Saturday, July 26, 2008

The differences are undeniable; but why?

On the face of it the cultures of the US, Canada and Australia should be fairly similar, well they are in some ways but words apart in others. In fact we are each largely immigrant societies with very similar ethnic mixes.

Australia and Canada share many cultural similarities, but Canada also shares borders with the US while Australia is a little more isolated from the European base. Even Australia’s proximity to Asia has not led to a more dominant Asian presence than the others.

The question of the differences exercises my mind as I try and understand and compare our various political dynamics. True the systems all vary to some extent, but they are the mechanical aspects as opposed to how voters react to a variety of issues.

I would argue that, as detached as they often seem, Australians are far more engaged than populations in those other countries. Canadians come in next, being reactive to specific issues, including household economics. Americans seem to suffer a great deal more indignity before they react.

So here is my hypothesis: Americans and their immigrants believe in the dream; the “belief in the freedom that allows all citizens and residents of the United States to achieve their goals in life through hard work.” Wiki Of course the other two nations have much the same freedom, just a different outlook.

There is a certain expectation of harshness, of a need to beat the country first in both Canada and Australia. Of course both countries boast some mighty harsh climate and terrain extremes, but the US has its own share of them.

And for most Australians and Canadians the most harsh conditions are lived vicariously rather than actually experienced. Sure there are weather extremes and natural phenomenon to contend with, but not on a daily basis, and not especially unique.

Somewhere along development from the pioneering time the countries attitudes diverged. It could be because the US experienced the civil war; it is certainly because the US developed a corporate culture far more deeply than other places. We have our corporates, but we also hold them to account, take a fairly cynical view of their activities.

Australia and Canada have an enduring welfare culture, despite recent attempts to dismantle safety net systems. Unlike America a person can openly proclaim themselves to be socialist or even communist; just as openly as they can claim to be capitalist. That alone suggests more robust tolerance levels, though you would wonder at times.

That is the trouble with generalizing, there will always be exceptions. However there are clear differences between American outlooks and aspirations compared to ours. It shows clearly come election time.


abi said...

Interesting perspective, Cart. My take on it is that Americans tolerate more indignity because we have a very hard time admitting to the indignities. To do so would be to admit that we're not the greatest, smartest, most enlightened culture the world has ever known. Americans have that sense of superiority drilled into them, in many different ways and from many different sources, from early childhood on.

Cart said...

Well abi, the shock is coming if superiority is the MO. On what I'm seeing that has been hocked to the hilt.
I'm not crowing by the way, I imagine it will be difficult face the indignities of the future from that position. I wouldn't lie to be in the position.

D.K. Raed said...

we do have one open socialist ... Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But we draw the line at electing communists! (don't mind me, I am just catching up)

Cart said...

DK, delighted to see the wrist back in action and the fascinating commentary.

D.K. Raed said...

The wrist is recovering. Slow go this round. Trying not to overdo it.