2011-09-02

Not all cultures in the world are equal

Since I came back to Israel from abroad about a month ago, I cannot stop comparing those cultures of the world I know (more or less) firsthand. By "cultures" I mean here mainly national characters. I know that this is not politically correct, but I have come to a firm conclusion that beyond the level of subjective tastes, not all cultures in the world are equal, and at least in certain specific areas some cultures are objectively superior to others. In this respect I oppose the so-called cultural relativism, especially as is often expointed as a convenient excuse to justify certain actions some cultures take but many others consider primitive.

Naturally, these judgments of ours are not free from the influences of the cultures in which we were born and brought up. But nevertheless, there must be more or less objective criteria to compare typical cultural traits of various nations in specific social contexts, though there are always a minority of exceptional members who do not match these generalizations. We may probably use as one of these criteria the kind of results brought about by a typical trait in a certain context that is attached a high value in a given culture.

Let us take learning as an example. Not all cultures in the world attach the same value to it, nor do they produce the equal number of researchers who contribute to the advancement of the humankind. Because of the different values attached to learning some nations who have less people may produce more scientists than others with more people not only in relative terms but even in absolute terms.

As far as I am concerned, the surest sign of the cultural backwardness of a nation is that they have no culture of self-criticism, nor can they find any other way to react to criticisms against certain aspects of their culture by others except by threatening them with physical intimidation.

Of course, there is no single culture that excels in every aspect. I for one have been influenced more by Japanese, Israeli and Ashkenazi cultures than any other. I take from these cultures (as well as perhaps from (Jewish) American and Russian cultures) only those traits that I consider positive selectively and try to compose my own custom-made culture. For example, I have adopted order, precision, diligence and honesty from Japanese culture, informality, spontaneity, flexibility and free exchance of opinions regardless of age, sex and social status from Israeli culture, and hospitality, humor, optimism and love of learning from Ashkenazi culture. After all, I am quite proud that it is they, and not some primitive cultures in which I find few or even no positive traits, that are the three main ingredients of my custom-made culture, though I do kvetch about these three cultures from time to time, and they also have enough primitive people.