poly: Stress-induced cultural dysfunction (was Angola)

From: James Rogers <jamesr@best.com>
Date: Tue Apr 07 1998 - 00:30:47 PDT

After looking into the feasibility of investing in Angola (I too am
curious), I question whether it is possible for the current culture of the
Angola population to be modified in any reasonable length of time without
the severe application of outside intervention at one level or another.

Angola seems to be suffering from the cultural equivalent of Post Traumatic
Stress Syndrome. 20+ years of internal strife and bloodshed seems to have
created a plastic (vs. elastic) deformation of the memes that make up the
culture and values of the local population. I would hypothesize that it is
a self-sustaining change that becomes effectively permanent; any
"treatment" for the change will never reverse the damage, only "fix" it.

The primary factor that seems to generate this type of cultural dysfunction
seems to be the almost unbroken broad application of severe cultural stress
for lengthy periods of time, roughly 20 years by my best guess. Almost
every culture I can think of that exhibits similar symptoms has generally
undergone similarly long periods of extreme cultural duress.

Living in Silicon Valley, I have had the opportunity to discuss this in
detail with the many Vietnamese that live in this area. The Vietnamese
culture exhibits many of these PTSS symptoms in individuals that have moved
here from Vietnam that grew up during or after the war. The murder rate
among Vietnamese in Vietnam is very high, and is very high in the US as
well, although lower than Vietnam. From the Vietnamese I have asked about
this, I have been told that virtually all violence commited by Vietnamese
in the US are done by people who moved here during or after their late
teens. The Vietnamese in the US have stated that people who grew up in
Vietnam during or after the war often suffer from "damaged thinking" (their
words) that is not exhibited nearly as strongly by individuals who were not
exposed to Vietnamese culture in Vietnam during their formative years. Not
surprisingly, these cultural behaviors started to emerge towards the end of
the Vietnam war.

As another example, American inner city blacks often exhibit similar
symptoms of stressed-induced cultural dysfunction.

Offhand, most of the traditional "hotspots" in the world seem to suffer
similar dysfunctions at a cultural level. Individuals adopt the culture
that they grow up in and usually pass their culture to their offspring. I
have a strong suspicion this is why stress-induced cultural dysfunction
takes 20 years or so to manifest. An interesting note regarding the
Vietnamese cultural changes is that people who were teenagers or adults
when the war started do not normally exhibit the dysfunctional changes of
those who were born near or after the start of the war. This adoption of a
stressed version of the local culture by a generation is what makes it
permanent. The "problem" is that these changes are never reversed;
cultural dysfunction often disappears by immersion in yet another, often
foreign, culture.

A question is: Should we preserve/ignore the culture in its dysfunctional
state, or apply the necessary changes to make it function though
fundamentally different from the original? Or for that matter has there
ever been a case of severe stress-induced cultural dysfunction that
reverted to its pre-stress state?

I can conceive that we will start to see the beginning of long-term
cultural stress in segments of the most modern countries as the pace of
change increases over the next decades. Cultural stress management could
very much become an important aspect of keeping the peace for those
segments of the population that would like to continue accelerating the
pace of change. Let the Luddites bleed off enough steam that undesirable
traits do not become lingering artifacts of their culture.

-James Rogers
Received on Tue Apr 7 07:42:21 1998

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Mar 07 2006 - 14:45:30 PST