Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wheat Farmers versus Rice Farmers

I came across a really interesting article in the opinion section of the New York Times. Essentially, the article argues that the wheat farming societies (i.e. North America and Europe) are much more prone towards individualistic thinking that those societies living in rice farming societies (i.e. Asia).

The concept is pretty fascinating if you think about it. Those who have historically relied on growing wheat (or crops related to it) to survive haven't needed to rely on their neighbors for a successful crop. Those growing rice, on the other hand, must work together to do so.

Most of the world aside from Europe and North America relish a society in which community works as a whole. Individuals must learn to conform to the actions and mindsets of those around them. This can't be seen just as an economic disparity between our society and theirs, because that simply isn't true. Many of the Asian cultures whose societies are most hell-bent on everyone working together are the ones whose economies match (or exceed, in China's case) America's economy.

So it would suffice to say that America (as are its citizens) is the "black sheep" society. It makes you wonder if the tables would be turned, had we been the ones farming rice. How much of our society's mindset is based on history? Do you suppose the nature versus nurture argument could be applied to an entire nation? And with that being said, is it possible that Americans as individuals have developed a natural instinct to stand out from the crowd?

I would love to see additional sociological studies conducted here. What are the differences in our marriage statistics with regard to the individual-driven versus community-driven societies? You would assume that the community-driven societies boast a higher marriage rate and a lower divorce rate. However, according to this article, that might no longer be the case. It seems that some Asians are beginning to step away from the woven web culture and trying to assert more independence. Is that necessarily a good thing? I think an argument could be made in both cases.

In America's case, our government has begun to fail us. Its lack of unity continues to cause and exacerbate problems that are at the forefront of our country's livelihood. As individuals we are constantly competing with each other and being groomed to believe that we can only count on ourselves. It could be easy to attribute our culture of bullying, mass shootings, internet trolling, political corruption, extramarital affairs, and just all-around acts of stupidity (i.e. the man who decided to be eaten alive by an anaconda for a special on the Discovery Channel) to our society's system of rewarding those who act against the cultural norms.

See the source imageIt sounds so simple, doesn't it? To create a civilization where we encourage and support each other while working together towards a goal that is unattainable to the individual. Easier said than done, obviously. But it begins with small steps. For instance, a group of coworkers working together to find a solution to a problem. Or teachers and parents acting together to further their children's education. Even better yet, a couple working together to make their marriage work.

One person just can't do it all. That's something I personally have trouble with, because I tend to veer too far to the "independent" side. I've always taken the lead on group projects. I've always been the one to plan vacations with groups of my friends. I've always attempted to move from one place to another with little to no help from others. I've destroyed so many of my relationships (friendships and romantic relationships) by being overbearing, controlling and quick to cut ties.

Perhaps in the New Year one of my resolutions should be to learn to trust people more and to allow them to help me. It's certainly worth a shot.

This world is a frightening place, and it's so much easier to navigate when you have a group of people lifting each other up.

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