Wednesday, January 05, 2005

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Cultural Differences and Relating to the Creator

Different cultures have different perspectives on a variety of things. While some of the global world views are similar, in the smaller aspects differences are startlingly significant.

Some years ago, my father vacationed in Europe (traveling from California). He travelled to a variety of cities and countries via a Eurail pass. Culturally he noted that the German trains arrived and left exactly on time, and everyone closely held to their proper spacing and orderliness in the station. The countryside viewed was pretty, neat and well organized, houses, gardens, fences all being neat and clearly deliniated. On one train, he travelled to Italy where he said the contrast was very significant. The countryside was beautful, though somewhat disorganized. Overgrown fences (overgrown with flowers or vines or grapes), homes and neighborhoods that were, lets say unique in their individual organization. The station was, shall we say, comfortable, not businesslike, a little hard to find things, trains ran some minutes late.

One of the interesting aspects of the religiously observant Jewish community is the cultural mixture. In the US, Israel, and somewhat in the UK, the elder generation came from 'over there'. From the late 1800's through post-World World II, large numbers, in some cases the majority of Jews or even almost all (that survived) emigrated from Poland, the Baltic countries, Germany, Austria, Italy, France, basically from most of Europe. (Or course, in Israel as well as the US, the Jewish communities from Arab nations left or were expelled after the Israeli 1948 independence war or after the Israeli 1967 6-Day War.)

So, the elder members of the community usually were born and raised in another country, or rather a number of other countries. And if they weren't, they're parents probably were. (While the US, UK, and Israel all had historic Jewish families that have been there for over 125 years, this is definately the small minority.)

And naturally they bring along their cultural perspectives. The German Jews expect synogogue services to start exactly on time, if it's 3 minutes late they're seriously upset (if it goes long everyone is upset!). The UK Jew expects a certain proper decorum. The Jews from Mediterranean Arab countries greet you (male to male) with a hug and a kiss, which drives the US Jew nuts.

How do we relate to our Creator, the Master of the World? In many ways, the relationship is supposed to be that of a king and his subject. The king commands, the subject obeys. The subject respects the king, and certainly would never second guess the king or ever attempt to put himself in the king's place. You don't 'relate' to a king.

One of the overriding beliefs in America is that everyone can succeed. No one is better than anyone else, opportunity is available to all. No, not everyone has equal ablities. But, you can go as far as your abilities, hard work, and luck take you. You can even be president! While today you are the worker, tomorrow you certainly can be the boss. Which means today your watching the boss and just knowing how you could be doing it better.

This cultural aspect of America has made great leaders, captains of industry, incredible inventions, and drawn great people from around the world to attempt to access that opportunity for themselves and their children. But it has also led to the complete lack of respect. If no one is better, if everyone has the opportunity to succeed, then there is no reason to respect the leader, the boss, the inventor. After all, it could just as well be me that has succeeded! He's no better than I, he just had better circumstances.

No respect. Call the president an idiot (freedom of speech after all), after all, I could be president too! (And, I'd do a better job at it!)

No respect for authority, it's a major American cultural trait.

You can see where this is leading. How can an American relate to the King of Kings when he doesn't know how to respect authority?

Currently America is in the midst of an internal struggle. To protect the U.S. from terrorism, the national government, the national police (FBI) and other national agencies need more authority to do their job. Half the country says "Great, give them whatever they need to protect us." The other half says "No, we don't trust anyone with authority."

How can American's bow to the authority of the Creator when they can't even trust their own police with sufficient authority to protect them?


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