Part 4—Repeating what Margaret Mead said: During her brilliant career as the world’s most famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead had teased out the logic in quite a few cultural patterns.
She had observed the way we humans behave all around the world. When she returned to the earth in recent months, she was disappointed by the way her own liberal tribe was sometimes inclined to behave.
Are modern liberals lovers or fighters? Thanks to her vast professional skill, she opened our eyes to various patterns in the behavior of our own allies. One example:
She often noted the way the New York Times dropped B-, N-, X- and R-bombs on various conservative groups, but never on its liberal allies when they engaged in similar conduct.
(Examples: Alabama was bombed for its immigration law. But Obama’s deportations and Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk were criticized in a civil manner. Regarding marriage equality, white southerners were bombed, black ministers weren’t. Or so the anthropologist said.)
We’re big fans of Bill Maher around here. But as we enjoyed Fox News Watch this weekend, we just knew what Mead would have said.
Jon Scott, the host of the very poor show, played tape from HBO:
MAHER (videotape): Would it be better if the country got over the notion of American exceptionalism? Oh, I think it would. I mean this is—We’re down on “American exceptionalism” ourselves, for starters because the phrase is so vague. But Mead was alert to the way successor liberals tend to call other tribes stupid.
This is, by the way, this is one of the reasons why—and people laugh at me. But I say in a hundred years this country will be Mormon.
It's a stupid religion and a stupid country. They were made for each other.
And I tell you, one of the things Americans are going to love about Mormonism, when they find out about it, is, first of all, Jesus is an American.
Jesus is an American in Mormonism. And they love the idea that Mormons embrace more than anybody, that we are the super-duper star-spangled best country ever. And if we had any flaw, it's that we make other countries feel bad because our awesomeness is so overwhelming.
SCOTT: That's Bill Maher, explaining his disdain for the phrase “American exceptionalism,” calling the U.S. stupid and taking a shot at the Mormon religion in the process.
In the political realm, it’s hard to prosper that way, she alleged. Quite often, this led her to cite Malinowski’s work on the kula ring.
What the heck is the kula ring? The world’s foremost authority on the practice describes it exactly like this:
WIKIPEDIA: Kula, also known as the kula exchange or kula ring, is a ceremonial exchange system conducted in the Milne Bay Province of Papua New Guinea.What’s the point in that, you might ask. Mead was eager to tell us:
The Kula ring spans 18 island communities of the Massim archipelago, including the Trobriand Islands and involves thousands of individuals. Participants travel at times hundreds of miles by canoe in order to exchange Kula valuables which consist of red shell-disc necklaces (veigun or soulava) that are traded to the north (circling the ring in clockwise direction) and white shell armbands (mwali) that are traded in the southern direction (circling counterclockwise). If the opening gift was an armshell, then the closing gift must be a necklace and vice versa.
WIKIPEDIA: All Kula valuables are non-use items traded purely for purposes of enhancing one's social status and prestige. Carefully prescribed customs and traditions surround the ceremonies that accompany the exchanges which establish strong, ideally life-long relationships between the exchange parties (karayta'u, "partners"). The act of giving, as Mauss wrote, is a display of the greatness of the giver, accompanied by shows of exaggerated modesty in which the value of what is given is actively played down. Such a partnership involves strong mutual obligations such as hospitality, protection and assistance. According to the Muyuw, a good Kula relationship should be "like a marriage". Similarly, the saying around Papua is: "once in Kula, always in Kula.”Mead thundered at the way successor liberals had forgotten the lessons learned from the kula ring. "Why did Malinowski do all that field work?" she frequently said.
To some people, Mead is "out of touch." They're say that time has passed her by. You can’t have life-long relationships with “those people,” they cry.
We aren’t stating a view on this. We’re repeating what Margaret Mead said.