Are all cultures equal? Is preference for Judeo-Christian norms a form of cultural racism, as some academics allege? Mark Braham takes issue with this view and warns that those who scoff at the West’s religious underpinnings are undermining society.
At the end of World War II, my parents and brothers, like so many British and Europeans, were thinking seriously about migrating to one of the English-speaking Commonwealth countries.
Heading the list were South Africa and Australia. Both offered a stable democracy, good climate, no rationing, good job and business prospects plus, most importantly remoteness from Europe and the Cold War.
I had been to South Africa: the troopship carrying me to India in 1942 had put in at Durban for urgent repairs. Officers’ accommodation there was on the Grayville racetrack. For a week I had a camp bed in the jockey room. The hospitality and welcome we received made our stay a high point of our war service.
But it was not a country to which I wanted to migrate. The little of apartheid I saw – separate public lavatories for “Black” and “White”; emaciated blacks running with rickshaws … My father took my advice – it was Australia.
Dr David Corlett – author of Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers (Black Inc. Books, 2005) and “Asylum seekers and the new racism” (Dissent, No. 8, Autumn/Winter 2002) – writes:
“Australian political culture – as exemplified by the politics of asylum – has become characterised by a kind of racism that essentialised people and groups of people not according to their physical, biological characteristics, but their cultural backgrounds. This was evident from 1999 when unrest and certain forms of protest by asylum seekers detained in Australia’s remote and desert detention centres were said, by the Minister and others, to be the result of these people’s cultures …” (“Asylum seekers: an update”, The Sydney Papers, Vol. 18, No. 1, Summer 2006).
In the same piece, Dr Corlett writes: “The rise of a cultural racism was a response to the anti-racist movement that had formed after the Second World War. With biological racism discredited, it was necessary, for those who saw the world in racial terms, to reframe their theories. It was not biology that prevented different peoples from living together, they suggested, but culture. The new cultural racists were able to capture the language of the anti-racist movement and package their message in anti-racist terms.”
As a supporter of the anti-racist movement from my schooldays in the 1930s (how could a sane Jew be anything else – even one so far removed from religious observance, as I was then?), I am somewhat surprised, to say the least, to learn that I am now a “cultural racist”.
Certainly, I confess to a number of cultural prejudices. I would be horrified to learn that any of my grand or great-grandchildren were in any way associating with people whose culture condoned sexual perversion, adultery, incest, bestiality, pederasty, sodomy, gang rape, pornography, drugs, wife-beating, domestic violence, lying, cheating, female circumcision, paedophilia, car-stealing, idolatry, atheism, shop-lifting, murder-suicide-bombing, terrorism or anti-Semitism.
There are others, but you get the gist of my religio-cultural prejudices. If this makes me a “cultural racist”, I stand accused.
Now I should like to put a few questions to our anthropologists and other accusers.
David Morrissey, an anthropologist, writes: “The assessment by the Alice Springs Crown prosecutor, Nanette Rogers, of the most overt human tragedy in Australia today documents no less than the decimation of a civilisation that has been in Central Australia for 20,000 years.” (Sydney Morning Herald, May 19, 2006).
I too stem from a civilisation and, though it is of relatively recent origin, say 3,500–4,000 years, it has been the vehicle to underpin the rise and spread of the greatest civilisation the world has ever seen. We call it Western civilisation.
Yes, indeed, I am fully aware of its failures. How could a Jew who has lived through the Holocaust and learned of the failure of that civilisation to seize any and every opportunity to rescue the condemned not have mixed feelings about the civilisation which has nurtured his forebears for generations?
That said, however, perhaps the anthropologists and other “cultural racist” theorists would go through the list of the increasingly popular cultural practices and let the Australian public know precisely which they consider acceptable in our society; and, conversely, which – if any – would mark an intending migrant to Australia as undesirable.
When they have checked the list, which is not exhaustive, and can then assure me they would gladly sponsor an intending migrant with a police record which includes drug-smuggling, car-stealing, gang rape, membership of the Taliban and Holocaust denial, I will accept their assurance that they are free from the horrible crime of “cultural racism”.
My second question demands an expert anthropological opinion on two distinct and ancient cultures: Australian Aboriginal and Jewish.
According to the anthropologists, the Australian Aboriginals occupied a massive land area for 20,000 years. For 19,800 years they were unmolested and entirely free to create a great civilisation. Yet, when the British colonisers arrived, there were no schools, hospitals, industry, transport, literature …
Within 200 years, however, the colonisers had built a highly educated population and a society and infrastructure comparable to any other nation in the world. In this absurdly short period, relatively, Australia takes its place in the world councils as an advanced society in the forefront of experiments to shift the frontiers of knowledge and government for the benefit of mankind. There is even a “brain drain” – Australians being sought by countries such as the United States and Britain to head research in various fields of human endeavour.
It is agreed that the colonisers had behind them the backing and expertise of their British forebears; but where did they get it if not from the 1,800 years of a culture rooted in the Jewish Bible and known as the Judeo-Christian culture?
Compared with the Jews, however, the Aborigines had it easy. The Jews even lost their homeland, not for the first time, 2,000 years ago. They were pushed around from country to country, mostly leaving behind their homes and property, escaping with their lives.
In the ghettos of Europe, for centuries, they lived in poverty – no government welfare, schools or hospitals. How did they survive? They never looked to government for help; it would not have been forthcoming.
Their religious “culture” was rooted in the written texts – Bible and Talmud. They were a literate people when such education was confined to the priesthood in other societies.
Their “culture” demanded that every Jew had to donate a minimum of 10 per cent of his income to charity, with assistance to the poor of one’s own city taking absolute priority. Even in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the yeshivas (tertiary seminaries) of eastern Europe could not feed their students; it was the custom for private families to provide a student with one meal a day. Breakfast would be one slice of bread and tea with one lump of sugar.
What is the reason that, since the release from the ghettos, Jews have taken to secular education like ducks to water and, in so doing, have risen to leadership in so many fields of human endeavour? (Some 25 per cent of Nobel Prize-winners have been Jews).
The suggestion that the difference is in the genes is to write oneself off as a “racist” in the original sense. To blame the government for throwing money at the Aborigines is quite ludicrous.
The reason is of course that the Jews were bound by a “culture” which demanded rigorous discipline – in their sexual lives, appetites, emotions, work, learning, social life. There was a demanding religious routine, not simply on the Sabbath, but 24 hours, seven days a week. It is summed up in the Noahide Laws – seven laws demanded of all mankind, with the promise that those who observe the laws will merit a place in the world-to-come.
This is the “culture” that once underpinned the nations of Europe, hence their dominance. One need look no further than Condoleezza Rice, a second-generation Christian, to understand the meaning of the long-term greatness or degeneration of nations and the vital and irreplaceable nature of its “culture”.
I should like to have taken an anthropologist with me to a small country town in California, USA, where I spent a week with my wife in the home of our granddaughter, Leah.
Camarillo is an unusual place to find a Jewish community, but our grandson-in-law, Rabbi Aryeh Lang, leased a shop in the main centre some years ago and has converted it into a synagogue.
Right next to the main shopping centre – no more than about a dozen shops, a bank, medical centre and supermarket – is a large retirement village accommodating 3,000 retirees who live in separate one- or two-bedroom cottages. It has everything from a golf course to a swimming pool and private TV station.
In addition to the large Jewish retiree population, there are a growing number of young families shifting out from Los Angeles. It is also the centre of a strongly Christian population, the backbone of the USA.
I went with my grandson-in-law to visit Jewish patients at the St John Pleasant Valley Hospital, a five-star hospital in every respect. The rabbi is on easy terms with staff and the Catholic chaplain.
While there, I was told of a patient who had been operated on, but it was thought he would not walk again. However, he did walk down the passage, and the nurses stood in line and clapped. It was this kind of atmosphere that impressed me deeply.
Greeted by strangers
Many times, crossing a road, a car or commercial vehicle, approaching 50 metres away, would brake and stop to allow me to cross. Strangers would greet me.
In a supermarket, at the checkout, the girl asked me for my card which entitles regular customers to a 10 per cent discount. When I explained that I was a visitor, the woman behind me, a complete stranger, put her card through the machine for me. Somewhat dubious about accepting a discount to which I was not entitled, I could only thank her.
When my wife and I needed a doctor, and I explained that we were not covered by insurance in the US, he halved his fee by not charging my wife for her visit. I later learned, from a circular he sent out, that he was a “born again” Christian.
This is what I mean when I talk about societies that remain faithful to the Judeo-Christian cultural tradition, and why those who scoff at it are undermining our society and almost inevitably propelling the West into abject surrender to forces of evil.