Four exceptional cultures

Keith Hudson

And, inevitably, on the Alan Marr Show this morning, Michael Fallon was questioned about the “one million migrants accumulating on the North African coastline”.  What could be done about it?

“Well. obviously, we must track down these illegal traffickers and stop them”, was the reply.  There’s absolutely no hope of doing that, as Mr. Fallon would surely agree privately, it you were a close personal friend able to be trusted not to tell the media.  On further probing, he did admit, however, that the problem lies further back than the traffickers — the over population of Africa, the unstable Middle East, poverty in many countries, etc.

But then, of course, he had to tail off in giving solutions.  And so do all of us.  To be realistic, there are no solutions.  Only time, when each of the cultures — the dysfunctional cultures, the religious cultures, the uneducated cultures, etc — will have to find their own answers themselves.  The advanced countries have plainly fallen down in trying to help them.  That must surely be the lesson of the last 70 years since the Second World War.

So far, outside the largely closed ring of five or six advanced northern European countries plus America, very few cultures have been able to imitate us.  Only four of them — exceptional cultures.  Which are they and what’s exceptional about them?  I suggest, in chronological order of awakening:

Japan: A highly deferential culture but able to work together, the result of rich and poor having to cooperate in controlling irrigation to their rice valleys for thousands of years or else both rich and poor would perish. Superb at copying us from the 1880s, but only recently beginning to be inventive themselves. High priority to industry.  High intelligence on Western-type IQ tests.

Israel: The product of advanced country prejudices for centuries and, in one case, systematic genocide during Second World War, and finally instituted largely due to accidental political circumstance in 1947.  Co-equals with Japan, and China with long term ethnic pride.  Like China, scholarship high in social status.  Highly innovative. High intelligence on Western-type IQ tests.

Singapore: A highly deferential culture, mainly because of its Chinese predominance plus an exceptional leader, Lee Kuan Yew, and the accidental circumstance of its location as a trading pivot when the city-state became independent (1965).  Suberb at copying the latest technologies from the West. No signs yet of innate innovation.  High priority to science.  High intelligence on Western-type IQ tests.

China:  A highly deferential culture, with one written language for 2,200 years and, in which, apart from the inevitable emperor or dictator and intermittent warlord squabbles, can hold together and turn as one when necessary.  Scholarship has always been high on the social agenda.  Copying Western tecnnoligies began in earnest in 1979 under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. A possible few signs of independent innovation. High intelligence on Western-type IQ tests.

I’m risking friendships with some readers of my blogs but I cannot see any other cultures in the world matching the above four for three or four decades to come.  India perhaps.  Iceland perhaps.  One or two Nordic countries perhaps.  Canada perhaps.

If I rate the four or five northern European countries and America as 100% advanced (or at least parts of their populations!) — and being able to maintain their relative advantage in the next three of four decades, how would I rate the potential of the four exceptional cultures during the same time scale?  Japan 90%, Israel 110%, Singapore 90%, China 85%.

Arrogant of me?  Probably.  If there are to be any prospects for all the other cultures of the world (200? 300? 400?) then, in my opinion, they’ll lie far beyond four decades hence, and only then when they’ve solved some of the most oustanding problems such as over-population and developing scientific research centres of excellence able to develop high value goods and services that can be traded.

One thought on “Four exceptional cultures

  1. You are not risking friendships in my view. But I think you underweight natural wealth in favor of the conversion of energy and resources to goods and services. Some cultures value pristine rivers, healthy forests, stable fish stocks, songbirds, wild game and biodiversity in general, more highly than the ones you mention. The Nordic countries, New Zealand, Canada (except under Harper’s thumb) are wonderful places to live happy, healthy lives. Note that they have low population density and decent education and health care systems.

    Having economic innovation does not always result in superior quality of life. The air, soil, and water pollution, plus suspect food supplies, would keep me away from China and Singapore. India is a basket case too. Israel is vulnerable due to water and energy bottlenecks, plus being surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction.

    My 2 cents!

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