It is a frequent accusation made today. Diversity is in the ascendant, so you will often hear that we must treat all societies, all ways of living, all cultures as being equal. In fact, as accusations of systemic racism rise (not just “critical race theory” but the 1619 meme), all other cultures – indeed, ANY other culture – is superior to that of the States. American culture, American society, American civilization (and possibly ALL of “Western or Euro-American Civilization”) is inferior to anything else existing today.
That is absolute rubbish, particularly for any lovers of liberty. And whether we are speaking of ideals or results. There has been and is a vast difference in the quality of civilizations and societies.
Recently, a forum featured this bald statement, in a discussion regarding AmerInd cultures before “discovery” by Columbus.
“Yes, no person or civilization is better than another. Just in different places.” (This refers to different places or levels of technology and social development.) Of course, this is the “modern” politically correct answer and attitude.
Obviously, as a lover of liberty and a history, I strongly, strongly disagree with that, both on an individual level and of a society as a whole. I don’t think the size of a society: whether a small community of a few dozen or a vast “civilization” of millions of people over decades or centuries. And whether it is a high-tech or low-tech society. There is a great difference between human cultures.
What makes a society or community or civilization superior?
I believe there are two major items that have almost nothing to do with technology or wealth.
(1) the amount of liberty (freedom) those in that society have and the liberty (and usually, therefore peace) of those outside that society but in contact with them have, and
(2) the concern (love) that the members of that society have for each other and for those outside their community, which is at least partly measured in trust – outside as well as inside the family, clan, class, etc.
Societies – civilizations – with liberty and mutual love ARE BETTER than societies in which there is tyranny and distrust and exploitation. Whatever sources those come from: government, business, organized religion, tradition, and more.
The result? There IS a relative difference in the worth of a civilization. Even if they do not live up to their ideals and aspirations, the more they value freedom and trust – and practice what they teach – the better they are. NO society, NO civilization is anything close to perfect. But some are much better for people than others.
Therefore a person who lives up to these ideals of liberty (which includes personal responsibility for your actions) and love (selfless, brotherly love which motivates us to action) is better. Not “worth more” and not “superior” but better in the eyes of others.
This is, I believe, an important lesson for all who work towards liberty, peace, and prosperity need to remember. If we do not make a clear and honest analysis of the values (and lack thereof) AND results of civilization, we will never be able to live fully free and help others to live free. Part of our teaching and practice must be to make it clear that there ARE better (and therefore worse) civilizations. Culture does matter.