By Jean H Charles
Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, in a speech in Jerusalem told a Jewish crowd and by extension the Palestinian population that culture does matter in the success of the development of the nation of Israel, while the Palestinian Authority still languishes in a failed state status.
Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
The pundits and the directors of opinion have flagellated Mr Romney for this lapse. But as Galileo on the way to execution by the Catholic Church for discovering and lecturing that the earth turns around the sun (not the other way around) in lying to the court, he saved his head. But, his uttering “et pu se mueve” on the steps of the papal court will remain in our conscience forever. It reminds us to be careful about novel thinking that may derange, but bring us closer to the truth.
Preponderance of evidence!
Through a preponderance of evidence, I will prove that Mitt Romney is on the right track in pointing the finger to the concept of culture as the key impediment or a catalyst of development depending on whether culture is used as a vehicle or a break in unleashing the creativity of the individuals in a given nation.
This column is on record in showing that the Jewish people were the first amongst all nations on earth to choose rationality as a modus vivere, or one God as its credo. Aristotle and Plato had also abounded in the same vain. The nations that chose to utilize rationality as their leitmotiv have succeeded; those that eschew rationality have dwindled. It is true that capitalism has taken an easy ride upon rationality to create an occidental culture of “absolute rationality” that kept billions in bondage misery while millions have prospered.
The question today is how, using Professor Claude M Steele’s language (Whistling Vivaldi!), we can twinkle the mind and the resources to satisfy both the have and the have not, leading into “humanist rationality as proposed by Moses, Jesus, Kant, Rousseau and Marx.”
The world today needs the leadership of those who can face the fire to bring in more outcasts into the bliss of prosperity. Is it a question of more state intervention or more incubation or twinkling at the level of each person to unleash one’s creativity towards national prosperity in producing a critical mass of prosperous individuals?
It is a philosophical debate that goes beyond the confines of and the election for the next president of the United States. The issue is why Iraq and Afghanistan will remain failed states after the United States and the European Union have spent billions of dollars through military and governmental interventions in creating nations out of those countries?
The United Nations, through a military and stabilization force in Haiti, is spending close to one billion a year with no apparent outcome for the country and for the people, yet the Dominican Republic that shares the same island of Hispaniola (or Ayiti) is forging ahead with all the indices of development well in place, with no massive input from the UN.
The French former colonial countries in contrast with the British ones (with the glaring exception of Vietnam that fought and won the right to remain one and unified) are all failed states that sink deeper into underdevelopment every year.
Sicily in Italy has created a mafia culture that it is spread all over the world. This culture is nailing to the ground all national and societal effort towards development and hospitality for all.
The issue of why the State of Louisiana, which has been a member of the Union since 1803, remains one of the poorer states of the United States must be studied in light of its unique culture.
The American Indian tribes that suddenly become rich through the monopoly of gambling and casinos have failed to create sustainable and diversified sources of wealth for the drier days ahead, again a manifestation of cultural underpinnings.
Turkey has developed a culture of nation building under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal that is propelling its development as of one the few Muslim countries (with Singapore and Malaysia) where growth can be seen in double digits.
Argentina, with its vast plains and prairies like the United States, became several times a failed state due to its culture of inhospitality and selfish gain. Mexico, which sandwiched the United States with Canada, is languishing in a culture where drug money and poor governance are sending hordes of Mexicans abroad looking for a better and a more clement pasture.
Most of the countries liberated from the yoke of the Soviet Empire are still undergoing social, political and economic convulsions, with the exception of Poland and Slovenia.
The Muslim countries that just came out of the oppression through the Jasmine Spring are plotting their return to the status quo ante, because their leadership does not care for or does not know how to get rid of the cultural values and barriers that are as oppressive as their former ruthless rulers.
China, with its Confucian culture, is forging ahead under a leadership aware of the sacred cows that must be extracted from the minds of the people. India, in spite of its sprint ahead, will remain behind because its sacred cows are still sacred.
The countries of the world that failed have a common thread. They use the blame game to argue for and justify their lack of self responsibility. The villains are the United States, Israel, the great powers, China, and big business. They fail to look into the cultural values that hold them down, as well as those values that could put them on the right track by fighting and winning.
Jared Diamond, the author of Guns, Germs and Steel, in an opinion column in the New York Times, has characterized Mr Romney as being a bad student. He has not done his homework. Mr Diamond implied that Mr Romney has confused geography with culture. (Why is Switzerland, a landlocked nation, so rich?)
He may have done so, but Mr Romney goes further than geography by mentioning culture as the main impediment or catalyst for nation building or development.
The United Nations, the World Bank, USAID and the European Union, among major agents of economic intervention in the third world, cannot continue to miss the point in affecting change for the better. Culture and its sacred cows will continue to block any beneficial intervention.
Mitt Romney’s new vision in presenting culture as an important element in leaping forward growth and development is refreshing. As Galileo, who shook the scientific tenets of the universal Catholic Church, he should not be afraid of the ire and the punches of the pundits. Time is on his side. Victory for the world through humanist rationality (and by rebound for the United States) is in sight.
Note: Culture according to the Free Encyclopedia:
Culture is the large scale context of a given society. It is that which distinguishes life in one group from life in another group. Culture like an individual is a more or less consistent pattern of thought and action.