Friday, May 10, 2019

What Makes an American?

I've written about this in the past, but The ZMan has a post on that concept that just has to be read.

The least understood part of nationhood is the part played by the culture. In traditional societies, the national culture is transmitted by the community of family and neighbors, as part of their identity. It may consist of their ethnicity, social/occupational class, religion, and established norms of their community.

When I was a child in America in the 1950s, divorce in my community was nearly unthinkable. Oh, sure, some celebrities got divorces, but your family, friends, and neighbors - seldom. It was Just Not Done.

Those who did divorce were excluded from the rest of the community. They might associate with them in barbeques or other communal social events, but...they were not part of the crowd's inner circle.

The divorced women were not invited to participate in most neighborhood get-togethers. For one thing, most of them had to work for a living. Others were forced to return to live with family members, due to finances. But, the biggest reason is that an unattached woman was a threat. She had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by making a play for the men.

I only knew a few classmates whose parents were divorced. My mother - a warm and compassionate woman - once encountered one whose mother was unable to come to Parent's Night as school. She volunteered to be his "mom" for the evening.

She also befriended a next-door neighbor who was not only divorced, but raising a teenage brother. Such actions were criticized, but Mom was a strong-minded woman with her own conception of morality, and was not bothered by their protests.

I used to think the other women were needlessly cruel, but I've since come to see their reactions as protective. They banded together to keep potential rivals ruthlessly excluded from close contact. That's what women do. They use their group actions to enforce conformity to the prevailing culture. That's the force that keeps communities together, by re-affirming the common culture, and punishing by exclusion those not conforming to it.

Did such exclusion cause pain to those outside the circle? Sure. But most of the community benefited from the strong cultural norms.

Women who have chosen to place "tolerance" above conformity are one of the major factors affecting the disintegration of culture; they have abandoned their traditional role of keeping the culture intact. Many women discount the value of the cohesiveness of cultural norms - by doing so, they have neglected one of the most important tasks of womanhood.

They have left their children adrift, without firm foundations helping them to manage their interactions with peers and superiors, random strangers, and potential lovers. Today's children are often clueless of the expected norms of society; few can afford to flout customs without consequence.

Employers complain that younger employees are ignorant of expected etiquette. They leave a bad impression of their company behind.

By rejecting cultural norms, women have created a nation that lurches along without commonly-agreed-upon ways of interacting. This causes every interpersonal encounter to resemble a contact with an alien civilization. The protocols must be tediously, laboriously negotiated anew. Each new contact is ripe for misunderstandings, offense, and reprisal for not meeting the unspoken expectations.

In short, today's world - chaotic, prickly, and contentious.

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