Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The British are free-thinking; Chinese are collectivist

Scientists have discovered that genetics underlies culture. Researchers at the department of psychology at Northwestern University in Illinois, have found that the individualism seen in western nations, and the higher levels of collectivism and family loyalty found in Asian cultures, are caused by differences in the prevalence of particular genes.

This is rather interesting because there has long been a nature versus nurture debate about apparently racial characteristics. Are the Chinese collectivist because they were taught to be collectivist by collectivist parents, or is it innate, in the genes? Now it seems we have the answer: it's programmed in.

Which does beg the question: how did those genes get there? The most obvious answer is that at some point the genes gave them a survival advantage, but perhaps not in the way one might imagine.

Oriental civilization has a history going back millennia, and through-out almost all that time it has been hierarchical and totalitarian. Such societies respond to dissent by killing the dissenter. Keeping your head down and not standing out from the crowd has been the best way to stay alive for enough generations to have been bred into the race. Before long you have a self-reinforcing loop: the dominant culture suppresses individualists who therefore breed less and make the dominant culture even less individualistic.

Although Orientals are at least as intelligent as Europeans and are generally credited with all sorts of inventions (gunpowder, printing, etc) it is rather obvious they have not led the world to any significant extent. They did not invent the car, the telephone, TV, the aeroplane, the internet or really anything of consequence. Their inventive reputation stems from compressing their achievements over the last five thousand years into a list of items that can be reeled off in five minutes. Their per-annum invention rate is negligible.

So China is in awkward position. They are in a trap of their own devising. They do not produce the innovators a modern country needs to progress. Noticeably China copies; it does not create from scratch. Producing fake copies of western goods is a national occupation. Nor has there been any social progress hand-in-hand with their industrialization. They lack social innovators as much as technological ones. There have been no Chinese suffragettes; no missionaries to foreign lands; no great declarations of the Rights of Man or other visionary activity on the social front.

So the Chinese are going to be attached to our coattails for quite a time to come; despite the prevalent mindset that they are taking over and will dominate the 21st century.

3 comments:

Sam said...

The Chinese invented the firework which gave us the idea to build rockets. 'i think' if so i'd say that was of consequence.

Nationalist said...

Yes, the Chinese did (supposedly) invent gunpowder - although I think no one is quite certain who made the actual breakthrough. (If it had been invented in the West we would know the inventor's name! Note the lack of celebration of individual achievement.)

But after a lucky break their inventiveness failed them and they did not go on to develop machine guns, ICBMs or put a man on the moon.

Lars Finsen said...

"There have been no Chinese suffragettes"? In fact Chinese suffragettes were very active. Japanese and Chinese early feminists were quite on par with their western counterparts, and Chinese suffragettes were quite as militant as the British ones. They got the vote in 1912, several years before the British women did, and the first Chinese woman was elected to parliament a hundred years ago today.

As for declarations of the rights of man, Sun Yat Sen's at least did try to establish a relatively innovative system protecting those rights. Not that it was very successful, though.