CULTURE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Mitt Romney is right.
Culture does make all the difference.
That’s what he said in Israel, and that’s what the press is ripping him apart for.
He said that a nation’s culture plays a key role in determining that nation’s success.
Whether we’re talking freedom or prosperity or role in the world.
Culture makes all the difference.
And instead of condemning that in a hissy fit of political correctness, we should embrace it – and the wonderful promise it offers.
As it turns out, Mitt didn’t say anything that your dad didn’t say. Remember when your dad told you that life is about choices, and that choices have consequences? That, essentially, is what Mitt said in Israel – and which ought to be shouted from the rooftops everywhere.
Culture is a powerful force in people’s lives, it shapes individual choices. And it replicates those choices across families, communities and countries. And, just like your dad said, those choices have consequences. Taken in the aggregate, those consequences determine the destinies of nations.
For good or for ill.
Here is a simple but true example.
Say one group of people has a culture that values education, and another group of people has a culture that does not.
What are the likely outcomes for those two groups of people?
Well, over time, the culture that promotes education will be more stable, advanced, free and prosperous. Its people and their society or country will rise. And the culture that doesn’t value education will become impoverished, dependent and weak.
Any number of other cultural values also have seismic impacts.
For example, if a culture encourages marriage and family stability, versus a culture that minimizes marriage and tolerates out-of-wedlock birth, the culture that promotes family will quickly rise above the culture that doesn’t.
Likewise, some cultures see stealing as a sin, and others see it as an acceptable activity. Some promote rule of law, others tolerate or encourage lawlessness. Some believe in thrift, others have no concept of it. Some cultures teach hard work, others embrace idleness. Some see women as equals, others see women as inferiors.
Some live by an eye for an eye, and others live by turn the other cheek. And those two societies or nations are going to have dramatically different outcomes.
Yes, culture makes all the difference.
Not that individuals are slaves to it, but that, on average, it influences their choices, and therefore their consequences.
And that is as true for nations, communities and even religions as it is for individuals.
Mitt was right.
Much divides Israel and the Palestinians. But nothing is as fundamentally different between them as their cultures. One is based in Judeo mercantilism and scholarship, and the other is based on a nomadic Islam. The histories and heritages of these two peoples have made them different, and some of those differences have huge impacts on individual and collective outcomes.
Political correctness says that that shouldn’t be so, that all cultures are equivalent, that there is no such thing as right or wrong, better or worse, superior or inferior. But in this case, as in all cases, political correctness is wrong. In fact, it is probably purposeful deception. Political correctness is a lie, a crippling lie.
Certainly, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is a strained and difficult one. Palestinians wish the Israelis would give them more civil liberties. Israelis wish the Palestinians would stop trying to kill them. In general, the left has taken the side of the Palestinians and the right has taken the side of the Israelis.
But it is not primarily politics that differentiates the Israelis and Palestinians – it is, just as Mitt said, culture.
It is a culture which opposes democracy and favors the rule of a strongman that cripples the rise of the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority. Though receiving vast amounts of aid from the United States, Europe and the Muslim world, the Palestinians are largely mired in poverty because much of that money is skimmed off through thievery and corruption, or diverted to fund violence.
That’s not a function of oppression by Israelis, it’s a result of Palestinian culture.
What Mitt said was the truth.
What can be learned from it is that if a person or nation are displeased with their outcomes, they can improve them by changing their choices – and the underlying culture that shapes those choices.
Get rid of damaging aspects of a culture, and borrow from other cultures the traits that lead to success. That’s called evolution, growth and maturity. It is what separates successful cultures from unsuccessful cultures.
Mitt was right.
Not just about the differences between Israel and the Palestinians, but about many of the differences between all people – as individuals or nations.
It’s just like your dad said. Life is about choices, and choices have consequences. If you make good choices, you have good consequences. If you don’t, you don’t.
And it will be good to have a president who is smart enough to realize that and honest enough to say it.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012