Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jon Ray: Comments to Occam's Butter Knife

By Jon Jay Ray

Jon posted this article, Occam's Butter Knife, which I also posted today under “Stuff You Didn’t See on the News”. He followed up with some comments of his own that I think are worth posting.  You may wish to review "Colonizing the Dark Continent".  RK

I taught in a School of Sociology at a major Australian university for many years and did a lot of research while I was there. The one sociological fact that impressed me most during all that time, however, was something I saw during a trip to California in the '70s. I was staying in Los Angeles and decided to take a day trip down to Tijuana, which was at that time much better known for brass bands than for drugs and crime.

I was impressed by the 8-lane American concrete highway leading all the way to the border but was astounded to emerge from border control onto a dirt track lined with barrels. A first-class American freeway suddenly gave way to a Mexican dirt track. I guess that the Mexicans have improved their side of the border since then but the contrast between the two sides of the border could not have been more graphic at the time and has stood in my mind ever since as proof of the importance of culture and its associated institutions.

And there is no difficulty in seeing why Mexican culture bears much responsibility for the state of Mexican roads. But with the tutelary example of a triumphant American culture visible just over the border, how do we explain the failures of Mexican culture today? Are Mexicans incapable of learning? That claim sounds rather like a racist statement in itself.

To attribute current Mexican culture to something Spaniards did hundreds of years ago rather that to what Mexicans are like today is something only a Leftist could believe. No doubt the conquistadores had a big influence in their time but culture is ever-changing and what it is at any one point in time has to reflect the choices made by people around that time.

Note just a few examples of rather rapid changes of culture within the same society. These days men rarely wear hats. Within living memory men were regarded as improperly dressed if they stepped outside their door at any time of the year without a hat on. I remember going to work with a hat on myself. And in the 19th century, beards were virtually universal on men. And less trivially, what has happened to the distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor that so dominated 19th century social thinking? One could go on about the decay of civility, manners, standards etc. The very idea of a static, immutable culture and its associated institutions is a towering absurdity.

And when it comes to differences between cultures, look, for instance, at whether in the given culture there is little general respect for impartial justice. In such a culture you will bribe the judge and the judge will take the bribe. And much flows from that

Furthermore, the claim that the British left behind some sort of malevolent cultures and institutions in Africa is itself malevolent. When the British departed places like Nigeria and Ghana they left behind well-organized countries with good communications and prosperous economies -- plus standards of law, order and justice far higher than anything there today. In short, they left behind excellent foundations for the development of modern, prosperous and civilized societies. That no such development took place is the doing of the inhabitants, not the doing of the evil "colonialists".

How Leftists hate that very word: "colonialist"! It seems to make them shake with rage, regardless of the reality it denotes. They are deeply irrational people. That there has never been in recent centuries a more rabid colonial power than Soviet Russia doesn't count, of course.

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