A Quote On Intercultural Understanding and Other Idiocies

"Very well, here's another thing that bothers me. Why is intercultural understanding a worthy goal to pursue? Is that what we are here for? It reminds me of tolerance, which is far preferable to intolerance, but isn't there something awfully limited, awfully status quo about it? Was the last person who gave you an orgasm just tolerating you, or pursuing cross-cultural understanding? If that were the case, I doubt there could have been much to the experience.
I can see the effort to understand the other as the initial gesture of the naive and inexperienced, in a setting of rigid separation that taught people little about their world. However, the very nature of individuality lies in selectivity, the rendering of judgment on impinging stimuli. Only a fool, a faux zen buddhist, or a postmodernist would pretend to treat all stimuli as of equal value. Exposure to a variety of input can shake up ingrown assumptions about what is valuable and change one's tastes and scale of values. Ultimately, though, as with tolerance, trying to be "understanding" of difference is just another way of keeping people at arm's length. It presupposes naiveté and unfamiliarity. People may widen their frame of reference and hence their basis of judgment, but most people still judge according to what they think is good and bad, however deprovincialized their basis of judgment. Very few people's primary goal is to be understanding of others. My assumptions have undergone a number of changes in a lifetime, but I never wasted two minutes of my life thinking it was my obligation to respect other people's standards on first principles.
Hence I can't see that "understanding aesthetic judgements across cultural borders" is what anybody should take the trouble to strive for. I'm surprised anyone would still be invested in this liberal tolerance hoopla. Now I can see a purpose in subjecting the aesthetic principles of Kant, Nietzsche, and other Europeans to scrutiny based on an engagement with non-European forms, which I—completely indifferent to European culture as well as European aestheticians and philosophers—have been doing for decades. I'm an American, and I've never taken any constipated European as a cultural standard-bearer ever. Let's look at various cultural forms, see what's valuable, and then see whose aesthetic theories stand up in the light of experience. I've managed to do this for decades without ever worrying myself about intercultural understanding.
As for understanding others, only intimate engagement over a long period of time enables a deeper understanding of people to sink in, as there are layers and layers—like the proverbial onion—beneath what you see on the surface—and with time you begin to discern what is motivating people and where it came from. This principle applies to everyone you know, however, and it also applies to your experience of yourself, which should also become more profound with the passing years."
— Ralph Dumain in "New Year's Resolution: Exploring Philosophical Cultures"

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