Cultural Differences II

Some of the learned differences between Europeans and Americans (and more specifically Anglophones vs. French, Germans, Italians, etc.) give us clues as to which group is more likely to wake up to its potential. In Arabic there are multiple words for “dignity”, and one finds that human rights groups in the Middle East seek dignity as the most important thing a person can have. I doubt that the Arabic word(s) can be translated perfectly, so I can’t be sure what the mindset is exactly like. I think if we were to determine a European equivalent, that term would be honor. In the dialogue of Plato in which Socrates has his trial, Socrates says something to the effect of: “a man should die before he acts dishonorably,” referring to the fact that he would rather die an agonizing death than lie to save himself.

One noticeable difference between Americans and Europeans is the way they treat dating. In Europe it’s much more common to have a significant other in one’s teenage years and 20’s than in the United States. One possible reason is that feminism takes different forms on either continent: in Europe it’s more about women being able to have long maternity leaves, better access to female-specific healthcare needs, and so forth. What I’ve seen of American feminism is that it is much more concerned with power. Girls in the USA are more afraid of sacrificing their independence for a relationship than are girls in Europe. Depending on the part of America you’re in, you will find a certain amount of pick up artists as a natural result of women rejecting traditional relationships. You will also find many more muscular guys in America than in Europe for the same reason, resulting in American women rejecting European men on the basis that “they’re too skinny.”

Meanwhile, the former Soviet Union has remarkably held on to traditional (as a friend of mine pointed out to me recently: “some would say archaic”) sex-roles even after the Soviet Union spent decades trying to replace God with Marxism, and sex-roles with gender equality. Women in countries like Russia, Poland, and Ukraine seek marriage as a major source of future stability, and thus will seek husbands on the basis of provider-like qualities rather than looks or attitude.  They also are less likely to be infected with the technological plague that has swept most of the civilized world.

Another possible explanation is the religious faiths in different parts of the West. Marriage has (obviously) been a basic aspect of Western Civilization throughout the history of Christianity and long beforehand, basically for legitimizing sexual activity between men and women. Of course there have been far more attitudes about marriage and sex throughout history than I will ever hope to know about, but based on what I do know, I suspect that the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism laid the foundations for our attitudes now. In Europe, most people of ‘Protestant’ faith don’t actually practice it. In places like Scandinavia where Protestantism is far more popular, nearly all of its believers are in their old age. In a country like Germany where there is a mixture of Protestants in the North and Catholics in the South, the Catholics are much more likely to be true believers.

Meanwhile in the United States, which was built on a foundation of Anglo-Saxon Protestantism (by Protestants who wanted to flee a decadent Europe as well as those who were banished) the Protestants are far more likely to live out their faith. Catholics meanwhile, as in Europe, are also likely to be believers, but these beliefs are unlikely to result in action. The separation that Christianity tends to emphasize (often implicitly) between Earthly body and eternal soul, has paved the way for millions of American youths to grow up believing they can do whatever they want with their bodies so long as they “believe” and that they don’t do anything “really bad” (and if they do, they will be “really sorry for it”…unless the action is deserved of course). In other words, Catholics are more likely to confuse socially acceptable behavior with behavior that is moral. My suspicion is that Protestantism is so far removed in practice from our natural instincts and our pre-Christian religions, that its European (and American) practitioners make it somewhat their own. It also means (if my suspicion is correct) that Protestants (in the US and Europe) are more likely to reject their faith outright in favor of something much more dangerous or rebellious.

So I think Europeans (especially Russians) will be the ones to pick up the torch when (not if!) everything starts to crumble around us. It may be that the tragedy of a low fertility rate will bounce back as a natural reaction to the unsustainability it causes, when a government can no longer act as provider in the stead of capable men. But I guess that’s the topic of a future post, if I ever decide to type it. If this restorative and life-affirming “natural reaction” I just mentioned ever happens, it will need to be in the form of a religion or strong political force. I’ve never been much of a science guy, but as Mr. Newton once said: “For every action…”

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