Yes, you can be too culturally sensitive

This is from the April 12, 2008, Science News letters section:

Respect the Past
I feel that Rachel Ehrenberg was entirely too glib in "Digging that Maya blue" (SN: 3/1/08, p. 134). The description of an ancient Mayan religious ritual as "plucking the hearts from humans and tossing the bodies into the sacred cenote" is disrespectful. I am sure that Science News would never describe any contemporary religious rituals in this manner. Here is hoping that the editors and writers adopt a more dispassionate eye.
GERALD J. CERCHIO, San Francisco, Calif

I mean, if he had wanted to complain about being glib in the face of real people having been brutally murdered, yeah maybe I'd start feeling maybe I was just a little insensitive about thinking the article was fine.
Or at least we could discuss it.
But if he wants me to be sensitive to the possible slight to long-dead members of a defunct religion that performed ritual human sacrifice…..it''s a big WTF time for me.

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Oh, poor Gerald! He spends so much time indoors after he lost touch with reality and he really only gets to express himself in letters to Science News. Frankly, I'm surprised he has his computer access back. I won't hold it against him if every once in a while he tries to ruffle everyones' feathers a little by using words like "glib" (which I kind of want to look up, but I'm not going to because I'm already thinking about TV for the night and maybe getting into some wine or something).I won't even look up cenote… Part of me, however, has to ask the question "Would Science News EVER review a contemporary religious ritual?" If so, I hope Gerald is there to critique it for me (because I doubt I'll get to read it)

    Reply

  2. Well, I have some complaints too. First I am not entirely sure its a dead religion. Just heavily modified. When I was in Coba in the Yucatan, I was told that they regularly find offerings at the temples in the morning. The offerings were of the acceptable variety. Flowers and such. Also, the Mayans did practice human sacrifice but not near to the level of the Aztecs! On the other hand the Mayans I talked too would not be upset about the Science News description. It was interesting to talk to them about how they saw the archaeologist as tool to better understand their past as opposed to a "grave robber"dewitte, a cenote is a sinkhole

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  3. Well.Dewitte and I share the distaste of "looking things up". It's probably just an offshoot of ADD somehow!But….y'know, lauowolf, I agree with your basic feeling that….this is loooong long past.Here and now there is true suffering and imbalance and human rights abuses we can address. I just read that a lot of "sacrifice" victims considered it an honor to be sacrificed.Whatever the case…let us worry about NOW.

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  4. Frankly, using flippant language when discussing distant historical events can be just the hook to get people interested in reading about them again. Dryness is every historian's enemy.

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  5. I think the Mayans are still around. I've been to Chichen Itza and I remember hearing some of the same talk as Lork Kalvan, as well as met some of the local, present-day Mayans. but I get your point. I don't think the present-day Mayans throw bodies in the big cenote at Chichen Itza. Besides, they'd probably have to pay an admission fee these days, just to get into their old ancestral grounds.

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  6. …found WHAT?…found it.love it.

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  7. So he thinks "plucking…and tossing" are disrespectful?Would "excising…and transferring" sound more polite?*kicks an errant aorta out of her path and skeedaddles.*

    Reply

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