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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Culturism in Nature

We are hardwired to absorb the culture we’re brought up in. People quickly become partial to the ideology of their culture even if it is ridiculous. Tribes would die if each new person had to be rationally convinced of the logic of the tribe’s system. Males must be willing to die for their group by thirteen years of age. Having a solid zeal for your tribe would present a huge battle advantage against a tribe where people don't consider their tribe rational or special. In nature, critical assessment is a luxury that would be bred out. Automatic cultural absorption and zeal would be bred in.

We see that cultural transmission is natural in the speed with which kids pick up language. We also see a mechanism for naturally reinforcing culture when kids seek out differences and mock each other. Teens are notoriously (rock) group oriented. In the Nurture Assumption, Judith Harris locates the point of cultural melding at the new generation. She notes that when parents move to a foreign country the parents unsuccessfully adopt. If the child came early enough, it is not a matter of “when in Rome do as the Romans do;” It is a matter of “When in Rome, become a Roman.” The kids become one of the locals.

Group formation happens throughout the animal kingdom. Chimps patrol their borders and are murderous to those who come in from an outside group. Scientists have taken baby rat out of their family settings, cleaned it and then put the smell of another group on it. When they put that rat baby back in the den, the family kills them. While they do not recognize each other as individuals, coral fish have bright colors to mark their presence at a territory. Antigens mark invading foreign bacteria. This is natural. Groups form and this serves a survival function in nature.

These pressures steer us subconsciously. Michael Mitchell created artificial groups by (incorrectly) telling people they were part of a group that overestimates or underestimates based on the amount of dots they thought were on a piece of poster paper. Once formed the groups discriminated against each other. We only need the slightest pretext to favor our group. It is natural. And, it feels good! My love for the Lakers is an example. GO TEAM!!

Natural and wonderful are not synonymous. But there are two culturist takeaway points that come from this post. First of all, the tribe that is most united often wins. Even if, as with the Greeks fighting the Persians at Salamis, we are united on our respect for individual conscience, group affiliation helps. We must all hang together or we shall all hang separately. That is why we need to push culturism, not multiculturalism. The second culturist point is that, since children come hardwired to absorb a culture, we adults have a duty to provide one. If we do not give the youth a satisfactory sense of belonging to a community, they will find it in gangs. Fortunately, when pushing a sense of belonging to the western world, natural and wonderful happily converge! GO TEAM GO!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lippmann, Arnold, and Culturism

Walter Lippmann and Matthew Arnold were culturist opponents who agreed on a lot. Living as the industrial revolution was tearing up the remnants of 19th century society, both decried the decay. Mathew Arnold vented in his beautiful book, “Culture and Anarchy.” Walter Lippmann’s masterpiece is “Mastery and Drift.” Both of these beautiful writers sought to reign in anarchy and drift, the same sort of decadence and decay, that western society faces today.

Lippmann hoped that we would find social coherence and direction by embracing the terms and conditions of the emerging scientific age. We could find adventure in applying the scientific spirit in confronting emerging social problems. New choices in unprecedented situations had to substitute for the moribund pieties and traditions that used to suffice. Rather than look to the past for a guide, he asked us to look to science and the future.

Arnold sought to anchor our fragmentation by tying us to our past; by living up to the best that has been thought and said. Famously, he argued that we must unite Jerusalem and Athens; that is our answers will come via looking both to traditional religious and secular western truths. While facing the future, Arnold looked to western tradition as a guide. As many conservatives, he had a predilection to want to return to a simpler time, to turn back the clock.

As we face the flotsam and wreckage that is the American culture, out of control debt and an uncertain future, which philosopher should we emphasize? This culturist says both! Scientific inquiry need not be corrosive of western culture or democracy. Science becomes corrosive when it belittles the past as a time of unscientific ignorance. Science becomes corrosive when it only recognizes the existence fleeting empiricist sensations. The scientific worldview of a hedonistic shopper without a history cannot sustain a viable society. In fact, it cannot even sustain science.

Our scientific adventure has to happen within a Roman / Christian sense of moral responsibility to history. Science comes about via a dedication to deferred gratification. This is best nurtured by a two-parent home. It requires a sustainable economy. On what basis can we regain a sense of duty? We can do so by recognizing that our heritage is unique. China and Islam show that not all roads lead to science or democracy. We must once again recognize that the West is a product of thousands of years of effort towards a particular humanistic view of man, rather than an automatic unfolding of universal scientific truths.

Multiculturalism’s obscuring of differences between cultures corrodes our appreciation of the unique nature of the West. Multiculturalism’s veneration of the past in the form of traditional societies undermines our sense of progress. Culturism takes diversity and progress seriously. Culturism does not buy into the idea that science makes all particular cultural stories relics of a pre-scientific age. Particular divergent cultures still persist and are in competition. If we do not look out, one of our competitors will come to dominate us. To have Lippmann’s consciously guided sustainable future we must remember Arnold’s sense of duty to western history. We must replace beliefs in scientific universalism and multiculturalism with a sense of our western culturism.

To have a futuristic society we must remember our stoic Roman sense of duty to the collective. To have a futuristic society, we need to respect the Protestant moral distinction between irresponsible license and responsible liberty. We must ask with Arnold “What would George Washington do?” or “What would Jesus do?” We must ask what which choices and values will lead to the furtherance the West and its vision of rational self-governance. The West cannot get to Lippmann’s science friendly future without the sense of dedication to Western culture that Arnold advocated.