There Is No Time Or Distance

head-1597572_1920

Actually this post should be called “there is no difference.”

This weekend there was an unfortunate kerfuffle in one of the private groups I belong to on Facebook between two people who both read this blog and who both are normally level-headed if feisty.

Unfortunately, as you guys know, I decided this was a fine weekend to sand my living room floor, which, courtesy Euclid Cat had two massive stains (it takes a lot to stain four coats of polyurethane, and thank heavens it hadn’t got to the flooring, but we had furniture there while we worked on the dining room floor and, as a result, we couldn’t even see where he was peeing. I knew it was somewhere in there, but I couldn’t reach it. So…) So I wasn’t aware of the flare up till 14 hours later.

I’m not going to go into the details of it, but I’ll say the reader who is Australian was making a perfectly responsible and sane argument FOR AUSTRALIA. Meanwhile the reader who is American and knows the conditions here didn’t even understand what this person was getting so hot about, since there isn’t the slightest resemblance between the two countries, and the culture is different enough too.

This is when something hit me between the eyes and was a bit of a shock.

I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually acculturated between two countries understands how different cultures can be, deep down, at the bone level and the most basic reactions level, let alone what causes the difference, from inherited influences to just deep built in assumptions about climate/physical plant/fauna.

And some of the people who have acculturated, at that, might not be self-aware enough to see the difference, and just replace one set of assumptions with another and roll with it.  (Or get caught somewhere between. Well, to some extent we all get caught somewhere between.  The question is, what percentage is in the new country.  I’d say for me, after being in Portugal recently, probably 95% American. There are things trained in before the age of 3 which I’ll never let go of, though some got truly weird with the acculturation, like how I react to “shame.”)

That experience this weekend was the “clicking in” of something that’s been bothering me for a long time.  In our writers’ group I used to run across people who projected modern AMERICAN female back into the time of pharaohs.  One of my best friends refused to believe me when I told her there was zero chance of an alien race having the same university system as the US since even Portugal (avowedly human) doesn’t.  There were other things. You guys have heard me rant about several “historical” books that make the past exactly like the future only with different tech.  The fact that they don’t understand that tech affects not just how people live but how they think, feel and react is another of those things I don’t get, as I think even within living memory we should be able to see how different things have gotten.  See for instance not wearing of aprons, because the clothes are cheap enough and abundant enough that ruining a shirt is not a big deal, unless it’s a very good shirt.

Then there is the foreign thing.  No, seriously. I was utterly stunned when in Friends there was a reference to a Portuguese couple as “Swingers.”  Sure, I’m sure there are Portuguese swingers. There were in the seventies.  And sure, it’s possible to find a couple of them in the US, but that reference was the culmination of a lot of references to the Portuguese are free-flowing, open-minded (in a sexual way) people, and it made my jaw drop.  Portuguese are the product of Moorish and British (in the North) cultural influences. They tend to be repressed around sexual stuff, and even if they do it, don’t talk about it in public.  Then at a conference someone said something about one of my stories betraying the “guilt free” (to sex) attitude of Latin culture.

Not all Latin cultures are the same.  Even Romans, the original Latin culture, were somewhat repressed, for their time, it was the things that they were repressed about that were unimaginably weird.  So, you know, hanging a mural of animal-child copulation in the living room? Cute.  Having sex with your wife midday? Shocking.  Eh.

I think people project Brazilian (because of the language) and maybe French onto Portuguese, but seriously, it’s not the same.  There’s more difference than between American and British (for various reasons too long to go into.)

So I’m used to running into this in the US, but this last trip to Portugal was a LONG and frustrating chain of running into this from the Portuguese side.  I’d already had minor run ins with it in the past — the Portuguese refuse to accept that “My God” jeans isn’t a big brand in the US, for instance. — but this time it was all sorts of things and at all levels, probably reflecting the fact that I’ve been here 34 years and therefore even their minor assumptions rub me wrong.

Assumptions? Oh, sure. There are markers of class. And ideas about what brands are “good” and how you should never ever use or wear the others (and a complete lack of understanding some of those brands don’t exist in the US) and and and and…  It had me rolling my eyes and talking about cultural provincialism.

But until this weekend I didn’t realize how prevalent and universal it is, since the clash took place between two people from native anglophone cultures, both of which are denizens of the net and contact people of other countries, regularly.  Okay, one of them didn’t know she was dealing with a foreigner (except maybe Canadian and those, sorry Chris, aren’t real foreigners. Oh, they are, but… Canada is America’s hat. So, closer.)

This weekend I realized people don’t really believe in foreign countries either. They’re willing to accept that some things (and those usually conform to their mental picture of the generic “culture” or “region”) are different, but that the fundamentals and the cherished unexamined assumptions might be different is unthinkable — literally.  And if we can think of them, we still assume the other country is somehow “wrong” or worse “pretending” to be different to be contrary.

This means, ultimately, that even an era of instant all over the world communication, human tribalism still wins.  And with it, I suppose, nationalism.

There might be a limit to the area a “culture” can occupy, and arguably the US is straining that.  I mean, for those of you who haven’t moved across the country (several times) the culture can be really, really different here too.  Which means we’re even more of a puzzle to foreigners than your average country.  (Confusion to our enemies is good, but I think we also confuse our allies.)

There are other implications: since it’s virtually impossible to avoid faster communication and more widespread travel in the future, this is going to make the next couple/three centuries a series of epic clashes, until either some sort of understanding emerges or polarized cultures can immigrate to the stars and far far away from each other.

Mass immigration is a REALLY bad idea (‘mkay) not that this is a surprise to any of you.  People inhabiting enclaves of “their kind” are slow to acculturate (three generations, if it happens at all.)  And the number of people coming over the Southern border is like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. And trust me, in terms of functionality, you do NOT want to import any culture descended from 17th century Spain. There is a reason that the American countries South of us are in crisis on a more or less permanent basis, and that Brazil, screwed up though it is, is more functional than the others.  No, just no.

This is a huge issue, as friends were talking, not really seriously, about the fact that the only way for Mexico to be functional is for Mexico to be occupied by a functional country.

This type of scenario was often posited, even by Heinlein, in which the US had taken over most of the world and made it into cultural copies of the US. Or alternately the other countries had adopted American culture, because it was more functional.

Let me just say that is one more proof of “people don’t really believe in foreigners.”

Sure, a lot of American culture is triumphant and imitated.  Only it’s more “spoofed” because what they imitate is what they see in movies, and proving that humans prefer narrative to lack there of, even when it makes no sense, the bad parts are often picked up first.  And they’re often bad parts only seen in movies, btw. Like certain underclass behaviors being seen as glamorous.

But it’s an overlay. At a deep down level, these people dressing in jeans and t-shirts are still foreign and — THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT — don’t believe Americans software-in-the-head is different, which leads to cargo-cultish attempts to import American successes without getting what brings them about, from innovation, to social mobility to freedom of speech.  Not really, not at a deep level.

Remember that I, as in love with America as I was, still took a good ten years to understand what was under the things I loved and wanted to imitate.  And it was painful and a little like going insane.

Most of all this means that barring a major cataclysm that only leaves the US alive, the dream of a future world-like-America is nonsense. Even if some of our greatest writers believed in it.  So is a world-like-Europe.  Or a world like much of anything.

This means the left’s project of “fighting nationalism” is not just doomed, but it’s stupid as eating rocks, and will cause only unending misery suffering and war.  (So, SOP for Marxists.  In fact, chalk this whole internationalism bullshit as something else Marx was wrong about. workers of the world unite, my little sore feet.)

It’s time to stop dreaming the impossible dream, and to accept humanity as it is, broken monkey brains and all.  It is time to create the future that can be created and stop sacrificing people and cultures to the kumbaya hand-holding no-nations future that can never be.

It’s time to start rebuilding.

 

 

311 responses to “There Is No Time Or Distance

  1. William H. Stoddard

    How did “make everybody be like us” work when the Romans were doing it? I mean, okay, St. Paul could say Civis romanus sum, but did it mean to him what it meant to someone from Rome? How do the Gospels and Acts read if you think of them about a clash of cultures?

    • It didn’t. I mean to a great extent they made it work (sort of) by being UNIMAGINABLY BRUTAL to a level we can’t imagine.
      BUT in the end it didn’t. All you have to do is visit the countries that come from Rome and see how similar and yet how bizarrely different they are from each other.
      And by visit I mean “live for a while, with locals.” Trust me on this.
      The picture we have is fuzzed by time AND distance. I bet it was more different on the ground.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        So, you are saying we should /not/ do our best to imitate that level of brutality?

        Isn’t that kind of racist? 🙂

        • It depends on how much we want those square pegs t fit into the round holes, and the price we will accept for forcing it. It isn’t racist, it is merely shape-ist.

        • Of course it’s not racist. If we DID do it, it would be cultural appropriation!

          So there! 🙂

        • No. I’m saying we WOULDN’T engage in that level of brutality. Period.

          • WE certainly wouldn’t, but if we don’t get a handle on the mass migration problem those who come after the fall of our Republic most certainly will.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            But, but, but, all the video games desensitizing us to violence and making us murder. Totes more effective at that than the circus, for sure. 😀

            *wanders off singing Caedete Eos…*

          • What’s really scary is the small number of people who actually are aware what exactly the level of brutality you’re referring to entailed. Crucifying enough revolting slaves to line a significant road is just one example of many. Early Christians became martyrs in the Roman Empire in a variety of ways — all of which would be forbidden today as “cruel and unusual” methods of punishments. Now, I would hope that this group would know more about the history, but by no means is this particular group of Odds who hangs out here typical in my view,

            • We’re familiar with the history.

              We’re also familiar with the concept of “regression to mean”.

              The pun is appropriate, if bitter.

      • Few Americans (and those mostly Evangelical Christians who deeply study the Bible — thus largely ignored by the intelligentsia) really grasp the meaning of being a Roman CITIZEN. Rome achieved its universality by establishing two distinct classes: Roman Citizens and subject peoples, the latter further sub-divided into those who accepted their lot (“knew their place”) and those who had to be eradicated (see: Diaspora).

        As this largely comported with most cultures’ natural structure, division into the rulers and the ruled, Rome succeeded largely by imposing itself on those it subjugated. The British employed a very similar system in compiling their empire. It remains to be seen whether the American republican system emphasizing self-rule within a loose structure will work — as we seem to be abandoning it in America my guess is that it will not.

        • Even more interesting is the interactions in those sub-classes. For example, recent research of mine indicates a freed slave, especially a woman (so much for patriarch), was of higher social status than an always free subject person.

          Was a great idea to differentiate “good” slavery and “bad” slavery in the Riders universe, but was a bit of a shock.

        • Evangelicals, at least some of them who seriously study the issue, are also most likely to understand differences of culture that impact trying to share the Gospel with people who *know* that God would never be humbled. While proudly modern people who don’t continue to insist that presenting as deferential or weak will lead some of those cultures to LIKE us.

          • N.T. Wright has spent a lot of time writing about the implications of Jesus in a Roman world, and what bits of Paul are all about life in a Roman world.

            There are also lots of things that will make you shake your head in disbelief, and look stuff up, and then make annoyed annotations about the bits that are dead wrong. But overall, his books are worth reading.

        • I have someone on my FB page ASSURING me Greeks and Romans were JUST like us.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            I saw that “person’s” posts. 😈

          • WTF?????

            Americans from 50 years ago weren’t “just like us”. Drop back 2,000 years? You really wouldn’t recognize what was going on for a year or more. If you survived that long.

            • Let’s be just. There are writers who will throw in something that’s completely off-the-wall because they say, “Not like us” means imagining the opposite and doing that.

              I have seen someone solemnly assuring people that Louis XIV was the Sun King because heliocentricism was the system. Whereas, of course, kings freely used all kinds of solar systems for millennia before that.

              • Amsel, Matthew

                Wasn’t it because he played Apollo?

                • That’s a manifestation, not a reason — after all, there was a reason he played Apollo.

                  But there were plenty of ancient monarchs using all sorts of solar imagery and claims. She simply assumed that the Sun gained all its importance from heliocentrism, and without it, the monarchs wouldn’t bother.

            • Crichton gets this point really well in ‘Timeline’. Even the seasoned historian characters struggle with the massive differences in worldview. Twain uses it as comedy in Connecticut Yankee.

          • Gee, I wonder how he* would know?

            I suppose it depends on how narrowly you define “JUST like us”? I mean, Americans like fast cars and Romans liked fast chariots, so merely a mechanical difference, right? And, of course, Greeks, Romans and Americans ALL liked invading other countries, stealing their property and enslaving them … but then, heck, Who Doesn’t?

            *she/xi/zhi/they/it – take your pick.

          • Well, they had the same number of chromosomes.

          • Rich Rostrom

            Looking at something in the distant past is like looking down a long hallway into a room. One can see around where one is, and the hallway, and part of the room. These are connected, and share attributes, which makes one overrate the apparent commonalities. IOW, “they were just like us.”
            What one doesn’t see is what else is in that room, forming part of the situation. Even when some of it is visible, one tends to look past it.

            My favorite example is in The Twelve Caesars of Suetonius. The political intrigue and sex gossip seem almost contemporary. But Suetonius includes long passages about the omens seen in each man’s childhood, which are dead serious. They weren’t like us.

            • How in the world could they think that the Romans were just like us? Maybe I didn’t read the article carefully enough but: Another word for this is: IDIOT!

          • I’m pretty sure the Romans and the Greeks would have been very angry to hear that, and killed the person for such a deadly insult. Also, that idiot implies that modern day Western folks like himself are perfectly okay with slavery in various forms, conquest expansionism, and more things that would be considered uncivilized in this day and age.

            The Housemate was making coffee when I sputtered my indignation, gave him a very brief background of the original post and he interrupted with “Why the *bleeeeep* do Australians give so much of a shit of what happens over in America?” (I got his permission to quote him on that when I laughed.)

            • When Trump was elected and me-too protests of “Not My President” were reported from Australia, I thought. “Oblivously.”

            • “ Also, that idiot implies that modern day Western folks like himself are perfectly okay with slavery in various forms”

              You remember all the Star Wars fans turning against the Old Republic and their Jedi enforcers when they found out in the Clone Wars that slavery was legal there? Well, a majority? A large minority? No. A small percentage thought enough of it to care. Because it isn’t useful as a political cuddle against your hated internal rival. Anyone remember in school the vilification of Lincoln for introducing mass govt enslavement by draft? Hatred of Islamic countries where slavery is still practiced? Me either. Unfortunately most Americans are okay with it, as long as it is the right people involved.

              Contrast that with if a prequel to ET showed that the aliens farmed and ate babies or some such other Real issue that people aren’t OK with.

            • “Why the *bleeeeep* do Australians give so much of a shit of what happens over in America?”

              I think it’s the “I can talk to you, so you’re really here” effect.

              You can see an age version of this in surveys of grandparents vs parents or kids on experience or knowledge — “(demographic) only knows 25% of what (younger demographic) does!”
              For example, there was one about “Boomer dads” vs “Millennial dads” that discovered people who are 30 years older are more likely to be experienced in home repair and have a variety of fairly basic tools related to home upkeep. Be kinda pathetic if they were less skilled, wouldn’t it?

            • that idiot implies that modern day Western folks like himself are perfectly okay with slavery in various forms, conquest expansionism, and more things that would be considered uncivilized in this day and age.

              Are not most Proglodytes advocating for that, just dressing it up in prettier semantic clothing?

              Is not economic Socialism simply a politically correct dressing on slavery?

              One can hardly read about events on contemporary college campus or on Youtube or other social media without being confronted by Leftist demands fr suppression, up to and including by physical assault, of dissonant views — what s that if it is not conquest expansionism?

              Heck, they’ve even revived child sacrifice in too many forms to start discussing.

              That those and many other things are considered so uncivilized is the reason they want to tear down Western Civilization and rebuild it in their own grotesque image.

            • “Why the *bleeeeep* do Australians give so much of a shit of what happens over in America?”

              Seeing as you’re okay with “shit”, I shudder to think what you feel is necessary to bleep out…

            • Tell him it probably has something to do with how long he’ll have to learn Mandarin after the next Democrat or NeverTrumper Republican decides that those security guarantees are interfering with their profitable China bribes.

      • And “live for a while” doesn’t mean a 2 week vacation there either. 6 months or more. England in the late 70’s, early 80’s, what struck me was how dark and cold everyone kept their homes and apartments. Rural South Korea early 1980’s, how many people live in a one or two room farm hut??? Belgium, late 80’s, almost as cold and dark as the U.K. was, and liked Americans even less. Okinawa, mid 90s, most of the people I ran into were tolerant, pragmatic, and solid, much like their modern construction of concrete and steel. I’m sure there’s some kind of PhD thesis waiting for a comparison of architectural styles and cultural psychology of nations.

        • And – relevant to the conversation – if you go back now to Britain or S Korea you’ll see that houses are brighter/warmer/less chock full of people because both the UK and Korea have become enormously richer in the last 4 decades. Inhabitants of neither country wanted to be cold, dark and crowded together, they just couldn’t afford to do better. Now they can.

          Heck Japan in 20 years has changed a lot even though some things haven’t (can of coke from a vending machine is still 110 yen just as it was in 1993). 20 years ago public baths (sento) were still pretty common in Tokyo because many apartments didn’t have a bath. Now they were, at that time dying, because new apartments did and more and more were being built, but I can say that they are now almost disappeared. To an extent this is sad because sentos were a community gathering place and each had their own character and so on. But on the other hand the convenience of not needing to go out of the home for a bath massively outweighs the community aspect

      • See Carthage: The way that chunk of North Africa was Romanized was to kill everyone that wasn’t sold off in distant lands as slaves, knock over every stone and burn anything flammable, and then a decade or so later plant a Roman colony in the wreckage populated with Romans.

        • Oops! Did not mean to step on your comment with mine at 6:32.

          While I’ve no doubt that “Great minds think alike” I also have reason aplenty to know that thinking alike is not a sure indicator of great minds.

        • Hard not to think of Carthagio when you are thinking Delenda Est.

          Notably, and crosswise somewhat to the context of the Roman Imperium, it was actually the Roman Republic doing that particular bit of Carthagio Delenda-ing.

      • Most people in the the Eastern Roman Empire (later Byzantine Empire after the Western Empire’s fall) considered themselves (ad the Empire) to be Greek not Roman, and culturally [b]were[/b] more Greek than Roman. Especially in an age where communication could be very slow, a vast Empire like Romes simply could not have had a monolithic culture, even if there were certain “Roman” ideals that were promoted.,

        • They considered themselves to be Greek, certainly, but they considered the empire to be Roman. Anybody referring to themselves as Byzantine was telling you what city they came from, not about their citizenship. There was no Byzantine empire.

    • David Smith

      Pretty sure that one of the reasons that Rome, as an empire, lasted as long as it did was that they/it didn’t try to “make everybody be like us” all that much. Behave, pay taxes, ship olive oil/silver/wheat/slaves/whatever to Rome as ordered was about all that was called for.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Why go looking at the Romans when we have a different model, more recent, that may have actually worked for /us/?

      Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    • Monsyne Dragon

      The Roman SOP for integrating conquered territories went something like: 1) Forcibly conquer two very different territories A & B, often on opposite sides of the Empire. 2) Draft a bunch of conquered people in territory A to help colonize territory B, and vice versa. Since the drafted folks were foreigners themselves, they had to fall back on Roman language and methods to get by. The Romans also tended to break up and scatter groups that immigrated into the empire about the far corners. All of this was done with massive force and was horrendously brutal. And when they stopped scattering incoming groups, that’s when things started going all pear-shaped and the (western) empire collapsed. The Soviets also tried their hand at this population-swapping tactic as well. Involving precisely the sort of brutal bloodletting you might expect.

  2. If you sand the living room floor before the cat pees (preventive maintenance for the win!) it will help avoid staining, although it may require such a heavy level of sand that clay would be the better choice.

  3. I’ve seen the culture differences in the US. I was raised in Alaska (in the bush, basically) and in a rural part of Oregon. Just going from rural to urban gets you into a different culture, even if you haven’t moved very far. But then we lived in New England for several years, and the culture there is very different from the West Coast or Alaska (and I’m not talking about the left-wing parts of those areas). I like the culture here in Kentucky, for the most part — I think a lot of our family in the West must have emigrated from this region and took their culture with them.

    You may be fighting a losing battle, at least in the general population. It’s rare to read a book set in the past that isn’t doing what you described and transplanting modern American culture into different costumes and tech.

    • I can’t say for sure, but my guess would be that very nearly ALL books written in all languages and ages do the same thing. Oh, some of them may, by dint of much hard work, keep the level down to background noise, but probably not many. Certainly the Victorians overwrote History in their novels; BEN HUR, PUCK OF POOK’S HILL, IVANHOE….

      • One of the aspects of Ellis’s Brother Cadfael mysteries that I found delightful was the way in which people’s motives were expressed in ways appropriate to the era. Because while the human desire for admiration remains unwavering, the ways in which we pursue it vary as readily as the weather.

        Thus the solution in one novel relies upon understanding a character’s zealotry to protect his honor, a motivation for which modern readers possess only an intellectual feeling. Once it is laid out we can see its operation but as it is playing we are blind to its impetus.

        It is in many ways a marvel that modern readers appreciate Jane Austen, for modern reasons for marriage (affection) are so wholly different from the reasons motivating wedding in Austen’s era. It may merely be that the circumstances have inverted in the interval between publication and now, so that where spousal affection was a nice, if secondary, consideration for marriage in the time of publication, so now breeding & income are secondary to the choice.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          There was a story that I heard years ago about a young woman talking about a young man she was interested in to her Jewish mother.

          Basically, the mother was talking about of all of the minus of the young man until her daughter said the “magic words”.

          The words being “He’s a doctor”. 😀

          Apparently to the Jewish mother being Educated (ie a Doctor) and possibly well-to-do made him a good candidate for her daughter’s husband. 😉

          • Education is easily portable and cannot be taken by the authorities when you need to pick up and flee to another country.

            Of course, that story and the preference indicated, probably pre-date modern licensing regulations.

            • Well, portable to a certain extent: A coworker of mine in SV was an in-residency-almost-MD in Iran before being required to flee the revolution when the Imams took over, but the bars she would have to hurdle and years of school she would have to repeat to get an MD here caused her to choose a faster route to employment and get an EE instead.

              • Yep. See my closing remark about licensure.

                Of course, that was easier when being a physician was mostly just knowledge of anatomy and symptoms of disease — now that MRIs, deciphering of blood chemistry and a million or so prescription drugs with al their side effects and interactions are part of doctoring there is greater reason for regulating the practice.

                • Talk to MDs nowadays, or even RNs, and they will attest that most of what they do is manage vast tracts of administrivia.

                  I am ot sure why you need to memorize all those internal body bits, demonstrate how you behave on a year of no sleep via the intern hazing experience, and then further demonstrate how you handle a period of indentured servitude during a residency, in order to effectively manage unending electronic filings and appeals filings with insurance companies and the CMS.

                  • I once asked a hospital administrator who mentioned that he spent most of his time writing reports whether anyone ever read them. He promptly replied “The lawyers, if something goes wrong.”

                  • My doctor (instructor MD at the Rural Practice school sponsored by the state med school) is now starting a “scribe” program. The idea is to get him off the damned keyboard, and *with my permission*, a scribe listens in, transcribes the discussion, and handles the scut work like ordering tests and transmitting prescriptions. (Thus, sidestepping HIPAA beartraps.)

                    Today was Day 0–pretty much an alpha test of the system. Assuming the scribes have functioning brain cells and a bit of medical background, it could work really well. Withholding judgement because alpha test, but I see the potential.

                    • Robert was a scribe before he entered medschool. Scribe in ER. They paid these kids minimum wage for highly skilled work. BUT it was a good way of making sure you actually COULD stand the work.

                    • For awhile our doctor did the same into a tape recorder. You signed as part of going to that clinic. I think a Dragon type software was used with a scribe checking, then the doctor signed it electronically. NOW, all the exam rooms have locked medical terminals and he types in his notes in front of you, and prints them as part of your visit. Nurses do the same as they are taking your vitals at the start of the visit. They also have tablets connected to the system.

                      Specialists I’ve been to for Sleep Apnea did the same. Might be part of the Peacehealth medical system locally (???).

                    • What d describes is how my doctor (and several others, modulo the ophthalmologic surgeons’ practice–senior was 80ish, and daughter in late 50s) handled it. The difference now is a) the doctor has to verbalize what he sees, and b) somebody with authorization to act in his name can do the drug/test orders. (They both have terminals, with a shared screen setup, so the scribe can be elsewhere. I have very little body modesty, but The World Isn’t Ready to see me mid-exam, at times.)

                      The best approach with the terminal was with a younger retina surgeon. He did everything with me, then after I left, he’d type up his notes, and I’d get a hard copy in a few minutes. OTOH, the first session was the most detailed, with subsequent ones featuring a lot of cut and paste.

              • Education truly is portable, certifications of training not so much. One is pure knowledge, the other administrative protections of existing professional bodies, in effect unions whether they call themselves that or not.

              • Further notes on portability. A dozen years ago, the rural clinic I went to was staffed by an MD, board certified as OB-Gyn. She could *not* get practicing privileges at the sole hospital in the county, largely because the local Doctor’s Club had a No Admittance sign.

                I have no idea as to how good she was at her specialty, but she was great with sutures. She stitched up my face when I did something frightfully stupid with a stick and chainsaw. Some really nice work; the Heidelberg scar hardly shows.

                I don’t know what kind of barriers exist where there’s a lot of opportunities, but this wasn’t the only case of an doctoral freezeout I’ve seen.

        • Re: Austen, it probably helps that her most famous heroine insists on only marrying for the deepest love, although the love Elizabeth develops for Mr. Darcy I would argue has so little to do with modern RomCom love (arguably she realizes her affection when she concludes she has lost his good opinion due to her sister) that the words should be different.

          Also, two of the three marriages in P&P are love based. The lust based one also makes sense to modern Americans. The fact the love based ones are good in the time and the lust one is not and that the strongest love grows over time and due to good character is also missed.

          Doesn’t stop me from making it my entry in “greatest novel in English” discussions.

          • William H. Stoddard

            There are four marriages in P&P: The three Bennett sisters, and Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte who marries the creepy minister.

            In fact it’s quite an elegant symmetry. You have two marriages primarily based on emotion, one good and one bad, and two marriages primarily based on reasoned judgment, one good and one bad.

            • I had not thought about Charlotte, that is true.

              I will say I think saying Darcy and Lizzy is based primarily on reasoned judgment is a bit much, unless you consider Lizzy as rejecting her earlier statement about only the deepest love enticing her to marry.

              Also, I don’t consider Charlotte’s marriage bad. I suspect it was closer to typical than anything else. It resembles more than a few couples I know and the people in them seem reasonably happy.

              • It’s hard for me to know what to think about Charlotte’s marriage. I generally suspect that we’re not supposed to approve of it, mostly because Elizabeth disapproves so strongly (even if Lizzy’s judgement is admittedly not infallible). It may not be so simple as approve/disapprove, however: even the characters struggle with the questions of what does and doesn’t make for an appropriate marriage (“what’s the difference between being mercenary and being prudent?”). And while Charlotte’s motives were definitely on the mercenary side, she did seem to make Mr. Collins happy. It may be that her choice was neither good nor bad, particularly, but just one of those compromises that have to be made.

                • Mr. Collins was someone without real dignity, which as heir, meant that he made the Bennetts look undignified.

                  But I think the real problem for Elizabeth was that Charlotte scooped up and married a guy who was (however unwanted) supposed to marry a Bennett, and specifically herself. This is a breach of the Girlish Friendship Code. It was a logical breach that helped Elizabeth, but that just made it harder for Elizabeth to accept.

                  I suspect that Elizabeth magically reconciled herself with Charlotte once she was happily married to Darcy, because it is easier to forgive Girlish Friendship breaches when one has the upper hand. And Elizabeth really really prefers having the upper hand. She’s a nice chick, but she is controlling – like a lot of Austen females.

                • I am confident that, from Charlotte’s perspective, the issue of “Love” for Mr. Collins made as much sense as the question of “Faith” made to Mr. Collins when considering the question of taking a living in the Church.

                  Besides, “Love” can be such an ephemeral, disruptive emotion. What sensible young woman would give it a thought when considering matrimony?

                  Heh. I rather fancy the idea of telling the story from Charlotte’s side, perhaps as a seriea of letters to a friend:

                  “Do you recall those Bennett girls? Such scandalous doings by them, the poor things. Rather than selecting a sensible, comfortable man with whom to make a home they’ve each gone all a flutter, insisting on someone she can ‘Love.’ It has worked out disastrously, of course. It has been all the talk of the county; I am told that even some of the shopkeepers and tenants gossip about them.”

                  [Foundling idea, free to any pen-waver wanting to adopt.]

                  • There’s actually several novels out there about Charlotte and her marriage. They run the gamut you might expect, from “Mr. Collins is a monster” to wild affairs (I ignore those, that’s wildly out of character for the practical Charlotte.)

                    I did read one I quite liked that acknowledged that Mr. Collins had no dignity, and was rather weak willed–but not, when one got down to the nuts and bolts of it, a *bad* man. Or a cruel one. Merely…anxious, and desperate to please and gain a solid place in society that he didn’t have to worry about (with the usual trope of a rather abusive, impossible to please parent). The plot followed Charlotte’s path from tolerating the man she married (but not much liking him otherwise) to beginning to see his good qualities to stepping up to the plate as an actual wife and helpmeet and *encouraging* the good qualities and also to grow a spine. There was a bit of a sideplot where she was tempted by the charming Colonel Fitzwilliam–with whom she formed a close friendship–but ultimately choosing to hold true to her beliefs as a moral, Christian woman who is married. And that, since she had made her choice with her eyes wide open, it was hardly honorable to whine about it afterwards. (There was also a bit of romance novel drama that Jane Austen probably would have sneered a bit at, but nothing too untoward. And she probably wouldn’t have sneered at the conveniently-timed head wound, since she used that herself, albeit with a side character.)

                    As for Mr. Collins, it turned out that having someone who actually HAD his back, who would support him through thick and thin and not drop him like a hot rock the minute he annoyed them made a big difference to his behavior. Overall, it ended up quite rehabilitating Mr. Collins in my eyes–and stayed within reasonable bounds as to how Miss Austen wrote him.

              • It does not hurt that Darcy has a sizable secure income. Such a circumstance buys a bit more leeway for love. Not that Elizabeth married him for it, but without it he would not have been the man he was … and doubtless part how he became the man he was the eagerness of mothers to wed their daughters to him.


                “He has offered you the one thing he has of value to give you: his income.”

              • William H. Stoddard

                Well, what I have in mind is that (a) Lizzie is a very rational, intellectual woman who thinks through what she is doing, but who also takes her emotions into account, whereas (b) Charlotte makes a prudent, rational decision at the expense of her feelings, and (c) Jane is a woman guided more by her feelings than by her intellect, but is still capable of thinking things through, whereas (d) Lydia trusts her feelings and does NOT have reasoned prudence to balance them. So I take the ethical lesson to be that either reason or passion can lead you to a less satisfactory outcome without being balanced by the other. If you’re yang you need some yin; if you’re yin you need some yang.

                Admittedly, Charlotte’s marriage is probably the best bargain she could make, and at least she believed it was and was determined to make the best of it. But I don’t think the reader is mind to think it happy.

                • I think Charlotte was also an argument for the idea that we can choose to be happy or not–and that’s even if our outward circumstances seem awful or at least not great to others.

                  Charlotte, I think, was content, and probably even happy once things settled into a routine. She had a household to manage, and a husband that she could also manage. She had, through her marriage, excellent prospects in the future inheritance of Longbourn, and she was no longer a burden on her parents. And, however silly Collins was, he was not venal or cruel. Just…silly, and rather weak willed, and easily led.

                  Which, for a woman of Charlotte’s intelligence, was actually pretty ideal. I don’t think she herself was a cruel woman (though that situation would be ripe for her to become an abuser herself), and provided she also could manage Lady Catherine (I expect she could, easily, while convincing Lady Catherine that Charlotte was her sycophant) she had a good social standing, quite a lot of independence, and a decent income to work with. The cons of that deal…not really all that bad.

                  It’s easy to be as horrified as Lizzy about it all–but that’s because we always see Mr. Collins through Lizzy’s eyes, and she has nothing but contempt for him, to the point that she fails to see any good qualities that are present.

            • You are overlooking the marriage between Mr. & Mrs. Bennett.

              • I wonder if that, gender reversed, which is what we are to imagine for Charlotte’s future.

                • You are right — there is a lot of symmetry in that construction, and Collins is the heir; so I suspect that was part of Austen’s point.

                  The main difference is that Charlotte is a character who bides her time, and Mr. Bennett does not.

      • Sure. And some is acceptable. But when you use the past to preach currently fashionable causes….

        • One of the nice things in sword & planet is the protagonist is usually a modern person transported into a strange realm. It allows such attitudes in a completely natural way.

          • Of course, it is only fair for the locals to notice the newbie as being strange, and to pose him uncomfortable questions, instead of showing him as always right, wise, etc. Similarly, the new culture should not always be right, either.

      • Well, they’re going to do it to some extent, sure. Because it would be like becoming fluent in a language, only even more so, to try to steep yourself in another culture so deeply that you actually got it ALL right, but most of the major stuff and a lot of the unusual quirks can be brought in fairly easily.

  4. J. M. Anjewierden

    It really is quite hard to show/explain these differences.

    I was only in Mexico for two years, but I was with the locals all that time, to the point I only saw other Americans once a week, and still spoke Spanish even then.

    (When I got home my English was accented like someone from Aguas Calientes for about six months)

    Anyway, there are things about Mexican culture I can still (mostly) intuitively understand, but not really explain to anyone in a way that is satisfactory to me.

    (Like the logic behind living in a corrugated tin roof house with a dirt floor, but owning a 60 inch big screen and a truck FAR nicer than anything I’ve ever owned. Or the housing blocks consisting of a 5’x15′ building and room to build in front and behind, on a lot that is about 100’x15′.)

    • Might have to do with dodgy property rights. You OWN the TV and the truck. The house and land it sits on are a little less sure unless you’re very well off. Interesting observations.

      • I recall reading of studies showing that, mostly in regard to African-American families living in rental or government-provided housing. Of course, your house is only seen by people you’ve invited over, but your CAR is what many people will first see of you.

      • A very large part of Mexico there is one landowner in a large tract, and everyone living on it has 99 year leases- anything longer convey’s ownership of the land. There’s some parts of the southwest in the USA with similar systems. And I understand it’s a pretty common practice in Great Britain.

        One of the things holding back development in much of South America is- no property rights. If it’s not walled in, you don’t own it. And I believe our hostess has mentioned in the past that the idea of leaving stiff outside and actually expecting it to still be there the next day appears to be a phenomenon unique to the United States.

        • Come to think of it, long term land leases exist elsewhere in the U.S. My in-laws paid “ground rent” on their rowhouse in Baltimore City. https://livebaltimore.com/city-living-essentials/ground-rent/

          • Hewlett-Packard’s plant space in Palo Alto (along with several other companies, especially along Page Mill Road) was on a 99 year lease from Stanford.

        • Amsel, Matthew

          When apartment hunting, we used “kids bikes and such left on the lawn” as an indicator of a relatively good neighbourhood.

          • When neighborhood shopping, I used “number of cars in driveway with hoods up” as a negative point. The neighborhood with the old V8 sitting in the gutter got an immediate pass.

            OTOH, that was 40 years ago. Now, I couldn’t dream of affording a house there. No idea about the V8, though.

          • For apartments, mine was always “two thirds of the parking spaces are empty at 10:00 am, and no one is wandering around.”

  5. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Is this saying that I’m right? Because even if I’ve diagnosed something correctly, does not mean that the medicines I’ve come up with are correct. XD

    And, well,… I was born in America, to American parents, and somehow managed to imprint on an oddly idealized imitation of American culture that did not really come from anyone I was around in person.

  6. Roger Ritter

    Back in the early ’80s, there was a book published called “The Nine Nations of North America” by Joel Garreau that delineated nine cultural regions in North America, from MexAmerica in the Southwest to the Empty Quarter in the middle West and far North. It made a very good case for the different cultures and in a lot of ways is still quite valid. It’s a good read and if you can find a copy I recommend it.

    • William H. Stoddard

      I like Fischer’s Albion’s Seed for that, as it gives more historical depth, at least by American standards where “two hundred years is a long time.” It has a lot of the kind of detail a historical novelist might like.

      • Both widely available for under $10.
        http://www.bookfinder4u.com/

        Also, which one of you is going to build me some new bookshelves? 🙂

        • Back in the day when owner/operator book stores were common, one local shop had a “Good Customer” program whereby each book purchased earned a punch in a card, with ten punches earning a free book of the punched one’s choice. I tried for years to persuade them to permit putting off use of the punch cards, allowing customers to turn in ten completed cards for a free bookcase.

        • You’d have to supply the raw materials and then come get it.

          Which makes buying one from IKEA more financially sound.
          (If you’ve got basic tools, you can easily and cheaply make bookcases. But unless you enjoy doing so, want the experience, or insist on everything matching, you can generally find them even cheaper at thrift stores. The demand has decreased, but the supply has accumulated over many decades.)

      • But settlement patterns also mean that there is a lot of variation in a small space. Lots of ethnic groups. Lots of religious denominations.

        Around Dayton, there were Remnant Shawnees who never left, a lot of Scots-Irish, a lot of Germans, a lot of New Englanders, a lot of Virginians. And Irish. And Shakers. And Scottish socialists (some of whom later became Shakers, btw). And so on.

  7. This is why Skynet WILL win eventually. I can’t wait until the nukes start dropping, myself. Nothing like a little “lots of death and carnage” to wake people up…

    • Alternately, how many “nationalities” of AI will pop up effectively simultaneously? Skynet can smile all it wants, but BubbaNet is online now too, and look, here’s CloudNetEh? from Canada…

  8. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    LOL 😆

    Elsewhere, one author talks about “the past is a different country” and would be quick to tell somebody that another country is different. 😉

    I think there are two problems here IMO.

    First, most Americans “know” only their region of the US let alone “know” about other countries at the grass-roots level.

    Second, the vast majority of “world-traveling Americans” only visit the tourist areas or other areas of the world used to “dealing with” Americans. Thus, they don’t see the “real” country, just the parts that most visitors see.

    Thus, they never get it into their minds that people are different there. Since they don’t get into their minds that different countries are different from “their America”, they find it difficult to realize that “the past is a different country” means that people in the past will be different than “their America”.

    Now, if you asked me how people in country A are different than “my America”, I’d likely not really know but I’ve read enough to know that they will be different.

    On topic, a few years back I (and others) were talking with a man (IIRC our age) from Africa (I think from Somalia).

    One of the things that the others didn’t “get” was his talk about “tribes” in his home country.

    IE The idea that to him “what tribe” was more important than “what country”.

    Of course, to Americans (and I suspect many Europeans) “tribes” aren’t important to our identity. While I didn’t really understand that idea, I knew that in other places “tribe” is more important than “nation”.

    • Not so very long ago America was more concerned about “tribe” than “nation.” That is why Robert E. Lee, for instance, felt his first loyalty was to Virginia even though he owed his higher education and career to the United States.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Well, in Robert E. Lee’s time, your “nation” was more likely to be your home state than the United States.

        • And yet Lee’s education at West Point and career in the Army were entirely artifacts of the United States, not of Virginia (which had its own university of the Military Arts.) As an officer he swore oaths to the government and Constitution of the United States, oaths which likely had no Virginia counterpart.

          Nonetheless, he was a Virginian, not an American.

          • I would venture to say that he was both until the time came when the two became irreconcilably incompatible. At that point he was obligated to choose between the two.

          • I would guess he viewed it asdone in service of Virginia.

          • That’s because when he was going to West Point, there were two related phenomena working against that:

            1. “United States” was commonly understood to be a voluntary Union of States, and each State was sovereign in its’ own internal affairs. The Federal government was largely external facing.

            2. Military forces were mostly made up of state regiments, e.g. 20th Maine, whose officers, even if West Pointers, were appointed by the state governors. Even when there was a substantial Regular Army, it drew a lot of the troops by federalizing those state raised regiments.

      • TheOtherSean

        And yet Virginia also produced Union generals like George Thomas and John Newton, and David Farragut was born in Tennesse, and spent much of hist adult life in the South.

        • Thomas’s is one of the saddest stories of the Civil War.
          He upholds his oath, is one of the most competent generals the Union has (actually winning one of the first Union victories of the war at Mill Springs, which secured Kentucky for the North), and what does he get in return for it?
          Perpetual distrust because he’s from Virginia, resentment from Grant and Sherman because Halleck put him in charge of the Army of the Tennessee when Halleck relieved Grant after Shiloh, perpetual sidelining, little to no recognition during or after the war, and none of his sisters, who were all secessionists ever spoke to him again.

          There’s a story that, after the Battle of Nashville, when they were burying the dead the man in charge asked him if he wanted them buried alongside each other or divided by state of origin. Thomas’s reply was “Mix ’em up, mix ’em up. I’m tired of states’ rights.” I think his tone was one of weariness.

      • I know someone who to this day says he’s a Kansan, not an American.

        I expect that’s not really such an unusual sentiment — that is, state/local identity trumps national identity; generally they happen to overlap well enough to blur the difference.

        Or for myself, I bristle up in defense of America, but I belong in Montana. Overlapping, but different.

        • I live in Texas. Lots o’ folks are Texans first, Americans second… especially as these days “American” seems to be relegated to what Washington DC, California, and Austin are trying to shove on good ol’ Texicans.

        • I’m from Arkansas. We have our own chief of state, our own legislature, our own laws, our own courts, our own Constitution, and our own army, navy, and air force.

          When we joined the United States we didn’t cease being a country, we just agreed to let the United States handle foreign affairs, various interactions between the states, a common monetary system, weights and measures, stuff like that.

          The schools I went to pushed “America” very hard, and nothing whatsoever about the states those schools were in. I guess that’s why most people don’t even realize their primary citizenship is their state.

        • There was a time when I could say much the same about being an Idahoan.
          But between illegal aliens, economic refugees from the Left Coast, disasterous federal policies, and a systematic effort by public education to destroy the distinct culture over several generations, the loyalty exists towards an institution that exists mainly in memories.

          I now live in Indiana, and their ways are not mine. I get along well enough, but there’s a difference between being a native and a transplant.

      • I’m not sure that the two things are parallel. Tribe is an immutable characteristic; state of residency isn’t. Unless the tribal system has a system of adoption, one cannot join it or convert to it or become “one of us” in a way that even pre-ACW Americans could. Unless you’re talking about the aristocratic traditions such as the FFV types. And even that allowed for some mobility and adoption of “outsiders”.

    • The same applies to other countries vs. America, though.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Don’t doubt it but I’m more familiar with American thought on the matter. 😉

    • Several years ago, I had two students in one of my intro classes…one was Yoruba tribe and one was Igbo (both students were from Nigeria). So, while the school and a number of others considered them “Nigerians” they TOLD me they were different tribes. They did not get along from the beginning. Each made a point of discussing atrocities carried out by the other tribe against their tribe. Tribe trumped nation by a long shot. It was eye-opening for all the other students (mostly freshmen) and me.

  9. Christopher M. Chupik

    “You guys have heard me rant about several “historical” books that make the past exactly like the future only with different tech. The fact that they don’t understand that tech affects not just how people live but how they think, feel and react is another of those things I don’t get, as I think even within living memory we should be able to see how different things have gotten.”

    I think part of that is fear. If you accurately depict a society of a different time and ethos you can get accused of (insert badthink buzzword of the week here).

    • Also people don’t want to read it.

      Though I did read a long online discussion by romance readers lamenting that a certain author made a wife’s big grievance against her husband be — he expected her to do her martial duty. It wasn’t as if she did not have a pile of grievances that someone in her era would consider legitimate.

    • Same thing happens in fantasy, where people can’t understand that magic will replace tech if it’s even half reliable…. and have the same sorts of impacts. However, magic can move into areas tech can’t really touch, especially religion; as I’ve said before, you will have no actual atheists as you do here, because the existence of god(s) will be obvious when you or someone you know has been in the presence of actual workings of divinity.

  10. “in terms of functionality, you do NOT want to import any culture descended from 17th century Spain. There is a reason that the American countries South of us are in crisis on a more or less permanent basis”

    Although descended from 17th century Spain, they also have a lot of native influences. Sure and invasion mixed with Mayan, Aztec, Incan, and other southern native cultures, with 17th century Spain, sounds like a good idea to me (to be clear, NOT). It is not the wealthy fleeing southren America countries, it is the underclass, otherwise known as peasants, who are more likely to have the mixed heritage. Just wait until a ms-13 gang member cites that carving out the beating heart of an enemy border agent is a protected cultural right.

    • Just wait until a ms-13 gang member cites that carving out the beating heart of an enemy border agent is a protected cultural right.

      Oh wouldn’t that be marvelous! Well, not for the person having their heart removed, but it would be good for the US to actually see how brutal MS-13 can be. Maybe SOME people would quit crying racist when people talk about how bad MS-13 is and realize, MS-13 isn’t a RACE, it’s a criminal organization.

      • And cultures have deep roots, and take far more than a few centuries to eradicate.

        • Pfui. Once they set their minds to it the Romans eradicated Carthaginian culture in hardly any time at all.

      • I expect it will be a “local level only” level of coverage from the MSM unless they can get mileage from “This is why he hates us” or being hard on him helps some idjit galoot running for, or in high office, to look tough.

      • Oh wouldn’t that be marvelous! Well, not for the person having their heart removed, but it would be good for the US to actually see how brutal MS-13 can be. Maybe SOME people would quit crying racist when people talk about how bad MS-13 is and realize, MS-13 isn’t a RACE, it’s a criminal organization.

        They’ll special argument it away.

        The information is already there; here’s an example:
        http://www.borderlandbeat.com/

        They translate news stories.

        About one in ten has pictures that are definitely not safe for work, and they’re just translating stuff.

        There’s already a standard practice of dumping dismembered body parts, sometimes in coolers, in tourist towns. (Just not in tourist areas.)

        • I do hope the day is coming when MS-13 and their ilk finally hit the point where the Americans finally decide they’ve had enough of that garbage. Probably won’t happen at a nationwide level, but I could see it happening at a state-level. (At least, I can hope it will.)

          Salt the earth for that bunch can’t come soon enough.

          • Amsel, Matthew

            I don’t think they’ve quite figured out that they can dance right up to the line, and you’ll more or less tolerate them.

            Cross it, and they go away. Forever.

            • Personally, I think beheading/dismembering people already well crossed the line, but I guess they haven’t done it *quite* enough in American cities yet. :/

              • Amsel, Matthew

                Pretty much. They think the response curve is linear, because theirs is. You guys have a step function response.

    • Agree, and although Sarah’s general point is valid, it’s clear that Spain had some success in modifying the culture of Mexico (the one former Spanish colony I’m relatively familiar with), some things abide, like the Day of the Dead even if in a modified form.

      • It’s my impression the Spanish colonial influences are more evident in the upper classes in Mexico City, and less so across the great Mexican peonage.

    • Ah, peasants!

      Thank you, I’ve been trying to find a way to explain a sub-culture in El Paso that just drives me batty– and the American lack of a gut-level expectation of that seems to fit. (I’ll have to fiddle with it a bit more.)

      Basically, though, there’s an obnoxious group that has themselves as royalty, and others as peasants; I can’t signal that I’m High Class, so I’m dirt. Folks that aren’t peasants don’t have to follow the rules, like showing up for classes, or paying dues, or…you get the idea. Got really “fun” with stuff like the kids’ shot records. (I know one of them got a series of shots. I saw the shot. We were billed for it. NEVER ENTERED HER MEDICAL RECORDS. Mom fury, GO! I probably would’ve dealt with the shady stuff, but that….)

      • Wait. Are in El Paso. I went to HS there forever ago. Mom only moved out in 2013, a year after dad died.

        • We were there two years, ending this spring– lived in the area that use to be horrifyingly bad and had nothing near it, once they got the wall up it cleaned up nicely. Now the city is threatening to gobble it up, since they keep getting denied possession of the base or airport.

          Had the city expanded out past where the train tracks cross Montana last time you were there? The Costco is a ways west of that, so I know in ’03 it had to be fairly close to the edge of town, like I couldn’t guess from all the dealerships, but I don’t really have a good mental map of that growth. It’s miles inside of town now, though, Joe Battle is more the edge of town now and it won’t be for much longer, they’re building housing complexes across from the WalMart (east side of where 375 crosses Montana) and in several of the lots further east.

          • I left on 1986 for the Navy. George Dieter didn’t reach all the way to Montana, just Pebble Hills. North of Montwood it still bordered on desert. There was no loop around the airport to the east. That high school on Montana near the loop didn’t exit. There was, however, a X rated drive in a few miles past there on the south side of Montana called The Fiesta.

            • It’s still there.

              …it’s a Pokemon gym and the neon lights are all on, so I guess it’s still open. Right next to a local chain church. It’s a little funny how those are the only things for a few blocks on either side.

              That explains the relatively empty area around GD and PH; some of the development pattern had me wondering. (Which is how I found out that most of the folks who’ve lived there for a long time don’t mentally have much of anything on the east side.)

            • Still there, and since it’s a Pokemon gym and the lights are usually on, it’s apparently still active. There’s light-but-definitely-there buildings all along the road.

              Did they do the recreate-a-war-zone thing on the 4th in the 80s? (indescribably awesome, though a little overwhelming)

      • Oh, and yes, know the subculture in question.

        • Oh, good, it isn’t my imagination! (Or worse, my personality.)

          • Nope. We have it in the Philippines too, notably when you get down to the lower economic strata. They are also quite fond of blaming their various problems on the rich/government/powers that be.

          • I think we have a local bigwig, ultra rich ranch trying to impose that here. They really, really want to turn where I live (nowhere, Wyoming) into a rich man’s playground. Well, it already is to a large extent, but they want to dictate where all the local highways go, and cut off the locals (ie, what they would like to be ‘the peasants’) from pretty much everything including public lands. (They do have quite a lot of federal lands locked in amongst theirs that they do not provide access to–but that isn’t actually unusual behavior, there.)

            They really, really hate that most of the locals aren’t interested in playing peasant, and they’re having to import huge numbers of menial workers because the locals won’t put up with their crap. (Sadly, a lot of those workers are also likely illegal, which means they are now stuck somewhere very isolated where their ’employer’ can get away with a whole lot of garbage.)

            But yeah. I heard yesterday they want to reroute a highway–cutting off one of the two major convenient routes (and the only one that is open year-round) from the town where I live to other parts of the state and forcing us to go way, way out of the way and use the interstate instead. So they can gobble up all that land.

            I laughed, heartily. For one thing, all that surrounding land is largely Forest Service, and those grumpy folks don’t like ANYONE using ANYTHING (especially roads, and ESPECIALLY building roads) on Forest Service lands. For another, even in the unlikely event they got the lunatics at the Forest Service to cooperate, the public would throw a huge fit.

            • “(They do have quite a lot of federal lands locked in amongst theirs that they do not provide access to–but that isn’t actually unusual behavior, there.)”

              No this isn’t unusual in the western states. Practically takes an act of state or federal congress to keep open old roads that cover “private” land as right of ways because of long time use. Safest method of forcing it are state and hunting groups. Last ditch would be the environmental groups who have their own reasons for wanting to keep people out, until they are locked out.

              It is interesting driving on freeways, where there will be a formal exit for a Ranch, with a “Private – No Trespassing” signs.

              • Yeah. And that…well, I can see both sides of the equation there (and I do work for the feds). Private landowners should NOT be forced to allow public access across their lands where it does not already exist. However, I do not have much patience for those twerps where public access (ie, established roads) DO exist and they put locked gates across it. That is not cool–because in those instances we’re not talking about a little bit of federal land in the midst of their lands, we’re talking about large chunks of prime public hunting areas that they’re trying to shut off for their exclusive use. (And in some cases, charging people who don’t know any better to ‘take them hunting’ on what is actually public land. REALLY not cool.)

                The usual method at my office is to cut the locks and wait for the screaming to start. It usually begins and ends with the screaming, then they put locks on it again the next year, and we cut them again. It’s an ongoing, low-grade scuffle, really 😀

                Honestly, though, some of the teeny specks of federal lands in the middle of huge tracts of private land? I think the govt should just offer it to the landowners at a fair price. But on the other hand, the landowners have no incentive–they already get use of the land, more or less exclusively, and most of the time the feds don’t even bother with those bits because they’re so impossible to get to. (I try not to think about some of the weed–noxious weeds, that is, not the smokeable kind–that infest those areas…oh, well, that’s not my bailiwick anymore anyway.)

                • I’ve heard rumors that chain/lock cutters are standard issue on federal land agent vehicles … To be sure a lot of roads locally are locked seasonally as it is; or suppose to be. See the problem with GPS and someone died because gates weren’t locked and shut when they were suppose to be … You are still allowed to walk in for whatever, including hunt, but you are suppose to be prevented from driving in after the snow starts flying, regardless of how little.

                  So, low level scuffle. What someone just makes the rounds occasionally to check roads that goes between private land? Or wait for someone to complain?

                  • It’s a bit of both. They don’t actively the roads, but if they happen to be in the area during field season and find a locked gate that oughtn’t be locked, they cut the lock. Or if someone calls and directly complains (and it’s not, y’know, winter or Mud Season) they will go out and check it and cut the lock.

                    We’re too understaffed/overworked to make regular rounds, nice as that would be.

                    • Up in Washington the forest service really likes chaining shut gates that aren’t theirs.

                      After about five years, dad stopped calling and just cut the chain and put one of his own locks on it. The guys who aren’t being dicks and actually contact the people who have a right-of-way will offer to put a lock on the chain before it even goes up. (Can’t share combos, too many folks will change them just to be a dick. And yeah, after noticing when fences mysteriously develop holes, there are DEFINITELY activist who are paid to be dicks.)

                    • Yeah, the Forest Service around here has, ahem, gotten into a fair amount of hot water for blocking off roads that are *supposed* to be open to the public. They didn’t like people using them and causing damage on the roads, and didn’t want to maintain them.

                      (Now, likely, there are additional points to the story that I don’t know–like budget cuts meaning they really *couldn’t* properly maintain them, etc. But the way they handled it was, to put it mildly, not particularly smart or diplomatic. My department, we just tell people “Yeah, we can’t afford to maintain that one, so if you want to go on, you’ll have to take your chances.”)

                    • ** “Yeah, we can’t afford to maintain that one, so if you want to go on, you’ll have to take your chances.” **

                      Pretty sure USFS shudders when that s/b the answer. Someone actually goes on the roads and gets themselves and others hurt or worse killed, guess who gets blamed. They’ve been deactivating roads they can’t maintain. Not disallowing access, just disallowing motorized access. The opposite generally occurs with public access roads cut off by private entities. Private entities, cuts off ANY access on the road.

  11. There is no ignorance so great as the illusion of knowledge. It particularly affects the highly educated, perhaps more now than ever.

    I have an impression of how, for example, Australians behave but I keep in mind, always, that I do not actually know. For all the Brit-coms I consume I keep in mind that a) I am ingesting those deemed suitable for export, b) many of the gags are funny to Brits in ways other than they are funny (‘Allo, ‘allo) to me, and c) I will never grasp the minutiae of classism in the ways that British viewers perceive without even thinking about it. And I recognize that much of this stems from 1) similarities in British and American culture and 2) the British proclivity for self-mockery.

    As much as I enjoy the Asterix comics I am aware that there is a great deal of their humour (for example, the interplay between the Gauls and the Romans representing different aspects of French identity) to which I am essentially colour blind: I grasp the general outline but miss most of the texture and nuance.

    Thinking you know a thing is its own type of ignorance.

    • We watch a lot of Anglosphere TV exports though of the mystery variety rather than sitcom. Sometimes it’s hard to sort out what is ahistorical virtue-signaling in shows like Inspector Morose and Endeavour, like a Make Brittain Greater campaign in 1968 England, as opposed to every other couple in those mysteries being a mixed-race one with no one batting an eye.

      • You noticed the couples too! Yeah.

      • Mysteries are a great forum for virtue signalling: the detective is easily presented as the embodiment of contemporary sensibilities.

        My household likes a great many of the Brysteries, too, but we gravitate to such as Ms Marple, Hercule Poirot, Mssrs Holmes & Watson, Lord Peter and Cracker.

      • Even Father Brown decided to have the obligatory lesbian couple as a major plot point. One starts to wonder just where kids came from in the 1950s TV.

        (FWIW, as best as I can recall, the Foyle’s War series tried to be true to the era. Not sure how well they succeeded, but at first pass, it seems to be OK.)

    • The latest one was the guy who interviewed Mr. Rose, the actor who played Admiral Ackbar. Mr. Rose was upset about his treatment and how his character was killed off, but was funny about it.

      Fans understood that Rose was upset. The reporter insisted that Rose clearly could not be upset, because he was making jokes and smiling.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        That boggles my mind. The angrier I am, the funnier I get while talking about it.

        • It makes perfect sense to me. Humour is a defense mechanism, distancing oneself from things that make one angry. Leftists — and almost all journalists are leftish — lack humour. They mock people and call that funny, but it is really just being cruel in a way that avoids being called on it.

  12. See for instance not wearing of aprons, because the clothes are cheap enough and abundant enough that ruining a shirt is not a big deal, unless it’s a very good shirt.

    In which case, what the #@!? were you thinking, doing your cooking in a good shirt?

    One of the things which marks me as a fogey is my refusal to recognize t-shirts as acceptable adult male public (not as in doing yardwork but as in doing shopping) wear. It doesn’t matter how clever a legend nor how gorgeous the design, men wear shirts with collars when engaging the public.

    • The collar thing. Yes.

      I’m a bit looser than you, but mostly in when in Rome ways. I wear tee shirts to concerts and I’ll wear one to the gym, as opposed to changing there, but a shirt with a collar should be the rule, not the exception.

      Oddly, my transition from tee shirts to collared shirts (mostly short sleeved sports shirts, not a polo fan) is George Will’s fault.

      • William H. Stoddard

        I wear t shirts for formal occasions and ceremonial reasons: Attendance at sf cons as a tribal badge. But for everyday wear I have shirts with buttons and collars. Mostly long sleeved, except the Hawaiian ones. I find buttoned shirts more comfortable.

      • You can take my Carhartt Tshirt from my cold, dead hands. We’re too rural to care much. OTOH, the fancy decorated shirts are long gone, though I still have fond memories of the Abacus World Expo shirts I got from the After Y2K people. (And a Tubes Rock shirt…)

        When working, I’d do a collared buttoned shirt, though pullovers of various classes (polo, rugby and some turtleneck shirts) were my goto. I’m retired long enough that I don’t have to care, and the buttoned shirts get worn every other year or so.

    • Cooking while naked in the kitchen can be a horrifyingly painful experience. Hot bacon grease splattering over your, treasures, will cure you of that really quickly. On the other hand, many hunter gatherer cultures stripped naked for butchering and skinning carcasses. Made cleanup easy, and didn’t foul your clothing.

      • Sounds like an “ER Horror Story” I read on a clickbait page:

        Male patient has either compound fracture or an impaled forearm, and reports pain level of “three.” The docs, who find looking at his injury a “five,” ask him carefully what “ten” is.

        “Well, I was cooking bacon naked this time…”

    • Since I got my CCW permit I rarely wear a t-shirt as outer wear.

      T-shirts used to be my go to casual wear as I liked the break from uniforms (Wether military or corporate) during the work week.

      As I got older with the accompanying body shape changes made them less attractive to me. The need for cover garments was the final nail.

    • Oh, gad, that politician who did a spontanious photo in a really nice blouse while wearing pearls and cooking …jerk chicken, I think?

    • Whereas I am just as glad when my husband wears a t-shirt because there is something about the texture of collars and buttons that bugs me. Not to the level that would qualify as Sensory Issues, just… bleah.

  13. Canada is America’s hat.

    Canada is saturated with American culture, so much so that they need “local content” laws to create an environment in which their citizens can become skilled at mimicking American culture for export, thus bringing home those American dollars.

    Estimates of the percentage pf Canadians who live within 100 miles of the US border range from 75% to 90%, although I suspect that doesn’t take into account the huge number of them taking vacation in Myrtle Beach.

    • And American pop culture is saturated with Canadians from Justin Bieber to William Shatner to Celine Dion.

    • Canada is still at least as different as any areas in America are from each other. Which can be considerable.

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      I like to think we give America a jaunty, rakish look.

    • From the founding document of the USA- The Articles of Confederation:
      Article XI.
      Canada acceding to this confederation, and joining in the measures of the united states, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this union: but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.

      I’ve never understood why there was a strong desire for independence in the 13 colonies- but not in Canada. Pretty much the same stock of people. Scots, Irish, English, in both places. More Dutch and Germans in the U.S., more French in Canada. And a significant portion of the Scots in the Atlantic provinces were kicked out of Scotland by the British. Why did they maintain loyalty to the Crown? The Revolution would have been shorter if Canada had joined in.

      • At a guess, I think the campaign which Benedict Arnold led to invade Quebec in 1775 put off many Canadians who might have been sympathetic to the cause of independence. Perhaps the British hand lay less heavily on the Canadian colonies, perhaps those colonies had less experience with self-governance than the lower colonies.

        The fact many loyalists fled to Canada during and immediately after the Revolution probably did little to increase any desire to merge their fortunes. And perhaps the clause you cite was merest wishful thinking or a sop to those Americans who held out hope Canada could be induced to sever ties — a hope that lasted well into the War of 1812 even as that war nearly led to New England’s secession and much behaviour in Maine and thereabouts that can readily be classified as treason according to the Constitutional definitiion of providing “Care & Comfort.”

      • Donald Stephens

        One of the contemporary explanations was that the country in question – Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, now – was to thinly settled to support the social movement that produced the Revolution. There were revolutionaries there – see the history of the Refugee Tract for an opener – just not enough.

        Quebec viewed it as a Anglo-on-Anglo conflict and declined to take sides. Newfoundland has a different history and the links to England were very close, even into the 20th century.

      • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

        One of those laws was abolished to let Catholics practice their religion and VOTE — can you imagine the shame?

        And after the war, the refugees mostly ended up in Canada — they effectively founded English-speaking Canada, since they swamped the earlier settlers — we produced more refugees than the French Revolution — which created a tradition of loyalty.

        • I know people say we didn’t have a Terror in the American Revolution. They need to re-read.

          • Nah, we didn’t have a large scale mass murder with farcical trials.

            One reason we had so many refugees was the vastly fewer deaths.

      • > why … not in Canada

        England was engaged in several conflicts at the time. Enemy ships raided the colonies as a harassment measure. Since the commerce raiders’ targets were largely rich people, there was considerable complaint to Parliament and the Crown, both of which said they couldn’t be bothered with what was happening across the ocean.

        The southern colonies were the easy targers, with raisers taking the “Atlantic Conveyor” from north Africa across to the Caribbean, then working their way up along the American coast until hopping the Conveyor back to the Old World.

        Canadian trade, by contrast, was across a more northerly route, outside the natural predation zone of the raiders. The fur trade was not only enormously profitable, it was largely unaffected by the problems plaguing the south, so there was no great disaffection with the government.

        There were also some differences in how the local governments operated. The southern colonies were feoffs and grants and governors, in the standard British tradition, which is one reason they they organized and seceded as polities much like they’d been established as. I know that for historical reasons Canada wasn’t as neatly organized, and would have been harder to form effective revolutionary groups even had there been a great desire for it, but at this remove I’ve forgotten the fine details.

  14. TheOtherSean

    There are also cultural differences within the US, some of which do not receive much attention, and others that are somewhat well known. A well known example is the term for a carbonated soft drink. A less well-known example is whether some food should always be left on the plate to show the host they served enough food, or whether the plate should be eaten clean to show the host the food was great. (On average, I find more Easterners of the former school of thought, and more Midwesterners of the latter.) There’s a lot more food examples. What you say when you didn’t quite catch what somebody said is another one. What foods you can eat with your fingers. My brain wants to say that arriving fashionably late vs. five minutes early is another one, but I can’t remember how that maps.

    • I lived in New England for over a decade and never picked up on the “leave” idea.

      Hmmm, not I have to think back.

    • My list of American regional differences is more centered on do you haggle or not, do you have a required non-refusal before accepting a gift or not, do you hug when greeting or not, do you clap in church, how direct must a request be, or how indirect must a request be to be considered polite, how does one arrange who is the leader of an informal group.

      That sort of thing.

      • Clap in Church?!?!
        Certainly not in the Missouri or Wisconsin Synods. (Well, maybe during the kid’s Christmas Pageant.)

      • Not simply whether one claps in church, but also when and how (e.g., on the beat, after the beat, off the beat or, rarely, before the beat.)

        I gather that nearly ALL congregations frown on those who get the clap in church, but I suspect that was not with what you were concerned.

    • Terms for something aren’t “real” differences. You can learn to call soda “pop” and nothing changes.
      That’s the type of difference outsiders “get”. The “you looked at me like you knew me and that’s a mortal offense in my culture” is the type that tourists won’t even SEE because they’re under “tourist exemption.”

      • Looking someone in the eye seems to be a “thing” for SW American natives. There was a case very recently where some kids from New Mexico visiting a college in Colorado got security called on them because some woman decided they looked shifty because they kept their eyes downcast.

        • The most respect I’ve ever been on the receiving end of was at the Utah-Arizona border heading to Monument Valley, where a teen held the gas station convenience store door for me and said “After you, sir”, and neither of his two buddies looked at him funny, said a thing, or pushed past him.

          This grey hair gets me nada out here in Silicon Valley, so it was a real surprise.

          • We get a fair amount of that in rural Oregon. It gets interesting at Bi-Mart, which tends to cater to a rather old crowd. You’ll get an 80 year old holding the door for a 65 year old (generally when encumbered), and vice versa.

        • I gather casual touching is a thing for a lot of the native cultures, too, as well as eye contact–at least, I know for certain it is for the Arapaho here in Wyoming. Something which my mother as a young special ed teacher had made sure to learn beforehand, and so ended up having far better success with one of the ‘problematic’ Arapaho kids. She didn’t insist he make eye contact with her, she did not touch him without asking express permission (and then at the level of “May I sit next to you”).

          Yeah. Cultural dialect is extremely surface-level. Things like “making eye contact is something reserved for family/close intimates” vs. “not making eye contact means you are untrustworthy or a liar” is more in the territory of something that can cause distinct and painful cultural clashing.

  15. Sunny Lohmann

    Too right, Sarah. I love your description of going half insane trying to acculturate. It would be fascinating to hear more about that from you. I’m curious why 17th century Spain has left in its wake something different than Portugal?

  16. “This weekend there was an unfortunate kerfuffle in one of the private groups I belong to on Facebook between two people who both read this blog and who both are normally level-headed if feisty.”

    Wasn’t me! I yam innercent! ~:D

    “…except maybe Canadian and those, sorry Chris, aren’t real foreigners. Oh, they are, but… Canada is America’s hat. So, closer.”

    You would be -amazed- at the deep seated differences between Americans and Canadians. I lived in the USA 10 years. It took about a year and a half before the contrast really sank in.

    The most obvious place is around money, Canadians spend it completely differently than Americans, and on different things. We even carry it differently in our pockets. But those differences stack up, and I’ve heard a lot of shocked American tourists exclaim “What?!” when they hit one.

    • We even carry it differently in our pockets.

      There is no way I can resist asking for further details on this one. How is it different?

      • Americans commonly carry money in rolls or folded in half in a clip. Canadians tend much more to wallets, often with the bills full length.

        Its a matter of reverence. The way the Japanese are with rice, Canadians are with money. They may not be super powerful at making money, but they’re damn careful not to lose any.

        Another similar difference, Americans buy cars fully loaded, and then add custom accessories. Canadians buy the least options they can manage and almost never add any accessory. (Boilerplate: on average, obviously.)

        • “The way the Japanese are with rice, Canadians are with money. They may not be super powerful at making money, but they’re damn careful not to lose any.”

          Wish you’d told the recent Liberal governments (provincial in Ontario, federal in Canada) about that. They might have put more work into getting their deficits under control. 😦

        • William H. Stoddard

          They do? I have never even thought of doing such a thing. I had no idea I was a Canadian!

        • “rolls or folded in half in a clip”

          Regional? Insanely rich?

          I have never known anyone to do this out side of a movie/TV; ever.

          • My dad has a cash clip– it’s more a matter of not being as bulky as a wallet.

            Have seen a lot of people who don’t often carry cash simply folk-and-stuff-in-a-pocket when handed bills.

            Money clip like this link that is so ugly I just have to make a clickie.

          • Timothy E. Harris

            I grew up in Ohio in mixed middle class neighborhoods. I saw both modes. It appeared to be mostly a class/family history thing.
            Blue collar workers were more likely to have a roll of bills or a clip. White collar workers were more likely to use a wallet.
            People whose parents were already middle class were more likely to use wallets than first generation middle class regardless of occupation.
            And, as an aside, older jews were more likely to have a coin purse than anybody else.
            The professional class mostly appeared to think flashing a bankroll was tacky, although a nice clip was fine.

            • It may also be a matter of where you carry. A wallet goes into the inside jacket pocket or the pants hip pocket, roll or clip of bills goes in the front pants pocket or lower jacket pocket. If you are sitting on your wallet you are likely to want to keep it slim by carrying cash elsewhere.

              • William H. Stoddard

                I wear jackets so seldom that I’ve never formed the former habit, and back when I was in my early twenties my then girlfriend told me that having my wallet in a hip pocket was doing pickpockets a favor. I’ve carried it in the right front pants pocket since then.

              • Well, I carry wherever it’s legal. Oh, the wallet! Right hip pocket. Tried a money clip for a few days, once (repurposed tie clip).

                The trim level on our vehicles has steadily improved as finances did. Drove the latest today, and certain road-holding features were welcome on the trip home. Thank you Honda!

                • I have a wallet that is one note-pad from being a portfolio, and an RFID blocker clip I got because I needed to fly, and didn’t want to fumble with my Wallet Of Doom.

                  Wallet (and CC) live in my diaper bag, clip lives in my back pocket. I have…issues…with folks being close behind me, so no pickpocket risk.

        • Hmm. What part of the US did you live in? I’m from the Midwest and never knew anyone that carried bills in a clip. I knew about them but never saw them used oupside of movies.

        • Americans commonly carry money in rolls or folded in half in a clip.

          Commonly? Never seen either.

        • Really? Most everyone I’ve known (American) uses a wallet. I’ve seen a couple use a clip–they tend to be the brash, loud types, too, so maybe it’s a ‘lookit all the money I’ve got’ thing? Or a regional thing.

          My father uses a wallet. So do my brothers. I do–but then, pockets in women’s jeans are only in recent years getting decent, but I try not to stick money in there anyway, or I’ll find it again years later.

        • I have never in my life seen anyone carry money in a roll or clip. Well, except in bad movies…

      • Well (because I collect the coins when I can), Canadian money is colored, and (I think) different values are different sizes. Canadian has a two dollar bill, AND one dollar coin,AND two dollar coin. One dollar coin known as a “loony”. Two dollar coin known both as the “tuney” or the “Queen with the Bare behind.” Where they are spelling Bear as Bare.

        🙂 🙂 That’s all I know … Been awhile since we’ve been north. Going again this summer.

        • I follow a German artist who once tried to pay and was told she had an American penny, not a Euro one. So she took it back and freaked out. It was distinctly larger than a Euro one! All those American artists who used a penny for a reference and she was beating herself up because she couldn’t get that detail and she just got the scale wrong!

          The guy got his Euro penny, but after some excited comments that made no sense to him.

        • Amsel, Matthew

          The 2 dollar bill is legal, but I haven’t seen one in over a decade.

          • In the US, yes the $2 bill is legal. So are various $1 dollar coins. But neither seem to stay in circulation. We have a few $2 bills and $1 coins stashed. I haven’t seen any others in a few years either.

            We haven’t been to Canada since 2012. Even then we tend to use CC for everything so rarely get any change or bills at all.

            I had quite a few US $2 bills and different $1 dollar coins, as well as a few of the Canadian $2 and $1 dollar coins, but they “walked” away when the house was robbed in 2006. Whole point of collecting them was with a small child. But he isn’t a small child anymore; and no grandchildren. So, now for me, but a few is enough.

            • the last place i reliably saw $1 coins was getting change from the vending machine at the post office.

            • When Beloved Spouse was hospitalized for [REASONS] the hall vending machine gave dollar coins in change for bills of $5 or more. One place I worked had lunchroom vending vending machines providing dollar coins in change. It became a thing to start the week with a large bill, sort out the presidents (along with the feminist sops there is a series of American presidents on the coins*) and feed the duplicates back into the machines over the week.

              I recall at the time they were debating authorizing the $1 coin that much of the pressure was coming from manufacturers of vending machines, so it is amusing to note that the machines nowadays accept swipes from credit cards, debit cards (both bank and vendor-issued) and, of course, phone apps. Proof of the market’s ability to solve problems with separating people from money.

              *A clear effort to encourage collection of the coins, allowing the Treasury to put more in circulation without undue inflation as they stayed largely uncirculated.

              • “*A clear effort to encourage collection of the coins, allowing the Treasury to put more in circulation without undue inflation as they stayed largely uncirculated.”

                That is what I’ve “heard” but didn’t know if that was just a myth or not. They’ve done similar with quarters with the state and now National Park versions. We have 2 copies of the State coins (all from circulation) and a few of the National Park ones, but latter aren’t making a super effort.

            • Amsel, Matthew

              Apologies – I meant in Canada, where I live.

          • I ask for $2 bills when I go to the bank just for novelty’s sake. Or when I’m going to play poker with my brothers. They usually have a few.

    • And yet, you’re probably the closest ones. And in the cause of the particular flare up, so close as to make no difference. But, yes, I believe you.

  17. This weekend I realized people don’t really believe in foreign countries either. They’re willing to accept that some things (and those usually conform to their mental picture of the generic “culture” or “region”) are different, but that the fundamentals and the cherished unexamined assumptions might be different is unthinkable — literally.

    What is amazing is politically active Americans still do this despite how hard we learned this lesson in the past decade and a half in Iraq. We just assumed we could create a modern, Western liberal democracy.

    Regardless of your opinion on the value of the invasion, post war plans were handicapped by the “inside every Iraq is a typical suburban American waiting to burst out”.

    This means the left’s project of “fighting nationalism” is not just doomed, but it’s stupid as eating rocks, and will cause only unending misery suffering and war.

    Now at least half the political class is making the same mistake in their own nations. And it isn’t just Marxists. It is the Never Trumpers in the GOP and some more traditional union type FDR Democrats.

    • Timothy E. Harris

      Yup. Iraq had 3 or 4 tribes ready to split apart into separate countries (much like Yugoslavia did) and coexist with only low-level border squabbles. But that was unthinkable to both the multiculturalists and the U.N. National borders, no matter how forced their creation, are sacred.

      I doubt any of Iraq’s factions really want to share power with any of their old tribal enemies. The American model cannot just be imposed without at least some cultural history of neighbors helping neighbors instead of feuding with them.

      • Seems like something that might work for a “strong state” solution rather than a “one big central control” solution.

      • And then, of course, “we” try to insist on imposing Democracy which anyone knows means that you paint a big “kick me” sign on your back for everyone that doesn’t like you. It’s just another way of saying that the strongest (majority) gets to rule and oppress everyone else.

      • Well, to be fair, if the US occupation had gone all-in on a plan that would have given the Kurds a State, the Turks would have invaded occupied Iraq from the north no matter how many US troops were in the way.

        • Timothy E. Harris

          I’m not so sure about that. As long as the Kurds limited actions across the border in Turkey I think the Turks would have bided their time until we pulled out most of our troops.
          Then, when they could plausibly claim to not be attacking a NATO ally they would resume trying to eliminate the Kurds.
          But there were no easy answers for peaceably governing country only held together by brute force since it was carved out of the Ottoman empire.

      • National borders, no matter how forced their creation, are sacred.

        Certainly! Look at the disaster which has ensued following dissolution of Czechoslovakia!

      • Anonymous Coward

        Partitioning Iraq into a 3-part federation was actually proposed by, of all people, Joe Biden – a man infamous for never making a correct call on any
        foriegn relations issue.

        I recall thinking at the time that this was the perfect example of a blind squirrel finding a nut.
        Too bad the ‘nation builders’ never took his proposal seriously.

    • Just look at the mess they’ve made of the European Union. Had they been content with trade agreements, relaxed borders, and perhaps that common currency things might have worked passably well, at least muddled through. But the usual suspects had to go all in for complete control of all aspects of life no matter how incompatible with regional customs.
      You want your nation’s version of Brexit? This is how you achieve it.

      • (Nods) If the EU had stayed at something between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution as written in 1787, things would have been fine.

        But it didn’t.

        • I once saw a graphic demonstration of the issue: someone photo’ed the Icelandic constitution, and the American constitution (with the Declaration of Independence and all amendments) and they were pamphlets, and the EU constitution, and it was an unabridged dictionary.

  18. For a second there, I thought this was going to be one of those ‘quantum physics discussions that make my head hurt’, just from the title.

    But nawp.

    We’ve spent years with the mass media trying to get us to act like foreign people are just like us except with funny accents and interesting food. Even for those of us that know that, some is likely to have seeped in and we may forget that people that sound a lot like us and eat a lot like us aren’t us.

    Two examples: years ago, trying to explain what an (American) biscuit was to a friend from Australia after I had ham, biscuits, green beans and mashed potatoes for dinner.

    Second example: from a few days ago, trying to explain the differences between some of the various sauces (condiments) Americans use as opposed to the basic brown sauce British use to a UK friend. This is a couple days after we were explaining to same UK friend what it was like before the EU, because he isn’t old enough to remember.

    • Speaking of condiments, it changes over time, too. When I was growing up in Wisconsin, there was Tabasco Sauce, but it generally lived in a cupboard and was rarely used. Now, they have the whole panoply of hot sauces that we have here in Colorado and they’re on the table. Apparently (judging by old serving sets) mustard used to be on the table all the time, pretty much everywhere. I see yellow mustard in burger places, but mustard – especially good mustard – is generally not around.

  19. Yeah, little things trip you up. A friend moved to the Netherlands after grad school (married a Dutch guy). Laundry was her bete noir. Laundry bleach really. She didn’t know that you had to buy the bluing agent separately and add it in to your bleach.

    First time I went to Serbia I was appalled at the in-ground toilets (aka Turkish toilets). Women who wear pants CANNOT pee that way! The Serbian women I worked with thought it was much more sanitary than Western toilets because you weren’t actually touching anything. The other thing that struck me there, as a professor, was the strict hierarchy among professors and among students and then between professors and students. Professors did not think highly of students, even the good ones. Students were there to listen and absorb knowledge. That was it. It took me two weeks to get one kid to ask one question in class.

  20. “I don’t think anyone who hasn’t actually acculturated between two countries understands how different cultures can be, deep down, at the bone level and the most basic reactions level … The fact that [people] don’t understand that tech affects not just how people live but how they think, feel and react is another of those things I don’t get … This weekend I realized people don’t really believe in foreign countries either. They’re willing to accept that some things … are different, but that the fundamentals and the cherished unexamined assumptions might be different is unthinkable — literally.”

    This all sounds very plausible to me, but — and this is not actually meant as an ill-mannered “gotcha”, but as a sincere question about an apparent contradiction — how does this square with the contention, frequently advanced on this blog and in conservative thought generally, that “human nature” doesn’t essentially change all that much?

    If reactions and tendencies can, in fact, be different at the “bone level and the most basic reactions level”, if how people think, feel and react is as dependent on when they live and how they live as on who they are, is what we think of as “human nature” really so natural? What is our “nature” if it isn’t how we think, feel and react? And if our ability to empathize with and understand others really is more dependent on a common ethnic and cultural background than we realize, doesn’t that only lend credence to some of the more destructive positions of the alt-right?

    Let me repeat that this is only meant as a “challenge” in the very-much-wants-to-be-proven-wrong-devil’s-advocate sense of the term. If everybody has their own obsessions, mine has always been for avoiding contradictions. Thanks in advance for indulging a certain degree of what might rightly be called “sperginess”.

    • Sure. The needs are the same. There are good and bad people, most people want the same from life.
      The software in the head, though, can be so radically different that things you find pleasant will drive someone from another culture NUTS.
      Is there a possibility for a meeting point? Sure. But just bringing people in is not the way to do it. AND you need to be aware of the differences before you can actually get to know the other. Most of our culture papers over the differences.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      The best way to answer is to say that there’s a “basic human nature” but how it is expressed differs in different cultures.

      IE It is “basic human nature” for males and females to bond into couples but how the bonding is expressed can differ widely world-wide.

      • Exactly! We all desire respect, status and admiration, but the culturally appropriate manners of winning or expressing those can vary widely.

        Male and female around the world want affection but the nuances of who makes the first move, who (and how) signals a wish for the affair to proceed, how far the couple goes and how fast — and who determines that — are but a few of the nuances in play.

        To proffer a concrete example, back in WWII it was discovered that issues were arising between American lads stationed in Britain and the English lassies entertaining them. Anthropologists were brought in and determined that for Americans it was up to the girl to tell a boy what the limits were, and for him to push as far as she would let him — power was in her hands (so to speak.) But the British culture believed that it was incumbent for a chap to demonstrate restraint, to pursue his interests only so far as he was honourably inclined. This produced parings where the American boys thought the English girls were amazingly accommodating and the English girls were under the impression that American boys were awfully eager to marry, should that become necessary.

    • “Human nature” is what you call the parts that don’t change. ^.^

      • I view the bits that don’t change as things along the lines of “Why dick graffiti hasn’t changed in thousands of years and across cultures” and “why ancient graffiti in general always says variations of the things you see in graffiti now” but I think that boils down to the ur-human–humans being human at the most basic level. Something lurking below culture, probably. 😀

        And I suppose there’s really a very limited number of ways one can draw a penis when one is in a hurry and likely to get yelled at/arrested/etc for defacing public spaces.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Basically, the alt-Right doesn’t go far enough for what we actually need to do.

      US culture, or meta-culture, is heavily shaped by mixing of distinctly different cultures at the individual level, forming alliances across those differences and quietly or nosily killing people who too obnoxiously refuse that alliance.

      So, yeah, the international community of laws is utter raving bullshit. This mass migration stuff, without permitting forced conformity, withdrawal of support, quiet murders, or some other feedback mechanism, is not going to end pleasantly.

      The alt-Right’s acceptance of the claim of uniform whiteness blinds them to the need for the alliances and ceasefires that are necessary to domestic tranquility.

      Furthermore, their acceptance of the claim that culture and religion are blood makes it impossible for them to sustain peace with minority individuals with whom peace is otherwise possible. Which means that they violate American/’white’ taboos against ‘not dealing squarely’, making a working consensus difficult among those who are officially ‘white’.

      tl;dr “‘White’ is behavior” does not justify white supremacism, because white supremacists demand credit for blood and often fail to behave in line with the mores of an actual functioning superior culture.

      • As Dr. Sowell asserts, “[N-word] culture is in fact ‘White Trash’ culture.”

      • Bob,

        Only a small segment of the alt-right believes that way anyway.

        • Well, the entirety of the actual alt-right thinks that way.

          Only a small segment of those declared to be alt-right by the progressives are actually alt-right.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            What do we actually know about political labels?

            This is another measurement problem, and we would expect it to be confounded by hidden information over the past ten years. We can guess that some people have shifted over that period, and some have not. But we probably don’t know for certain that we have x amount of people who believe y thing, and are properly labeled z. Considering movement between groups and unstable positions, there should be a lot we don’t know much about.

            (Unstable position N being populated by people who held position M, but have recently been stressed to the point of leaving M. But if you hold N for a time, you think about it, then have a choice of moving to position O or to position P.)

            I use Alt-Right for white supremacists who have rebranded that way, and for folks stressed to the point of leaving the left, who will likely eventually either join the left again, or move on to the actual right. There may be other possibilities I haven’t heard of or worked out yet.

  21. As to the historical fiction problem, I note that Forester makes Hornblower have many modern attitudes–frequent bathing, disgust at lashing, and capital punishment for anything more than slightly dodgy–but he does have the character at least acknowledge that none of his contemporaries think that way, and that Hornblower is aware of being odd. It’s an interesting approach.

  22. That experience this weekend was the “clicking in” of something that’s been bothering me for a long time. In our writers’ group I used to run across people who projected modern AMERICAN female back into the time of pharaohs.

    *snickers* Want some fun, try the Wings of Fire books.

    They’re dragons with basically 14 year old American kid’s minds. They logically should be suffering some pretty solid trauma… that said, it’s a rather fun serial-numbers-scrubbed-off fanfic of “What is How To Train Your Dragon like from the dragon’s point of view? What would that world logically be like, eventually?”

  23. I have several thoughts on this and reading comments makes them stand out to me even more. I am old, elderly even. It seems to me I have have lived in quite a few different countries while still being in the USA. I have lived pre WWII, post war WWII, the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and now almost into the 2020’s. They have all been different. During that time I have lived in Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana. I lived in Cajun country for 30 years, a totally different place to be. A different world from where I am now on the South Texas coast.
    The two states which have been almost alike are Oklahoma west Texas. East and North Texas are more like Georgia and Alabama. North Louisiana is part of the “South,” also. But Cajun Country is different from everything else.
    All ages are different from the other. The war years were a different world than the post war years. Of course, these ages as seen by me were seen by a me in a different lifetime, as a child, a teen, a young adult and mother, a grandmother and now a great grandmother. We all have our own lifetime views and they are not the same at all. Even in my many siblings.
    We spent a month in Australia about ten years ago. People seemed pretty much the same to me as I’ve met across the county here. More like the Western states excluding California. Friendly, neighborly, not at all like some people I know from the Northeast and Midwest.
    I began to feel an angst after three weeks of traveling, everything seemed slightly out of focus and I realized it wasn’t the people, it was the landscape, the forests were out of focus because the trees were so different. In the city and towns there were American and English type trees, out of town were the native tree populations.
    After reading this post it makes me wonder about environments and peoples actions and reactions to a strange ones. I have realized for a long time this is not the world I grew up in and even that changed as I aged.
    Now I am wondering how those natural environments changed my views depending on where I was living at any given time. I do know I didn’t like the deep south, hot humid and not nearly as friendly as some other places. I know we hear about Southern hospitality but that mainly applies to the people you already know

    Just pondering here, nothing to argue, just my point of view, we all have our own lives and see them really only through our own eyes.

  24. If you’re sufficiently Odd, everywhere and everywhen are foreign countries. Some are just more foreign than others.

  25. There are three things – and only three things – that are common to the majority of the members of all cultures.*

    1) Personal survival.
    2) Generating progeny.
    3) Ensuring survival of progeny until said progeny is able to generate progeny of its own.

    Beyond these three things, anything that does not significantly mitigate against them can (and will be) found in cultures.

    * Cultures with any kind of lasting power, note. There is no trace left of the Jim Jones “culture”. Last population count I can find (2017) for the Shakers is two. If one reads and thinks about the Misalletes, the Roman Catholic clerical culture is also dying out (although with a much larger starting base and at least some, if insufficient, recruitment to renew it, it may take a couple more centuries).

    • Nah, it is a temporary corruption. Happens every few centuries. Re: clergy — Whenever things get bad and scummy, it means a renewal is right around the corner.

      That said, there is no promise that any particular country will be
      part of that renewal. Or that particular customs will survive.

    • I’m almost positive you aren’t talking about the booklets that are in the pew to guide through the Mass, but I can’t google-fu what “the Misalletes” might be. More details for help in finding?

      **********

      Additional information for Roman Catholic cleric recruitment, there are groups that are recruiting faster than they can offer spots for training– short version, it’s the ones who are very Catholic.
      Not sure if you’re in on the grape vine of scandals, apparently the “lavender mafia” have been very active in priest training, and were cranky when guys weren’t, ah, willing to play along.

      • That’s what the wife and SIL call the small flyers you pick up on the way in or out. News of the parish, important news of the diocese and the Church in general. The booklets in the pews they do call “missals.” Could be that this is terms (even if mistaken) common to where they grew up?

        Being the heretic, I take what they say about the specifics of the Church as small-g gospel. I stand when they do, at least bow the head when they kneel (bad knees), when I used to shepherd the kids up for Communion knew the gesture for “nope, not eligible,” etc. I don’t attend any longer – partly out of being disgusted with the “lavender mafia,” partly unable to keep quiet in the face of the “red under green under black,” and partly because the censer does its job, at least with me, of driving out the unbelievers…

        • I would guess regional thing, maybe just tradition.

          This thing–usually printed obviously for the local area, has a cheat sheet of priest names, office times, etc? Handed to folks when they walk in? We call that the bulletin where I’ve been, there are also books/pamphlets type things at the front if you want to grab them for more information.

          A lot of parishes sell advertisements to afford to make nicer bulletins, too.

          • List of people for whom prayers are asked, parochial school notes, etc.

            The one here always had a message from the Monsignor, which is where I picked up the “recruitment problem” from. He may have been somewhat better tuned in, too, as he was (retired this month) apparently the “go-to” person in this diocese for transitioning priests right out of seminary into real world parish work (they would cycle at least three or four through his parish every year – and the “news of the parish” frequently had notes about “Father Juan is taking over San Manuel or Padre Trujillo is returning to the Philippines to take up his parish”).

          • Oh, and yes, they are selling ads to make nicer ones here, too. The wife gets hers in the mail now (although they apparently still have the less fancy ones in the church, too). Essentially a very thin magazine; four color printing, etc.

            • Printers probably aren’t seeing the business they used to get, so this may be a way of covering marginal costs while keeping presses operating. Treat any discount as a contribution in kind to not-for-profit organizations and it may even provide a net after-tax a benefit.

              Many local restaurants and such offer discounts for anyone flashing a church bulletin (many Crystosphobes scream about this as religious-based preference and violation of First, Second and Fifth Amendment rights and possibly of the Twenty-sixth Amendment, too) as a way to boost traffic on what would otherwise be slow times. Making the bulletins more available, more attractive and (possibly) selling ad space for coupons and announcements of discounts just seems good marketing (probably another reason the zealots hate it.)

  26. Here’s an interesting article (from 2004) on the cultural differences between two small towns, one in America and the other just across the border in Canada.

    http://www.unz.com/print/AmEnterprise-2004jul-00022

  27. I’ve found that the best way to really get a good idea of a local culture is to go and check out the supermarkets (or the local equivalents).

    Works like a charm. What is the average things in there, how much are they, and what is the usual thing in those stores? And, if they don’t have a supermarket, what do they have? And what does it take to get a full meal for a family?

    There’s so many microcosms there. I can go to the local Mexican supermarket here, and it’s…not as polished as the local “suburban” supermarket. There’s just the appearance alone of things, the lighting isn’t as good, the floor isn’t in the same shape (not dirty, just not as kept up as well), “average” there is “barely average” at a “suburban” market…

    It’s an interesting exercise. I went to a local supermarket where I lived not that long ago, and because of how many people that are “newly-arrived,” anything that is small enough to be stuck into a jacket pocket is locked up and requires employees to open it up. Which there are always very few, and for some things they have to get the key from a manager or shift supervisor. (And, it’s not even alcohol, but the difficult items are razors and shaving cream and condoms.) There’s a general air of lack of maintenance, in a building that was converted from a Target, in the supermarket. And, they had a dedicated parking spot for the local PD. Who was taking someone out that had that air of “frequent flyer”-someone that would come in regularly and be a problem, be arrested, spend some time in local or county jail, then they’d be back again. And the store couldn’t keep them out because their rights would be harmed.

    Oh, and did I mention that they were trying to push people towards the automated checkout stands, and the few check stands had people with full carts full of cheap stuff and people arguing over prices on everything? Usually with three or four kids, who were either being absolute brats or being the kind of shifty that made me want to check my wallet?

    (And, yes, I agree with you-importing anybody from Spanish-derived cultures is almost as bad as Islamic ones if they are too many to assimilate. And won’t be forced to assimilate.)

  28. Doubting Rich

    Oh, yes.

    “…this last trip to Portugal was a LONG and frustrating chain of running into this from the Portuguese side”

    We tried to live in Turkey for a while, and the funny thing is that I got on OK but my wife, who left there before the age of 1 to grow up in the UK, really did not like it.

    I think the problem was that I was a novelty to them, and I was expecting cultural differences. My wife speaks fluent Turkish, with an Izmir accent, but is culturally 90% English. She was expected to be part of the local culture, and she was expecting that herself, because she is Turkish. But she was not. That makes friction.

    I, on the other hand, am very British, but I have worked in a completely international business with people from across the world. I have taught classes with twice as many Kuwaiti as English students. So I am expecting cultural differences. I love Turkish coffee, tea and food. I happily drink the beer, especially the new craft brews. I am learning language and a little culture in daily classes. So people see a person from a country they envy who wants to be in Turkey, and to fit in there. Very positive reaction.

    Funnily enough Turkey has some cultural similarities with Britain. After all both are at the centre of a former powerful empire, both are very much trading nations that have taken a lot of influence from colonies and trading partners. But the differences are obvious to anyone living there, from the most apparently-trivial things: my wife always complained about me licking my fingers if I got food on them. I did not realise until I was there that it is a Turkish thing. Something so simple and normal in the UK is considered rude there.

    • Friend of mine has had the same issue in Korea. Her parents were immigrants to the US, and she grew up in California and is definitely a California girl. When she goes back to Korea, she’s expected to behave in a “Korean” manner. Drives her bugnuts.

  29. I’ve often thought that the left wants to deteriorate “nationalism” into “tribalism”. Hence their identity politics. Now, at first glance this may look like it interferes with their “Globalist” franchise, but not really. After all, they believe that globalism “suits me” and tribalism “suits thee” (and all you other knuckle-dragging, deplorable dead-enders). One they’ve divided us into smaller, more easy to control (by setting us against each other) groups, we can be looked down on from a further height by them and their friends, and they will feel better about keeping us out of their institutions while they rob us blind.

    Yes, I’m becoming a little cynical towards the left of our political culture.

  30. In Austin, Texas, people in residential areas, smile and speak as they walk around the neighborhood. That’s even if they do not know one another. A NYC transplant said that this terrified her. Her thought was, “What the hell do you want from me.”

  31. “Most of all this means that barring a major cataclysm that only leaves the US alive, the dream of a future world-like-America is nonsense. Even if some of our greatest writers believed in it. So is a world-like-Europe. Or a world like much of anything.”

    I do not recommend this, but I couldn’t help but think of it:

  32. Sarah, very interesting discussion.
    I would be interested in your comments, as someone who has lived in Europe: does this mean the EU is eventually doomed?

    • You have doubts? the backlash has begun.

      • The EU is a pipe dream developed about the time Angel Dust became popular. It is built on a fallacy, a real-time demonstration of imperial over-reach. It is clear evidence that people bureaucrats are unable to stop when ahead.

  33. Pingback: Americans “don’t really believe in foreigners” « Quotulatiousness

  34. Dan Hamilton

    The best example of what is being talked about is the Progressives Feminists of Europe inviting in Muslims. Very Poor Muslim refugees.
    They believed that they could use the Muslims to and CONTROL them because they were just People. Their RELIGION didn’t matter and was unimportant. That was their FIRST mistake. The Second mistake was the complete inability to admit a mistake and then lying and using propaganda to try and cover up the mistake all while continuing to import more Muslims.
    The Government lies are so thin now that almost nobody is accepting them.
    The problem of course is what to do NOW. The fact that Muslims don’t immigrate they colonize. Is becoming clearer every day (No-Go areas). And these areas are GROWING. The Muslim birth rates are MUCH higher.
    Many see that the Muslims will NEVER assimilate, they never do. Many see that the future will be Muslim and their European Cultures will be destroyed if something is not changed.

    The problem is even though the “Populists” are winning elections, they don’t realize that the solution will be unacceptable. The Europeans can only do a number of things. Become Muslim, submit, fight or die. If they fight it is an existential fight. The only way to win is to remove the Muslims from Europe. They either leave or they die. I don’t believe the Europeans have the stomach for that. Which means that Europe will become Muslim.
    The Muslims will be handed Europe by Progressives Feminists and the Progressives Feminists will richly deserve what happens to then. To bad that so many others will die with them.

    Religion ad Culture don’t matter to Progressives Feminists, therefore they don’t matter to anyone. What could be a better example for this discussion??

    • Nah. You’re being way too bleak. Everything is so immediate “do or die.”
      First, you’re buying some lies:
      Muslims in Europe reproduce at… European rates, with luck. That’s why they must keep importing more. They just lie like rugs. Because welfare.
      True, they don’t assimilate. True, they’ll have to be subjected and forced to (or scurry back to their place of origin.)
      We’ve seen this movie before. All it takes now is the Europeans fully shaking off state indoctrination. They are downright unpleasant when riled up. And their nations ARE blood-and-soil.
      They’re getting pissed off now. Once they shake off the deadening Marxist overlay, they’ll start reproducing again too.
      There is already a return to Christianity in France — what you haven’t heard about it? Yeah, our media — and I’d bet other countries.
      In fifty years, Islam will be hated and reviled in Europe and multi-culti will be a bad memory.

      • True, they don’t assimilate.

        Well, why the He[ck] would they?

        They live like conquerors, off the tribute of the inhabitants. It isn’t as if the Europeans are so satisfied with their culture that they will engage in the hard work of replication. Producing new generations does appears to be a job Europeans won’t do.