*I swear for the first time this week I was supposed to be on time with the blog. But then this horrible monster Leaking Dishwasher attacked and ate yesterday evening and this morning. We have it patched up and (crosses fingers) not leaking, which means we get time to shop around for a replacement. We’ve been meaning to replace it because it sucks, badly but… And I’ll try to get you Grant by midnight tonight, but it MIGHT be tomorrow.*
It is a truism to say that fish don’t see the water they swim in. I’m not absolutely sure about that, you know? I’ve visited the Denver Botanic gardens and looked in the koi ponds enough that I suspect the fish see the water when it’s a lovely shade of green, just like we see the air, when it has a bunch of sand and stuff in suspension, and we certainly feel air-currents on our skin, smell the scents in the air, etc.
The truth is that it is more accurate to say that fish don’t know the water they’re in is different from any other water. Having had my adventure with fish-keeping (RIP Agile Antelop Betta Version, aka my beloved Derpfish) I can tell you though that changing the water for another kind of water can make a huge difference on your fish’s health and well being. Even if the water you’re changing it for is technically better, it will make your fish out of sorts and can kill him. (This is why we were stuck with a particular and increasingly rare brand of bottled spring water, because it’s what we had in the house when I set up Derpy’s first aquarium, on account of being the water Robert used for his leeches tank. [You’re NOT going to ask, right?])
So, what is this all about.
It’s not just that the left believes culture is genetic — witness the isle in Walmart marked with “multicultural hair care”, which I don’t think has dyes used by people from Papua New Guinea and the songs of hair washing of the natives of the Solomon Islands — it’s that the right is starting to believe it too. And that’s a very bad thing.
Only today on this very blog, one of you was saying that there might be a genetic component because look at how the Indians weren’t that far off the Europeans who invaded, but it never occurred to them to create muskets or…
Guys, this is SUCH a fundamental misunderstanding of culture — yes, culture, having bloody nothing to do with genes — it made me want to dent my desk.
So, let’s go back to culture being like the water in an aquarium. Most people aren’t blind to their culture. They know what it’s like and where it stacks in comparison with other cultures, more or less, relatively.
For instance, Portuguese are well aware of being very unorganized — and weirdly proud of it. No, really — and know they stack above Brazilians in organization but below powerhouses of organization like France and Ireland. What they don’t know is how their disorganization/disregard for times/disdain for details affects their prosperity, their security and every level of life in the country.
They don’t know this because they’ve never lived anywhere else. Going shopping will take an entire afternoon because the buses run more on suggestion than schedule (and if you drive, the traffic rules are also suggestions, which means sometimes bizarre traffic jams because someone didn’t find a parking space and thought he might as well park on a lane on the road.) Also, the stores might or might not have the same products they had last week, and besides, if the shopkeeper came in late, and then had a really difficult customer, you might have to wait an hour. And on and on. I often say I spent most of my teenage years standing on street corners, fortunately reading science fiction and not going “oh, hai sailor” because I got so neurotic about being late for an outing with friends that I got there ten minutes early. And then waited an hour for the first of them to show up and two for the stragglers. This type of thing, over time, eats people’s time and their mental and emotional resources. Frankly, it’s amazing the country works as well as it does.
And yep, they know they’re unorganized — they view it was free and not rigid — but they fail to take into account everything it touches, because “it’s always been like that.”
I suspect in the US people would bodily move a car that parked blocking a lane of a two lane road “while I go over there to the post office. It’s just a minute. What are you so uptight about that you object?” In Portugal it’s the way it works. (Though I understand if you park on the tram lines and are driving a smart, you will get moved. The occurrence is so common trams have really long poles to assist this move. You should have seen my kids’ faces watching this.)
Not ragging on Portuguese, really. They’re at worst a second world country. I’m only describing them because it’s a culture I have a lot of insight into. The culture as in all Latin countries, has all the stigmata of Rome, from bribery as a way of life, to nepotism as the oil that lubricates society. Which is not entirely compatible with modernity, and therefore means that Portugal isn’t one of your leading lights of technological creation and innovation.
In fact, excepting Israel of course, no other nation does much in the way of innovation. Modernity, except for small touches, came straight from America, and they live in it by using American inventions.
Now you can argue that it’s genetic, but I’m going to look at you really funny, because a lot of the people who created those innovations were less than three generations removed from elsewhere.
In fact, it is a truism in Portugal that when Portuguese go abroad, they usually do very well. Depending on the level of society they’re prepared to enter, of course, they are financially successful, innovative and above all insanely hard workers.
So, how come Portugal is not an economic powerhouse, you ask. You see, it’s that the water is gelatin. Between Roman and Arab culture remnants, anyone who wants to accomplish anything in Portugal is a tiny fish struggling against a tsunami wave. When freed from that, we find it almost ridiculously easy to succeed.
Portuguese who never leave Portugal or even who never leave Portugal and live outside a Portuguese community abroad, aren’t aware of this. They have a vague idea they’re being held back and that it’s unfair, but they don’t know how. And that’s where we get on fish, and the water they’re accustomed to.
Yes, moving to another culture is a huge shock. Yes, most people prefer to do it with a few thousand of their closest friends, which is why you find Italian or Irish or even Portuguese enclaves in the US (and in the case of Portuguese in French and Germany too.)
I was very lucky, at the time, because there was no Portuguese enclave in Charlotte, North Carolina when I first immigrated. Or if there was, I never found it. Which means I was on my own, in this strange water. I’ve talked about how difficult it was, even when I WANTED to change. If there had been a community to “ease” my way, I’d probably have embraced it, which means I’d never fully acculturate and never fully become American. Fortunately by the time a Portuguese community found me (in Colorado Springs. I got a phone call) I had realized that I HAD acculturated and, frankly, if I wanted my kids brought up in Portuguese culture, I’d have stayed in Portugal with all the advantages of family and connections.
So yeah, I lied and told them they had the wrong number.
But many if not most of the Portuguese who immigrate go live in Portuguese communities. So do other immigrants. Which means that even if western culture weren’t actively fighting against the CONCEPT of assimilation, these people wouldn’t assimilate. Sure, schools, shows, etc, but it takes a good three generations and maybe more.
Which is why, once you add in the additional filter of the culture encouraging immigrants to hold on buckle and tongue to their own native culture (a nonsenssical idea. What is the point of, for an example, importing Muslims who are escaping a toxic culture if we want them to bring their toxic culture with them? Is it so we can observe dysfunctionality in our very midst? This concept of humans as zoo is disgusting.), most people assume culture is genetic.
It’s not. It’s almost impossible to change overnight as a whole, in a group, though, whether the group is an enclave in the middle of another country, or the whole country.
Not IMPOSSIBLE mind. I’ve watched Portugal change a lot since entering the EU, though IMO in many ways not in the greatest directions. The things that they really shouldn’t be going crazy about, like minor regulations, are of course the things they obsess about. The country where, when I grew up, if you could toddle up to the counter you could order wine, is now horrified if you let your seventeen year old taste your Port Wine. And don’t get me started on how Festas or at least the sale of homemade toys and food at them, have more or less been abolished. The country has gotten pasteurized.
However, as little as I like the change, it has changed, and in fact they have rewritten history retroactively and my parents will swear on a stack of bibles they never gave me wine before I was eighteen. (I remember causing a minor furore when, having heard about wine killing brain cells in school, I went abstemious at 8. Mind you they gave me half wine and half water before that, but they thought it was a bad bad thing to go on water only. Only to hear them it never happened.)
So, culture can change, under pressure. The pressure in this case is, I think, not being uncouth for the tourists. (Shrug.) But not everything is going to change and not overnight. That’s not how groups operate. See how Portugal still has remnants of Roman and Arab culture.
Which doesn’t mean it’s genetic. Sure, some things are genetic. I suspect over time cultures select for traits that work best in them. For instance a mouthy teenage girl has a lifespan of minutes in an Arab culture. But the thing is that selection and evolution work slowly and most cultures aren’t stable long enough (like 4 or 5 thousand years) for that to make a difference.
Sure, some regions have (on average) higher IQs than other places in the world. Is it genetic? Unless they’re highly inbred, probably not. We have no way of measuring IQ in the raw and humans are AWFULLY adaptable. Plastic even. Which means if the payoff is to be stupid and lazy, people are going to learn from infancy to be stupid and lazy, and the intelligence they might have had is as completely lost as if it had never been. Also, note that “average.” The “average” human doesn’t exist and every culture produces morons and geniuses. It’s all on how they use it. Or not.
The fact is that the more we know about genes, the more we realize the human race is — broadly speaking — incredibly homogeneous. What I hear is that there is more difference between two lions of the same litter, than between two humans of long-separated populations. Or, to put it another way, under the microscope, you can’t tell an Englishman from a Zulu, from a Chinese, from an Aboriginal.
And humans are REALLY plastic. Humans raised in a different culture than the one that gave birth to them will conform not to their birth culture, but to the culture that raised them. Heck, humans will even conform to animals who raise them, to the point of walking on all fours and never developing anything resembling speech.
Most of the obvious, marked differences you see are culture, not genes. Which doesn’t make the problem any more tractable, but it makes it POSSIBLE to solve without genocide.
So long as we keep in mind that there is no such thing as a genetic culture, and that “multicultural haircare” means singing traditional songs while combing.
If the left were right about cultures being genetic, then we’d have to assume that it was cruel to even require someone to change languages. (And anyone watching anyone else in the throes of acculturation might very well decide it’s “cruel” to require people to change. Or even impossible.) If the left were right, it would be logical to call people racist when they want immigrants to assimilate.
The left is profoundly wrong, on this as pretty much on everything else (even the things they claim to want that I agree with they want for the wrong reasons.) Humans are not born with language and culture permanently attached and under the microscope, race doesn’t exist.
Which means to have people immigrate and not require they assimilate is an exercise in futility. It just means they’ll bring everything they think they’re escaping with them, and continue to be miserable on our purse and as a drain on our nation. (Let alone the myriad ancestral hatreds that will turn our streets into killing fields.)
People who stay in their country provided they don’t bug anyone else, are entitled to have as dysfunctional a culture as they wish.
But once your water has changed, you have to adapt and learn to swim in it. Or go back.
Fit in or f*** off. You want the better life? Acculturate and create it. Otherwise, what are you doing here?