Continuing from the previous blog, I want to consider further the relationship between understanding a culture, or a situation, and living within it.
First, a person who follows a religion may not know very much about that religion at all; they may not know much about what other followers of the religion do, or what the holy books of that religion say. An outsider could easily know more. In many cases, the outsider might even know more about the individual follower. Let’s say that James is a person who follows a cult leader. He’s been thoroughly brainwashed by that cult leader. Surely, it would not be reasonable to think that James has a terribly accurate idea about the cult culture in which he lives? A similar observation might be made about people in abusive relationships; it is common for those who are victims of abusive relationships to fail to grasp that they are, in fact, in an abusive relationship, even when this fact is obvious to outsiders.
Furthermore, two people within a given culture can have completely contradictory views of that culture. This is amply demonstrated by debates over whether or not the United States has a rape culture.
I do not deny that living within a situation, or a culture, can give a person an advantageous position from which to observe that culture. What I do maintain is that living within a situation, or culture, does not inherently make a person more qualified to talk about the realities of that situation or culture.