Joe De Matteo

Writings and thoughts (with many digressions)

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 No, not Western Culture

Yup, I have to admit it, I have a lot of interest in other cultures.  And I react to it; I’ll bet I use the words Yin and Yang more than any other Bronx born Baby Boomer of Italian ancestry. Curry dishes are some of my favorite things to eat, rice has become my staple grain, and I use soy sauce and plain yogurt to a degree that shocks my family.

Luckily my wife has always had the same curiosity about other cultures.  When we were first married, we would choose a country (India, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico [far more exotic for a New Yorker and a Neapolitan then than now], Iran, etc.), and we’d buy and read 3 kinds of books: cookbooks, travelogues and historical novels.  We’d cook our way through the cookbooks, while reading the others.  Finding restaurants for some of these was near impossible, but we were persistent.  Surprisingly, we were even invited to home-cooked meals by those who found our inquiries about their cuisine laudable. 

We didn’t use the Internet because in those days a computer was this huge something that the government used to track down tax cheats, and kill them.

Yes, our explorations evolved us, but always within what is mistakenly called Western Culture.

I’ve heard Western Culture called the culture of “old dead white guys.”  I don’t know who’s to blame for this ignorance, the uniformed people or the people who run the schools they attended. 

Culture evolves; it’s always growing by taking in new understandings and discoveries, and by absorbing items from the subculture or new understandings of old cultures, while it throws off the facets it finds as wrong or outdated.  The Earth’s dominant culture even has it’s dark side, for everything is comprised of the Yin and the Yang.

We think that the world is small today because of mass communications, but the fact is that it wasn’t only Marco Polo who traveled widely across the world.  And his travels, although great, were by no means the most extensive or the earliest.  Humans have been moving around the world, ranging far from home, for time in memorial (what a great, important sounding phrase [does it make me sound pompous?]).  And as they traveled, they fell in love with people and foods, they learned at the feet of the wise and not so wise.  They learned about food and philosophy, about building and animal husbandry, about spiritualism and war.  They saw kindness and brutality, and they left their personal gene pool behind. 

The great civilizations in the Middle East were influenced and influenced in return the civilizations of the Far East and the sub-continent.  Just so in the Americas, with those civilizations contact with the European’s.

The debate that Marco Polo brought back the concept of Pasta from the Far East, is not important.  The important piece of knowledge is that the concept of Pasta exists in both kitchens.

If you look at Christian dogma today and compare it to, say, the dogma of the 1950s, you’ll be amazed at how it’s been influenced by Eastern dogma; and it’s not only Christianity.  The new ideas are not eroding the heart of these religions; on the contrary, they are taking some universal truths, and showing them in a different light.

Fact is that religious fundamentalists of every stripe, all over the globe, are fighting against this evolution and assimilation of ideas.  Many Roman Catholics will remember the resistance to doing the Mass in the vernacular, rather than Latin.  This happened when I was a kid.  I was upset about it because, just the fact that I could now understand what was being said forced me to pay more attention.  But some people thought this to be the work of… heaven knows what. 

There are people who, today, travel many miles to attend an “underground” Latin Mass.  I can’t help but think that if they’re not fluent in Latin, they must have other, very important issues to think about while the Mass is going on: kinda like killing two birds with one stone.  Figure out what Tony Soprano’s most likely to do tonight at 8, while fulfilling your obligations to be in a church for an hour a week.

Every civilization that has had contact with any other civilization has been affected that contact.  What some foolishly call Western Culture is really Human Culture.  Sure it varies from place to place; each of us put our own spin on everything.  Does your household look and operate like your brother’s or you sister’s household?  Not a chance, people are different and those differences are visible in the way they go through life. 

I remember as a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for a bunch of us of Italian ancestry to argue about whose mother made the best tomato sauce.  How could that be?  Because every “Italian” cook made their sauce differently.  My mother, who, by the way, did make the best sauce, got one step away from killing my father every time he utter the words, “my mother’s sauce…” The thing is that the two women came from the same little town of under 2,000 people.

Multiculturalism and diversity are catch phrases in vogue among New Age thinkers, who in some cases are actually in places of responsibility.  Well here’s some news for you multiculturalism advocates.  Multiculturalism is divisive and that makes it dangerous.  Want proof?

This diversity you worship has been the cause of death and destruction throughout history.  Right now, as I sit here and type my thoughts on a sheet of digital paper, people are killing and plotting to kill other people who are different from them.  They might be a different religion, wear different clothing, ornament their bodies uniquely, or may have no discernable difference what so ever to you or I. 

Here’s an example: according to each group’s religious history, Abraham had two sons, they when their separate ways and today their off springs are the Jews and the Arabs.  You see, the two groups evolved into different cultures.  Hitler wanted Poland, but not the Poles, so he methodically killed them and moved German people onto the land. I could write a list of examples a mile long.  Look at the diverse people of the former Yugoslavia, what about Iraq’s killing of it’s Kurd population, or India and Pakistan.  Want to know more?  Go to this website and learn about multiculturalism and human nature (not graphic):

Let’s see what these social engineers are doing to America.  Children who live in America that don’t become fluent in English are relegated to crappy, low paying jobs; regardless of their color or what country they come from or how they pray.  Their frustration at their low station gets them angry, especially when every where they turn media is showing them huge quantities of all the things they don’t have and have no hope to ever get. 

Sure, let’s celebrate our differences, but more importantly, let us move ahead, progress and make a better world for each and every human by using the accumulated knowledge that is Human Culture.

Copyright 2002 Joseph De Matteo all rights reserved.

Joseph De Matteo

Joseph De Matteo


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