RE: Iraq: Responses to Zimbardo

From: eliza@pob.huji.ac.il
Date: Wed May 12 2004 - 08:02:09 PDT


Victor wrote:
> > In the mid '60s I attended a lecture on Vietnamese social psychology by an
> > American Anthropologist working either for the DOD or the CIA. It was
> > pure
> > nonsense; something about how the people of VN were incapable of knowing
> > the
> > difference between Truth (what really happened) and their ideology.

Eugene replied:
> The lecture might be stupid CIA and DOD propaganda, but the phenomenon it
> focused on was not. When I was in college in mid 70s we had a lot of
> Vietnamese students. I made a few friends among them and they told me a lot
> of stories that make no much difference between Vietnamese and Soviet
> totalitarian socialist systems. You can read Soviet and Czech dissidents
> describing and analyzing this phenomenon. I have first hand account of it
> because older generations raised under Stalin were very much like that.
>
> I think we should be very careful avoiding demonizing one side and
> glorifying another side. The gold rule is that there are no gold rules.
> Local historical circumstances are very important and should be considered
> holistically.

1. there is no such thing as the one objective truth this belief has mislead
many scientists (especially social scientists) before Ernst Mach (1838-1916),
Einstein, Whorf et al. discovered relativity. As Pyenson, L. & Sheets-Pyenson,
S. (1999) [Servants of nature: A history of scientific institutions,
enterprises and sensibilities, London: W.W. Norton & Co.] wrote: "Relativism
emerged rather suddenly at the end of the nineteenth century, when European
thinkers had been seeking the grail of absolute truth. () Once it became
apparent that truth had countless facets, speculative thinkers changed to
focus on critical epistemology: if they could not say what was forever true,
they could establish how current notions of nature had developed." (p. 428)
2. From what I personally know about Oriental (i.e. Asian) Culture "facts" are
not necessarily considered something tangible or "scientific". E.g. in Indian
etc. culture "Karma" is seen as a fact of life like birth, death etc. So it
doesn't surprise me that Western scientist would define Eastern mentality
as 'not knowing the difference between truth and ideology'.

Alisa L.

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