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Monday, July 27, 2009

Is One Culture Better Than Another?

I've posted a couple of articles in the past week that have some harsh comments on certain cultural traditions brought to the US and Canada by certain immigrant groups. Some readers may think my language was too intemperate, and perhaps it was. That does not mean I want to "clarify" anything I wrote. It stands. Yet, I have been thinking that the point deserves a deeper discussion, and that is what I will attempt to do here.

As I said, values that condone or practice traditions like "honor-killings", female genital mutilation or stonings have no place in Western society-nor in most Asian societies. If they are practiced in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan or Pakistan, we have no control over that, but we can control their spread to our societies-if we have the will. But it does raise the question; are certain cultures around the world superior to others? Of course the multi-culturalists in academia will insist they are not. All are equal, and all should be "celebrated" equally, to use their jargon. I disagree-with certain reservations, which I will lay out.

For example, if you compare headhunters and cannibals, who still exist in certain parts of the world, you cannot seriously argue that their culture is equal to that of the West or the East, Japan, China or Korea for example. So yes, I will argue that cannibals and head-hunters living in jungles have a more primitive culture to the rest of the world because of their primitive traditions. They will never put a man on the moon, will they?

But at the same time, let's look at our modern cultures. Europe, for example, with all its great culture and learning, was noted for centuries for its never-ending wars. Only the destruction of World War II woke them up to seeking better ways to live together- with a few exceptions like Yugoslavia, of course.

Japan, today, a respected democracy with a great culture and loads of traditions, was nothing to brag about when it was known as Imperial Japan. Ask the Koreans and Chinese.

But let's concentrate on the US. We love to brag about our culture, technological know-how, work ethic and values. True enough, but there are a lot of aspects of today's American culture that are most troubling:

Violent crime
drug use
political corruption-a growing problem
abortion and even more-partial-birth abortion
prostitution-though not legal except in Nevada
pornography
child sexual exploitation
high illegitimate birth rates
family breakdown
old people being dumped into nursing homes-and rarely visited by their children

How's that for culture? And how much of that are we spreading to other parts of world, wittingly or unwittingly?

A couple of years back, I was commenting on another blog thread, and read a comment from a Hispanic guy about Mexican migrants risking their lives to leave their own nation-rich with culture- to get to America-a "country with a culture as dry as dust." I responded with a suggestion that he might want to examine his own racism, but the more I thought about it, the more I could understand what he was talking about. Mexico, first of all, in my view, has one of the richest cultures in the world-which the people try to maintain in their music, dance, art etc.

Yet, one of the most important aspects of our culture is what we call our traditional American values; honesty, work ethic, generosity, and respect for the law. Sadly, some of these seem to be on the decline for a variety of reasons. Because of that, I view (legal) immigration as a positive thing for America. We need some new blood-people who bring traditional values when it comes to family and work; people who bring an appreciation for the greatness and freedom of our country-which all too often, we take for granted.

This brings me to a point I want to make about those particular immigrants I have criticized recently-and let's be clear-they are Muslims.

I suspect that almost all recent Muslim immigrants who come here are shocked at many of the problems that I cited above, and they feel a need to shelter their families from these evils. I respect that. But they should recognize that most Americans also look with alarm at these problems. We are not happy about drug use, crime, child-exploitation and what have you any more than they are. However, it is a price we pay for our freedom. Some things we can try to enforce within the constitutional limits of our law and some things we simply must tolerate and try to educate our children away from. Sometimes, we succeed, and sometimes we fail. There are two basic issues which I feel that immigrants in general must accept:

1 If your intent is to immigrate to America, your children are going to be influenced by American culture and will assimilate. They will be exposed to influences that were not present back home. They are going to become Americans and have American friends of other cultures and religions. They are going to do American things.

Hopefully.

Because if not, what we will see is a community cloistered off from American society. If you want to enjoy the freedoms and opportunity that we offer in America, eventual Americanization of your kids and grand kids is a process almost impossible to stop. And yes, that includes one of your sons or daughters marrying from outside the nationality or even outside the religion. It also means that one of your kids or grand kids may decide to choose another religion-or not to have one at all. That is part of our American freedom.

That's what goes with being an American, which brings me back to my second point and the original point in the previous posts. The penalty for misbehavior, not living by your parents' rules or apostasy is not death-not here in America. If your daughter is raped, rest assured that the police will do everything in their power to catch the perpetrators and punish them. Your daughter, however, is a victim in our eyes-not someone who has brought shame to the family. She is to be protected. We do not recognize "honor killings" because they are against everything our culture and system of justice stands for. If you cannot accept these two basic points, you have no place in our society.

To sum this up, we can get lost in endless and useless discussion about whether French culture is superior to Japanese culture or Canadian culture is superior to Argentinian culture etc. etc. Suffice to say that we don't need cannibals or head-hunters running around over here. The same goes for "honor killings", stonings, female genital mutilation and all that.

1 comment:

Findalis said...

There are rules of behavior in every society. Ours is no exception.

If you can't live by our societies rules, then find a society whose rules you do like.

Otherwise, obey the law.