Monday, March 17, 2014

The high stakes of culture, part 1

Wow. I'm not sure I can do justice to this topic. Today I read a long article on the influence of American media, with its liberal bias, on American thinking and behavior. I have no doubt it's true because I see the effects of culture everywhere.

  • Why do we have so many guns and mass shootings? The gun culture in our country. I'm sorry, but a few decades of anti-gun-ownership laws in a few liberal states doesn't change that.
  • Why do blacks and minorities do worse on IQ tests? The first place to look is at the huge cultural differences between the creators of the tests and the young minorities taking those tests.
  • Why is the south and the midwest so Republican? It stems from the interplay of culture and political movements.  

I'll stop now with the recitation of examples. But even a believer like me was astounded by this:
"The researchers found that areas that gained access to Globo [a major Brazilian TV channel] saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn't... It was not any kind of news or educational programming that caused this fertility drop but exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night... Exposure to this glamorized and unusual ... family arrangement [small family and childless adult women] 'led to significantly lower fertility'—an effect equal in impact to adding two years of schooling." -- reported by Jonathan Chait
Yes, Brazilian tele-novelas depicting small families changed the fertility rate among Brazilian women from "6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000." Wow.

It's no wonder then that traditionalists are so frustrated with and defeated by American mass culture. When TV and movies started depicting gays as OK and pre-marital sex without life-ending shame, traditional values didn't stand a chance.

But there's more to this, I think. Those traditional values were, in part, lies. All gays weren't greasy, sadistic lurkers. Pre-marital sex didn't have to end in shame and exile from your family. It was the improvements in life that accelerated the spread of these cultural changes. That, and perhaps blindness to the downside of the changes. 

These reflections on culture to be continued...

Opening episode of The Bachelor--Tuesday night at 9 Eastern

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