Friday, 27 November 2015

Hybrid Societies and Incompatible Cultures

           It is comforting for us to think of many things as static and unchanging. Many readers of this blog will have read about various martial arts and encountered the opinion that “this set of move is XXX-jitsu” and “these techniques are YYY-style kung fu” and so on. The truth is that many things are in fact constantly undergoing a state of change. It is now much easier for the practitioners of a certain style to learn about other styles and inevitably new ideas are encountered and some are adopted. This is true of many things that we may wish were unchanging. Our culture, our language, etiquette and many other things are all ever changing. Things change, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. With change comes selection and this is necessary if improvement is likely to occur. 

           Decades back I was part of various on-line discussion groups. One relatively new member had a habit of frequently introducing his pet topic/hate into discussions. “Isn’t diversity wonderful” he would sarcastically sneer. I think he might have been quite shocked if he had known just how diverse some of the other group members were. At least one was Jewish (!). A couple were even not American (!!). Yet another had some specialised (yet legal) leisure tastes, the details of which do not concern us today. Some of you will no doubt already be relishing the irony of a (presumably) white American complaining about diversity when the very culture he champions is itself a fusion of many others. 

           “Multi-culturalism” is a term that has been thrown about a lot in the last few decades. What is often ignored is that the multi-cultural societies that work best are in fact hybrid societies. Various communities may maintain their own identities but they are also willing to entertain the ideas and concepts of other cultures. We take what is best or most useful and make it our own. I am writing in an alphabet acquired from the Romans but perform maths with Indo-Arabic symbols. The language I am writing to you in draws on words from a smorgasbord of other languages. Our national dish is now curry and the little Moslem girls next door are just as excited about the fireworks on Bonfire night/Dwalli and Christmas as any other child in the city. The love of my life is a British Brazilian and has introduced me to many wonderful things from that culture. “Girl talk” between her mother and sisters is conducted in Portuguese, and that suits me fine, I am not expected to listen.

           The reason I am writing about this today is because it has occurred to me that there is a flipside to this. If we accept the biological analogy of a hybrid society then the logical implication is that there possibly may be cultures that are simply not compatible with some others. Observation of the facts seems to indicate that this premise is more than just theoretical. Many societies (supposedly) practice sexual equality with respect to gender or even sexual preference. Some cultures have a deeply-ingrained patriarchalism and/or misogyny as a fundamental component of their identity. Others not only include homophobia in their beliefs but advocate active persecution and execution of such. There is at least one cultural group that is actively parasitical or even predatory, wishing nothing from other cultures other than a one way flow of wealth and resources.
           I’ll refrain from further discussion along these lines since inevitably some fool will cry “racist” rather than trying to actually understand the concept I want the reader to think about. 

           It is nearly Thanksgiving in the US. A meme that some people have been circulating is that the Pilgrim Fathers were themselves refugees. Part of the folklore of Thanksgiving is that the Pilgrim Fathers were fleeing persecution. It seems in reality this is not strictly true and that many were a separatist minority whose main complaint was everyone else was not following their creed. Refugees are one of the topics of the day and some will have it that anyone who opposes the immigration of refugees is simply a racist. Perhaps things are not so simple. Some of the countries being criticised for reluctance are some of the most densely populated in Europe. Many richer Moslem countries are refusing to take predominately Moslem refugees. My recent meditations cause me to ask if certain new or existing cultural groups will contribute to our hybrid society or are they incompatible? Tolerance needs to work both ways. These are things that need to be recognised and intelligently discussed sensibly without knee jerk accusations of “racist!”