I am in the east African nation of Djibouti. Last weekend, my colleagues and I and some folks from the embassy took a trip out into the country to Lake Assal.
Lake Assal is a salt lake like the Great Salt Lake in Utah or the Dead Sea in Jordan. In fact, Lake Assal is the most saline body of water on Earth. It is also the lowest point in Africa and the second lowest point in Earth at about 375 ft (115 m) below sea level. (The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth at 1378 ft (420 m) below sea level.)
What does this have to do with cultural relativism? In our group was the representative to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We ran across some acquaintances of hers and they joined us for a picnic lunch at the beach. They were a married couple. He was French, a doctor, and his wife was Spanish.
Somehow our conversation turned to some of the more barbaric cultural rituals practiced in African societies. Female genital mutilation is the most well-know of these. I will assume that readers are familiar with this practice and will not describe it here.
I mentioned that there is another ritual practiced in West Africa. It is called "pressing". Mothers place heated stones or irons on the budding breasts of their young daughter. This is supposed to curb the growth of the breasts. This is done so that young women do not become objects of lust to men and hence victims of rape. I wonder about the prevalence of rape that such a practice is deemed necessary.
The French doctor then told me about another practice that I hadn't known about called "pulling". He said that it is fairly common in central Africa. The purpose of pulling is to enlarge the female genitalia to enhance sexual pleasure (for the man, please). The practice usually begins around age 10.
As I heard about this practice, and thought about the others about which I had already known, I started to get angry. It's bad enough that these medieval, barbaric practices continue in the 21st century. However what got me really mad was thinking about the complicity of the political Left in all this.
Cultural relativism dictates that no one culture is better than another. Cultures are just different. Cultural relativism is a cousin of another hated dogma (hated by me, that is) of the Left, "diversity". I cannot fathom the rationale behind cultural relativism. The closest I can come is white guilt and hurt feelings. Many on the political left feel guilty that our society is able to provide more for its citizens than other societies. This isn't "fair", they say, so we must have cheated somehow to obtain these ill-gotten gains. White guilt is the natural consequence for all those morally superior people of the Left. Hurt feelings because we don't want to remind other peoples of the shortcomings of their own cultures.
Thus, Western culture is robbed of the ability to criticize such gross practices as female genital mutilation and "pulling". I think this is reprehensible and is one of many reasons I would never align myself with the political Left.
However, cultural relativism also damages our own culture. Because of cultural relativism, "hip-hop" culture (such as it is) is now dominant in the United States. Hip-hop culture is misogynistic and glorifies pathology and criminality. Put simply, hip-hop culture is a "low" culture. It is self-destructive and aspires to nothing. Yet, thanks to cultural relativism, our society is precluded from criticizing hip-hop culture. Anyone who criticizes hip-hop culture faces charges of cultural imperialism and racism.
So, thanks once again, Lefties. You are complicit in the lowering of our culture and rob the rest of us of the ability to forestall this slide into the cultural oblivion.