Here’s a thought I’m just going to throw out for your consideration, leaving its development incomplete. My hypothesis is that everyone belongs to at least two cultures. I’ll call these two cultures the “ethnic or family” culture and the “juris-economic or public” culture. The former is based on factors associated with DNA, the latter on the synthetic structures of the legal and financial system.
This may be less apparent in some nations than others. My working explanation for that is that as cultures age, the public culture absorbs the ethnic culture. That’s probably not correct, but as far as it goes I think it offers a starting point. By this theory, the older the nation the less divergence there should be between the ethnic and juris-economic cultures. Adding fresh confusion to this would be recently created nations that straddle ancient boundaries (eg; Iraq).
In the United States, the contrast could hardly be more stark. This is a root cause of many of our disagreements and much of our rancor. Here’s a simple little example.
Some ethnic cultures hold public spaces in common. Other ethnic cultures hold private property paramount. Of course there is room for private property in the former, and public spaces in the latter, but let’s see what happens when these clash.
The common spaces culture may anticipate and expect citizens to fully utilize public spaces, and hold little private property; no more than is required for one’s individual and family welfare. The private property culture might expect citizens to tread lightly on common spaces to insure no individual intrudes on others’ use of the common spaces; reverting to private property when significant personal use of spaces is desired.
So, we have a supermarket parking lot. Drivers in the parking lot are a mix of common spaces culture and private property culture. A driver enters the parking lot with a window rattling stereo pumping out the tunes. How do the various drivers react? We can’t know for sure, and there are a multitude of variations, but two reactions that I’ve witnessed are that some drivers will pick up the beat and enjoy the tunes, while other drivers will either studiously ignore the racket, or quietly seeth at what amount to the confiscation of common spaces by an individual or small group.
This scenario plays out all the time, in scores of different ways. I find this a very fascinating subject because it is so visual, so tactile, yet so fundamental, and leads to exquisitely abstract examples. Does that guy down the street have the right to roar through the neighborhood on his Harley-Davidson, with deafening exhaust pipes blaring? If I’m sitting in my front yard, or even my back yard, whether he realizes it or not, is invading my privacy. But if private property should be minimal, then my recourse should be to go inside my apartment or house and close the windows.
This isn’t just about noise or ruckus on public streets and parking lots. It utterly permeates our political, legal, financial and economic, and civil society. Ultimately, it is about comprehending the difference between ethnic and public culture, and reconciling the two. In a profoundly multicultural liberal Western democracy (of which the United States is the only example), this is a Really Big Challenge.
This hypothesis deserves much better, more thorough treatment than this blog post provides, but I don’t have the time or energy right this moment.
G’day all, and may God continue to bless America.