In Brown’s essay on cultural relativism he attempts to bring attention to a subject that I think has become taboo among many of todays anthropologists. He states in his first paragraph that all anthropologists basically acknowledge the thought of cultural relativism in some way or another but really wont try and tackle the subject because it is such a “gray” area. The only time the topic comes to the forefront in the present time is when it has to do with human rights, such as female equality, human suffering, unjust killings, and the list goes on. I can see the arguments on both sides but I think the topic in general is very subjective which is why it will always be open to debate. One of the first arguments mentioned by conservative cultural critic Willam Bennett, was that cultural relativism is one of the biggest threats the American society faces in todays world. Basically saying that we cannot condone the Muslim culture because of the Muslim extremist’s way of life and if we do we are basically promoting terrorism. In this statement he relies on binary oppositions. One side is better than the other. His point of view is right, and the Muslim point of view is wrong. I don’t agree with this statement. First, because I still don’t know what the word “terrorism” really means, and second because he is hypocritically justifying one murder for another. I don’t support the attacks on America on September 11 but at the same time I don’t support all of the innocent Muslims murdered because of our decision to go to war. To Bennett, the loss of innocent life is justifiable based on one’s location or their affiliation to a said culture. Since innocent Americans were attacked on American soils it is considered an act of terror. Yet when an American kills an innocent on foreign soil the victims are considered a casualty in the pursuit of justice. This is why I find his statement hypocritical. Simply because someone is a Muslim, it doesn’t mean that they all identify with the Muslim extremist’s point of view. I think the Muslim Extremist might have the same take that Bennett does. They may believe that all Americans have the same point of view or are in turn guilty by association. Again this is why culture is such a gray area. It is true that individuals come together and form groups and societies based on common goals, interests, and beliefs but there are no two individuals alike. It is impossible for two people to feel the same way about every certain subject regardless if they were raised in the same culture or not.
In Brown’s essay he also talks about universal human rights and how they vary from culture to culture. Since you can’t draw a general consensus from all cultures on what is right and what is wrong from a moral standpoint, universal rights don’t really exist. When we think about cultural relativism I think we should think in terms of cultural emotions. Our concepts of right and wrong may vary, but the emotions we feel are the same. Happiness is a universal emotion. Being angry is a universal emotion. Love is a universal emotion. Losing a loved one is a universal emotion. These are rights that I think should be universal to all humans. I think that is what cultural relativism is all about, but it always comes back to binary