Windhoek The current trend towards cultural relativism and ethnocentrism was sharply criticised by Minister of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture John Mutorwa yesterday. Mutorwa was speaking at the launch of the Polytechnic of Namibia’s Eleventh Annual Cultural Festival. He said there were worrying signs and rumblings of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism in some public debate and discourse in the country. It was equally worrying, he added, that the enlightened voices of academics, scholars and students were conspicuously absent in these debates. “Cultural relativism and ethnocentrism are, in my view, dangerous and destructive to the noble policy and cause of national reconciliation, national unity, stability, peace and development,” Mutorwa said. He defined cultural relativism as the belief that because cultures are unique, they can and must be evaluated only according to their own standards and values. Whereas ethnocentrism was the belief that one’s own culture is superior and more important than all other cultures in very way. He further worried that 16 years after independence, there still appeared to be misconceptions and misunderstandings regarding the government’s cultural policy of “unity in diversity”. The government’s policy was essentially one of cultivating culture as a unifying and nation building force. In his view, it is therefore wrong, unconstitutional and illegal to propagate the idea of a kingdom or a “small republic” within Namibia. People’s culture has to be understood as peoples shared and learnt values, worldviews and ways of knowing and understanding their existence as well as way of living. “Culture is thus a shared way of living. Culture is not and cannot be a fossil from the past. Culture is a vibrant, dynamic and constantly changing complex of ideas and interactions,” he argued. Mutorwa urged people to resist the tendency by some people to dissect culture like a specimen on a laboratory table. This is because a living culture does not have clear material separations, neither is culture static. He appealed to Namibians to continue to appreciate and explore the diversity found in the country, not for its own sake but so they become familiar with how they are actually alike. “The things that bind us together are actually more than those that appear to make us different,” he said. Mutorwa said that in the light of Vision 2030, delicate management was required to ensure that each cultural, ethnic or language group in Namibia played a visible role in the socio-cultural, political, economic and religious development of the country. This is one of the most obvious challenges that would determine whether the noble objectives of Vision 2030 would be achieved or not. He praised the Polytechnic, saying the government supported the broader objectives of its weeklong cultural festival, which aimed to create a platform to educate and exchange information on different cultures.
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