Thursday, May 28, 2009

Clear thinking about the foundations of culture

A conversation over at View from the Right that gets right to the heart of cultural foundations, and what it means to live as an immigrant in another culture.

Here are some choice excerpts:
At bottom, all societies are institutions whereby people come together and agree--voluntarily--to be bound by certain laws and customs. This is true of Europeans in Americans, villages in China, tribes in Africa, English in Australia, etc. ...

All societies choose how to govern themselves, and it is entirely proper that those choices will reflect the preferences of those that established the society in the first place. In America, that is the Anglo Saxon, Protestant, Northern European culture. " ... The existing population built the society, wrote its laws, established its customs, and in many cases they (or their ancestors) fought and died in its wars. Who else has any right to decide how that society should be governed?

I firmly believe that people have a right to govern themselves as they see fit--and, to expect others who join their society to consent to be governed by their rules, no questions asked. ... Certainly anyone ... who comes here--for whatever reason--should be bound by our culture. That it is not to say America is only for White Europeans. But it is to say that America is only for people who are willing--without question or complaint--to live under laws written by White Europeans.
Having lived 2 years as an immigrant, I fully understand and accept this line of reasoning. My wife and I lived in South Korea for two years. Yes, there was a lot of English around, but most stuff was still written in Korean -- which we had to learn how to read and speak (since most folks spoke only rudimentary English). We had to learn a host of new customs and social niceties, since much of what passes for polite in the US often comes off as frosty or downright rude in Korea.

We were constantly conscious of being strangers in a strange land -- a land that welcomed us to work there, to be sure, but not our home. Korea as a country is of and for the Koreans. And that's okay. I loved my time there, but I couldn't live there long-term. I'm an American. And that's okay, too. We had friends who couldn't or didn't understand what it means to be an alien: it means just what Obama said: "To play on another man's court, by another man's rules." He seemed to believe that that's a bad thing. I disagree.

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