The afterword for The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein was written by an author named Sarah Hoyt. It is a really good essay premised on "Heinlein's idea that the individual was the source of the authority–and the money–of the government..." and makes me want to seek out her written works to see what they are like.
This passage from her afterword lays bare some of the confusion that exists in the way we tend muddle the concepts of culture and ancestry:
There are days when I get up in the morning and I take a look around and I think we have lost our civilizational confidence; that the West as the West is ripe for the taking. Part of it is that of course democracies are more likely to self-criticize. And part of it is the misguided–and poisonous–twin notions that a culture is genetic and therefore all cultures are equally valid. (i.e. to condemn any culture is to be guilty of racism, since culture is inborn.)
(If you don’t believe me on this, look at any school curriculum. Culture and ancestry are used interchangeably as they are in almost every conversation. I’m more acutely aware of this than most, since every stranger finds it incumbent upon him or herself to tell me that I must teach Portuguese to my American-born American-raised sons, or deprive them of their “culture”. I would accept the idea that it would be good for them to know the language spoken by half of their ancestors, but Portuguese has not now and has never been their “culture”.)
On the heels of these misguided notions follows the even more poisonous notion of ancestral guilt. That because our ancestors were “imperialists” or oppressed people in other parts of the world, we owe anyone who was ever oppressed–a fate that is bizarrely assumed never to have befallen any Caucasian population–the courtesy of rolling over and dying on command.
Culture is not genetics... it is an amalgam of practices. Any culture should be fair game for criticism since cultural practices can result in tragic violations of rights, wanton destruction, oppression, nihilistic hatred of the good, or mere waste. These deserve to be discussed and argued against.
If we can't talk about what's wrong about what we do, how can we hope to ever do better? The false coupling between culture and ancestry ought to be discarded along with the notion of ancestral guilt, which doesn't to anyone a lick of good.