The Aztecs, the Moche, and our hang-ups about them
I have not yet read and written up Philip Hensher’s critical discussion of Aztec art at the Mail, but fortunately Mark Richardson at Oz Conservative has done so. After quoting Hensher’s article, he quotes the comments of Mail readers who are scandalized that Henscher has negatively judged the Aztecs’ human sacrifice cult. Mr. Richardson also links a VFR post about the giant head of an Aztec god I saw once in a museum.
In addition, I’ve posted at Oz Conservative my discussion about the Moche “Decapitator” cult of pre-Columbian Peru, from my article, “Multiculturalism and the Demotion of Man.” (In my comment at Oz Conservative, I incorrectly said my text on the Moche was unpublished; I had forgotten about the “Demotion of Man” article, which was published in Culture Wars.)
Update, September 28: If anyone was wondering what is this anti-Western relativism that conservatives are always complaining about, the comments of the Mail readers quoted by Richardson give a good idea. It’s a full-blown belief system, shared by perhaps a majority of college educated people in the West. And it’s a belief system that is not only horribly wrong, but that spells our doom.
What it says is very simple: “We of the West are morally tainted, and therefore we have no right to make moral and cultural judgments about other cultures.” Which really means that we have no right to make moral and cultural judgments at all. But if we as a culture have no right to make moral and cultural judgments, then we have no right to exist as a culture, period.
Clearly, when we call this belief system relativism, that is not really correct. Relativism says that you have your ways, and I have mine, and—since there’s no such thing as objective moral judgment—there’s no way to choose between them. But the Mail correspondents do make moral judgments. Thus:
Sarah, USA: It doesn’t matter if it’s gruesome, our civilization is even more disgusting. At least they did those sacrifices with a greater outcome in mind. What do you leave for us? Let’s kill whales to the extreme to feed sushi lovers? Let’s kill seals just because they’re paying me to do it? … Please, for the sake of knowledge, don’t let this person write anything else, ever.Sarah has an absolute—not a relative—position. Her absolute position is that our civilization is morally monstrous. It is so monstrous that the killing of seals and whales by some members of our society makes our civilization more disgusting than capturing thousands of innocent people every year, dragging them to the top of a temple, and cutting out their beating heart. Relativism—“you must not judge”—is merely the cloak in which this absolutist hatred of the West is dressed. It’s not everyone who must not judge. It’s only people who speak in the name of the West who must not judge. Non-Westerners and Western leftist haters of the West have the full right to judge.
Michael E. writes:
I would like to make an additional point about your post re relativism where you quote “Sarah from the USA.” You are correct that she has an absolutist position. She also appears to proceed from the liberal collectivist mindset that nearly everything is permissible if one’s intentions are good. (See the bold I added.) Human sacrifice for the common good is more moral than killing animals to eat or for money. Liberals have rationalized mass murder by communist regimes in much the same manner. Moreover, liberals excuse themselves for the damage they have done to the West in much the same manner. Their intentions were good.Howard Sutherland writes:
Your post about Philip Hensher’s perfectly rational response to ghoulish Aztec artefacts in the British Museum reminded me of an exhibition I saw almost 20 years ago. It may be the same one where you saw the Aztec god’s head that you found so terrifying. In 1990, Philippe de Montebello put on at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as one of its periodic blockbusters, a very large exhibition called Mexico: Splendors of Thirty Centuries. I saw it at the Met. After a very popular run there, it was shown—again to great acclaim—at the San Antonio Museum of Art. After that the objects must have been dispersed to their permanent collections. For those who are interested, there is a virtual version of the exhibition on-line.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 27, 2009 11:03 PM | Send