Ethnocentrism Humanities’ Final Challenge on Earth: Why a liberal arts education will unite mankind

I am an Arab! I speak the best language there is, for it is the chosen language of God to reveal his message through it. I am a Muslim the follower of the one true faith. Vehemently cry the Arab and every race. This is the last major obstacle humanity must face before every person becomes nothing but a citizen of earth. This challenge is called ethnocentrism and ethnocentrism as defined by Google is the “evaluation of other cultures according to preconceptions originating in the standards and customs of one owns culture”. Meaning what I have lived by is the norm while everything else is abnormal, irrational and unnatural. Most people cannot overcome their ethnocentricity, but this is not the problem, the problem is in the way it is expressed. Ethnocentrism in its basic form, it vulgar form, is what eventually leads to horrible things like wars, slavery, and genocide. The Greeks and the Americans thought of other races, with few exceptions, as inferior; thereby justifying slavery. Muslims ague that their language is superior to all, and Plato argued that before them in his Cratylus. The Inuit, the people inhabiting the Eskimo, thought the white man as barbaric and came there to learn virtue, all people of religion think they have a universal and divine message, and atheists, agnostics and Baha’is think them all to  be irrational. This is not just the fault of the common man for also respected intellectuals fall into this most deadly of all errs like Fukayama and Sayyed Qutib. The former saying history will end by the triumph of liberal western democracies, and the latter argued that humanity is in a new dark age because it is not governed by Islamic values and law.

The 2 types of ethnocentric views

Ethnocentricity is almost impossible to eliminate completely, and is not in itself a dreadful thing but can easily turn, and historically did turn, to humanity’s worst nightmare if is possessed by a mass of vulgarian man.  A distinction now must be made between the vulgarians and enlightened or refined individual, both holding ethnocentric views of course. The vulgarian as defined by Richard Taylor is “vulgarism is not a distinction of class, power or wealth… nor can the vulgar be identified by what is thought to be vulgar language … strictly speaking, vulgar language is simply language misused, language in which significant distinctions are never made … the contrast to vulgarian is someone who is refined, whose beliefs, tastes, and attitudes have been tested and refined through experience and education… thus a person of refinement, in contrast to a vulgarian,… someone whose inner life and outward behavior are credited to the highest self-created Standards.”  Refined persons thus defined are extremely rare, which makes the threat of ethnocentricity much more alerting because the vulgar claims Taylor “their [the vulgar] opinions and tastes are all equally groundless. In general, the vulgar believe what they want to believe, and either do not see or understand any evidence to the contrary, or else they deny its relevance… all such ideas [human equality, human dignity, democracy and so on] receive endorsement of the vulgar, very few of whom could give any intelligible account of what is meant by them.”  This is the danger of vulgar ethnocentric individuals and societies. The refined individual accepts that there are other cultures, and is passionate to learn about what the human’s creative genius achieved, and if there exists an endangered language or culture risks his life for the mere of preserving them even if only in books. His antipode, that is, the vulgarian, however, gets annoyed at learning that there exist other cultures, and if given the opportunity destroys their art, culture and civilization.


Vulgar ethnocentric views and behavior vs enlightened ethnocentric views

As stated earlier, ethnocentric views shall not and cannot be removed because humanity needs diversity, no one school of thought, no one religion, and no one morality will ever reign supreme, and even under the same banner diversity is a must for the survival and the constant revitalization of the group; human are not robots, humans are different from each other, every human is unique in a way, and the greatest specimen of humanity merely developed and expressed their own special worth. Humanity will not ever get rid of ethnocentricity, because every human have some belief or at the very least a way of living. However the refined individuals appreciate and understand other cultures and do not wish to destroy them but rather he wishes that all cultures on earth to develop further, for in that humanity develop further. The refined individual embraces diversity and does not fear it.  The vulgar will claim this is the systemized spreading of heresy; a simple reply can be if your truth is the Truth then it will outshine all other truths. The antipode of this refined man is this vulgarian, who unjustifiably believes to be the only holder of truth, while all the others are merely astray, and need guidance. The Vulgar usually lack the ability to understand, and therefore are no better than apes. Vulgar men like those of ISIS commit atrocities that are unmatched in their magnitude. NO belief can be threatened by 6000 year old statues except if it is false. The vulgar may behave as if he is certain of his beliefs, while deep in his heart he is uncertain and unable to face it. Contrary to this the refined man is certain of his well-justified beliefs, while behaving as if he has none. “Convections are more dangerous foes to the truth than lies” -Nietzsche


How to make more refined individuals?

The refined individual as stated earlier is a person who behaves rationally, understands others, and justifiably appreciates the arts of his/her culture and more importantly that of other cultures. The grave mistake of the modern age to think that a healthy intellectual life is of a secondary importance, that has, unfortunately, caused many unnecessary suffering, and the consequences of this are shown, most vividly, in areas where the law is weakest. For in these unfortunate places the vulgar men have the motive, which is present in every vulgar man, and the opportunity to express their fears. To prevent this two years of liberal education after graduation from high school must be taken and made mandatory and a raised awareness of the importance of the pure intellectual disciplines, the arts and literature. For people and especially young people do not know what is good for them. And I am a perfect example for until last year I did not even consider reading a book, until I was forced to read a book in the English class. This was literally a life-changer, and one of the most important things that happened to me; for that I have to thank my former English teacher MR. Hamza. From that moment onward I was ready to receive the pleasures of literature, art and music (I did not like music then because all I heard was shit), and the wisdom of philosophy and history. The point is we humans do not know what is good for us, even Beethoven did not like music as a young boy. Deep down inside us, if we give ourselves the time to reflect, we are confused and perplexed 1. To help sort out these problems we need the help of a liberal arts education, an education that will teach us about ourselves, will take us into the lives and minds of countless artists and memorable character of literature and history, and most importantly an education that will include basic logic, because logic is the structure of thought; that teach us how to think rationally and without fallacies.  After these adventures in genius one inevitable resembles some of that genius and sympathies with others for he will know what it is like to be ill, poor, slandered and all miseries and blessings possible. Only when we have a historical conciseness (knowledge or wisdom), a sympathetic hearts (provided by literature and art), and clear through going mind in every individual only then, which may not be possible, humanity will overcome all its pity disputes. With a well-rounded public, even charismatic evil men cannot do much damage for their propaganda will be ineffective.


For my views on culture are based on my modest knowledge of culture and more importantly the way Nietzsche contrasts other cultures( especially  moralities and beliefs).

Will Durant is another person of great worth who spent 45 years doing nothing, not even to gain an income, but  working on his masterpiece the story of civilization. The 11 volume set run over 11,000 pages but if one reads a chapter a day as recommended by the author, although it never works for he is so good of an author, you will find yourself a master of history.

1 paraphrased from Alain De Botton.

Alain De Botton has a YouTube channel which creates about a video every 2 to 3 day. The videos are very and simple yet they usually convey a great theme

1 Comment on this Post

  1. Mohammed

    Best piece of English writing since Shakespeare.


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