Barbarism and its cultural construct

Your Sociology March 23, “ Barbarism” and Its Cultural Construct Canada is one of the world’s most culturally diversecountries. In fact, according to the CIA World Fact Book, Canada is the fifteenth country in the world with most migrants. The figures say that there are 5. 65 migrants per 1, 000 people in the population. That is not a surprise since the Canada is often referred to as the land of immigrants, which is actually a good thing considering the trend of globalization. On March 15, 2011, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau caught himself in a controversy when he was asked about his reaction on the updated Discover Canada booklet. He expressed his discomfort on the use of the word “ barbaric” in the booklet, which was used to describe cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings’, female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other gender-based violence (http://www. cic. gc. ca/english/pdf/pub/discover. pdf). In the article by Paula Simons on the Edmonton Journal she examined the repercussions of the controversy. This controversy also brings to light how, as a student, I understand culture. At one point, Trudeau has a valid point that the word barbarism is rather prejudicial. It implies that certain behaviors, like “ honour killings”, are uncultured and primitive. The uneasiness probably stems from the idea that you cannot judge a culture with one’s own cultural lenses. This is cultural relativism and it is sometimes unfair to the other culture because it is quite limiting. But at the same time, the Discover Canada booklet is addressing to the migrants. They are joining a new society for them and they should adhere to the new social norms (or laws in this case). In Immigration Minister’s Kenney’s words, the context of the word barbarism serves as an icebreaker to immigrants who might continue their old practices in Canada, some of which are indeed heinous. Culture, according to Murray, is the knowledge, language, values, customs, and material objects that are passed from person to person and from one generation to the next in a human group or society (75). Obviously, this changes in every society. There are cultural universals too, which are practices that every culture has. The most common of them is probably language. But this particular controversy probably has more significance when discussing norms. Norms are established and conventional behavioral standards maintained by a certain society. These are supposedly inherent behavioral rules. Laws, on the other hand, are norms that are formal in nature and are legally imposed and enforced. When one is an immigrant, it is assumed that the one’s culture is different; hence, there may be a need for education on the new culture he/she is going to be immersed in. It is imperative that the immigrant should know about the new place’s laws and norms so as not to be culturally sanctioned, because doing so may incite more misunderstandings. The Canadian Immigration’s effort of informing the immigrants about these “ barbaric” acts is certainly understandable if put in the context of education and warning. It also helps them integrate themselves in a new society. Trudeau’s point of the word “ barbarian” being too harsh to describe certain cultural practices are valid too because, right and wrong behavior are dependent to culture. For example, an act may be acceptable in this society but not in that society. And the term “ barbarian” is suggesting superiority But at the end of the day, these words mean well. It protects Canada by maintaining their norms and laws, and possible incorporation of exotic, foreign practices that may destabilize known societal rules. It also protects the immigrants because, really, genital mutilation and forced marriages are violations of certain human rights, even if some cultures tolerate them. And even if the statement of the citizenship study guide is oozing with cultural relativism, it is valid because the immigrants are just joining the fray, and doing so means following the rules of the game, and in this case, the Canadian laws and norms. Works Cited: “ Canada”. The World Fact Book. CIA. CIA, 14 March 2011. Web. 22 March 2011. —-. “ Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”. cic. gc. ca. Citizen and Immigration Canada, March 2011. Web. 22 March 2011. Fitzpatrick, Meagan. “ Trudeau Retracts Barbaric Remarks”. CBC News. CBC News, 15 March 2011. Web. 22 March 2011. Murray Jane, et al. Sociology in our Times. 5th Canadian Ed. Canada: Nelson Publishing, 2011. Print. Simons, Paula. “ How One Word Ignited a Political Storm”. Edmonton Journal. Edmonton Journal, 17 March 2011. Web. 22 March 2011.