Good, bad, and abominable cultures 37

The assertion, frequently heard, that “all cultures are equal” is sheer nonsense. Are they equal in achievement? Obviously not. Since all the races (or correctly speaking sub-races, humankind being one race, members of every sub-race able to reproduce with members of all other sub-races) are equally old, there is no such thing as a culture that hasn’t had enough time to develop as others have. But while some are developed to the point that they can send a man to walk on the moon, there are some that never invented the wheel. There has been the same amount of time for the development of both the space-exploring culture and the wheel-less culture, and in that time-span one developed much further than the other. It is so plain a fact it doesn’t really need saying. But there are those who will cry “Racism!” – the sin of sins to Leftists – if it is said.

Well, we are saying it.

And it is not “racism”. Generalizations can be made about cultures. But the generalization cannot be applied to individuals. An individual whose parents moved away from an illiterate culture can become (say) a professor in an American university, given the necessary education.

Not only are there inferior cultures, there are positively bad cultures that the human race would be better without. They practice abominable customs and are unworthy of tolerance. It’s absurd to want the worst of them to be preserved as scientists want to preserve species. (Some scientists protested against the last of the small-pox virus being destroyed!)

Eminently qualifying for destruction are such cultural customs as (to give just a few examples) those that: Burn widows on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands. Kill girls for “dishonoring” their families by their choice of husband. Kill women as a punishment for having been raped, and stone people to death – as Islamic law prescribes. Bury people alive – as the Islamic State (ISIS) does. Mutilate women’s genitals and flatten their breasts with hot rocks, as is done routinely in parts of Africa (and by Africans in Britain). Murder children for their organs to make the disgusting “remedies” of South African witchdoctors. Own slaves. Judicially punish a man who has wronged another by ordering that his sister be raped by his victim, as happens in India and Pakistan. (See here, here, and here.)

Many such abominations are sanctioned or commanded by religion, or are essential aspects of an ideology. They are rooted so deep in this or that culture that they are hard to eradicate.

After the British had put an end to the custom of widow-burning among certain castes in India, widows were instead kept imprisoned in their houses for the rest of their lives. If they were to live on, they had still to be kept from ever re-marrying. Rudyard Kipling wrote about them. A kind husband, he found, would leave instructions that his widow be allowed a small peephole through which she could glimpse the outside world.

Western feminists refuse to condemn such practices on the grounds that no culture is inferior. One argument often produced by them and other Leftists to explain why a culture that does evil things should not be called evil is, “We do evil things too”.

No we don’t. Not by law. Americans once owned slaves, but not now. If the same standards are applied, ours is a good culture. (Though it wouldn’t be if the Socialist Democratic Party were to get complete control of the federal government.)

However, within our culture there are differences which, measured by different, higher standards, are to be judged better and worse.

Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law and Professor Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego wrote an article, in August 2017, discussing good and bad culture within America. (They were furiously condemned for it by fellow academics, accused of “racism” of course, though there was not the least trace of race prejudice in it.)

They wrote:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

That culture laid out the script we all were supposed to follow: Get married before you have children and strive to stay married for their sake. Get the education you need for gainful employment, work hard, and avoid idleness. Go the extra mile for your employer or client. Be a patriot, ready to serve the country. Be neighborly, civic-minded, and charitable. Avoid coarse language in public. Be respectful of authority. Eschew substance abuse and crime.

These basic cultural precepts reigned from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s. They could be followed by people of all backgrounds and abilities, especially when backed up by almost universal endorsement. Adherence was a major contributor to the productivity, educational gains, and social coherence of that period.

Did everyone abide by those precepts? Of course not. There are always rebels — and hypocrites, those who publicly endorse the norms but transgress them. But as the saying goes, hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Even the deviants rarely disavowed or openly disparaged the prevailing expectations.

Was everything perfect during the period of bourgeois cultural hegemony? Of course not. There was racial discrimination, limited sex roles, and pockets of anti-Semitism. However, steady improvements for women and minorities were underway even when bourgeois norms reigned. Banishing discrimination and expanding opportunity does not require the demise of bourgeois culture. Quite the opposite: The loss of bourgeois habits seriously impeded the progress of disadvantaged groups. That trend also accelerated the destructive consequences of the growing welfare state, which, by taking over financial support of families, reduced the need for two parents. A strong pro-marriage norm might have blunted this effect. Instead, the number of single parents grew astronomically, producing children more prone to academic failure, addiction, idleness, crime, and poverty.

This cultural script began to break down in the late 1960s. A combination of factors — prosperity, the Pill [birth control], the expansion of higher education, and the doubts surrounding the Vietnam War — encouraged an antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal — sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll — that was unworthy of, and unworkable for, a mature, prosperous adult society. This era saw the beginnings of an identity politics that inverted the color-blind aspirations of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into an obsession with race, ethnicity, gender, and now sexual preference.

The writers do not mention “the New Left” with its agenda of a “long march through the institutions”, but it belongs among the causes of the cultural breakdown. 

And those adults with influence over the culture, for a variety of reasons, abandoned their role as advocates for respectability, civility, and adult values. As a consequence, the counterculture made great headway, particularly among the chattering classes — academics, writers, artists, actors, and journalists — who relished liberation from conventional constraints and turned condemning America and reviewing its crimes into a class marker of virtue and sophistication.

All cultures are not equal. Or at least they are not equal in preparing people to be productive in an advanced economy. The culture of the Plains Indians was designed for nomadic hunters, but is not suited to a First World, 21st-century environment. Nor are the single-parent, antisocial habits, prevalent among some working-class whites; the anti-“acting white” rap culture of inner-city blacks; the anti-assimilation ideas gaining ground among some Hispanic immigrants. These cultural orientations are not only incompatible with what an advanced free-market economy and a viable democracy require, they are also destructive of a sense of solidarity and reciprocity among Americans. If the bourgeois cultural script — which the upper-middle class still largely observes but now hesitates to preach — cannot be widely reinstated, things are likely to get worse for us all.

Would the re-embrace of bourgeois norms by the ordinary Americans who have abandoned them significantly reduce society’s pathologies? There is every reason to believe so. Among those who currently follow the old precepts, regardless of their level of education or affluence, the homicide rate is tiny, opioid addiction is rare, and poverty rates are low. Those who live by the simple rules that most people used to accept may not end up rich or hold elite jobs, but their lives will go far better than they do now. All schools and neighborhoods would be much safer and more pleasant. More students from all walks of life would be educated for constructive employment and democratic participation.

But restoring the hegemony of the bourgeois culture will require the arbiters of culture — the academics, media, and Hollywood — to relinquish multicultural grievance polemics and the preening pretense of defending the downtrodden. Instead of bashing the bourgeois culture, they should return to the 1950s posture of celebrating it.

Is that likely to happen? We’re inclined to say sadly, no.

Posted under Africa, Arab States, Asia, Ethics, Feminism, India, Islam, Leftism, Slavery, tyranny by Jillian Becker on Sunday, February 10, 2019

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