Jul 01, 1996 01:06 PM
Sometimes we hear that it's wrong to say that people belong to a
particular group tend to be a certain way. This would be like
saying that people in a certain ethnic/cultural group (subrace)
have or participate in certain attributes and experiences that
are particular group.
We're told that it's wrong to describe groups and their
characteristics because particular individuals in a group have
the freedom to differ. We're expected, therefore, to pretend the
groups don't exist and deny anything we know of the groups,
because at the individual level there are exceptions and the
ability to differ. (Say, for example, people that participate in
the lifestyle of an Eskimo participate in the influence and
psychic environment of a particular collective awareness that
might be called the "Eskimo subrace".)
On the other hand, we're told that groups are very real and that
our behavior, expecially if offensive, is not only explainable
but perfectly justified because of our group membership. Someone
might state that "It's just fine that I'm aggressive and even
offensive, since I'm American, and that's how American's are!"
Is there a paradox here?
I'd say that whatever we do, it's an individual choice, with
individual responsibility, but that it would be judged as good or
bad in the context of our particular culture. An Eskimo killing
a wale for food might, for instance, be judged differenly than a
Japanese fisherman. We have a definite and real influence upon
us of the culture and groups that we participate in, but in the
final analysis, as far as we're concerned, "the buck stops here",
that responsibilty for our words and deeds lies at our own feet.
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