Culture, Character And Cheese
Recently, The Anchoress wrote about American culture. Her post, What Is American Culture? is a not so subtle inquiry into an important facet of the American experience- good humor. Americans are more than willing to laugh at themselves and their foibles- and more importantly, we derive great pleasure in doing just that and learning from the experience. That said, there is much more to being an American, of course.
Europeans derisively say America has no culture. They point to their own history, art, and literature as examples of their ‘refined’ sense of culture. Certainly, they have reason to be proud of the cultural achievements of their cultural icons.
Nevertheless, the Americans idea of cultural identity is very different from the European version. Americans believe their cultural identity is derived from great ideas and not great cheese or great paintings.
This country was founded by those seeking escape and opportunity from those ‘cultured’ nations that oppressed them and denied them them the right to determine their own destiny. Class distinctions, feudal systems and other kinds of ‘cultured’ discrimination kept opportunity from millions. As America opened her arms in a warm welcome, the ‘wretched refuse,’ of European ‘cultured’ nations were finally free to make their dreams come true- and in the process, they built the greatest nation on the face of the earth.
Moliere, the great French playwright and philosopher, once noted that ‘The less were are like our ancestors, the less we deserve them.’
Have we forgotten who we are and where we came from? Have we forgotten that our greatness as a nation has been derived from the ideas and ideals of those ‘wretched refuse’- and not from European cultural elitism? Why are so many so willing to go back to the house that shunned them and would not allow them to eat at the same table as they? May will say that Europe is no longer influenced by the cultural elites, but that is poppycock. This incarnation of cultural elites like to paint themselves as voices ‘of the people’- and like their communist and Nazi predecessors, dissent and disagreement will not be tolerated.
The idea of the free exchange of ideas is lost on many of our European friends. The free and safe exchange of ideas, at every level of society is as threatening to the European cultural elites now as it was a century ago. Astonishingly, that kind of cultural elitism is somehow attractive to the children and grandchildren of those who sought the freedom on our shores that they were denied for centuries. In this post communist and post Nazi era, there are those for whom those kind of ideologies have become ideals. How tragic that is.
In fact, this new (old) kind of secularism is in fact a rejection of modernity. The new ‘culture’ is calling for a retreat back into the old European culture. There are Americans today for whom the ‘right’ kind of racism, bigotry and religious persecution have once again become acceptable forms of cultural and political expression. Professed Christians, Jews, Americans, Israelis, the Danes, the Dutch and a host of others are all castigated for their insistence that they be allowed to be who they are, without fear. The struggle is now against modernity- the idea that all peoples can be equal. Once again, the ‘cultural elites’ decide who is and isn’t worthy of existence. That is not an exaggeration. Ask the Jews under siege in Europe.
Modernity has impacted politics, economics and culture- and that is why the ‘cultural elites’ are so frightened. Modernity equals the playing field. The notion that the ideas of anyone, anywhere, are equal is a direct and deadly challenge to those ‘cultural elites.’
Modernity is an evolution- that is, what has advanced will not be reversed. The cultural secularism of the elites however, is just another ideology- and like ideologies everywhere, secularists can change the rules midstream, if it they so desire, if change serves their needs.
The real expression of democracy and freedom means that secularists and cultural elites will have ceded their control and dominion of what defines culture- and thus, moral authority- to modernists. To a modernist, the free and open exchange of thoughts and ideas among equals, is the lifeblood of the future.
To the cultural elites, that idea is intolerable. It is no mistake that violence and/or the approval of violence has been accepted by secularists as a legitimate political and cultural expression. To free societies, unmitigated violence is antithetical to our values, morals and principles. Democracies do not settle differences with violence. The cultural elites have no problem with violence or condoning violence, because they understand that they do not have to face equal or violent consequences of their actions. The mistakenly believe that ‘empowers’ them. In fact, the differences between American and European cultures is a different kind of ‘Clash of Civilizations.’ Modernity favors real democracy and real democracy is a threat to cultural elitism.
The European cultural elitists, like cultural and religious elitists everywhere, attempt to place the blame for all their woes elsewhere- on the influences of America, Israel, Jews and Christians. It is not so ironic that group are today’s ‘wretched refuse’ that have built great nations and it is not surprising that their are so many that want to destroy them, because in doing so, they believe they can reassert their elitism and dominance. With threats, guns and bombs, they believe that their own failures and prejudices can be hidden or obscured.
As we have noted, American culture can be defined by our ideas and not by our cheese or puddings.
Americans believe that it is by being best of who we are, that we can do the best we can do. In other words, as a nation, we are better defined by our character than by our cheese.
This nation, built by the beloved ‘wretched refuse’ from the four corners of the earth, has taught us that our collective culture lies in our desire to excel as individuals and as citizens of this great country. Our greatest achievements as a nation came about after we came to understand that we were all cultural elites.
That is why America is the world’s preferred destination for immigrants and ‘wretched refuse’ the world over.