Cultures

 

Alexander Liss

 

08/09/04

 

 

 

     A Culture is characterized by a stable system of basic images used by the Mind. This system of basic images affects peoples' perception and is used to organize sensory information and to communicate. People belonging to a Culture use the same system of basic images. People belonging to different Cultures use different systems of basic images, and this causes problems of understanding and problems of communication.

 

Cultural Boundaries

 

     A Culture could have various subcultures, which systems of basic images have a lot in common. Usually, subcultures are interdependent and an entire complex exists as a stable system.

Some Cultures are interrelated that they form clusters of Cultures. Some cultures could exist as a stable system only as a part of such cluster.

     Boundaries between subcultures and boundaries between Cultures in a cluster often enhance prospects of Culture survival. They do not allow an easy propagation of self-destructive delusional ideas.

     In any Culture, there is a perpetual outflow of its carriers, who assimilate into another Culture, and there is a perpetual inflow of people assimilating into it. However, this process does not affect the Culture - moving from Culture to Culture is painfully difficult, as immigrants could attest.

In addition, there is a perpetual diffusion of images (concepts, ideas, stories, etc.) between Cultures. This diffusion does not erase boundaries between Cultures. Similar phenomenon one observes with languages - in spite of a perpetual diffusion of concepts, sound forms and written forms between languages, languages retain their distinction.

     Boundaries between Cultures often coincide with some other social boundary. For example, small Christian denominations in Asia often coincide with some small nation or a tribe. 

     Tolerance and civility are limitations on behavior, which allow communication across Cultural boundaries. Cultures, which do not impose these limitations, grow into isolation and, eventually, fall into delusion.

 

Culture Dynamics

 

     Cultures, as any stable systems, could flip from one state to another. Such flipping is a radical change of an entire system of images. One could observe such flipping in a history of Culture of China.

     Often, such flipping is seemingly random - a Culture in its development reached a point, where a small event pushes it into another stable state. It is difficult to point out a particular factor or a particular event, which caused this radical change, which occurred in a short period. During American Revolution, the Culture of English colonies flipped. This was a random flipping.

Sometimes, such flipping is assisted by a conquest.

     Usually, Cultures are a natural occurrence of emergence of stable systems of images, as stable vortexes appear in a stream of water. With self-analysis and creation of cultural institutions, some Cultures create artificial boundaries to protect their distinction. When these boundaries are too numerous and too inflexible, this leads to inflexibility of the Culture and its eventual demise, because carriers of the Culture become increasingly detached from reality in their decision-making.

     Some Cultures are artificial from an onset. Communist culture of the Soviet Union and National-Socialist culture of Nazi Germany are examples of such cultures. They required strict isolation from other Cultures and brutal enforcement to maintain stability. They were delusional from onset and they quickly disappeared, on time-scale of Cultures.

     There is a Culture, which was created in a short period and which has enormous influence on Cultures currently in existence. This is Jewish Culture. It is a part of a cluster of Cultures, which includes Christian and Muslim cultures.

What is not so obvious, Christian and Muslim Cultures cannot exist without the Jewish Culture. Christian and Muslim Cultures do not have tools of maintenance of a large and important part of images, which they translate from the Jewish Culture. The Jewish Culture maintains this part of images for all Cultures of the cluster. The cluster is stable only as a system. However, the Jewish Culture has forms, which could exist independently from the cluster.

     When some Culture of this cluster becomes rigid and detached from reality, they get in conflict with other Cultures of the cluster. When they do not realize that this is an internal problem, they go after other Cultures of the cluster in attempt to cast them in accordance with own rigid image.

 

Anti-Semitism

 

     Jewish Culture is related to all Cultures of the cluster; hence, it is immediately a subject of a Culture's hostility, when the Culture becomes rigid and detached from reality (becomes delusional).

     This hostility usually takes form of Anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is hostility against the Culture: many Anti-Semites, who hate Jews in general, have a few Jewish friends.

Thus, one could use a flare of Anti-Semitism in a society as an indication of society's mental illness: its Culture became rigid and detached from reality. Historically, such flare is followed either with a reformation of the Culture or with the Culture demise.

     In Medieval Europe, Christian Cultures reached a state of disrepair. This caused Crusades, devastating for Christians and with a small impact on Muslims, and eventual creation of new forms of Christianity and reformation of existing forms. A flare of Anti-Semitism was an early indication of problems within Christian Culture.

     In the beginning of 20th century, a government of Christian Russian Empire led an Anti-Semitic campaign ("literature" created as a part of this campaign is still in use by Anti-Semites). This flare of Anti-Semitism was a definite sign of deep troubles within the Russian Culture. A small band of communists was able to flip this Culture into an unprecedented artificial culture.

     Communist culture is not stable, and to protect it, communists eradicated competing Cultures. Jewish Culture was among first on their hit list. Communists destroyed Jewish religion and converted some Jews into primitive religion of communism.

     German society after WWI was in trouble, and this manifested itself in Anti-Semitism. Nazis grabbed an opportunity to repeat 'success" of communists and flipped Christian Culture of Germany into National-Socialist culture.

The National-Socialist culture is even more radical and delusional than communist culture. As a communist culture, it is unstable and Nazis consistently suppressed and eradicated all other Cultures. However, Nazis had a delusional goal of world domination; hence, they needed to destroy all other Cultures. They saw that communists' destruction of Jewish religion did not cause complete destruction of Jewish Culture. They decided to destroy Jews. Ideological tools, which they created, are still in use by Anti-Semites.

     Current fire of Anti-Semitism in Europe is an indication of internal problems of European societies: For many years, socialism was carefully embedded in these societies and it does not work.

     Anti-Semitism in Muslim societies is a clear indication of rigidity of their societies, which does not allow adaptation to modern world and leads to poverty.

     Now, Jews live freely in the Holy Land, and this fact is an essential element of the current form of the Jewish Culture. Hence, hatred of the state of Israel in general is simply a current form of Anti-Semitism.

 

Manifestations of Culture

 

     The system of basic images is hidden. It manifests itself in society's habits, traditions, institutions, events, etc.

     Prevalent religions in a society provide a window into the system of basic images. Religion is an important manifestation of the Culture, because it deals with most basic images of the Culture and it changes slowly. 

     The system of governance in a society exists only because it is in concert with its Culture. It is possible, that brutal governance emerged gradually and spoiled the Culture on its way, but the Culture is spoiled nevertheless; otherwise, a small group could not be able to keep its grip on power. Hence, the system of governance is an important manifestation of the society's Culture.

     The popular "culture products" have to reflect the Culture to attract consistent interest of the Society; hence, they provide a glimpse into the society's system of images. Thus, studying society's literature, theater, music, cinema, etc. one could get a glimpse into the society's Culture.

 

Jewish Culture

 

     The Jewish Culture emerged with subcultures of priests and Levites. People, which settled outside the Holy Land, formed an additional subculture.

     Priests protected the nation from perpetually emerging random religions. Levites became a part of population, which adjusts the Culture to new conditions. They developed religious studies, craftsmanship, etc. The subculture of people, which lived outside the Land, served as a liaison with other Cultures.

     The Jewish Culture went through many forms. Different groups now play roles initially played by its tribes. When people lived in Holy Land, even when Jewish society was divided into two states, manifestations of this Culture were different from manifestations of years of exile. During the Babylonian exile and the exile by the Roman Empire, its main manifestation was religious. The existence of the state of Israel defines current form of the Jewish Culture.

In all times, it is manifested with Jewish approach to life, to each other and to other people. It is so deeply embedded, that Jews, which converted to Christianity in Spain in the Middle Ages, were still so different that Spanish Inquisition was burning them. In spite of all successes of communists in destroying Jewish religion and embedding communist ideology, Jews moved from Soviet Union to Israel at first opportunity.

Unlike some other Cultures, which easily survive random variations in all directions, the Jewish Culture does not survive falling into not monotheistic form of religion. Hence, Jews work consciously to not fall into such form of the Culture variation. Variations in all other directions are usually tried.

This "vulnerability" actually defines Jewish Culture. It is in the open to remind Jews that they have to make perpetual conscious efforts to maintain this Culture. Enemies of Jews frequently tried to explore it to destroy Jewish Culture.

Because of this limitation, the subcultures in Jewish Culture cannot survive for a long time, when they deviate from the monotheism: when they create a primitive religion. This is a property, which is actively used by Christian and Muslim Cultures. They translate the system of basic images maintained by the Jewish Culture into own basic images. This relives them from maintaining these images on their own and they could focus on their specific images. No living Culture could rely on ancient images, because the system of images is perpetually changing, hence, while Christian and Muslim Cultures cite ancient texts, they rely on the current state of the Jewish Culture.

Any Culture needs at least some form of expansion to exist. Usually this expansion reflects expansion of a society, which carries it, whatever form of expansion the society uses at a moment. The Jewish society several times in its history ran into a situation, where it has no possibility to expand. It resorted to analyses of oneself as a tool of expansion. This created a unique and extensive literature explaining inner workings of this Culture. This literature was used to guard various forms of religion from falling into a primitive religion, to advance science of psychology, psychiatry, etc.

The Culture is dynamic, and current rapid social changes are reflected in changes of this Culture.

 

American Culture

 

American Culture never had time or interest to analyze oneself. It depends on perpetual expansion of American society; it works with perpetual real experimentation instead of imaginary experimentation using models, it uses relatively large amount of resources, which are available to this Culture in abundance.

Initially, it was using natural hunting and agricultural resources and expanding geographically. When it got in conflict with rigid structures of British society, it broke off it.

When this set of resources and room for expansion was exhausted, it turned to technological expansion. When internal rigid structures, mostly manifested in a subculture of Southern states, got in conflict with this expansion, the civil war swept these barriers away.

When the society fell in dysfunction during the Great Depression, the artificial expansion created with the public works financed by the government pulled it out of it.

In spite of traditional values of thrift and hard experiences of the Great Depression, the American society turned to incessant consumption to create room for a new form of expansion. American Culture now rides this expansion.

This Culture is so different from other Cultures that perpetual misunderstandings arise, when it gets in touch with them.

For example, movies in the American Culture became a subject of consumption, units of Entertainment aimed to amuse with novelty, stir emotions and leave a good feeling in their wake. They hardly represent the American Culture. Movies in other societies teach, argue, expose cultural values etc. Thus, people from other Cultures try to figure out the American Culture from its movies - a futile exercise.

Perpetual mutual misunderstanding between the American Culture and the communist culture of Soviet Union caused extremely dangerous arm race. This race actually delayed the fall of the communist culture, because it provided the communist culture with the expansion in military area, which it could ride.

Only when President Reagan reached deep into the American Culture and came up with the language, which communists could understand, and supported it with economic pressure coming from a properly organized arm race, the communist culture disintegrated.

Some things in the American Culture are especially difficult to understand for outsiders.

In the American Culture, it is customary to make a small step in a direction, which looks promising using live systems and actual resources. Other Cultures often cannot afford this level of risk, because they do not have enough resources. They developed an art of analysis using models and they cannot understand Americans, because they do not have similar experience.

Americans use fewer models in decision-making. In a complex situation, Americans create special decision-making systems; usually these systems have embedded competitive mechanism, which improves efficiency of decisions and allows functioning without extensive audit.

The consequence of tradition of perpetual experimentation with working systems leads to a peculiar American phenomenon poorly understood in other Cultures. Americans have "short memory". Errors and mistakes made on course of such experimentation are not punished harshly and opportunity is given to fix them.

Americans traditionally attribute success of the American Culture to the capitalist system. However, the capitalist system is only a tool, which happens to work well with this Culture. Use of this tool with other Cultures often leads to inhumane consequences.

Being busy with expansion, Americans did not develop rigid separating people walls in the American society: when a disaster strikes, the society as a whole is automatically mobilized to help, without a prompt or guidance from the government. 

The American Culture is unstable without a sufficient expansion of some kind. Hence, the society has to prepare the next expansion, while the previous is still sufficient. The other Cultures understand this riding of expansion by the American Culture and they are in fear, that the current form of expansion, which the American Culture rides, could override them. The best solution for them is to ride the same expansion.