Bill Maher had a good New Rules segment on Friday, about China and the U.S., and how the U.S is really a “silly people.” I couldn’t agree more. Especially lately.
Chinese culture has been evolving for, what, 40 or 50 centuries or longer? We’ve been intermittently a factor on the world stage arguably since the Industrial Revolution or maybe since the close of WW II.
And at the moment we’re a textbook example of democracy run amok, democracy mismanaged, or maybe democracy coming to the end of its run? Maybe human beings aren’t built for democracy, because enough people feel they have the right to be brash and ignorant, that every opinion matters and needs to be heard. We turn into a bunch of silly, pathetic drama queens and kings who shout at each other and somehow, on occasion, accomplish great things.
Chinese leadership somehow keeps its eye on the prize, in terms of remaining a player on the world stage. They are disciplined, intent on continuity, on keeping Chinese culture intact, to the point of oppression and heavy-handedness. But they have also learned to keep the people somewhat content and placated by expanding opportunities to enjoy economic prosperity, by floating as many boats as possible. My impression is that Chinese people are more serious, patient, and driven—more mature—than much of the U.S. population.
Sometimes it seems like Americans are too quick to rest on non-existent laurels, i.e. “we’re Americans, and no one tells us what to do or how to live our lives. We are, simply by virtue of being Americans, better than everyone else.” I hope that’s not true, but sometimes it seems like it is.
The harsh truth is that many Americans are just drifting. America isn’t as great as many think it is. There are vast socio-economic inequities that get in the way. There are centuries-old grudges and suspicions and hatred that continue to drag us down. There are wildly disparate views of what kind of country we should be—welcoming or walled? Melting pot America or fortress America with moats and alligators?
We’re a mess most of the time, and it seems as though many are ok with that. But this means we can’t get mad at China if they prefer to act differently, to behave with a clearer sense of vision and purpose. I hope they and we can learn to coexist. If we can’t, America in its current iteration doesn’t stand much of a chance.