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Monday, 4 March 2013

Culture Clash ...

It has several times struck me in recent years that many well intentioned people simply do not understand any culture outside of the one they live in - and many have only a fairly parochial grasp of their own. The most obvious examples have to be the attempts to impose western ideology and 'democracy' on Iraq, or Afghanistan, but there are many others one could draw on. The left-wing media hype about the "Arab Spring" which failed utterly to understand either the cultural issues, or the demography which has resulted in the current situation in most where 'regime change' has replaced one dictator, with another.

Most of the western 'liberal-left' now eschew Christianity, and in doing so, fail completely to realise just how large a role it has played in developing our concepts of justice, human dignity and rights, our legal systems and even our understanding of government and democracy. None of that is present in any society where Christianity has not been a major player. Islam has its Sharia Law, a religio-legal Code developed from the 9th Century onward and, in many ways, similar to the English "Common Law" system in its development. Hindu and Buddhist cultures have their own codes of law based on the tenets of their faith as well. This ignorance of other cultures - or indeed recognition of their differing ideals and roots - was amply demonstrated by the utterances of the Blair government over the Bi-millenium celebrations when they invited Jews, Muslims and Hindus to 'celebrate' the two thousandth anniversary (give or take about six to twelve years) of the birth of Jesus Christ.

The proponents of "Multi-Culturalsim" happily believe that if one adopts the position that "all gods are equal" (as Sir Terry Pratchett has written in his Discworld stories), then all cultures can be compatible and equal and live in harmony. Unfortunately, that is naive, but its proponents do not wish to recognise that. So we continue to see the promotion of the idea that someone can change countries, but bring with them all the baggage of the society they have opted to leave. They can then live in a "cultural enclave" without integrating and with its own laws divorced from the rest of the nation. As I have remarked before this, that is the underlying premise of Apartheid, and it must be the supreme irony that many of those who now promote "multi-culturalism" were once among the placard waving and chanting crowds who demonstrated for the end of that ideology.

Now many of these same people wish to export their ideology to countries who do not share their cultural heritage. There is a certain arrogant ignorance attached to looking at another country or people and saying 'they would be much better off if they lived as we do.' For one thing, they seldom bother to ask whether those they claim this change will benefit, want it. Not everyone wishes to live in a society where there is a Pub on every street corner, a Post Office and a grocery store in the High Street. Not everyone wants to be a customer of a Tesco, Sainsbury or Carrefore. Not everyone wants to be able to receive 999 TV channels or live in a town where every move is watched by CCTV cameras. Some are quite happy to live in modest unheated homes, without television and a mobile phone, and many, many more, are quite happy to let government get on with whatever, as long as they don't interfere with their farming or their private lives.

It is a peculiarly western idea that government can or should 'improve' the lot of the ordinary citizen by intervening in their lives financially or materially. Once again, it stems from the misappropriation of certain elements of Christian teaching and it doesn't 'translate' to any other religious cultural background. I became aware of this when sent to work briefly in Bangkok. I was appalled at the poverty of many, often on the doorstep of fabulous and opulently displayed wealth. It was gently explained to me that each individual is responsible for their own lot in life and that families often benefited by the sacrifice of a child who might become a sex worker. To a westerner, brought up in the Judeo-Christian concepts of morality and societal responsibility, this is a totally alien concept - but, does that make it any less valid? Many Thais would argue that their system allows a child to raise its parents from poverty. I would not necessarily agree with that, but it is their society, not mine. By what 'right' would I impose a change? Human Rights? Human dignity? Morality?

Americans (and most westerners) are often surprised by the distaste with which many Muslims regard our culture. They look upon us as having no morals at all, pointing to our immodest (to them) clothing, our loose sexual code and our lack of religious observance. For our part, the 'liberal-left' often finds itself ina Catch-22 situation. On the one hand they decry the strict control of women's dress and their being subject always to husband or father, branding it as outdated and 'medieval.' On the other they eagerly encourage the preservation of these very aspects by promoting it as somehow superior to our own religious beliefs. These are then the same people who send an 'adviser on woman's rights' to 'assist in the development of a new nation' when they embark on 'Regime Changing' military adventures.

As I said at the outset here, the problem, certainly among the liberal-left activist types currently forming our political thinking, is that they do not understand 'cultures' at all. Not even their own.


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