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But What’s Upstream from Culture?


Andrew Breitbart noted – with urgency – that politics was downstream from culture.  John Adams, aware of this from his own reflection on history, wrote that Liberty can only be enjoyed by a virtuous and moral people.

Today Glenn Reynolds notes unhappy developments in the culture of the academy – serious grade inflation.

Grade inflation bears a striking resemblance to theft:  Redistributing the honor of those who deserve and diluting their ranks with the unworthy.  Alas, theft is never a victimless crime.  If the swelling ranks of A-graders causes no resentment amongst the true earners and no shame amongst those who grade and those who “benefit” unfairly, then the culture is decaying.  So too is the absolute value of having earned A’s.

Let’s note here that Culture is an aggregate effect.  It is the aggregate of individuals’ values and behaviors that create the culture.  Our schools have long abandoned Wisdom and her consorts Honor and Justice.  We should note too that these always and everywhere pertain to the individual. Without them, and individual’s values and behaviors default to surrounding tribal, collective norms.

Shabbat shalom,


One Comment leave one →
  1. 2017/07/21 16:21

    Culture is tribalism. If you study anthropology or sociology, historically people were in tribe units of up to 150-200 people at most. Think of it as an extended family. Individuals learned what was expected from the tribe and to some extent the tribe knew what was expected from them from the individual. Crazy uncle jack was accepted as he was one of their own. As people aggregated in cities over the last 150-200 years, we start to see the effects of multiple many tribes interfacing to create a greater tribe. This could be based on geopolitics, religion or some other common element. When you get people joining the larger tribe, there can be a lot of bump and grind depending on what their experience is and what they expect. Still, even if there’s a larger geopolitical tribe, there are still smaller tribes, like islands in a Venn diagram. Some of these compete for power, influence, money or territory. Culture is just this mishmash of the era and what distills out of it is the culture, so culture shifts. Hanging on to one as it changes just leaves one frustrated. It’s best to take a few steps back and watch for a bit.

    As far as Adam’s admonition, I think he wasn’t talking so much about a given religion, but rather a people that operate on a set of principles that mitigate the negative side of human nature. Having the ability to vote what you want can be catastrophic if the less than honest, introspective and not open to challenging their assumptions are voting. Which leads me to my next point.

    A lot is made of having good morals or whatever and many times this comes from the indoctrination from the culture (tribe) through religion and sometimes not. The problem is that it’s like a fixed set of plans for a world that shifts, moves and evolves and the more rules and orthodoxy there are cements one in place with no place to go. To be moral really involves very few rules and no, it’s not being judgmental either. SO, what happens in this entrenchment is that people’s indoctrination is used against them in manipulating them for some other purpose. Look at the SoCon vote for Trump. He’s no social conservative no matter how well he feigns it, but he tells them the fairytales they like best to get their vote. Not a moral proposition. It’s OK to be part of a tribe, but we’d be better off if we we open to challenging our own assumptions and making adjustments as new data comes in. Instead, many double down on ignorance and indoctrination because the cognitive dissonance is too much to bear. See my thesis on why people have to be right…These fundamentalist approaches are often by folks that need certainty in the world, so the rules abound as does a rigid world view, in spite of the fact that the world doesn’t work that way. It just makes it easier for those like that to function it in it. Then people of like minds coalesce into tribes and here we are. Collective ignorance and intransigence and I take no side politically. Generally speaking, using Heinlein’s assertion that people divide into two groups politically: Those that want other people controlled and those that do not, we see that the ignorant and intransigent fall into the group that wants others controlled. Those open to what the world is do not and what they want controlled usually divides further, as in the case of our two major parties.

    What’s behind this? What’s the prime motivator? Fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of what’s unpredictable, fear of not being safe, fear of not being right, because that challenges what they think they observe. We have a right to our emotions, but emotions aren’t truth most of the time.

    It’s one thing to operate on your own set of experiences, indoctrination and desires, but it’s another game when it become evangelized and for me, that’s where the rub is. It’s a deep problem in humanity and we may never get beyond it as a whole. Some do, but they are in the minority.

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