Saturday, October 26, 2013

Culture and Economics, how they're related, in reference to the United States and elsewhere

I see both of them as having a positive role to play in the construction of a healthy society. Material economic life can be built up, and it conditions people, but it the cultural values aren't there, it either won't last long, or it'll slowly decay. Unfortunately, while the positive contributions of culture, in the sense I'm meaning it, are easy to spot, the decay takes quite a lot longer before it becomes noticeable.

Cultural values here are meant to mean basic values held by society itself that shapes individual's understanding and interaction with the world at large. I see this as being quite independent from aspects of culture such as ethnic or religious culture, and instead having to do with what people on the ground actually believe, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly, and act on.

Literacy and valuing learning, for example. Here in the U.S. college has become a joke, something that many, many, people party through while doing the minimum to graduate, just to get a piece of paper. Reading outside of college is at a very low point. I think it's more than possible to extend the apathy about learning to apathy in applying that learning in the outside world.

 Compare this situation with India. Here you have a culture that values learning, values literacy, and values applying all of that in the outside world, such that people who come from towns and cities that otherwise have very little in comparison with those of the U.S. possess a much deeper understanding of their chosen subject matter. Learning and higher education is valued over there as a thing in itself, not just as a way to make money, and being an educated person gives one status, as opposed to making one a nerd or what have you.

And the folks in India who have these educations are contributing to the growth and development of their country, moving it along, while we put more emphasis on football.

If we really want to get the U.S. back on track, we need to address not just inequality, which has progressed to an obscene and unheard of level here, but our cultural climate that is setting the country up for eventual failure on the world scene as well as destroying whatever non-material quality of life we still possess.

Both need to be developed in tandem, and addressed in tandem. The inequality is most likely linked to the climate of il-literacy and the prioritizing of material values before all else, which in the long run sabotages life, though it enriches some in the short term.

Often the calls for a more rigorous attention to college work are met with questions about what exactly will that translate out into in dollars? If people had taken that approach at the start of when this big pile of money that the United States sits on was being built, it wouldn't exist.

*on edit: student loan debt is an issue, and the fact that students in the United States who want to study hard have to contract it is an indicator of where we stand culturally on these things. Nevertheless, for every sincere student taking on debt there are many who still don't give a fuck and take on the debt anyways.

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