Sunday, 13 August 2006

Cultural fit

I am not going to get into an argument about cultural relativism here. I am just going to write about how 'close' I feel to other cultures.

Maybe I can call it "The Index of Togetherness".

If I was feeling really technical, I'd create an index that was made up of several sub-components - religion, language, values, outlook, history etc etc, and give each a weighting. However, I can't be shagged. I am just going to pull numbers out of my arse.

Let's see, I am living in the inner west in Sydney, and I have lived in the eastern suburbs and the north shore. Being a complete WASP, I feel more at home in the latter two areas than where I am now, so I'll give the east and north a score of 100. I'll give wogville a score of 85. That is, I feel 85% bonded with this area. That score might be too high - who knows. I am just fiddling with numbers here.

85 is pretty comfortable, which is why I am in no hurry to move. It is not perfect, but it is good enough. It's not Beirut.

Funnily enough, I'd give Melbourne a score of 95. Tasmania is a wierd place - it gets a score of 80. I've been there, and I really don't understand them. Queensland is the same - that bunch of crackers gets a score 0f 80 as well. We speak the same language, but they are on another planet.

The far western suburbs of Sydney gets a score of 60. I have more in common with whackos from Brisbane than I do with westies.

Now let's go international.

I'll give the poms a score of 90 - the English that is. Same language, religion, history, values, cultural affinity and all that. The Welsh get a score of 50. I'll give the yanks a score of 75 - because I have actually spent a bit of time in the US and understand that although they speak English and are christians and a democracy and all that, they are definitely on another planet. Two peoples separated by a common language.

I'll give the kiwis 92. That means we should boot Tasmania out of the commonwealth and incorporate NZ.

I've been to most of Western Europe, so I'll rate them as follows:

France - 70
Germany - 60
Belgium - 60
Denmark - 65
Holland - 65
Norway - 55
Sweden - 55
Finland - 50
Austria - 55
Greece - 50
Italy - 50
Turkey - 40

The further east and north you go, the lower the scores. I can understand a bit of French and German - after all, they use the same script as us, and if was there for a few weeks, I could start to read the newspapers. I read about those countries every week. They might be Catholics, but I can put up with that. The French do well because the English and the French have a lot of shared history, and the French have some very attractive elements in their culture. I don't want to live there, but I can live with them.

The northern countries are all mad. Think long, cold nights and vodka. That's all I have to say.

I'm thinking that I should give Greece and Italy higher scores, since we know a lot about them and they are one of the cradles of western civilization. Plus a lot of them came out to Australia 50 years ago, so we've had lots of exposure to their cultures. However, as a phlegmatic WASP, I still find the hot headed Latin culture a bit hard to take. That's just my opinion. Nice places to visit, but I wouldn't want to live in either.

I didn't get a chance to drop into what was then Eastern Europe, but I will have a crack at a few countries on the wrong side of the old Berlin Wall:

Slovakia - 40
Rumania - 25
Hungary - 40
Croatia - 30
Ukraine - 25
Russia - 25

In other words, they are all a write-off. Funny languages. Ethnic hatreds. Orthodox Christians. Borscht. Slavic. Can't read the newspaper.

Now let's move closer to home and look at Asia:

Japan - 30
China - 15
South Korea - 20
North Korea - 1
Thailand - 30
Indonesia - 25
PNG - 10
Malaysia - 25
Hong Kong - 35
Singapore - 50
India - 25
Pakistan - 8

Japan does alright thanks to 50 years of trade and sushi. Toyota and Sony have been great ambassadors. However, they are still inscrutable little nipponese with a very different language, culture, customs, religion and all that. We know something about them, but we don't know them. Exposure to their culture, and 50 years of peace, has pushed Japan up the index.

South Korea is where Japan would have been 25 years ago. South Korea is moving slowly up the index - slipstreaming behind Japan I guess.

Singapore and Hong Kong rate well. Lots of them speak English. Singapore is kind of democratic. Clean. Well run. Respect for law and order. Nice place to visit. Beer is a bit expensive, but I could think about living there.

India - rates reasonably due to some shared history under the British Raj and Tandoori chicken. Democratic. Interesting place - probably viewed as fairly benign by most Australians. Mad as meataxes though.

Pakistan was interesting though. I gave it 1/3 the score of India. Also mad as meataxes, and part of the Raj, but who wants to go there? Perhaps the key difference is that after a generation, the Indians are starting to fit in to our society, but the Pakis seem to be keeping to themselves.

How about the middle east?

Iran - 4
Iraq - 5
Jordan - 8
Syria - 5
Saudi Arabia - 5
Bahrain - 15
Israel - 55
Gaza - 3
Lebanon - 10

In other words, these are just really foreign places. Apart from Israel. Most are not democratic, they are definitely not Christian, the rule of law seems a bit dodgy and the culture and customs are way differnt. The Israelis do fairly well as a lot of them seem to be nominally Jewish rather than full on - just as I am nominally Anglican, which means I might go to church for weddings and funerals. I don't even make it for Easter and Christmas. I can relate to people like that.

Plus, a lot of the Israelis came from Europe, so they brought some of those recognisable cultures with them. They drink beer. They sunbake in bikinis. The women not only drive, they serve in the military. They have an insane democratic system - perhaps it is too democratic. Quite a few of them speak English quite well, including those that emigrated from the US (ha ha). In short, it is my kind of country. I don't particularly like Israelis or dislike Joranians - I just feel a closer affinity with them. Don't want to live in either country though.

Lebanon - couldn't give a rats about most of it.


Sudan - 4
Congo - 3
South Africa - 65
Namibia - 50
Zimbabwe - 15

South Africa and Namibia play cricket and rugby, so that has to count for a lot. Zimbabwe gets a few points because it used to be Rhodesia, but it is shedding points like crazy.

Closer to home, I give aboriginals a rating of 10. Yes, we live in the same country and we've been exposed to aboriginal culture for years, but I feel closer to the Japanese than I do to aboriginal culture. Note that I am talking about culture here rather than individuals. You can feel very close to or very alienated from two people from the same culture - I am talking about overall perceptions here. Aboriginal languages, religion, history, customs, social mores etc are just completely different to my WASP background. Chalk and cheese.

So what does this tell us?

If the English decide to invade Wales again, I am backing the English. I don't care if they are right or wrong - I just feel culturally closer to them.

Everyone will have their own score, and it will be weighted according to their background. Japanese might give the Koreans a score of 80, although given how the Koreans feel about WWII, they might give the Japs a score of 20. The Egyptians would probably give the Palestinians a score of 70 and the Israelis a score of 5, which explains their reflexive support of the Palestinians. And Saddam Hussein. They probably gave Saddam a rating of 60 and George W a rating of 5. George is just too different for them to comprehend or understand.

I think the problem that a lot of lefties have is that they feel the need to love everyone else on the planet, regardless of whether they love you back or not. I love people that love me back. I respect people that respect me back. It's not a one way street. However, they'd easily misconstrue such an index as racist. I'm not saying I hate people that come from a culture with a score of say less than 30. I don't hate them. I just don't feel any afinity with them. We have too little in common. We don't relate because there is little common ground. It's not like or dislike - it's more disinterest.

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