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October 26, 2007

Technology and Cultural Genocide

Sample student paper By: Samantha Steerman

So here we are. It's 2007. The cold war has ended. There are technological advances every day. The world is connected by the Internet. Previously sheltered countries are now able to see what is going on in the rest of the world. People in India, Pakistan, Israel, Germany, etc. know what movie stars and fashions are popular in America, Great Britain, France, and Japan.

However, they get more than just movies and fashions. They hear about issue debates, political struggles, agricultural problems, national budget deficits, and changes of power in government. Almost every aspect of life in almost every country is an open book. People in South Africa and other places where government is challenged have heard of or seen the way democracy works in other countries. Third world countries get "aid" from super power nations. But they also end up getting a large dose of someone else's nationalism.

To me, a student studying Anthropology as a major, specifically studies in Native American history and lifestyle, I see many similarities many people might not catch between growing globalization and what happened to the many Indian tribes that lived in this country before Columbus or any other European set foot on this continent.

One problem with what globalization seems to try to bring about as an end result is shifting the focus of various crops and exports that many smaller countries have to offer. We have read about how people have
found success over countless generations in growing certain crops in their own countries, they way it has been done for many years. With globalization, there is a movement to wipe out the traditional way countries and cultures have been doing things, in order to have them grow just one 'cash crop' in order to be more profitable.

Now this may not seem like a loss of culture to most people, but it sends a red flag up to me. All it really takes is one generation to change (most of the time, involuntarily) to a 'new' way of doing things, and the original way of how something was done (i.e. a traditional way of growing rice or grain) is potentially gone forever.

Here is where I start to see the similarities between globalization, and the complete devastation of the Native American culture and people that were here originally.

Once the Europeans came over to the New World, they instantly employed Indians to work for them by collecting sea otter pelts. The Indians were of course paid way less than what the otter pelt was worth, and
they were the ones that did all the hard work. Not only that, but the whites exploited the market so much it nearly caused extinction of that species.

Once this was done, a horrible aspect of this 'trade relationship' moves into focus: dependency on Europeans for their trade goods. This sounded a little too close to the article we just read about farmers in
India who now have to rely on banks and the purchase of new machines or biotechnically engineered grains to continue to run their farm. Companies and financial institutions no doubt know what they can gain with farmers depending on them for survival, they can manipulate and exploit them anyway they want to. Hmm, sounds familiar.

Once European contact was made and Natives in America depended on new European trade goods, their traditional culture started to deteriorate right away. They way to boil water using a hand made basket of tulles and head rocks from a fire is now forgotten because the natives were traded copper kettles for their goods. A Indian woman will most likely not teach her children how to do it the traditional way if they no longer need to.

The loss of culture begins, and only ends when there is nothing left to assimilate. Many Native American studies that are done now fall under "history" because there is nothing left to study of current times. Languages, stories, art forms, and methods of survival are now gone forever due to early "globalization" of the Europeans. This is exactly what is happening on a different scale today.

Based on my understanding of the views presented here, I believe that the idea of globalization as a manifestation of cultural imperialism is fatally flawed. I can't see how it is possible to completely wipe out
someone else's culture by really just trying to make one's one culture better. I feel that although people in every nation are excited by exposure to new things, they don't really want to leave their own heritage behind. I believe that people tend to hang on to their core cultural values for as long as they can, but sometimes it can be made impossible for them. People need to wake up and see that this is history repeating itself. I am not sure why anyone would want to repeat a point of American history that is often refereed to as a holocaust.

Social Change, Culture, and Economy

Sample student paper by Jeff Shelton

The means by which a group of human beings choose to sustain their lives is a basic corner stone to the doctrines of survival. The methods or methods used play a major role and some would argue the main role in the making and passing of culture. If we look at culture as the ways and means by which a group of people survive and grow as a society we can easily see that the economic system that is used is a key block in the social structure. What happens when a society changes its economic base or when the economic model is changed for them by force or coercion?

Whether a society barters or trades the products of their labors or simply keeps the products they produce an economic system is in place. Horticulture , pastoral , industrial societies alike have a means for producing and distributing the fruits of their work. Inherent in the system used is vital cultural elements that may be overlooked. These pieces may not be seen simply because they are so much and intricate part of the society and in many ways define the society itself. Let us take the example of a horticulture society that operates off of a mainly matriarchal structure. The women play a vital role in keeping up the family gardens which is the main source of food while the men also help in this endeavor while also spending time hunting and maintaining the structures of the house. For the young girls of the group the time spent with their female elders in the gardens is a time to hear of the connections that are in existence between different members of the group perhaps through gossip. They also learn what to plant when and what does not grow well and why. Perhaps this is where they will learn the lore of the group and gain an understanding of the kinship groups that are important to their survival. For the young men the hunt can play an important role in how they are looked at as a man. This can be where they learn the terrain in the area in which they live . How and where to find water and the stories and faith that contain the understanding of their connections to the group and to their ancestors. Doing the actions needed to obtain the things one requires to live and survive are not tasks that are simply done with no interaction with others. It is this interaction done around the actions for survival that play the vital role in the building and transferring of culture. As I have discussed in my example this is the time where values and important information not to mention the building bonds that are necessary for social cohesiveness are formed.

When a society changes its primary economic system what it also changes is its primary method of building its culture and maintaining the culture that is built. We read about societies having grave difficulties after changing to a system that is mainly capitalistic. Where the goal is to produce and sell your products to others for money to buy what one needs. Where once the people basically grew or collected and or bartered for what they needed no they have a completely different system to operate in. This new system I purport is not only a change in how they grow crops or how they distribute them it is a change in how they define themselves and how the defined their society.

It is also not necessarily true that the new way of surviving with the use of capital is bad but that it is such a change in fundamentals that the culture will have little choice but to change it basic identity and world view which could cause very serious growing pains so to speak. I seem to have heard a simplistic viewpoint often in my life that some third world cultures are just not able to “make it” that perhaps they are no intelligent enough and that they are backwards etc. This ethnocentric view point is missing the whole point . For if a person of middle class status from a first world country was flown one night to the villages in Papa New Guinea and told that today you will go out and start to clear jungle for the growing of crops I sincerely believe that the person would have a very difficult time. Why? Because they would have been stripped of
the culture they are used to . Culture is something that perhaps is taking so much for granted that we do not notice that culture and its counterpart of social institutions are with us constantly similar to how our skin is with us. So when institutions are changed and added and basic modes of sustaining life are altered or dramatically abolished what we are seeing is a destroying of a society. It often seems that the sad truth is that the building of a new and cohesive society does not happen as fast as the destruction of the old one. Leaving many to fall in the cracks of change and be displace into a world between cultures.

In our culture in the United States we use the phrase “going to work” as the means used to get what we need to live life. In this country however “going to work” is part of our culture and no matter what one does for work culture is still passed on and built in correlation with the work done.

In places of work people often find other people that become friends. These friends can become one's spouse or even lead to meeting ones spouse. The getting of gossip and knowing what is going on in the world can come from ones work. Knowledge is passed on from person to person in any given field that can be very useful in the future. I was in Humbolt County California in the late 1980Â’s and early 1990Â’s. This was
a time when there where many lumber mills that were starting to close up. When NAFTA was signed the final nail was hammered in and the main paper mill in Eureka was closed. This whole cycle of closing plants displaced thousands of workers. Many whom where 5th or 6th generation loggers. No matter what oneÂ’s beliefÂ’s are about the logging industry these people had lost their main source of employment. However they lost more than a job they lost a way of life. They lost the stories that they told to each other . They lost the basic common thread that keep them together as a community. There where towns where one could say 90% of the people where either in the logging industry or serviced those that where in the industry. This was not just a situation of jobs lost this was a situation of whole communities , generations of cultural connections being severed.

When we speak of the loss or gain of jobs ,when we speak of a changing economic system in any part of the world what we are speaking of is also a change in the cultural fabric and in the social institutions and
therefore the society at large. It is not an issue that can be over simplified. When methods of farming are drastically changed when bullets and guns are given to a people for the first time in order to help them “hunt better” , what has happened is the basic structure of that society will be altered. It does not have to be altered for the worse but the understanding and acknowledgement that the society will be changed is crucial to any endeavor .If problems arise ,and they will, it will take action to stabilize the society and bridge the old
with the new in a way that benefits all. Perhaps it is hard to see or hard to understand for many because what is being lost is the fact that usually it takes a very long time for a society to change . At least historically this can be seen to be true. But the wave of capitalistic globalization is analogous to a huge earthquake or natural disaster or war that forces a society to change almost overnight. In the case of any of these disasters it is expected that there will be an upheaval and difficulty. However this current type of change is known. People plan it , it is not an act of god. Therefore the needed actions to help the people in these areas that are undergoing change should and needs to be available. Of course the other option is to not allow the manipulation and change to occur at all. Never the less what needs to be made very plain is that societies are living entities and that if any one part is drastically changed the whole organism will also change. This is a fact that I am sure many governments and corporations know and use to their advantage. However the general populations of this country and the whole world for that matter should look at the
change of economic systems as a change in the whole society that will need support and a guiding hand to ensure they do not get lost and or manipulated in the transition.

October 7, 2007

Capitalism is not a success

Sample student paper

By: Noah

"Capitalism is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not true, it is not virtuous and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short we dislike it and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place we are extremely perplexed." John Maynard Keynes (Albert, Judging Economics) Contemporary alternatives such as centrally planned socialism as well as market socialism have both been attempted with the later possibly being the more successful of the two. Even though their goals were more equitable distribution neither provides a totally egalitarian society. In the centrally planned systems there was clear division between the planners and the workers, which immediately created class conflict. In the market socialist economies private ownership of the means to production were eliminated but the force of markets still exists as well as a division of labor between the coordinator class and the working class. (Albert, Market Socialism) So if we decide that either of the latter options are not the answers to overcome the capitalistic machine and that the capitalistic system is not successful in providing equity among all its citizens where can we turn for hope?  The answer could possibly be found in what is known as Parecon (participatory economics), which is an economic system that is based on the democratic participation of every citizen in both their working life and their life as a consumer.


In the United States immediately the question may arise as to what is the problem with capitalism. This idea has been ingrained in our culture and minds as the path and even the vehicle to the "American Dream." So as soon as it is attacked the great majority of us become defensive and confused. People may ask if you are aware that we are the most powerful nation in the world, or tell you that we have the highest standard of living on the globe. These people may be right that we are arguably the most powerful nation in the world but many fail to ask at whose expense we have gained this power and what were the methods used in doing so. The answers lie in Capitalism, which in its truest nature creates competition between individuals on all levels. In order to get ahead you need to be prepared to do whatever it takes to assure you have the upper hand in transactions as often as possible. Capitalism also creates two classes immediately, the owners of means to production and those that have to sell their labor for wages. There is also a third party the coordinator class that operates as a mediator between the two but that is still somewhat exploited by the capitalist class.(Albert, Capitalism) This division causes great disparity in the standard of living between the said groups, with about two percent of the population owning sixty percent of the wealth.(Albert) It is the capitalistic mindset, me first, that seems to allow many of us to accept this fact and live with it because in a capitalist mind one has to believe the most apt person is the person that will be able to move up the ladder of stratification the quickest leaving the "less" skilled or dedicated to the bottom rungs eating crumbs of the economic pie.

Capitalism is also based on the fact of ever growing economic growth, which means that to exist other markets and people have to also buy into this idea in order for the machine to keep running. Sustainability is not a tenet of capitalism and so it could be argued that this economic system will ultimately starve this world of all of its resources if not stopped or at least restrained. Presently the United States has roughly three percent of the world's population but is responsible for half of its consumption. (Albert) Can we imagine a world in which China and India embrace capitalism whole-heartedly? As their median incomes continue to rise and if they chose to pattern their style of consumption after ours it is not difficult to guess the impact that will have on our earth, millions of people's cultures, and not to mention our country which may to its surprise find out that we are not the only ones capable of playing the game at such a proficient level.

So stepping back and looking at our economic model it is easy to say that on a personal level our system is not equitable. Is it reasonable that the average CEO earns more than 150 times the average worker(Anderson pg 490), are their skills and expertise that much more valuable than the persons who make their product or service available? Our leaders will tell you that our markets are efficient and that the market prices are set at a price that allows a mutually beneficial transaction between buyer and seller. This statement could be argued with the fact that our markets do not figure in the effect of products on all parties especially in the area of pollution and life cycles of our products. These issues are not addressed wholly when markets set their price so it could be argued that our markets are not as efficient as thought.(Albert, Markets) In a globalized setting we also see that the same hierarchies that our corporatism creates amongst us is spread to nation relationships. As multi-national corporations pursue new markets and profits, many people will continue to be exploited.

If humanity plans to exist for as long as possible it may be helpful to start looking into different economic models that not only have less of a brutal impact on our environment but that also provide true equality among individuals. It is necessary to lose the me-first attitude and realize that we are all in this together. Through cooperation and informed citizenry we can begin to focus on alternatives to capitalism.

One such alternative is known as participatory economics or parecon, which in its essence makes true democracy central to everyday life.  Parecon takes away private ownership and the feelings of entitlement that go along with it and places the ownership with the society. Parecon focuses on effort and sacrifice when it comes to compensation for work rather than for property, power, or output. Through nested worker and consumer councils people will gain a voice in decisions that directly affect them which may combat many of the feelings of helplessness that seem to permeate our society today. Instead of the unfair division of labor and hierarchies that our capitalist system have produced parecon would replace them with more balanced job complexes which would not assign people to lives of carrying out less fulfilling and menial task but give individuals the options to gain training and the chance to take on more complex and stimulating jobs in their work place. (Albert, Job complexes)  No longer would the their be a boss who sat in the office all day doling out assignments while not ever having to break a sweat, because in this system he/she would be required to complete tasks of "less" importance as well. The different councils would participate in the valuation and distribution of products through society with a third body known as facilitators that would first set indicative prices on objects which would be presented to the consumer councils who would then vote on the amount and price they feel fair and return the proposal to the facilitators who would then pass on to the worker councils which would then counter the offer considering demand and sending it back to the consumer councils.(Albert,Councils) In this way a person or groups of persons could object to products and the delivery of services if they feel they are not conducive to the communities' way of life. Parecon strives to create equity, solidarity, self-management, diversity, and classlessness.(Albert, A New Vision) Parecon recognizes that some people have inborn talent and are suited better for different job positions but instead of saying that certain jobs hold more prestige it focuses on an individuals effort and sacrifice at whatever their jobs may be.(Albert, Job Complexes)

Can we imagine this as a society? Can we make the decision not to consider ourselves and our agendas of the utmost importance? Is it possible to recognize that every one of us has a role in our society and that they are all imperative to our overall well-being? Can we begin to look at our decisions collectively and examine the impacts they have on others? Could we ever realize that paper money is only an idea and not something to sell your soul for? Unfortunately many among us are not willing or able to see the flaws that exist in our society and a great many of us recognize some of the flaws but feel overwhelmed when choosing what to actually do in retaliation. It will take open minds, open hearts, and courage to stand up to the forces that wish to hold us in oppression while they reap the rewards.


Work Cited

Albert, Michael. Life After Capitalism. Pub.Verso London:

2003. http//www.zmag.org/books/parecon/parefinal.html


Anderson, Margret L. and Howard F. Taylor. General Sociology: Social Change and Institutions.United

 States: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008