Cultural Narratives

At one time, when I was very young – probably early teens – I came across an interview from someone or other in the French glitterati circles talking about how it was a shame that until the Asterix comics little French kids knew more of the history of the little Jesus than about their ancestors the Gauls.

To this day I’m not a 100 percent sure about why this is a bad thing, precisely. I mean, you have to think there is some sort of virtue to what is linked by blood over what is transmitted by choice.

It is in a way – or was, since this must have been in the middle seventies, in embryonic form – the argument of the multiculturalists: all cultures are the same, and all cultures being the same, one should be true to the culture of one’s ancestors.

Of course later the multiculturalists get confused and decide that culture is transmitted from one’s ancestors, somehow, in the blood. Which then leads to calling anyone who criticizes any culture “racist,” something that makes no sense whatsoever in any other terms.

So, are all cultures the same, in some ethic sense?

Depends. How are you going to judge them? I propose the only way to judge a culture is how comfortable its people are and how successful it is in raising the humans who participate in it from the brutish/short lived/nasty state of humans on their own.

Note that this is not the only way to evaluate a culture. A lot of the multiculturalists seem to evaluate a culture on a scale of “quaint” – “quaint dress/clothes/custom/religion” – in which quaint means “not like the native culture I actually know.” They often know nothing more than those externalities, but even so declare every other culture vastly superior to their own. (And if you’re going to say this is not true, I’m going to counter with every freaking multi-culti warrior who, knowing nothing more about Portugal than a vague sound that might mean South America and that I came from there informed me that it was vastly superior to everything in the US.)

There is also the way to evaluate a culture by SJW standards, in which “highly advanced culture” means “would have a distinguished place for people like me who can do nothing but generate blather at a high rate and explain how Marx keeps my breath minty fresh.”

I prefer to evaluate it my way, because if you evaluate a culture under “makes the greater number of people well fed/materially secure and (relatively) health” then culture, with some disgusting hiccups, behaves as an organism, in which the overtaking culture is always superior to the previous one.

This is sometimes masked by the fact that when two cultures clash the one that prevails by force of arms is not the one that imposes its culture and by the fact that, like anything pertaining to humans, it’s not always a straight progression, but there is the occasional disgusting hiccup.

For instance, take the barbarians taking over Rome. Did it make the Roman colonies (largely) less comfortable and secure? Sure. But for the barbarians, whose culture largely became subsumed in Rome, it was a huge step up.

But beyond all that, what drives me nuts about all this is what Richard Fernandez talked about in his column two(?) days ago.

To put it bluntly, there is no reason that little kids should know more about their Gaulish ancestors than about the early Christian church.

Leaving aside morality and a religion that freed people from the terrors of vending machine gods, there is how the past culture is passed to the future.

It’s not in any way a straightforward thing, not even in these days when we have written communication and more time to spend telling each other stories.

My husband was surprised recently to find his maternal grandmother had lived in Chicago as a young woman. I only discovered about three years ago that my mother is not the middle daughter, as I always assumed, but the oldest one. You see, everything from their little-girl pictures to my memory of my aunts led me to believe my aunt was older than mom. Turns out no, she’s just the blond and tall sheep of the family. These are all people I’ve known my whole life, and yet I had that startlingly wrong.

In the same way, my older son thought I was the youngest of three, like his dad, because my cousin who was raised with us is treated as a sister and called “aunt” by them.

These are small things, practically irrelevant, but bigger things are lost too. It doesn’t even take a lot of time.

We’ve talked here about how my kids simply can’t read an analog watch. They learned to, but they never used it, and the knowledge was shed.

In the same way, my Portuguese is – to put it mildly – a mess. I still understand it, but can no longer speak it with any semblance of fluency. Because I don’t use it.

How about the every day actions and rituals that constitute a culture?

Well, mom might still know how to cook a full meal over a wood fire, as she did when she was young, but I very much doubt it. In the same way I’m sure that many of the things she did/thought about every day as a young woman have passed from her memory. I know many have passed from mine.

And the stories, passed from generation to generation? People mishear, misconstrue, and think their parents surely meant x because y made no sense.

I like this both in the sense of building a world when you write, and in the sense of just liking it. Like a polished fragment of a seashell found on the beach, you can’t tell what the whole thing looked like, but there’s a beauty all its own in the fragment. And being a writer I tend to make up stories about what these things are/look like and why.

For instance one of the songs with which I was rocked to sleep is the sad story of a single algae left behind by the tide, while its sisters dance back to sea. A fisherman captures it, and of course it turns into a beautiful woman whom he marries. If you go by his hut, you’ll hear her singing sad songs about the sea.

Wait, what? She started out as a piece of SEAWEED?

My theory is that this song is very, very old and comes from a language that in the translation to what is Portuguese now changed seal to seaweed. (Aided by the fact that in medieval times no one in the working class in Portugal would have heard of a seal.)

I could of course be totally wrong. This could be a song heard from British sailors and when a translation was asked for, that mistake was made. Or mom could have learned it from the radio, where someone wrote it because they thought it sounded cool.

Culture? What culture?

And this is now, when we’re living longer, and we can ask our parents (I did. Her answer was “I don’t remember.”)

In the days when people died while their children were barely pubescent, what got passed? What got explained? How many of the customs involved the equivalent of breaking the roast in two because it had always been done, when it turned out it’s because great grandma only had two small pans and not a large one?

And then a new religion, a coherent and cohesive narrative comes along… people will latch on to the narrative.

Culture is not genetically inherited. It’s only partially intellectually inherited in day to day life. It’s transmissible through the narrative that allows us to see ourselves and our place in the world.

Christianity provided such a narrative, and therefore displaced less successful stories.

Unfortunately for us, right now, due to its internal consistency (even if lack of reference to anything external) Marxism is overtaking our cultural narrative. It’s taught at schools, and it’s such an easy narrative to insert oneself into and it “explains everything.”

It also has the virtue of assigning guilt and merit by things like gender and skin color, so you don’t have to make complex moral judgments.

It’s also completely drawers and at odds with reality. And in the end it spells doom for the societies it infects. In “societal software” sense, it’s malware.

Yes, I know what I said above, but remember the thing about “disgusting intervals”? I’d much rather our society didn’t go down into one of those.

So, what can we do?

I think in the end the “superior software” – i.e. the set of stories that better manipulates reality and allows humans to survive in it – wins.

What can we do?

We can come up with compelling narratives about who we are as humans, and what the future holds. Not just religious – though religious ones are permissible. The reason they are in retreat is that they became too opaque to outsiders, too hard to interpret, unlike, you know, the idiotic simplicity of Marxism – but moral and situational and… well… stories of all kinds.

We need to write a song of freedom.

Because it would indeed be sad if the descendants of Americans knew everything about Marx and nothing about their ancestors’ liberty.

So, go forth and dream coherent and vivid dreams.

In the end we win, they lose. I’d rather cut out some thousand years in the mud, though.

Dream, create, tell stories. Don’t worry about authenticity, worry about their being compelling.

Be not afraid.

244 responses to “Cultural Narratives

  1. It’s kind of like a column I wrote a few years ago, crying for an end to hyphens. In particular, the hyphenated Americans.

    I’ll admit it, I’m a mutt. I can claim so many cultures as my own that I might as well claim none. I’m not an Irish-American, or a Scottish-American or anything else in particular. I’m just an American. That is my culture. My culture has the Founding Fathers, the American Revolution, the Roaring 20’s, and yes, we have all the warts that come with it.

    I’m really OK with that, in the grand scheme of things. 🙂

    • The melting-pot nature of American culture was, for a long time, one of its strongest features. We took the best of what worked from elsewhere, absorbed and refined it, and added it to our culture, and in the process it became generically American. In the process, we brought people in, taught them what values we had that worked and adopted them into the general culture. In some respects, it’s easier to integrate the people if they can bring their better foods and an occasional minor holiday with them. It’s interesting to compare and contrast the American approach to that of other cultures.

      The French, as in Sarah’s example, tend to have a history of cultural nationalism. Words must be in French, even if it means creating a new word which no one uses; no mugging foreign languages for words! This can stifle change and innovation, but can also be an advantage from the perspective of the French nation in that the French group identity is more cohesive and people will hopefully be more loyal to the French part of their identity than to other parts. The French have on several occasions picked fights with various major religions that try to put themselves ahead of the state as an identity, and are currently trying to do the same with their Islamic immigrant minority.

      The Japanese are willing to adopt words, foods, and other cultural elements from other cultures, but are very unwilling to bring people in.

      • Part of the problem is that we’re no longer a melting pot.

        The phrase “melting pot” meant that when people came to this country, they shared their culture with us, but we did with them. We adopted some of what they brought, and – and this is the really important part – they adopted our culture.

        Today, it’s apparently wrong to suggest that someone who comes to this country should try and assimilate with American society. And people wonder why we’re so divided.

        • I’ve been derided for assimilating.

          • Because it’s apparently a dirty word now. However, I still fail to see why.

            I mean, I hear their arguments. However, it’s hard for me to comprehend bull.

            • I think it’s a combination of taking the wrong lesson from history (partly intentionally) and partly a fundamental difference in politics.

              Historically, much of this springs from a certain major war where the bad guys were basically the image of nationalism run amok (one particular group explicitly calling themselves ‘Nationalist Socialists’ was the icing on the cake, as it were) where the good guys had at least the pretense of being ‘Internationalists’. This ‘Internationalism’ was then pushed by Communists who either didn’t think about or didn’t care that the whole thing was basically set up by the Russian-nationalist Soviets to weaken the West.

              Politically, American nationalism differs from traditional European nationalism in that there is no American root ‘ethnic group’; at best, there is a vague Anglo-Saxon base to the ethnic mix. French Nationalism is set up to build up a French nation, and exists for the benefit of the native French as a group, rather than the Algerian or West African immigrant. A French national may be better off if he does business in English, but France overall does better (at least in the short term) if you force him to do business in French. American culture is (or was) based around a set of shared values and cultural mores that have proven over time to work better for the individual. They’re optional, but ignore them at your own risk. Asian immigrants have accepted many of those values and tend overall to do better than ‘native’ Europeans on average.

              People that decry assimilation do so because they see it as an extension of European-style nationalism; we’re forcing people to be American for the benefit of America as a whole (which, for them, means the secret white patriarchy that rules everything and won’t send me my checks, the bastards…).

          • Does this mean we shouldn’t all be Americans first even though, in theory, we are all Americans if we’re citizens? WTF? How do you get people to fight for “some country that isn’t as important as the culture your parents brought with them”?
            A concept that I don’t think the left gets is in the war of Us against Them (or me against you) you always have to pull for Us. To do otherwise is counter-evolution. It’s how peoples and countries (and species) die out.

            • As with evolution, there’s not one set of traits that works well in all environments. Nationalism can be good when you have to fight an industrial-scale war and need to mobilize the whole country into the war effort. It’s not so good in peacetime when you need to adapt to international trade. One of the reasons ‘Hollywood’ is the center of international entertainment is that our culture has absorbed bits and pieces from here and there and we can find something that appeals to just about everyone else. Historically, the US maintained enough flexibility to be nationalist when needed (see ‘Victory Cabbage’ and ‘Freedom Fries’).

              As an aside, Bollywood may actually produce more movies, but that’s due to the size of the domestic market, and that they’ve learned to take what works from Hollywood and mix it in with their own culture.

            • The failed premise of the multiculti baloney is that the cultural context that induced my ancestors to leave it is somehow superior to the US cultural context that induced my ancestors to travel to it, sometimes with great difficulty.

              The same failed premise applies today. The folks who make their way from venues south of the US border to the US with the intention to stay and raise their kids* do not do so solely in order to get better internet service – what they had there is worse than what they have here, sometiems a lot worse.

              *Note that the folks who come to work for a bit and then return are a different order entirely, whether they come from Mexico to pick veggies or from Bangalore to code. Those folks are mercenaries and should be managed under completely different rules than the true immigrants.

              • William O. B'Livion

                Note that the folks who come to work for a bit and then return are a different order entirely, whether they come from Mexico to pick veggies or from Bangalore to code. Those folks are mercenaries and should be managed under completely different rules than the true immigrants.

                That depends on whether you’re wanting your *country* or your *philosophy* to win.

                Me, while I’d like my country to do well, I’d rather the US “lose” and the rest of the world “win” by adopting the notions of self sufficiency, tolerance for others (tolerance and acceptance have different meanings. You can accept if you want, but you *must* tolerate up to a line), limited government, thrift, hard work etc.

                From that position we treat every long term resident, whether they’re here for the job, or here for a better life the same. We articulate why we are better (and in most ways we are) and make them repeat it back. Then if they want to go home to Mexico or Honduras or Pakistan or wherever and take at least some of the attitudes we inculcate in them with them, bonus.

                Yeah, memetic warfare bitches. We either learn to fight, or we lose.

                • To clarify: I’m not saying we don’t want the mercenary coders and pickers and accountants, I’m just saying the system that is set up for the huddled masses yearning to breathe should not be blindly applied to the mercs.

                  And as noted above, sometimes the meme is the thing. Ask the Japanese wives who got used to the US back when Japan was going to rule the business world in the 80s what happened when they were informed they were moving back to Japan. I personally know at least one who replied with a scatological reference to other than Kobe beef output, and stayed where they could play tennis and not be forced to stay in the background.

              • Yes… and no…

                From what I’ve read, the group in Mexico that briefly attempted to organize a local militia against the drug cartels (and that was briefly okayed by the Mexican government before being told, “No, you can’t defend yourselves.”) was started by Mexicans who’d been in the US and picked up some of our more self-reliant values.

                Something always rubs off. The trick is to try and make sure that the right things rub off.

          • I’d submit that you haven’t assimilated so much as you’ve sought out a culture/nationality that was consonant with your own internal desires and urges…

            In other words, you’re a typical American who was American before you came here. I’d wager that had you stayed at home in Portugal that you’d have always been a cultural “outsider” within your “home culture”, as long as you lived.

            It only seems like you “assimilated” on the surface, in terms of language and behavior. The reality was, I suspect, that you’ve always been “American” in a deeper sense.

            I think you could make a damn good case that there is a clearly identifiable set of personality traits, behaviors, and beliefs that tend to make one an “outlier” in one’s home culture, and that militates towards doing something irrational (in that culture’s sense…) like pulling up stakes and moving to the US. A Serbian friend of mine once commented that while he thought there were people in Yugoslavia who were “natural Americans”, there were also people like him who were simply “damaged”, and unable to fit in there. So, they left.

            I think that when we finally develop a truly deep understanding of our biology, we’re going to find that there are a lot of things going on in it that manifest in our culture. One of those things that I think is going to show up is that the vast majority of Americans are going to turn out to have some deep similarities between widely disparate biologic origins. In other words, we’ve self-selected across very broad swathes of ethnicity and nationality for similar traits. The Nigerian who emigrates to the US willingly is likely to have more in common with mainstream American culture and the Englishman who did the same back in the 19th Century than he is with his own mainstream nationality and probably with the African-American whose ancestors were mostly brought over as slaves. The differences will be subtle, but I would stake a significant bet that they will be there.

          • Well of course you were! That whole business with injecting people with Nanites and turning them into emotionless drones who serve you collectively is just plain RUDE!

            Oh, wait, wrong kind of assimilating. Sorry.

      • Once online:
        A writer posted her con schedule.
        A German posted about how funny it was to see coffee klatsch.
        I posted the mugging line.
        He posted: “that — explains an awful lot, actually.”

        • Exactly!
          American English is the embodiment of the American melting pot experience.

          • We’re the anti-Borg!
            We add your good traits to ourselves by actually finding the good bits and hammering them into what we have until the two deform so they fit, rather than chopping the good bits we take to make them fit what we already have.

            • British English already merges three language: Anglo-Saxon English, Norman French and Hapsburg German. As a trading power their sailors and captains traversed the world, picking up and using such essential linguistic elements as the local words for alcoholic drink, swap and whores. This makes the American experience of freely mining words from every immigrant influx especially easy. You don’t have to be Italian to order spaghetti, Jewish to recognize Chutzpah, nor German to drink beer.

      • I’ve been to Japan. You might be surprised how cosmopolitan some parts of the country are. I suspect that the immigrant population of Japan is larger than you might think. More than likely it’s going to get even bigger.

      • … it’s easier to integrate the people if they can bring their better foods and an occasional minor holiday with them.

        Ethnic restaurants offer an opportunity for immigrants to exploit several functional advantages: unique & novel product, generally low capital requirements, cheap labor and “free” food for the family/employees. Minor holidays constitute marketing opportunities to promote the cuisine. Even if nobody in the family is a particularly good cook, the customers mostly won’t know that the goat gyro kebab isn’t supposed to taste like that.

        • And most ethnic cuisine gets “corrupted” almost instantly anyway. The restaurant owners adjust it to better match up with local preferences.

          • On the inverted note…

            A couple of my friends who were (separately) in Korea about 20 years ago told me about what a hard time they had getting their local friends to eat anything with tomatoes in it. Apparently the Koreans believed that a tomato was “spoiled” if it was red.

            These days Koreans are much more cosmopolitan in their food tastes, and you can apparently find Mexican food (not sure if it’s authentic Mexican, or “Mexican” like we have most places here in the US) just about everywhere.

          • Which is why some of us have learned to order our pad thai “Thai” hot or our Pork VindalooIndian” hot.

    • Actually more Germans immigrated to the US than Anglo Saxons. However, Anglo Saxons had forcefully immigrated to Britain. I remember when I lived in Ohio there was a Polish radio station. And prior to WW 2 there were excusive German areas. The melting pot does not work as smoothly as people want to remember.

      • It just takes a little time.

        next time someone advances learning about Hispanics on the grounds of multiculturalism, ask why they don’t do the equivalent for Poles, Germans, Italians, and Irish, when half this country calls themselves part of one of those groups or another.

      • I have ancestors that were German speaking who had been here since the 1600s. They stayed with other German speakers, moved in groups, etc. They did learn English because they had to deal with the neighbors, especially when they moved to the Midwest. When WWI came around, the decree went out from the head of the family that the would no longer speak any German because they were Americans. A lot got lost in that transition but for them it was worth it. That melting took a good 300 years to finish up.

      • The Other Sean

        “Excusive German areas” would be the ones where the locals didn’t take responsibility, right? 🙂

        • Negatory on that one, at least as far as Texas is concerned. There was a huge German influx in the 1840s, who mostly settled on the far frontier – which back then was the present-day Hill Country, north of San Antonio and east of Austin. They pretty much were a self-contained community, who went as far as to negotiate a peace treaty with the Southern Comanche, AND being basically abolitionists and Union sympathizers, to attempt to secede from the Confederacy (who, most unsportingly, did not appreciate being treated themselves as they had treated the Federal government) and fought a whole bloody mini-Civil War, upon being informed that they must swear loyalty to the Confederacy and be drafted for military duty to defend it. The German settlers were most assuredly pro-active, and responsible in their communities.
          German was the common language in the Hill Country until well into the 1920s. Church services, newspapers, schools – all in German.

          • The Other Sean

            So “excusive” has nothing to do with making excuses?

          • It is easy to overlook the origins of Tejano and Conjunto music in the efforts of German mining engineers to persuade the Mexican musicians how dance music (polkas) ought be played. Influenced extends down through Bob Wills, Buddy Holly and beyond.

            • Some cities (like Toledo) have Irish radio programs for recent Irish immigrants. It’s all Irish country music and Irish Lawrence Welk crooners, with the odd bit of Fifties-style ceilidh accordion music and New Age piano crap. Very surface-y, very non-trad.

              It ain’t anything like any Celtic music I ever listen to… which I guess is why Irish and Scottish bands tend to tour so much, or move here.

              • There are many strains of Irish and Scots’ music and themes in the music of Appalachia. Similar themes are discernible on songs of The Everly Brothers, the Carter Family and others. Those themes worked their way from there into the Country and Pop lexicons.

                Yeats’ “Down by the Salley Gardens”, for example, has been converted to Willow Gardens and covered by such as Charlie Monroe, the Everlys and Art Garfunkel.
                http://mbmonday.blogspot.com/2012/02/down-in-willow-garden.html

      • I did the genetic survey thingee recently, and the geographic marker distributions basically blew up half of the family history. We know that my paternal grandfather immigrated from what’s now Hungary (was then the A-H Empire), reportedly to avoid being drafted and using someone else’s papers, but genetically there’s effectively zero southern European in my makeup, with markers from northern Germany, northern France, Scandinavia and some England/Scotland/Wales/Ireland (lumped all together in this report).

        On the other hand, the family story from that side that the family name used to be French matches the genetics, and since at some point before widespread travel the French invaded everyone…

        • A number of French (not huge number, but respectable) migrated to the A-H Empire during the French Revolution. The Rohan family is the most famous, but there were others. So the story might not be quite as wrong as it seems.

      • I suspect that learning English and celebrating American holidays, are, at best, only superficial “assimilations”, when it comes to American culture.

        I, for one, would welcome anyone, legal or otherwise, even if they insisted on keeping their language and customs, IF they were coming here so that they could work hard and be free.

        What scares me most about our current batch of immigrants–particularly the illegal ones–is that many of them are coming here for welfare benefits, and not for freedom; indeed, our own Government actually has ads south of our border to encourage such behavior. But then, I’m also terrified that so many American citizens have accepted welfare as a way of life, too…and such Americans, probably even without thinking about it, have “de-assimilated”.

        • A good-sized chunk of the Japanese anime series out there feature a Christmas episode. These are series written in Japan, featuring culturally Japanese characters.

          It’s both scary (i.e. how much they’ve apparently adopted the secular aspects of the holiday) and heart-warming (Christmas is one of the most selfless holidays around) at the same time.

          • Their Valentines episodes are very different too. Women make chocolate for the guys they like (supposedly there’s a return holiday a month later.).

            • Yep, the day that men are expected to give chocolates to the women is White Day.

              Both Valentines and White Day have social obligation expectations levels in Japan. You’re expected to give your (male) colleagues and co-workers giri choko (translated to ‘duty’ or ‘obligation’ chocolate), as well as vice versa, as adults. Interestingly, White Day isn’t limited to gifts of chocolate and flowers, the way they tend to on Valentines. Hand made chocolates are usually reserved for the romantic interest / special person,

              It’s considered more romantic to give when you’re still a high school student, since giri choko is not expected of children (though this is somewhat stretched for parents and teachers.)

    • Reminded of this song by Madison Rising:

      Mind you, they’re talking about an ideal America that never was. But the ideal was. It was something we as a nation, and as a culture, believed we should strive for however much we fell short.

      As for “I’m a mutt”, well…

      😉

  2. Of course, the tricky thing about freedom is that there are so many ways to use it that will then lose it.

    Kind of like how there are a thousand ways to fall down for every way to successfully stand up. And while lying on the ground may be easier, standing up inevitably proves more useful – it even enhances the experience of lying down, because you can walk to a bed and lie down in _it_.

    • Oh yes. I’ve known liberals to cheerfully say, Why not experiment so more? and it never penetrates their head that they might be destroying their ability to do so.

      (They also get thunderstruck if you point out that experimenting on unconsenting subjects is a crime against humanity.)

      • This is why I am very distrustful of any attempt to tinker with the 1st Amendment to the Bill of Rights; if you make mistakes which lead to abuses, how then do you organize to fix the problem?

        The same line of thinking applies to the 2nd amendment.

    • Reminds me of John Adams famous (or should be famous) quote: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

      As the country moves away from religion we find a need to empower government to impose a sort of morality which inevitably means a loss of liberty.

      • Ves,

        Moral and Religious. Don ‘t separate them. Just because you are religious doesn’t automatically lead to or make you moral. And being an Atheist doesn’t mean you are automatically amoral.

        • P.S. Liberals are some of the most moral people I know. They are so worried about right and wrong that they are willing to impose their version of morality (SJW) on everyone else.

          😉

          • Which is doubly strange since almost all claim adherence to a postmodern moral relativism at complete odds with their behavior.

            • This is because they refuse to acknowledge their morality as such, pretending it is simply reason or science, especially even when there is little of either influencing their stance.

              It is useful to consider the extent their approach to morality derives from their puritanical New England roots.

            • Ah, in which case it can’t possibly be wrong for them to impose theirs and then whine about anyone else imposing his. . . .

    • “it even enhances the experience of lying down, because you can walk to a bed and lie down in _it_.”

      Oh my, there is very little to top that sensation of lying down in bed after a long day and letting each joint melt into the mattress! Guess I’m showing my age …

  3. Once upon a time, our culture venerated those who built things, and invented new ones. The Wright Brothers. Edison (for all his warts and underhandedness), Henry Ford.

    Now, We Didn’t Build That. . . .

    I seem to remember the lead character in Lois Bujold’s “Falling Free”, noting the curriculum taught to the quaddies: History emphasized great feats of engineering and invention, and wars and politicians were barely mentioned.

    I keep wondering what the world might be like, if we taught our kids along those lines. . .

    • Well, one reason to teach war is that it’s more likely to get boys to pay attention.

      (One issue I have with Falling Free – they managed to get the overwhelming majority of kids to focus on engineering?)

    • Of late I’ve wondered where the heroic engineers were. Instead we have these bland “officials.”

    • Oddly enough, engineering and warmongering would also likely go hand in hand anyway. There’s a lot of parallels to the history of metallurgy, and the history of weapons, for example; this is directly the result of trying to defeat your enemy village’s new armor while, at the same time, trying to come up with good armor for your own village.

      In thinking about this, one of the things that I’ve concluded, is that if we ever meet another intelligent species from a different planet, there’s a good chance that the species is going to have a taste for war, but not be so eager to participate in it that it becomes overly destructive to their own species.

      That, and I’ve also concluded that anyone who is intelligent enough to figure out how to make a weapon, is going to be intelligent enough to realize that evil is always an option (however remote), and that sometimes, to certain people, it’s going to look like the best option. However crazy we anarcho-capitalists might be, we at least recognize this as a possibility, and generally expect a combination of blood feuds and an improvised system of courts to figure ways to discourage it, whereas Communists and Socialists seem to believe that most people aren’t like this (ie, that people aren’t both good and evil at the same time), and then procede to make sure that everyone is purified by gathering up everyone they perceive to be evil, and kill them outright…thereby ensuring perpetual peace (and getting perpetual reign of terror).

      And this is very funny, if you think about it. Evil anarcho-capitalists, and even plain capitalists, according to Communists, are evil, because they are going to…what, non-agression-principle you to death? Force you to work a position you don’t want, with lower pay than you desire, until the next employer offers you a better deal?…while Virtuous Communists are going to make sure you live in peace and happiness, OR ELSE–and that “or else” has proven to be *horrendously* bloody….

      And the end result, of course, is that anarcho-capitalists are generally harmless cranks who will never gain power (it’s hard enough to get a Libertarian to run for local office!), while someone who even leans towards the Communist direction will cause significant damage, proportional to the power they obtain….

      • Capitalists and such are evil because we have a system where some people may die (in their theory, at least)…

        …as opposed to communism which will make damn sure that a lot of them do.

  4. For a moment I had a thought that those seal women were called “Kelpies” which would make calling them seaweed (kelp) all too easy.

    Unfortunately, when I looked it up, they were actually called “Selkies”, which makes that theory a lot harder.

    (Pre-coffee, and I don’t even drink coffee.)

    • Jasini, indeed the Gaelic called them Selkies, or something close. (I first heard Silkies) Still, imagine the old Scot sailor trying to explain the legend at a Portuguese Tavern. They would have enough trouble just with seal, since Sarah says they aren’t native to the area. So Selkie->Seal->Seaweed->Algae. In an oral tradition leading to the song the less-understood is morphed into the common. Unfortunately, in modern America, progressives deliberately distort words and meanings to suit their agenda. Not quite the same as ‘quaint’ North-Sea to Portugal mis-translations.

    • Um… in Portuguese. Alga or sargasso?

      • So, an argument for mistranslation. In english (or gaelic) “kelpies” or something similar. Word isn’t in the english/gaelic vocabulary of the person translating, but sounds like a word he does know; “kelp”.

        So “shape-shifting seals” become “shape shifting seaweed”

        • The word Kelp isn’t portuguese?

          • Let me rephrase; the word “Kelpie” sounds like an english or gaelic word the translator knows (which means “seaweed”), so he thinks it is related, and translates it into a Portuguese word meaning seaweed

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Kelp is used in English.

            The Kelpie is the famous water horse, IIRC.

            Some poor bastard finds a horse out just standing there. Gets on the horse. Can’t get off. Horse runs into a nearby stream or river. Poor Bastard’s liver washes up later, the only thing that wasn’t eaten.

        • I believe Kelpies are… well, you know the cartoon for Sleepy Hollow? The Headless Horseman is just about perfect for a Kelpie, including the “stops at the water” part.

          If the person telling the story flipped “seal-kies” for “kelp-ies”, or told enough stories that they could get mixed up, then someone who knew that “kelp” was a thing from the sea may have helpfully translated it.

        • Consider the extent to which even English speakers mishear words in songs. There are books and (I expect) websites dedicated to the phenomenon of people mis-perceiving Jimi Hendrix singing ” ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” and Creedance Clearwater warning “there’s a bathroom on the right.”

          Just put “Lady Mondegreen” into your search engine of preference.

          • To whit:
            http://www.corsinet.com/braincandy/wrlyric.html

            A weenie wack a weenie wack a weenie wack.
            Actual lyric: Wee-ooh wim-o-weh. Wee-ooh wim-o-weh.
            (Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”)

            Baby come back, you can play Monopoly.
            Actual lyric: Baby come back, you can blame it all on me.
            (Player “Baby Come Back”)

            Come and let me tell you ’bout my bed spread.
            Actual lyric: People let me tell you ’bout my best friend.
            (Theme from the TV Show, “Courtship of Eddie’s Father”)

            Dirty deeds and the thunder chiefs.
            Dirty deeds done to sheep.
            Actual lyric:Dirty deeds and they’re done dirt cheap.
            (ACDC)

            I wonder, wonder, who,
            who rode the moo-cow now?
            Actual lyric:I wonder, wonder, who,
            who wrote the book of love?
            (The Monotones “Book of Love”)

            Knee deep in doughnuts, children at your feet.
            Actual lyric: Lady Madonna, children at your feet.
            (The Beatles)

            Life in the Vaseline.
            Actual lyric:Life in the fast lane.
            (Eagles)

            Michelle, Ma Belle,
            Sunday Monkey Play No Piano Song,
            No Piano Song.
            Actual lyric:Michelle, ma belle,
            Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,
            Tres bien ensemble.
            (The Beatles)

            Pretty Woman, won’t you lick my leg.
            Actual lyric:Pretty Woman, won’t you look my way.
            (Roy Orbison)

            She’s got electric boobs, a mohair too.
            Actual lyric:She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit.
            (Elton John “Benny and the Jets”)

            Sweet dreams are made of cheese.
            Actual lyric:Sweet dreams are made of this.
            (The Eurythmics)

            Then I saw her face, now I’m gonna leave her.
            Actual lyric:Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer.
            (The Monkees)

            • Don’t forget:

              There’s a bathroom on the right.
              Actual lyrics: There’s a bad moon on the rise. (CCR)

              • The girl with colitis goes by.
                Actual lyric:The girl with kaleidoscope eyes. (Beatles)

                But maybe “colitis” was really a clue to what killed Paul.

              • “I’m not talkin’ ’bout the linen.”
                Is really:
                “I’m not talkin’ ’bout movin’ in.”

                • I may be the only person so afflicted, but I’ve never been able, without conscious effort, to hear the opening children’s chorus of this song

                  as other than:

                  Jesus flagellates the children,
                  all the little children of the world.
                  Red and yellow, black and white,
                  they are beaten in his sight,
                  Jesus flagellates the little children of the world.

            • There’s “The sky’s in love, the sky’s in love with you.”

              Funny on that one, even when I say “This guy’s in love,” I can only hear the sky line.

      • For certain accents, I could see ‘Selkie folk’ getting mangled into ‘sargasso’ (Picture the kid no one could understand from Brave on the Gaelic side). I’m less familiar with the Portugese pronunciations so I don’t know how much of a stretch it would be, but I’ve seen more minor variations without accent differentials and with. (I got a really good name for an Elf when my roommate lamented that ‘Eth’ and ‘Thorn’ were gone. My brian mashed it together and re-divided. One of my Russian instructors got very odd looks when she asked for ‘canned puppies’ she meant poppies.) So there are avenues that would make it plausible. Especially if there isn’t a corresponding concept in the recipient language.

    • Selkie is merely a dialectic term meaning “seal.” We not only stole it, we repainted it to hide the meaning.

      • Oooh, so it is more like the Japanese fox-women!

        • Well, there’s nothing in the tradition that shape-shifting is a trait seals pick up as they age, so that’s a bit different.

          • Yeah, basically in certain Gaelic places, people believed that all seals were really were-seals or seal-weres, and also that the ones in the sea were their relatives; so you shouldn’t eat them. Seal barks and cries allegedly can sound pretty human at times, and of course some seals are smart and friendly and occasionally saved fishermen’s lives, so it was probably against the grain to eat them anyway. All the “drowned lands” legends also figure into this (and it turns out this did happen in Bronze Age times).

            • there’s a cultural difference. In the Far East — China, Korea, Mongolia, Japan — animals can turn into humans. In Europe, an animals that can turn into a human was a human originally; the only exception I know of is the Aesop’s fable about the cat turned human — which ended up a cat at the end.

    • “I am a man upon the land, I am a Selkie in the sea.” From “The Great Selkie of Skul Skerrie” (sp?) a folk song which may be the way the legend was transported farthest.

  5. The problem with Marxism is that, like all the best lies, there’s some truth in it–specifically, the notion that the propertied will end up exploiting the non-propertied.
    However, Marxism misdiagnoses both the reason for the problem and, therefore, the solution for the problem (seeing as there’s a direct line from Rousseau to Marx, this should not be a surprise). Marxism holds that the reason for this exploitation is the existence of private property, and that communal hunting-gathering societies were Eden, which explains most of the SJW cultural comparison tropes. Marxism’s solution to the problem is eminently logical if one starts from its premise–namely, to make property communal again, which must be done by force.
    The problem is that the actual reason for said exploitation, is that, as a rule, people are self-centered, and sometimes psychotically so. What this means is that said shifting back to communal property will give power to a whole new bunch of exploitative jerks, most of whom will be worse than the robber barons ever dreamed of being.

    • Which is exactly how every historical case of communist takeover seems to play out. That whole communal thing is the stated goal, but for the now we, your saviors, are forced into brutal and repressive acts. But that’s OK, it’s really for your own good. And the special privileges and benefits we bestow upon ourselves and our families are small recompense for our hard work and slight rewards because we care so very much.
      Stripped to bare bones this is the rationale and justification in the minds of every lib/prog/marxist that ever was for untold evils and horrors.

    • “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”
      Winston Churchill

      I have always thought this quote said it best.

      • From “Enemy at the Gate”

        “I have been such a fool, Vassili. Man will always be a man. There is no new man. We tried so hard to create a society that was equal, where there’d be nothing to envy your neighbor. But there us always something to envy. A smile, a friendship, something you don’t have and want to appropriate. In this world, even a Soviet one, there will always be rich and poor. Rich in gifts, poor in gifts. Rich in love, poor in love.”

        And that’s what so many people don’t see about humanity. The traits that make us human cannot be rewritten by manipulating the world or the circumstances of the people. Humans are not so easily rewired.

        • To quote Dr. Pournelle (who may well be quoting someone else): “Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.”

          • Weak / Strong

            Life is not fair!

            There are Weak and Strong people in this world. I’m talking in ability and skills, i.e., we all have our strengths and weakness.

            There are two main philosophy or camps for dealing with this quandary.

            One camp believes that we should help the weaker among us become stronger. This way they can compete and hold their own.

            One camp believes we should place limits on and weaken the strong, so that they can’t take advantage of those weaker than them.

            One strengthens the whole, and one weakens the whole.

    • overgrownhobbit

      The solution was Christianity. The Jewish “discovery” of ethical monotheism was one of the great cultural revolutions of the world. All men were God’s–not their own, and therefore, not other men’s. Christianity took it one step further: whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.

      Many of those robber barons did what no other property class has done in the history of world. And still do it today. Marxism is so astonishingly stupid (among other reasons) because they lived at a time and a place that had one extraordinarily clear and obviously effective counter to the exploitation of the non-propertied, and they said: Opium of the masses! Evil! Get rid of it~!.

      Which, by the by, seams to weaken one of Ms Hoyt’s points: Christian stories, didn’t become inaccessible or difficult–they became suppressed. Most of them are so straight forward and culturally universal (funny how that worked out) that they remain bywords even after the root itself is forgotten.

      • in the later years some of them became difficult to penetrate because people took so much for granted, they were talking mostly to each other. Which is where the Marxists got an in. Also to an extent Marxism is a perversion of Christian principles. (Ayn Rand wasn’t totally wrong on that. I mean, she was way wrong, but there was a truth there, at the core.) So they don’t exactly suppress Christian stories, they subvert them. (No? The number of times I’ve had to tell the boys “that’s not the real story.”)

        • The number of times I’ve had to tell the boys “that’s not the real story.”
          —————-

          I doubt that the recent Noah movie – as written – could have been produced even thirty years ago. Not due to special effects (though obviously that would have been an issue), but due to the liberties with the story. People will tolerate a certain amount of liberties in the interest of a good yarn. But Noah went so far off track…

          And yet, how many people saw it, and didn’t realize what was wrong with it?

        • overgrownhobbit

          I’m still not sold on the “difficult to understand” quality of the Christian (and Jewish) stories. Noah, for example is so simple a child could learn it, and in fact used to do just that in picture books and popular toys. You are somewhat late to the party perhaps, but the suppression began by limiting stories like Noah’s Ark, the Good Samaritan, the Nativity, & etc. to purely religious venues. Purged from school libraries and quarantined in public libraries and bookstores into the “religion” section, the tales passed out of the common vernacular and the shared cultural heritage of the United States. And it’s not just the Bible stories this has been done to. Try finding a copy of “The Little Red Hen,”(a quintessentially American folktale) in a bookstore or smaller public library. If you do, it will almost certainly be in nonfiction, where wee preschoolers won’t get their hands on it without adult intervention.

          The book of Proverbs (from the Bible. And that I have to explain that parenthetically, is further proof of the cultural purge) has a verse set that begins “Go to the ant, thou sluggard–!” This led to the popular folktale, “The Grasshopper and the Ant”. Children used to learn both, plus the history lesson about how this played out in the Jamestown colony. It’s DEAD SIMPLE. Not opaque at all. It was quietly marginalized, then suppressed. Finally, and that’s where we are right now, it’s being re-written.

          That, I’m afraid, it what makes it difficult to understand from the newbie perspective, in the same way that Greek mythology was for most folks. Rick Riordan fixed that, and I’m hoping the superversive SF&Fnal literary movement can get to work on the rest,

  6. Compelling… Shoot! You’re asking a lot, Right now I’m working on coherent.

    😉

  7. I had something of the same thought almost ten years ago now (my, how time flies when you are having fun…) about writing books which were gripping adventure on one hand but reinforced those good American traditional values on the other; things like neighborliness, enterprise, community loyalty. Such things had value, especially after an onslaught of Zinnified historical indoctrination.

    On the other hand, there are hiccups in transmission. I am editing a book now for a repeat client, who is rather an obsessed expert regarding a certain Civil War event in Texas – the massacre of fleeing German Unionists on the Nueces River in 1862, which is memorialized in the True to the Union monument in Comfort, Texas. There has been a lot of what I would call folklore beliefs build up about this event, and my obsessive historian (a retired Army colonel) has gone to a great deal of trouble to research original documents – in some cases those period documents flatly contradict the prevailing belief. In a couple of instances, the prevailing belief is flat-out wrong and physically impossible. (He’s a bit of a sh*t stirrer, which is why I rather like him!) So … over time, a combination of a few ragged scraps of knowledge and a heaping helping of wishful thinking do lead to interesting historical deviations.

    BTW, my daughter adored Asterix and Obelix, when she was small – they were here first bed-time stories.

  8. “Vending machine gods” and “Marx keeps my breath minty fresh.”

    Yikes! I did not need prompts for a dystopic high tech future!

  9. “I think in the end the “superior software” – i.e. the set of stories that better manipulates reality and allows humans to survive in it – wins.”

    For example, Viet Nam today.

  10. It’s highly doubtful that the Roman Empire had much of a “culture” in its last 300 years–I don’t call debauchery by Oligarchs culture. The Roman middle class had been eradicated long since by taxes and currency debasement, and the multicultural mishmash that was left….Anyway, Rome had only a tiny population remaining at the time of its nominal conquest, most of whom were “barbarians.” So the transmission of culture dies with the middle class..
    Hmmm….

    • They still had the religion and the stories, both of which the invaders got.

      • The early Christian tradition was quite different from classical Roman culture, and indeed early Christians viewed the Roman State as more or less satanic. So I suppose some mixture of stories was preserved….
        Incidentally, the welfare of the average peasant improved quite dramatically after the collapse of Rome. Apparently the barbarian groups took a much smaller tax bite from small landholders than Rome.

        • They did regard Rome as Satanic, to the point of some people welcoming the invaders, but they also had stories about when Rome used to be good, if that makes sense.
          And yep.

        • Which is why I said that the culture is not always immediately obvious — the barbarian tribes got literacy (well, via the priest) and Christianity and legends of the good times, and they BROUGHT more material prosperity because the bureaucracy of Rome had been strangling the country.

          • Of course pre Gutenberg the priesthood pretty much had a lock on written history and communications. The only alternative was the storytellers both local and traveling. Including of course minstrels as all the best tales were set to music as that tends to help with memory.
            May help explain a typical tendency for the disconnect between church lore and the common understanding of much historical “fact.”

            • Eh, when literacy and oral tradition collide, we find that the usual lifespan of accuracy is a century for oral traditon. Up to a century and a half if you have specially trained and dedicated elites to preserve it.

              For instance, the British took down one tribe’s genealogies. A few decades later, they were told they had taken them down wrong — that is, that since alliances had shifted, they had re-written their ancestries, and the recorded version was an embarrassment.

              • Actually, it was usually the Church trying to stay close to history and painstakingly copying the primary sources, and it was the laypeople making stuff up for fun and profit.

                Occasionally this was reversed for monastery land charters. Although there are apparently cases where (as far as historians can figure it out) monastery scribes forged exact copies of real documents because the real old documents weren’t as convincingly old as the forgeries. (Or maybe because they didn’t trust the real documents not to disappear after being submitted in court.)

        • There always was a rigorous branch for eradication, but there always was a branch of Christians willing to steal whatever they could from the tradition. (They called it “despoiling the Egyptians.”)

      • Interesting to note how much Roman religion and culture was actually Greek in origin. We see the pattern not only in the Romans conquering Greece and adopting Greek culture but in the Mongols conquering of China.

        • The Mongols just ended up getting co-opted by the Chinese bureaucracy. See “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” for detailed exploration of “how”.

  11. My Father was a Historian of Science (which I may have mentions a time of five before). On of the central points he taught was that ides and styles permeate an entire culture; so that when you have baroque art and baroque music, you will necessarily have baroque science.

    But ideas do not necessarily transmit across a culture unchanged or unadulterated. For example; evolution was and is an attempt to describe a biological process – and as such it has limited applicability to societies or politics. Yet the idea of evolution was found terribly exciting, and it was used to describe a number of changing systems where there was no mechanism in any sense biological. Also; evolution is not unidirectional, but that is the common interpretation. So many things were described as “evolving” to imply that they wed naturally moving in a direction of which the speaker approved. Marx did that.

    OK, so much for background. Now I get to the point.

    I believe (though I can’t document right now) that Multiculturalism began as a valid mental exercise for Archaeologists, Anthropologists, and Historians. If you start out examining a culture like (ick) the Aztecs with the assumption that you culture is superior to theirs (because we don’t rip out peoples’ beating hearts), then you are likely to fall into the habit of saying to yourself “well, they did thus and such because they were primitive” instead proceeding from the assumption that they did everything for a reason that made perfect sense to THEM, and trying to figure out what it was. The exercise was not intended to say that no culture is superior to another, just that viewing it from that perspective can blind you to important details.

    Naturally, when this idea escaped the confines of its original discipline, the reason for it did not get understood. It became a justification for “the idiot who praises in enthusiastic tone, all centuries but this, and every country but his own”. The Multiculturalists don’t MEAN that no culture is superior to any other; they mean THEIR culture of “inclusiveness and tolerance” ™ is superior to that of people who are opposed to their One True Way.

    They have exactly as much justification for their position as Marx did for saying societies “evolve” into Communism; none.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      One interesting thing about cultures is that in some cultures “to understand” means “to agree with”. Thus an American (for example) is explaining something to an Asian and asks “do you understand this”, the Asian may say “No” because they don’t agree with what the American is talking about.

      Makes communication “interesting” even when they think they’re talking in the same language. [Grin]

      Oh, one of the early Star Trek (original series) has an alien leader explaining something to the Enterprise crew and Spock says he understands it. The alien leader says “I’m glad you approve”. Spock replies “I said I understand your explanation, I didn’t say I approved”. [Evil Grin]

      • You mean like modern US? Like some SJW trying to “explain” to you who refuses to believe that if you don’t agree, you just haven’t been badgered enough.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Point.

          Going along with your point, there are the people who ask others to “examine their own beliefs or think about their own beliefs” because in their “minds” if the others “really examined/thought about their own beliefs” then they’d change their own beliefs. [Sad Smile]

      • Actually, I think that the SJWs take this even further.

        One of the recurring themes of my Father’s teaching (which I kind of hinted at, above) was the way popular misperception of a paradigm taken out of its context could and often did permeate a culture.

        It was (and is) a common misperception that Evolution is orderly and unidirectional; that it moves from the primitive towards the perfect. That misperception colored an awful lot of Victorian and Edwardian thinking – from Social Darwinism to Marx.

        Popular misperception of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity seems to feed into Relativism. Maybe people believe that relativity seriously affects distances smaller than thousands of miles and speeds that we ordinarily travel at? I don’t know. I do know that “relativism” holds that the truth is unknowable to an absurd degree, and is used by people who don’t want to be nailed down on anything more specific than “I’m better educated than you , so I’m right”.

        Because of this, the SJWs not only aren’t speaking standard English, they aren’t speaking the same Jargon from one day to the next. Their utterances have to fixed meaning beyond “I’m right, and you are an awful person for disagreeing with me”. In short, they are functionally insane.

        (Aside; my wayward typing skills wanted to write that as “functionally inane”. I have to say I was tempted to leave it.)

        • One of my big complaints about certain poorly-conceived Science Fiction stories is the idea that there’s some perfect flawless form that’s the be all and end all goal of evolution (or at least some mad evolutionary biologist). Evolution is a process of change over time due to certain conditions. An evolutionary adaptation that helps when there is too much water is likely to be a hindrance when there is too little water.

          The same applies to the evolution of cultures and nations, and becomes more important when the consequences are applied to individual values and choices. This makes the Progressive tendency to ‘fix’ things in a way that is forced on everyone and can’t be reversed even more of a danger.

          • It’s important to remember that it’s hardly exclusively a Progressive tendency. It’s how ALL would-be bosses act. In point of fact, since they want to return to a day when Common People (read “peasants”) did what they were told by those placed above them, they are actually REGRESSIVES.

        • I heard and environmental history specialist explaining that we can’t really “know” a certain bit of environment (in this case a wetland) because of the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle, we can only know what our equipment and eyes record, but that the act of taking measurements changes the wetland, so we don’t really “know” what’s going on with the wetland. That may be one of the worst bits of misunderstanding science I’ve come across, thus far.

        • Terrifying example of their narratives being used against them, popular misconceptions of paradigms being weaponized and used for abuse, to silence speech and destroy joy.

          The interesting thing is, the person doing it has traits very familiar to us here (recent exposure: Larry’s blog) and yes, functionally insane… and has made targets of his or her ire a few notable names of the SJW SFF community.

          —-

          Functionally inane. I like it! Do use it in the future, please!

          • Wow. That was illuminating. And yet, the thing that gets me is, when you carefully create an atmosphere were someone’s color of their skin or how they want to “interface” their hoo-has or dongles gives them some kind of extra credence / power / influence, and you also train people to use words as weapons, to hate (those deemed by them as worthy of hate), and to attack attack attack, how surprised can you really honestly be when someone with more melanin, a non-normative view of hoo-ha/dongle interfacing, and fewer scruples then uses words as weapons, directs others to hate those they deem worthy of hate, and attack attack attack?

            Goodness. They prepared the ground. They sowed the seeds. They watered and cultivated… and now they’re surprised at what they’re growing?

            • I think it’s more they’re surprised that the carnivorous plants they grow are capable of eating THEM as well. They didn’t expect the proverbial rabid dogs they train to turn on them, but expected them to ‘only attack’ the people they ‘pointed at’. Except, as we’ve been seeing, the SJWs will turn on themselves if someone isn’t doing something ‘enough’ to suit the mob.

              For some reason, possibly pure unadulterated hubris, they thought their weapons would never be used against them.

              • “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned around on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down…d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?”

                They never imagine the Devil turning on them.

                “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

                • And far too many people don’t believe in devils or evil… and are quite surprised when one shows up to eat them, whatever form it takes.

            • They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.

          • I would be more impressed with them if it dawned on them that it was exactly what they did, but they seem fixated on the notion that there are the Evil Attacking Forces and Us Innocents. I have seen them explicitly compare this to Gamergate, not to those attacking it.

    • Back when I was exploring an interest in Cultural Anthropology, some thirty-five years ago, the big sin was “ethnocentrism” — interpretation of other cultures by the standards of our own. This has been transmogrified as cspschofield describes to induce minds so open the brains drip out.

      Fundamentally, the practice entails approaching a culture as through clear glass rather than a funhouse mirror, in order to understand and fairly describe it. This should not entail any conclusions about the culture in comparison to our own.

      Ironically, the multicultis mainly don’t practice this approach, instead treating every culture as if it were a stop in Disneyland’s “small world” tour. Practically applied, it would mean addressing a culture according to its own value system, thus not attempting to address a Strength culture without first establishing one’s power, nor to approach a Reason culture with a show of force.

  12. Of course later the multiculturalists get confused and decide that culture is transmitted from one’s ancestors, somehow, in the blood.

    This can almost, sort of, be made to make a bit of sense if you start with the assumption that people aren’t smart enough to find solutions on their own outside of the Elegant Theory, and that organic solutions (in the “made themselves”– always messy) simply don’t show up via trial and error. Oh, and if your theory requires that people be widgets, rather than individuals.

    Family traditions are like tiny cultures– melding two (or four, or more) families is part of what makes family complicated. Some of the “well, we just don’t do that” things are there for really good reasons that don’t become apparent until they slap you in the face. For example, my family doesn’t tell anyone we’re expecting a new child until the second trimester, and sometimes five months along.
    In practice, this means you tell your mother or sister, and they tell everyone else in the mode of “you didn’t hear this from me….”
    Sound silly? Sure. Until you lose a baby and are faced with telling those non-family that you did let know, and the first thing your mother says when you call to tell her is “oh, sweetie…. I’m so sorry… at least you don’t have to tell everybody the baby isn’t coming…..” and it hits you how absolutely true that is. You can be strong and deal with it, as long as you don’t have to keep talking about it.

    **********

    Shorter:
    they’re wrong, but if you figure that they’re not going to question other assumptions (and can’t, because what they think is what Good People think) then it kind of makes sense.

    • See my post below. I think there is a damn good case to be made that at least a good chunk of what we’re talking about as “culture” is either genetic or epigenetic in nature.

      Family histories make very good arguments for this being the case, on the micro-scale. Branches of my family tree have what amount to very identifiable syndromes of dysfunction that manifest similarly up and down the particular branch of the tree you’re talking about, and they are all related to lineage. The alcoholic branches? Stem from a couple of cross-marriages with lineages that had that problem endemic to it. Main “trunk”? Doesn’t have that particular problem. And, what’s really astonishing, digging through all the genealogical stuff that came down from my mom’s great aunts is how oddly familiar all the various life stories are, through the generations. There is an actual discernible thread of idiotic males in the entire lineage doing the “right thing” down the years, causing vast amounts of collateral damage to the family, whether or not it’s something like throwing himself into the cable works in a mine to prevent the mine car from crashing or trusting business partners too much, there’s a degree of consistency that I’d have to label damn near genetic. And, I’m talking about going back all the way to the 15th Century, in a couple of cases.

      Culture is what you get when you add up individual behaviors and responses. When those individual behaviors and responses seem to be rooted in genetic backgrounds, you have to start wondering how much of what our culture “is” stems from biology vs. some learned behavior.

      I’m not saying everything is predestined by our biology, but I do believe there is a much, much stronger relationship between the things that make up our biological behaviors and culture than most of us think. I used to think it was on the lines of 50-50, but I’m leaning now towards it being more like 70% genetic/epigenetic and 30% experiential background.

      It’s weird to look at your family around you, when you’ve known multiple generations that are completely separated by time, so that there’s no way that the behaviors could be passed on via some form of mimicry or patterning. The connections are completely undeniable–My maternal grandfather died before my middle brother was born. You talk to him, and watch him, and you can clearly see how closely he takes after my grandfather in some obvious ways, as well as some subtle ones. Same thing with my youngest nephew–You look at him, and you see his dad at the same age, and you also see some individualistic things that are more consonant with his grandfather, who was dead a decade-plus before he was born. It’s weird to see some of the same behavioral ticks, all the way down to gestures, as they manifest themselves. And, this is all stuff that most people ascribe to “nurture”, versus actual “nature”.

      When you get down to it, I think that we’re going to discover that there is a hell of a lot more going on in our genes and other aspects of heritable biology than what we currently believe. I would not be a damn bit surprised that if we were to do a thorough study of the genetic and epigenetics of the two populations of the Koreas that we would find significant differences between the two sets of genes, especially if the separation between the two cultures goes on for too many more generations.

      • It’s not what you have that makes you you; it’s what you do with it.

        But yeah, family resemblance in behaviors is as real as in faces. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  13. “In ‘societal software’ sense, it’s malware.”

    I just wanted to say that that may be one of the most brilliant metaphors I’ve ever read.

  14. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Two other measures come to mind.

    What kind of infantry do they produce? Is it shock infantry worth anything?

    What kind of manufacturing are they capable of? Is factories with decent quality control?

    • “What kind of infantry do they produce? Is it shock infantry worth anything?”

      You’ve put your finger on something I’ve always believed, in that how we fight wars is a very culturally-related thing, and that the follow-on is that there’s likely some decidedly biological influence on the issue, as well.

      I don’t think you can “culturally transmit” whatever set of traits it is that makes for “good infantry”: Witness our decided failure to produce effective armies in South Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In South Korea, we grafted an American military tradition onto a culture that had solely had an Imperial Japanese Army/Navy (mostly Army, however) tradition. The ROK Army had a much deeper ethical relationship with the IJA, in terms of things like military culture–Were you to examine the commonplace brutality in the ROKA, you’d find yourself suddenly seeing a lot more commonality with the IJA than with the US Army. Transmitted culture, or “something else”?

      I think that every culture has it’s inherent and identifiable “military traits” that you have to take into account: Arabs make really lousy line infantry, but absolutely wonderful skirmishers and bandits. Trying to graft a military culture coming from a background like the US Army, and you’re going to experience massive failure. It’s happened in Saudi Arabia, and it’s happened in Iraq and a few other places. Oddly, the Iranians seemed to do a better job of adapting to US military culture, and adopting the precepts inherent to that. Ask anyone who trained Iranian pilots, back in the day, and who also trained Arab pilots. Fascinating differences there, but very poorly researched and documented.

      • Feather Blade

        Oddly, the Iranians seemed to do a better job of adapting to US military culture, and adopting the precepts inherent to that.

        Iran used to be Persia and they had a fairly organized military, while Iraq IIRC is made up of Arab nomads, which… don’t. Perhaps that explains the difference?

        • Mmmm… No doubt but that there’s some truth to that, but the Persian Deghans were never quite analogous to the Western legions or cataphractoi.

          The Romans, whether Eastern or Western flavors were never quite as feudal as the Persian empire was. The Roman equivalents to the Persian knights were never recruited or supported on the same sort of feudal basis as the Persians were. Up until the end stages of the Empire, the Romans were several orders of magnitude more sophisticated in terms of organization and outlook. Cataphractoi may not have looked like the legionaries of old, but they were damn sure recruited, trained, and supported in a similar manner–As professional soldiers, instead of being a product of service in the train of some random nobleman’s family estates.

          • Yeah, it may not be accurate to call the Persian army a mob, but it’s rank structure was closely related to tribal family tree structure. To be honest all militaries have this resemblance to a degree. I believe it is less prevalent in our military than any other long term military in history, but there is some there. But then is Kirk is pointing out, skills and genetics are often related, so even in a strict meritocracy there will be a tendency for genetics to group up.

            But before I tried to wander off on a tangent, Persian military was organized more on relationships and familial rank than on merit. But it WAS organized, at least to a greater extent than the Arab cultures were, thus it adapts BETTER to western military culture than they do.

          • The feudal system may have had some small advantages for unit cohesion. The British regimental system and the Japanese system of close geographical recruitment seemed to produce such cohesion. The down side was that if a unit was wiped out, there went the menfolk of an entire town.

            The U.S. Army in the Second World War pointedly ignored unit cohesion, and there is fairly wide agreement among military analysts that the results were not happy. The Marines and the airborne paid much more attention to unit cohesion and succeeded in producing elite troops. Some of the old National Guard divisions raised on a regional basis also enjoyed better unit cohesion. On the other hand, the 27th Division, a National Guard division from New England, enjoyed a spectacularly bad record as a combat unit.

            Your mileage may vary.

            • The US 106th Infantry Division (Golden Lions) was used as a replacement pool for other infantry divisions while in the US, and then shipped over to Europe where it was placed in a “quiet sector” to get used to the front lines before seeing real combat. As one might expect, unit cohesion wasn’t all that great. And that “quiet sector” turned out to be right smack in the middle of Germany’s December 1944 offensive (aka The Battle of the Bulge). Two of the regiments disintegrated under the German onslaught, with only one managing to successfully withdraw.

              The courage of the men can’t be faulted. The downfall of the two regiments was that they stood and fought when they should have withdrawn. But the men weren’t sufficiently used to each other, and things went bad when communications broke down and units were unable to coordinate. You can’t carry out a successful withdrawal in conditions like that.

              (The division’s commanding general likely contributed to the mess; he seems to have been in emotional shock at St. Vith and was relieved of command. And at least one source claims that his own son somehow ended up in the division just before it shipped out, and was captured on the front lines during the start of the offensive.)

      • A lot of it, I think, goes back to environment. I suspect that there’s a kind of bell curve of population density to produce good, solid, “stand your ground and take it” foot soldiers, or their cavalry equivalents. Low population density societies (Arabia, the American Indians) do not produce such men, they produce raiders, because such societies cannot afford to take heavy losses in warfare and cannot produce the necessary equipment. High density population societies (Mesoamericans, China) do not produce such men, they produce cannon fodder, because sheer quantity is available and they cannot afford to produce the necessary equipment. Medium density societies (Japan, Ancient Greece) produce such men because, while they have enough people to take the losses, they don’t have so many that they can’t afford to equipe them, and they also can’t just smother the foe in bodies.

        • Population densities and scales of social organization are indicators of likely performance, but I again think we might be putting the cart in front of the horse. Are the stereotypical phlegmatic Redcoats the product, or the cause of English culture? Is it likely that a root stock like the Arabs would produce such an end product, even if they were placed into a similar environment? I’m not so sure, to be honest.

          I think that environment has a certain influence on culture, but I also think that there are a myriad of ways to adapt to a specific environment.

          On the one hand, we have similarities between the European feudal classes, particularly the knights and other petty nobles, and then we have the feudal Japanese, with the Samurai class. There are distinct parallels, between the two cultures, but… Two very different expressions of what they turned in to, in their latter stages.

          I can’t see a European-equivalent to the Japanese Imperial court or the Shogunate ever taking off the way they did in Japan. The Europeans were a hell of a lot more open to technological change, both on and off the battlefield. The Japanese, not so much–Despite their earlier development and adoption of the drill revolution for use with firearms, they were the only ones who managed to effectively beat back the social implications of the firearm. Something like that would never have worked in Europe, because try as they might, even the European noble classes couldn’t keep that much of a lid on the rest of the social order. Magna Carta wasn’t just caused by the barons, it stemmed from support beneath them, as well.

          • I’d argue that the reason the root stock of the Arabs turned out that way was the desert environment.
            Also, the phlegmatic redcoats were the descendants of the fyrd and the jarls who clashed when Alfred would not pay the Danegeld, the longbowmen who shredded France’s nobility, and the New Model army who sang hymns as they marched into battle.
            However, you’re right, there are different ways of adapting to the same environment. Japan, I think, turned out how it did because of its proximity to China and its cultural influence. Europe turned out how it did due to a combination of barbarian independence, Roman law, and Christian religion–also, Byzantine cultural influence, for various reasons, only took among the Slavs.

          • Perhaps it has something to do with identity and how each culture defines itself? The Chinese and Japanese have a locative identity (‘Country in the center of the world’ and ‘country at the eastern edge of the world’ respectively). The Koreans have a people based identity (People of the Han) our hostess has mentioned that much of Europe has a ‘people of’ perspective. Perhaps that influenced how otherwise similar systems might have diverged.

      • William O. B'Livion

        You’ve put your finger on something I’ve always believed, in that how we fight wars is a very culturally-related thing, and that the follow-on is that there’s likely some decidedly biological influence on the issue, as well.

        http://www.amazon.com/Carnage-Culture-Landmark-Battles-Western-ebook/dp/B0012D1D7S

  15. On a different note, WordPress Delenda Est.

  16. Oh, you shouldn’t worry about Marx. Just this week I was chided for having an inordinate fear of communism and that it’s dead, dead, dead and hardly worth addressing. In my conversation partner’s mind it was sort of like Baal or Moloch, not a real thing day to day.

    • Yes. I get that every time I write on communism.

      • Germany just joined the depressingly long line of ex Communist countries that have welcomed the Cs back into elected office. It was bad enough when Nicaragua voted the Communists in, but all of Germany is voting for ex Stasi thugs.

    • They say that for the same reason as they said it was inevitable in the 1930s. Power, not truth.

    • True communism dies naturally once the population becomes large enough that the slackers start riding on the coattails of the productive and the producers rebel.
      What generally passes for communism, and what is responsible for the murder of countless millions and arguably the oppression and suffering of billions, is nothing more or less than a label used to justify the naked acquisition of power and domination by a group over the populace.
      Or so I believe.

      • Point out to leftists that the Supreme Court’s definition of slavery — laboring against your will for the good of another — covers most of their agenda and things get interesting.

        • It don’t end there. The bumper-sticker “Friends don’t let friends vote Republican” was VERY popular in certain smug lefty circles. They thought that my being outraged by it was funny as hell. Right up to the moment I managed to articulate my anger as “Isn’t that what the KKK used to do?”

          Funny how my in-laws don’t sport that sticker anymore….

    • The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

    • Birthday girl

      Moloch is a very real thing today. High Priestesses: Abortion Barbie, Am*nda Marc*tte, etc.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      The difference between fascism and communism? Communists have better press agents.

      • And the Fascists had a much better sense of style! Who has sex-fantasies about being tied up by *Communists*?:-P

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          Well, quite a number of SJWs, I imagine.

        • World of Warcraft has a short series of quests that spoof the Nazis. You infiltrate an organization run by a goblin with a familiar looking mustache that is dedicated to the goals of Fashionism.

          The comment about the superior sense of style reminded me of that.

          In actuality, I suspect that the better sense of style is tied to the fact that the communists have to pretend that they’re for the lower echelons of society – barefoot peasants dressed in rags, and all that. Fascists and similar groups don’t bother. But as anyone who’s ever seen footage of a Red Square parade can attest, the communists have no trouble looking sharp when they want to.

    • William O. B'Livion

      It’s pretty much true.

      What the Progressives are pushing is really an amalgamation of Socialism (government ownership of the means of production, trans-nationalism, class warfare) and Fascism (tribal identification & warfare, government control over non-government industry, nationalism). The interesting thing is that they can pitch different crap to different sectors and not get called on it.

      • They don’t get called on it unless we call them. Get cracking. How do you think that communism conversation got started?

        As an aside, there is one group that is quite large that you missed out of that list, the philosophical zombies that have swallowed the gramscian pap and further it without any particular allegiance to either socialism or fascism. They just continue to promote the memes long past the death of the Stalinists who came up with them.

    • Yeah, ’cause we don’t sacrifice unwanted babies on altars any more. Not to Baal or Moloch, at any rate. And we certainly don’t incinerate the remains.

  17. Thank you for another fine post, Sarah. Keep going with this, please.

    I think it was yesterday that I determined the civil war had already started. No, not big bangs, bloodshed and violence.

    But the SJW attacks on communities {like sf & f}, and the big spending here in the state of WA kind of point to having reached a level of cultural conflict that we haven’t really seen before.

    The progressives “won” on getting I 594 passed. But they outspent the gun rights groups seven to one to get there. The reason for the parenthesis is that the fight over I 594 isn’t over, it’s going to last a while. And I think it’s going to cost the progs five to seven times as much to attempt to hold on to what they have.

    That was just one battle the “progs” chose here. The other is an environmental billionaire in California decided to heavily support dems in four precincts to change the state Senate from Red to Blue. Didn’t work. The money was spent for no gain.

    There are two things to realize. Most Americans lie in the middle, and are totally clueless. Wins and losses with them are going to go back and forth. Most of them are unaware their liberties are at risk, and there’s a few of them that wouldn’t care.

    The other is, we actually have the progs outnumbered. True progs, the ones that would kill and die to take your liberty number about 10% of our population.

    We’re more like 30%. Its the folks in the middle that will decide which direction we’ll take for a while. In a fight like this, expect losing streaks as well as winning streaks. Expect a lifetime of conflict.

    • 594 if actually enforced to the letter of the law is a lawsuit waiting to happen. Should make for some fun and games and either die a quiet death or we’ll see a SCOTUS case out of it.
      I’d have to say the phrase “quiet desperation” is a poor fit for the current lib/prog condition. Loud, noisy, whiney desperation is much more applicable.
      To me Tuesday wasn’t about shifting Republican, it was all about rejecting the liberal Democrat philosophy, their stupid destructive legislation, and their seeming inability of their most favored leaders to manage their way out of a paper sack. What it creates is the opportunity for conservative Republicans to prove themselves. They have the next two years to either win the respect of the country or throw it all away again.
      A thought did pop into my head this week. I see Condi Rice popping up in the news again. Wouldn’t she make a very fine potential candidate for the 2016 Presidential run.

      • I think that what’s going to happen with 594 is pretty simple: They’re going to do an “ignore the will of the voter” thing, and declare it unconstitutional because it doesn’t meet the standard for a proposition, in that it addresses more than one issue simultaneously.

        And, they’re going to do that because the idiots behind it are going to realize that they’ve likely set themselves up for a huge “fail” when this is inevitably reviewed at the Federal level. Especially now that it’s very unlikely that Obama is going to be able to get a Supreme Court justice through Senate approval…

        In other words, I strongly suspect that 594 is going to be made to “go away”, rather than become enforced law, because if it does become enforced, there’s going to be a judicial review of the whole thing that is very unlikely to work out to the benefit of the gun control advocates. In actuality, it’s going to blow up in their faces, big-time. There’s a reason the NRA didn’t spend a lot of money fighting this one, folks, and that’s because they’re thinking two steps ahead of the game.

        Risky? Yeah. But without the changes Obama would likely make to the composition of the Supreme Court, I don’t think it’s got a chance in hell of actually becoming set law.

        • The only thing I can find wrong with your analysis is the presumption that the people making the decision will act rationally.

          They might. It happens, even among the Political Class and the Intellectual Left. It will be interesting to see.

        • Part of the Progs’ problem is that they don’t actually understand us. They truly believe that we will “get over it” and accustom ourselves to their harness. There are several recent and current instances where our clinging to our bibles and our guns completely confounds them, mostly because they are too arrogant to bother understanding the deeper cultural currents flowing through those. Dismissing something as “superstition” means you don’t have to comprehend its roots.

          • Well, the Proggies have a problem; if they actually did any historical analysis, they might have to go back and kick their Proggie teachers in the fork. As a basis for societies, the Bible comes of fairly well by comparison. And the style of Christianity most practiced in the U. S. (Protestantism) comes off very well indeed. Yes, there have been horrid examples of self-described Christian behavior, but Protestant Christian societies were the first to support anti-slaver movements (other than slave revolts), the first modern societies to seriously contemplate equal rights for women and minorities (however imperfectly implemented),the first societies to take the property rights of the poor seriously. By comparison Progressivism doesn’t do very well. It has only really had a Century during which there were societies really based on Progressive principles. And in that short time, they have racked up a record of mass murder, barbarism, and misery that would cause the Grand Inquisitor, Cardinal de Richelieu, and Vlad Tepes saying “now hold on, that’s a bit much”, and Genghis Khan nodding approval.

            I’m not saying that the Bible makes sense. I’m an agnostic, and much of what passes for Christian thought bothers men. But from a historical perspective Protestant societies are preferable to Catholic ones and MUCH preferable to Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic ones. And Progressive societies are, overall, so bad that rowing across shark infested waters in an inner tube is an alternative to be seriously contemplated.

            • Buddhist scosieties?

              Like which ones?

              • Societies founded on, or partially founded on Buddhism include Imperial China, Japan, etc. Buddhism SOUNDS terrific, but in practice seems to produce cultures that treat people like farm animals.

                Aside; I have a pet peeve of long standing with Western dabblers in Buddhism. Starting with my cousins, they tend to assure me that Buddhists are non-violent and do not try to influence governments. Since my late teens my reply has been “please look up the Japanese term Yamabushi, and get back to me”

                • Every Buddhist sect in Japan supported the Second Sino-Japanese War and its metamorphized form, World War II.

                  • Put “Buddhist Terrorism” in your search engine and you will get many hits of recent vintage. If you like, confine the search by adding “Burma” or “Myanmar” to the phrase. Apparently some monks believe that as Muslims sow, so shall they be reaped.

                    Or heck, just search “Ashin Wirathu” for an individual.

                • Aside; I have a pet peeve of long standing with Western dabblers in Buddhism. Starting with my cousins, they tend to assure me that Buddhists are non-violent and do not try to influence governments. Since my late teens my reply has been “please look up the Japanese term Yamabushi, and get back to me”

                  Let me guess, the response to that is “No True Buddhist” then?

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman

                  • Let us be just. You can put up a good argument that they are, at the very least, bad Buddhists, using Buddhist texts.

                    Unfortunately for them, that would also mean that you can put up an equally good argument about the Christians they like to use as a club.

                • During the Warring States era in Japan, one of the power blocs was what essentially amounted to an army of trouble-making Buddist monks.

                • Please do not site one off shoot of a branch of “Japanese” Buddhism.

                  That would be like looking at the Baptist and going see that is what it means to be christian.

                  http://www.tofugu.com/2011/10/05/japanese-mountain-folk-the-mystical-yamabushi/

                  Do you know how many different branches there are. Japan to their Martial Culture. Shinto/Buddhism.

            • … Protestant Christian societies were the first to support anti-slaver movements (other than slave revolts)

              Be it noted that in most known instances of slave revolts their primary objection was to being enslaved themselves. Few such revolutionaries have evidenced opposition to the institution and practice of slavery.

          • that’s been proven in the lab. It’s Science. They don’t understand us. And the further left they are, the less.

        • I don’t see how this is going to be suddenly decided to be unconstitutional, considering that the same thing is already law in CA.

        • Headline in the Seattle Times says that the I-594 Proponents think they have some kind of mandate and are ready to give us some more of the same. (Safe storage laws, it looks like).

    • Politics is war by other means.

  18. I’m not entirely certain that what we’re calling “culture” is entirely a creation of our minds and things we “learn”.

    What I’m talking about are those weird cases where there are no discernible mechanisms by which behaviors could have been passed on, through normal means of transmission, and yet we see the same behaviors manifesting themselves in individuals who had no links other than purely biological inheritances.

    Friends of my mom were both deeply Catholic, and mutually infertile. They also wanted kids, badly, so they went to the Catholic adoption agency recommended by their church, and adopted two children from separate sets of parents, one boy and one girl.

    Both kids were vouched for as being the products of “college couples who got into trouble…”, and I think you can see where this is going. Throughout early childhood and adolescence, both kids showed signs of being victims (mild) of fetal alcohol syndrome and other issues related to probable drug use by the parents. In their teens, both kids manifested significant substance abuse issues, sufficient that there were lawsuits against the adoption agency to unseal records so that they could figure out what went wrong. Both sets of parents turned out to be far from the described “college students”, and both kids should have been described as being the product of drug/alcohol abusers. What was interesting, for the purposes of this discussion? That both kids, raised in what I’d have to describe as a “painfully wholesome” atmosphere as children, manifested the same behavior syndromes and issues at the same ages as their parents, to the point that you could have confused the sets of medical records if the names had been redacted.

    I used to believe that personality, behavior, and what we’re calling “culture” was purely an artifact of environment. These days, I’m not so damn sure. I think there are deeply “programmed” behaviors that are held somewhere in our genetic or epigenetic backgrounds, and that there are specific clues as to how people are going to behave/react dependent upon their genetic/epigenetic backgrounds. I would not be a bit surprised to find out that things like the Anglo-Saxon predilection for self-government and hatred of external control are actually artifacts of our biology, especially when compared to the behavioral/cultural patterns of other ethnicities. This is why I think that multiculturalism is a flat-out crock: I see very limited signs that it is possible to “reprogram” people and sub-cultures, no matter how hard you try. The evidence is before us with a lot of social issues in this country–Take the African-American cultural spectrum, and compare it to the societies it stems from in Africa. Similar rates of interpersonal violence, similar rates of corruption, and on and on. Why is that? You want me to accept that all that somehow is just coincidental? I don’t think that it is.

    I’m not going to posit that things like the idea of democracy are products of genetics or epigenetics. What I am going to suggest is that things like “democracy” have their antecedents in our biology, and are manifestations of deeper things, like a desire for autonomy vs. group cohesion.

    I think there’s a damn good reason that Asians do better in purely “cultural” areas, and are better adapted (arguably…) to what we call “civilization”. It is because they’ve been at it longer than the rest of us, and their genes reflect millenia of selection for those traits. It’s astonishing to me to observe identifiably Korean traits and behaviors in a couple of my Korean-American friends who were adopted as infants in Korea before being brought to the US and raised as American kids in typical middle-class families. And, had I not known, from having lived in Korea for a couple of years, I’d have just written it off to “personality quirks”. I believe there is something deeper going on, and that it is something deeply biological. I’m not going to say “genetic memory”, but there’s something very analogous going on, here.

    We’re the product of our genes and biological backgrounds at least as much, if not more than we are the products of our upbringing and culture. I don’t think that all of these things are iron-clad, but I do think we need to take them into account with regards to how we organize widely disparate peoples into a functioning society. Most Americans came here because they didn’t fit into their home societies, wherever those were, and the ideals and ideas of “America” resonated with them. The ones whose stock didn’t come here voluntarily by self-selection seem to be the ones having the most problem fitting in and functioning, and I don’t think that that is accidental.

    • Scientists have concluded thus far that personality is about 50% genetic, and 50% heaven knows what. (They call it environmental, but that’s because they don’t want to admit that it might not be something they can’t study.)

      You might enjoy The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and Why by Richard E. Nisbett. Some of it is apparently linguistic. For instance, children raised speaking both Mandarin and English from a young age will show patterns of thought merged between the two mind-sets. On the other hand, those who learn English later will show distinctive shifts in thought patterns when tested in English vs. their native Mandarin.

      • I read that book soon after it came out. Nisbett puts a lot of the “difference thing” down to language, but I think there’s an unexamined (by his thesis, at least) aspect that’s clearly “something else” besides the transmitted language.

        One of the things that makes me think this is that there is, supposedly, a linguistic reason that the Chinese and other Asians do better with math, and that is down to the more consistent/logical way they set up their numeric systems inside their languages. I suspect that the people who came up with that idea have confused the order of the cart and the horse, in that the reason the Chinese and other Asian cultures have more logical numeric systems in their languages has a lot more to do with the “something else” than the actual language. In other words, they have a more logical numerical system because the minds that came up with the language have a better numeric sense than the average culture… The superior Chinese numeric system is not, in other words, an accident.

        Case in point is one of those Korean-Americans I know: Her adoptive family has some of the worst mathematicians I’ve ever met. As in, they can barely get through high-school algebra without significant struggle–There are no hard-science specialists in that family, period: They’re all either English majors or lawyers.

        The Korean-American adoptee, who was never exposed to Hangul? She’s a damn Ph.D mathematician, a child prodigy in math who was tutoring her older siblings who were struggling in high school when she was in the fourth grade. If that’s not an argument for nature vs. nurture, I don’t know what is.

        Interestingly, she did a bit of research/bribery to find out where she came from, in Korea: Per the investigation, she’s the granddaughter of a professor of mathematics at one of the major Korean universities, and the daughter of a woman who later became a CPA-equivalent in the Korean system. Apparently, she’d had an affair with another student from a “bad background” while she was in college, and gotten pregnant. Which led to my friend being put up for adoption…

        Due to the situation, she was advised not to contact her birth family, and never did, but she did meet her grandfather professionally at some symposium/conference.

        He spent the entire time, staring at her. I kind of wonder what he thought, meeting her, and if he ever twigged to the fact that someone who looked just like his daughter was his granddaughter. Her impression of him was mostly negative, saying that he seemed like an arrogant ass. Which was why she never broached the subject of their near-certain family relationship.

    • You might like a book called “People Watching” by Desmond Morris.

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A0JJVBU?btkr=1

  19. Okay, I haven’t even read beyond this point yet but.

    it was a shame that until the Asterix comics little French kids knew more of the history of the little Jesus than about their ancestors the Gauls.

    Now, I’ve read Asterix. I like Asterix. But I’ve got to say that after reading Asterix they _still_ know more about the history of the little Jesus than about their ancestors the Gauls.

    • Possibly even less than before?

      Most people’s knowledge of St. Patrick is negative — they think he’s Irish, which is worse than knowing nothing.

    • I think I read some Asterix when I was in graduate school. I barely remember it, which was not true of the Spider Man comics I also read in graduate school at the time.

      Which means it was probably far too insipid to be very harmful.

      There was some other French comic involving astrophysicists somehow, which probably explains how it got into the astronomy department graduate student lounge, but all I remember about it is a couple of digs at Americans, including one about how we spoil our kids. I’m not really inclined to think the French are in a position to be advising us on much of anything, except possibly the need to expand nuclear power.

      • I think it’s simply likely that at that time in your life you were keyed to remember second rste action stories better than second rate humor.

        And, please note, I consider second rate pretty good. That vast majority of what is published is fourth rate or worse.

  20. Sort of off-topic, but a lot of gif satire that the crew might enjoy-

    http://conservativeprobz.tumblr.com/
    Regarding student government from a Popehat link-

  21. It all depends on your foundational premises, don’t it?

    The multi-culti “all cultures are equal” is valid if you are a nihilist, because then higher living standards, more equitable treatment of the component groups and any other “benefit” one or another cultures provides just doesn’t matter. Ultimately we are all compressed to incandescent gasses and exploded into a new universe in which all achievements of this universe are obliterated. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter.

    I do not endorse that view but it is irrefutable. After all, as a recent Secretary of State and moral philosopher recently observed: At this point in time, what difference does it make?

  22. Are all cultures equal and equally good?

    In a word, no. The easy example is the current Muhammadan terrorist culture where children play soccer with decapitated heads. Even the worst American inner city gangs pale in comparison. If you go back far enough my ancestors, the Scottish Celts, were a pretty rough bunch but that culture didn’t get retained when the family moved to this country a great many decades ago. I have a claidheamh-mòr hung up in the basement but I don’t wear a kilt in public. Don’t want to scare the neighbours.

  23. Sarah,

    This seems an appropriate post on which to pose this question to you.

    You have, from time to time, said that in times of stress cultures revert to their “founding myths*.” That sounds reasonable to me and, frankly, would help explain why the progressive movement is working so hard, in education and elsewhere, to root out the founding myths of the US and put others in their place. (And what scares me is wondering how far they’ve gotten in succeeding at that among entirely too much of the population.)

    My question though is can you (or other participants here–why it’s an open comment and not a private message) point me to any source material to demonstrate that? When I make that argument elsewhere I’d like to have more than “Sarah says so and it kind of fits what I see” if challenged. 😉

    • Um…. it’s mostly because of reading history? It’s what tends to happen, but … uh. Anyone have anything?

      • I was hoping for something like specific examples. A general reading of history is why I found it “resonating” with me even though I had not articulated it quite that way.

        • Yes. Maybe someone else here knows? I have impressively literate readers.

        • Gettysburg Address, for one (““conceived in liberty…”)? Might look into the speeches from the World Wars, as well: times of stress, indeed. Sometimes it’s just a few words. The words “freedom,” “liberty,” and “independence” show up a lot when a politician wants to make a point.

          That’s because they *meant* something real, something powerful, something greater than most of us can imagine when they were first won in blood and bone (to paraphrase John Adams). And that’s just Americans.

          I’ve got the same fuzzy remembrance of several Latin texts referencing the founding of Rome, but can’t recall any in specifics at the moment, unfortunately.

          • Also, Kennedy’s Inaugural Address:
            “For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forbears prescribed nearly a century and three-quarters ago…”

            “…the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought…”

            “…we are the heirs of that first revolution…”

            Reagan’s Evil Empire speech:

            “…American experiment in democracy…”

            • I actually find these responses deeply disturbing, but not in the way you might think.

              Politicians such as Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan invoked those “founding myth” ideals because they resonated with the American people. They were an effective way to generate appeal from the American people. (Sincerity helps, but once you learn to fake that….)

              Obama, OTOH, doesn’t even try. He’s goes almost in the opposite direction: dependence on government. Class hatred (rather than liberty and equality under the law). Taking from the successful rather than being successful yourself.

              And he’s had entirely too much success with that line.

              The “progressives” (closet Marxists by any other name) have infiltrated and taken over the education system and have been deliberately working to change our “myths” to undercut them and replace them with a new basis.

              And I have to wonder if they’ve had more success than is healthy for our future.

        • Russia’s current reversion to imperialism (look up St. Vladimir of Kiev and his Reitsar, Alexandr Nevskey, and Ivan Grossnie. Warning on the last… they like to emphasize the ‘terrible’ aspect and ignore the parts before 1563. he’s an excellent example of both a good and bad tsar.)

          Korea: book, Tales if a Korean Grandmother is a good place for the myths, and in dome ways they ‘came home’ to Christianity. The myths about Hananim, the God Who Made everything, and his son Tan’Kun (or Tan’Gun, depending on the transliteration) who was said to have fathered the Korean race in some stories and led them out of China to a better place in others.

          These are the ones that resonate with me, but I grew up on the Korean ones, so.. I don’t know if they’ll strike the same note with you.

          • A more modern translation would be not “Terrible” but “Terror-Inspiring”.

            don’t you just LOVE semantic drift.

            • And the name the Russians themselves called him (Grosnie) translates to ‘the Thunderous’. I THINK it was the French who first called him ‘Terrible’. And yes, they meant it in the ‘this guy is terror-inspiring’. He was apparently both physically and politically intimidating as well as being loud and boisterous with a temper.

  24. Pingback: Morning coffee 2014-11-08 – Overwork and cultural narratives | Mangy Dog