Culture is the Problem

Part of this post has been copy pasted from a Facebook discussion but not the majority of it.

A strange thing that I have noticed in many western liberals, and I find it perplexing, is a respect for culture as a concept. Personally not only I think culture is not a good thing, I think it’s the real source of all our problems, at least here in Middle East.

Some liberals cringe whenever someone compares developed countries to underdeveloped countries unfavorably to the latter, calling it racist or imperialistic or whatever. One of the most infamous examples is Richard Dawkins’s tweet which mentions that one university has more Nobel laureates than the entire Muslim countries, and while that may not be a good criterion and we can discuss this, what Dawkins clearly means is that Muslim countries are backwards. I’m putting it bluntly, but it’s true. Of course Muslim countries are backward, of course they centuries behind the West and Asian countries like Japan and South Korea. And not only in science, in EVERYTHING. Look at every and single statistics and mention one that we are not in a toilet. I think anyone denying this fact has reality issues.

You may say “Well this is the fault of colonialism”, or ascribe any reason to it, and I guess your reason is true to an extent. This is a valid debate, however if you want to claim that underdeveloped countries are not underdeveloped is simply wrong. Like westerners objecting to the term “third world”. If there’s any problem with “third world” it is that it’s to charitable to shitholes like Iran, and it’s unfair to many much more developed countries, and there are countries in worse shape than Iran out there.

To me, the main culprit is culture. Our culture.

Culture can mean three things. First is the canon of literature and philosphy and other human intellectual pursuits, like what Arnold advocates for in Culture and Anarchy. Clearly we’re not talking about that. Second meaning is foods and clothes and stupid holidays. We’re not talking about those either, they’re inconsequential shit, and although people with their tribalist mentality give them value while they’re entirely worthless, at least they’re not harmful and we can leave people play with them.

The third meaning of culture is the series of rules and values that govern people meaning, and that’s the main cause of all problems in the world. Religion and nationalism are a root of a lot of evil, and they’re both two claws of this fascist entity. Both religion and nationalism are aspects of culture. Racism, sexism, transphobia, and homophobia are also culture. So I have no idea why atheist globalist feminist equalist people try hard to defend the root cause of all their enemies, it’s like an anti-Catholic person trying to attack everyone except Vatican.

And I don’t think there’s any difference between Western and Eastern cultures on this. Western culture is Christian sexism and fascism and Eastern culture is Muslim or Hindu or whatever sexism and fascism. The differences between the religions is trivial, all of them are about obeying and collective and traits one is born with, all of them opposed to individualism and liberty and equality.

Now I know all these cultures have small and inconsequential differences, but as far as I’m concerned they’re all the same in the areas that matter.

The difference between western countries and our countries is that western countries have been luckier, they have had philosophers who brought them the ideas of liberty and equality and individuality, and the inevitable destruction of culture has begun there, after which another global culture will prevail. We have followed down the same road, but we’re behind. We have actually progressed faster than the west, as I a very young person can see Iran getting more and more democratic in culture in my lifetime, but west had had a huge head-start, so “backwards” is exactly the correct term – we’re advancing towards the same goal and the same ideal society but we’re behind, and we will catch up one day.

This is not because of an inherent difference between our people and the west but because we have been unlucky. We used to be more advanced than the west in some period in history, but we’re behind now.

Now these western liberal I bemoan will say no, we have our own culture and we need to follow our path and it’s “imperialistic” for us to dream to be freer and more economically prosperous because these are “western values”. I feel no kinship with these liberals and they are not my allies. They are tribalist, and think our tribes (nations and cultures are only over-glorified savage tribes), should determine our destiny and if I am an Iranian this should determine my life and my values, and they are defending the main cause of all social evil which is culture.

This can of course get prettier and more academic when people talk of “identity”.

But what I like about Dawkins is that he says “fuck your culture”. Yes, culture is the root of the problem. Not the regime, not the wars, not the poverty, all of those are symptoms, the disease is the culture. But almost all western thinkers I see have a reverential regard for these backward and authoritarian cultures, and it either becomes or approaches tribalism. And it is really frustrating because westerners have rebelled against their own cultures to a successful degree. When Christian fundies say our culture is being destroyed because of the expansion of women and gay rights they are RIGHT. I despise the “Let us all get along” attitude of westerners. A politician is supposed to reform things slowly and from within, but an intellectual is supposed to take on the real enemy that is culture. All I see the western intellectuals do is to take shit on people who actually do this like Obama because he hasn’t been a Messiah solving all problems with a snap of his fingers.

I think Muslim reformists themselves have a better track record than most western atheists. Mousavi himself keeps saying our real task is to change our culture, and one of the clerics said “our fight against the regime is the minor jihad and the fight against the culture is the major jihad”. Muslim reformists disagree with me about the role of Islam but they agree that our culture is the problem, and that is why I have always found them closer to me than western atheists.

Of course I’m very radical on this, reformists vary extensively. I say we need to take culture and flush it down the toilet eventually, some of them think our culture is good and needs to be reformed, and I have no issues with that. What I mean is that we all agree that our culture is troublesome and our real problem is the culture. All of them agree changing the regime won’t change shit until people’s culture also changes. They are my allies because we are on the different scales of the same thought process.

I’m not a fan of our”identity” and I am as willing to preserve it as much as I plan to protect rabies.

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About Kaveh Mousavi

Kaveh Mousavi is the pseudonym of an atheist ex-Muslim living in Iran, subject to one of the world’s remaining theocracies. He is a student of English Literature, an aspiring novelist, and part-time English teacher. He is passionate about politics, video games, heavy metal music, and cinema. He was born at the tenth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. He has ditched the Islamic part, but has kept some of the revolutionary spirit.