I'm happy to bring you one of two guest posts this week, both about traveling! The first comes from my new friend Kris. Enjoy!
Hello, readers of May’s Machete! I am Kris the Educated Vagabond of The Yellow Brick Road Trip and a very big fan of May.
Kris the Educated Vagabond
Like May, I often find a multitude of adjectives to describe some portion of myself, but have yet to find that one meaningful word to encapsulate who I am or my world view. When people ask my religion or outlook on life, I offer a variety of answers such as Bokononist, Integrational Polytheist, or more commonly Cultural Relativist. As a woman traveling in the 21st century, I think cultural relativism is the closest description I have found to encapsulate my world view.
Franz Boas, the Father of American Anthropology, originally explained the idea: “...civilization is not something absolute, but ... is relative, and…our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes.” It means our philosophies or dogmas can only understood in the context of our culture. To take this a step further, what we do and what we believe can not be understood outside of the place, time, and society where these beliefs are held.
Franz Boas, the Father of American Anthropology
Though this idea was first introduced by Boas in 1887, I find it is especially relevant in the shrinking 21st century. As I have traveled this country, I constantly hear the assertion of “American Values.” I assume people mean liberty, democracy, baseball, and Mom’s apple pie. But truthfully, I have never seen “American Values” as a unified concept.
We could divide it by red states and blue state. We could dissect it further and then separate the red states by Republican and Democrat. Then we could divide the Republicans by Liberal, Moderate and Conservative. Still further, we could divide the Moderates by their religious affiliation and from there by their income tax bracket. Maybe we keep dividing and separating until we get down to a group of five people. Are these people representative of the entire state? Of the entire country? Are their “American Values” the true “American Values”?
Quite simply, no, because there are no true “American Values.” And even if we were to define them we still could not set them in absolutes because how they are understood would change in their conception according to their context. Five moderate Republicans in Kansas do not speak for five liberal Democrats in California. So if neither can be right, it follows that neither can be wrong.
That is how I travel. I don’t attempt to impose my beliefs on anyplace I am nor allow them to impose their beliefs on me. I look. I observe. I see. And most importantly, I seek to understand. I can’t tell you how essential cultural relativism – or at least a sense of tolerance and open-mindedness – is to the lifestyle of an educated vagabond.
Read more from Kris at The Yellow Brick Road Trip.
Weight, Honesty and Obesity in the USA
My Trip Out of Republican Wonderland [Guest Post]
USA Should Open Borders, Open Minds
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