of art. What’s interesting is not that white people colonised and enslaved on such a level but that we as a global ethnic minority were able to and that we stopped. The most profound critiques of slavery, colonialism and imperialism are found in western philosophy. It was westerners who enacted a global struggle to stamp out slavery. Take a look in the mirror social justice warriors, what do you see? Probably a rather pale person.
Like I said in my last post we wouldn’t expect chinese medicine to rival western medicine, culture matters, why are we expecting that people from non-western or quasi-western cultures would achieve the same results as someone from a western culture? It’s not an accident or racism or colonialism or imperialism or privilege that every person who has walked on the moon is white and their skin colour was incidental to their ability to walk on the moon. What got them to the moon was coming from a culture with the scientific method and which valued rationalism and which is prepared to chuck out any idea or approach which doesn’t get results. We’re not interested in preserving our culture, we’re interested in getting results. If some aspect of what we do seems to be holding us back we get rid of it and adopt an approach that works better.
It seems like this whole topic is dominated by this view which places the baseline with non-western or quasi-western cultures which is asinine when the benchmark in so many fields is what the west has achieved, which would tend to indicate that the western way of doing things works better and therefore should be the baseline.
We as a culture are preparing to go to Mars. Think about that for a second. Read the newspapers and look at other media, NASA is exploring Mars, ESA is exploring Mars and the calls for a manned mission are getting louder. As a culture we’re psyching ourselves up for it, thousands of us are working on the technical aspects that will eventually get us there and while this going on there are people who are seriously doubting the superiority of our cultural methodology. We’ll be walking across the martian surface and idiots will be saying, “Well we shouldn’t just assume that western culture is superior” as if someone else’s culture can do the same thing.
Of course we dominate politics, culture, economics, but it’s not because of any position of privilege, it’s because they’re expressions of our culture. Of course the most western people are going to succeed in western systems and of course the less western a person is the less well they’re going to succeed. Of course we’re better at our own culture than anyone else.