Thursday, August 21, 2008

In what sense is Belgium "cultured" and America "uncultured"?

Kraus, one last thing before I head off to bed: I recall that you termed America, “a stupid capitalist country of uncultured yahoos (generally speaking).” Someplace else you referred to Arabs putting you under attack culturally. You referred to other elements of the attack, but I want to ask you your definition of the word “culture.” In what sense are Americans and the Arabs (generally speaking) uncultured? And in what sense are you Belgians (generally speaking) cultured?

When I think of the term “Culture” I am inclined to equate it to being “Civilized” and think of Mathew Arnold inveighing against the Philistines. Images of Ruskin’s Sesame and Lillies, Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and a host of others who were decidedly civilized come to mind.

Of course you may mean Belgian culture in the sense of the way you do and think about things in Belgium. The Arabs who want to retain their own ways of doing and thinking about things would be an affront to anyone expecting immigrants to seek assimilation. But that still leaves the uncultured American Yahoos. Compare, if you will, the cultured Belgians to uncultured Americans.

Lawrence Helm

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