All Cultures Are Not Created Equal – absolutely true. Every culture on the face of the planet has its strengths and weaknesses. I am a born-and-bred American with ancestors who were among the first settlers in this great country, but I am not afraid to admit that the United States has its weaknesses.
I believe that if you are truly destined to be a world leader, you are not afraid to examine your weaknesses and make logical improvements to your society. In doing so, we only become better, stronger, and a more valuable member of the world community. We are just another nation in a fantastically diverse world. Many countries have had their “day” in world history and maybe this is ours, but lest we let our immodesty and claims to superiority get the best of us, we would be wise to deal with the problems and issues that stand to weaken our current position of relative strength, prosperity, and power.
Do I agree that the United States is a glorious experiment in cultural diversity and checks and balances of government that has proven very successful, for the most part – sure. But to proclaim some sort of superiority over the rest of the world, especially non-Western countries, is unwarranted and dangerous. If we are blind to our weaknesses, they can become the source of our eventual downfall. Consider this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.”
Are we superior to the rest of the world? Are afraid to admit the truth?
Let’s check the facts:
Infant Mortality – Considering our disproportionate wealth, we should be near the bottom, yet we have a higher infant mortality rate than Japan, South Korea, Norway, New Zealand, Spain, The United Kingdom, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, France.. the list goes on…
Life Expectancy – Again considering our health care system is among the best in the world, we should have the highest life expectancy as well. Yet countries including Canada, Australia, Israel, Germany, Sweden, and Austria and others have higher life expectancies, many of those offering universal health care, which we do not. The tiny country of Cyprus has the same life expectancy as that of the United States. Is our lifestyle and culture as healthy as it could be? What can we learn from how others live?
Educational achievement – According to infoplease.com, in 2003, educational testing in 41 countries of high school students revealed the following:
Math – The U.S. upper mean rank was 25th, tied with Spain and Latvia. Some of the countries scoring higher included China, the Czech Republic, and Liechtenstein.
Reading – The U.S. was surpassed by countries such as Belgium, South Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands.
Science – The U.S. ranked below many countries including the Slovak Republic, Hungary, and Iceland.
Perhaps it’s time we study how other nations educate their citizens.
Violence – According to a 1994 CDC study of large, industrialized nations, “The homicide rate for children in the United States was five times higher than that for children in the other 25 countries combined.” How can that be possible in a country which is said the be a “tribute to men and women at their best”? We are not at our best when we don’t protect our children.
Equality – The author of the aforementioned article claims that everyone can “achieve their personal goal for greatness.” That may be, but not without overcoming systematic discrimination in many cases. Ask the woman who earns only 79% of her male’s counterpart’s salary. Or the African-American man who earns 75% of what a white man earns. Yet, in the small and comparatively less wealthy country of Portugal, women earn 95% of what their male counterparts earn. What can we learn from Portugal and others?
This response is not to bash our country, not by any means. But to blindly proclaim our nation as the most “open society” where everyone can “live the American dream” is simply ignoring reality. Let’s see the truth that Jefferson spoke of and not be afraid to follow it. There are things to be learned from the rest of the world. We would all be wise to share with one another what makes our countries great in order to ensure peace and prosperity for future generations.