Don Quixote’s Thought for the Day: Shared culture

I didn’t watch the Grammys.  Haven’t in years.  But one news report caught my eye.  Apparently, they were pairing up new acts with old and all went well until they got to the rappers.  By the time the censors got done with their act, it was, so the story said, unintelligible.  This brought to mind a pet concern of mine.  America, for all of being a country of immigrants, had not only a shared set of values but a shared culture. 

As late as the 1960s we listen to the same music, watched the same TV shows and movies and at least aspired to speak the same language.   Now we listen to many different types of music, watch our 500 highly specialized TV channels, get our niche audience movies from Netflicks, and print our ballots, for crying out loud, in multiple languages.  

My question to you is whether any of this matters.  Do we need a common culture and a common language?  Can we hope to maintain a shared set of values when each of us marches, perhaps literally, to a different drummer?

Be Sociable, Share!
  • ConnectTheDots

    Just so you know, DQ, it was the Grammys, awards for liberal musicians from other liberal musicians, not the Emmys, awards for liberal TV actors from other liberal TV actors.

    And I agree. We are not a melting pot anymore, where all the ingredients combine to make a delicious combination. We are more like oil & water — never mixes.

  • Don Quixote

    Stupid mistkae.  You’re right, of course.  Truth is, I haven’t watched either one in years.  I overstate the case a bit.  Remember censoring of Elvis’ hips?  But we are certainly culturally more fragmented than we have ever been and we no longer share the same set of values and social norms to nearly the extent we once did.  I can’t imagine this is healthy and I don’t really have a solution.

  • suek

    Re: same _language_ , same culture…yes.
    This is the Progressive method – divide and conquer.  Carve out niche groups by identification, engage them, enrage them and then help them sue and otherwise agitate for rights for _them_ – because they’re _special_.
    And the funny thing is – all of this in the name of treating everybody the same.  It really is true – whatever they say they want, it’s really the opposite.

  • David Foster

    A big part of this problem is caused by people who want to identify as members of an elite..but are in reality no such thing…and therefore attempt to culturally differentiate themselves from the masses of their fellow citizens in order to preserve their own self-esteem.

    Consider, for example, people who drank the academic kool-aid,  spent years and $$$ getting a useless degree in some squishy-soft subject, and are now working as adjunct instructors with no hope of promotion (if they’re lucky) or at the local Starbucks (if they’re not). Most likely, they are extremely angry at “society” for not paying and recognizing them in accordance with what they think is their very valuable education.

    Cultural differentiation helps them feel that they are members of an elect after all, despite their dismal personal situations. Much like impoverished European aristocracy.

  • BrianE

    The word Balkan comes to mind.
    Immigrant communities thrived through the golden age of immigration, where the particular culture was protected, and many of the first generation never assimilated.
    But the educational system, the government bureaucracy and general public attitudes worked to encourage (force) those entering America the melting pot to adapt. At least, that’s how I read history.
    Now, the education system two tracks non-English students, the government panders to non-English speakers and the public (as expressed through the MSM) accuses anyone promoting a common language and culture as some sort of phobe.
    Politicians love this sort of stuff. It creates dependent constituent groups to pander to. As said previously, divide and conquer.
    And liberal and elitist nanny notions. It’s so hard to assimilate.
    But to answer your question, a common language is essential, not so much a common culture, IMO. But an common understanding of the constitution and allegiance to same would help.

  • Jose

    I’ve been pondering this lately, in light of the “diversity = strength” blather that has been thrown around.  I’ve come to the conclusion that it is like a lot of other things – good in moderation. 

    I suspect you could plot a bell curve, with the tower of Babel at one end, and PC clones at the other, and find the ideal mixture somewhere in the middle.

  • suek

    I think it depends on what you consider diversity – or maybe _how_ you consider diversity.
    If we don’t share a common language, we can’t communicate.  English should legally be our official national language.  That doesn’t mean that other languages are prohibited or restricted in any way on a personal level.  What it means is that legal documents are required to be in English only.  It means that immigrants _must_ learn English, even if imperfectly.  Business can make whatever concessions it wishes, but the official language should be English – no exceptions.  Individuals or communities can hire translators.  Government is not required to do so.
    And that’s pretty much it.  We should be teaching American History – preferably from 50 year old texts – to every student in k-12.  If they want to learn the history of the country from which they came, they should certainly be free to do so but they need to be _required_ to learn US History and the foundation documents of the US.  Whatever cultural practices they want to share in their homes, or whatever cultural holidays they want to celebrate in concentrated communities…let them do so.  But if they are American, then let them be American.  They must make a choice between the country they have chosen and the country of their birth.  If they cannot do so – then let them not qualify to be citizens.  No dual citizenship permitted.


    A common language – absolutely. As suek noted, it does not have to be a perfect English.
    Culturally, we all come from a variety of customs and tastes. What made the immigrant at the turn of the last century different from the current ‘niche’ of immigrants was the desire to be part of America, not isolated and different from the whole. Even if the older immigrant was not able to be 100% part of the experience, they made sure their children would.

  • Marguerite

    Just adding to what’s already been said, we can have a common culture with many ethnicities, ideas, if we adhere to the Constitution – and I don’t mean one that morphs with each passing  liberal-leftist tweak, but the one that the founders gave us.  One common language – for reasons already well said above. 

  • expat

    When I first moved to Germany,  I had friends who were also  expats married to  Germans. They had  preteen and teenaged children. Although the kids spoke English, read some of the classic American children’s book, and spent rather long vacations in the US each year, I was aware that they were and would always be German. There were just too many American things that they had missed in growing up and too many emotional bonds that hadn’t had a chance to form.  I wondered then how I would have coped with having a child who was not American, and I think it would have been hard. Of course, my friends were in a rather international set, and they had husbands who could fill them in on German traditions, read German books to the kids when they were young, and explain Fussball to them.
    It’s very different when the whole family comes from elsewhere and when they have to learn the culture from the outside without a spouse as coach. I think the main thing is that the family needs to transmit basic values but allow the kids enough room to develop in the new homeland and find their own way after a certain point. It is wrong to expect them to live in a world they don’t know, a world that in fact may no longer exist in the old homeland.
    As a country we enjoy the differences immigrants bring, but they cant’t keep their kids in cages.

  • David Foster

    A very interesting book on the American immigrant experience, as it used to be, is Mary Antin’s “The Promised Land,” which I review here:

    Antin came to Boston from the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia with her family in the late 1800s. As she described it, there were many organizations that assisted new immigrants in learning the culture of their adopted country. Today, there are many organizations that encourage new immigrants to think that there adopted country is pretty awful.

  • expat

    I just put Antin’s book on my wishlist.  We have so much literature that deals with immigrants. Superficially, the experiences described by Antin or by Willa Cather when she talks of the Bohemians in the prarie states may seem far removed from those of the Hispanic, Asian or Eastern European of today, but I think there are very basic similarities that affect anyone trying to find his way in a new land. Encouraging immigrants to partake of this literature can help overcome isolation and show the myriad of ways that one can become part of American culture.  One of the truly great things about America is that it gives so much space to allow immigrants to find their own place in society. That is part of American culture that is often overlooked and yet it is essential. On the whole we are pretty comfortable with differences; it’s the warring factions of victims that we must avoid.

  • March Hare

    Another book about the immigrant experience is “The Emigrant” by Viktor Moberg.  He wrote the book to describe the experience of the emigrants to those Swedes who stayed home.  Sweden lost over 1/3 of her population during the 1800’s to America, for many of the same reasons the Irish came–famine & opportunity.  The book was originally written in Swedish (I read a translation :)–my boss at the time, an immigrant from Sweden himself, recommended it to me.
    There are four books in the series that details the choices and decisions the family made to come to the States and to assimilate into their new country.  I would add them to the list of books new Americans should read–if only to realize they are not the first.

  • Mike Devx

    March Hare,
    You piqued my interest, so I had to look The Emigrant up.  The author’s name is a little off.  I found this on Amazon as Book 1 of the quadrology you mention:

    Emigrants: The Emigrant Novels Book 1 (The Emigrant Novels / Vilhelm Moberg, Book 1)

    Looks interesting!

  • suek

    I don’t know how many of you check out MM regularly, but whether you do or don’t, this one is really funny.  Talk about political correctness tying people up in knots!!  Actually, the article isn’t as funny as the comments, which rightfully point out the idiocy of a policy that wants to divide us all up into little tiny groups they can set against each other, and then wants to prohibit us from noticing or commenting on the fact that…WE’RE DIFFERENT!!
    I didn’t read all the comments – they were up to 141 when I checked, and I only started reading the visible page, which starts at 100.  They were pretty funny, though.

  • Ymarsakar

    <B>We are more like oil & water — never mixes.</b>
    I kind of disagree. I see it as more like a binary liquid explosive. If the two chemicals are mixed together, kaboom.
    It’s important to keep them apart from each other so that they don’t start interacting too energetically. Conservative philosophy would destroy the Leftist Utopia that they have already sacrificed millions of men and women in their crusade against reality. Leftist Utopia would destroy conservative principles such as free will. The combination of those two instigated by a catalyst: cataclysmic kaboom.