Cultural conflict has probably been the major reason why division by collective has scarred human history, and prevented the cooperation of individuals. Just as we should not view cultures as distinct entities, but rather accumulated traditions which multiple individuals share, we should not make the mistake of comparing whole cultures against one another. Cultures are internally diverse, because they arise from an exchange of ideas between different people. This casts a similar absurdity upon considering multiple cultures incomparably equal (that insidious postmodern trend of so-called “multiculturalism”), and calling one culture the overall inferior of another (a justification for the European conquest of Africa and the Americas). Not only does any such attitude fail to make sense, it describes cultures too poorly to be useful, and it does considerable harm. To benefit from all cultural traditions, we must be open to evaluating the varied elements within cultures, leaving behind some elements while drawing upon others. For example: studying Aztec culture reveals a centralized religious institution of human sacrifice and an obsession with hopelessly owing one’s life to mystical forces, rather than living for oneself. But every culture has worthy aspects; in this case, trade was highly developed, agriculture was sophisticated, an exalted valuation of beauty pervaded Aztec life, Aztec poetry can be enthralling, and Aztec architecture amazed the visiting conquistadors. And people from so-called “Western culture” did found an intellectual tradition endorsing individual freedom, yet, these ideas were applied very intermittently indeed. Every cultural accumulation of traditions and ideas has boasted grand progressions, and stubbornly clutched primitive or uninspired antiquities. In any culture, woven together from materials disparate in time and mentality, we even find, tightly interlaced, both durable parts that fit us well and fraying scraps that clothe us poorly, but we need not copy the whole patchwork for ourselves. Applying this lesson offers a profound advantage for one individual, or a society of individuals.
Or, in short, all cultures are servants – and I am the Master, bitch!