By Larry Romanoff, December 21, 2022
My Fellow Americans:
The United States of America has many laws, but why does it have them? As an example, why does your country have laws against insider trading in securities? The answer should be obvious: at some time in the past, some Americans tried to unfairly enrich themselves by gaming the system. Your government responded by enacting legislation and regulations that might prevent or at least punish those who committed these acts in the future. But then why doesn’t everybody have these same laws? It isn’t because they approve of insider trading; it’s because they have (so far) had no need for such laws. Some countries have no stock exchanges, so the point is moot. Some countries have stock trading in its infancy and insider trading has not been a problem. Maybe in some countries the people are more honest than Americans or, more likely, have found other preferred ways to cheat the system. In any case, not everyone has what you have. The reason your country has these laws is because you needed them. Your nation developed in a manner that exposed a weakness which required preventive legislation.
But most importantly, your securities legislation was not enacted because God told you to do it. That excuse is reserved for George Bush invading Iraq to find WMDs. The laws are there because of your country’s history – the way your nation developed. It shouldn’t be necessary to point out to you that another nation that developed in a different way might well have different laws. The point of all this, is that there ain’t no “democracy” here. There ain’t no religion here, no freedoms, no human rights, no universal values, here. What there is here, is “let’s stop some Americans from cheating“. And no more than that. Again, you should be able to extrapolate from this one example, and maybe begin to more clearly see your country the way it is.
Why did your former governments insist on a separation of church and state? And why didn’t every nation enact those laws? Why did your government – and ONLY your government – adopt the principle of separation of powers? Why did it proclaim the (largely illusory) independence of the judiciary? The reason should be obvious to you. There was a felt need for such legislation because of the way your nation developed. Your laws, policies, procedures, attitudes, developed from your history. You are a product of your environment, or maybe your environment is the product of you. You have enacted all these laws, adopted all these attitudes, because they were necessary – for you. Since each other nation did what was necessary for them, not everything is the same – nor should it be.
Why do people in the UK drive their cars on the left side of the road, when you drive on the right? And who cares? They developed differently than you, and they do things differently. Are you going to tell us that driving on the right side of the road is a “universal value that reflects the true yearnings of all mankind“? Do you want to add this to your long and foolish list of the 1,001 things included in “democracy, freedom and human rights“? Other countries may not need those same laws, for any number of reasons. So, in what mental state are you operating when you demand that all other nations adopt these same values – just because YOU have them? Who are you, anyway?
From this, you should be able to extrapolate a bit further and make some sense of who you are and what is your place in the world. Your country, the US, for whatever reason, has developed into a strongly individualistic society where the apparent focus is on ME – My freedoms, My rights, My everything. Most other nations are pluralistic, unlike you, and those that do resemble you are much more moderate in their expression. All these me-focused attitudes are again the result of your nation’s development. They are not “universal” in any sense. They are not “human rights“; they are not anything. And they sure as hell do not represent the “true yearnings of all mankind“. They are just you. They represent what YOU are, because of where you have been. And no more than that.
It might interest you to know that your “exceptional” US is the most litigious nation in the world – by orders of magnitude. The US had, at last count, one lawyer for every 265 people. China has one lawyer for every 66,000 people. Why do you suppose that is? Because China’s legal system is undeveloped? Not so. The simple truth is that this flows from your primitive individualism and your moralistic Christian heritage. Asian morality negotiates to find a compromise that everyone can live with. Americans are true believers in “the law of the jungle“, where we fight and have a clear winner and a clear loser. You thrive on conflict, often seeking it out if it doesn’t exist. Americans spend more money on lawyers than on purchasing new cars, but to you, your excessive litigiousness is normal, natural, and necessary. To the remaining 96% of the world, you’re just crazy.
Your “right to sue” is not a universal value and God-given freedom and human right. It’s none of those things. It’s just you – aggressive, belligerent, and always looking for a fight. No other nations share your natural belligerence, nor are they so desperate to rationalise their own failings as to resort to the delusional and simple-minded pretense of transfiguring a vice into a virtue. Once again, this ain’t no “democracy” here, no “universal values“, no religion, no “human rights and freedoms“. This is just YOU, preferring to fight rather than talk. This is what you chose, because of what you are. Keep it, if you’re happy with it, but don’t try to impose it on the rest of the world, because they don’t want it.
In conjunction with the strong individualism, your nation has developed what some would term an excessively strong capitalist culture – to the extent that even giving your people a universal health care system would mean “the end of freedom in America”, at least according to Ronald Reagan. It should be no surprise that there is no other country in the world that agrees with you. You are all alone on this one. But again, this fierce and unrestrained capitalism developed in your nation alone, because of you and your history, and because of who and what you are. It did not develop anywhere else on the planet. And like most everything else you believe, this fierce capitalism of yours is not a “universal value“, and in truth, nobody but you values it. It is not religion; it is not human rights or freedoms; it is not “democracy“. It is just you. And you are in no position to tell other nations they’re wrong, if they don’t want your “values“.
This is the one you will like least. Do you believe you have your multi-party “democracy” because an Angel descended from Heaven with some golden tablets and showed you “The Way of The Universe“? Was that the same Angel who introduced your country to black slavery? The same one who encouraged you to exterminate 98% of the aboriginal natives in your country? The same Angel who encouraged you to go to Vietnam, kill 5 million people, and go home? Your form of government developed in the same way as all your other beliefs, attitudes, values and laws. It is one more product of the environment; if that past environment had been different, your government system would undoubtedly reflect that. If you really are one of the 25%, you know that a multi-party electoral system is simply one form of participatory government, and nothing very special. It sure as hell is not a religion, not even if you live in Jesusland.
Again, use your head. Your vaunted “democracy” is no more a “universal value” than were your black and white slaves. Your people believed so firmly that slavery was a “God-given human right” that your country maintained it for centuries. Today that idea is dead, but it sure wasn’t dead 150 years ago, and back then your grandfather was screaming about the fundamental human right to own slaves, just as today you mindlessly parrot the same nonsense about “democracy“. He was crazy then, and you’re crazy now. Your form of government evolved from the accidents of who you are and how you developed. Most of the world is different, and most of the world has values different from yours. Some would say that’s a good thing.
Then we have Freedoms! and Human Rights! What Americans choose to define as human rights (or civil rights) is unique in the world. We sometimes see supermarkets where almost everything appears to be “On Sale“, analogous to the all-encompassing American definition of “democracy” – which one American acquaintance insisted included the “right to dog food” for her pets. The American definition of this term is becoming increasingly all-inclusive, containing every manner of “right” – of which Americans appear to have zillions – including human rights, civil rights, media rights, legal rights, assembly rights. It really just doesn’t end, and people in many countries just don’t stop laughing.
This individualism has conditioned most Americans to view all these so-called “rights” as universal values. But few other nations have this characteristic, and none have it anywhere near as strongly. A large majority of the world’s peoples are socially pluralistic and are much less interested than Americans in these so-called rights. Pluralistic societies value stability more than many of the small rights and freedoms that Americans hold so religiously. These people are willing to tolerate many kinds of restrictions in exchange for something they value more. And you can’t tell them they’re wrong.
Americans appear unable to accept this, having foolishly elevated all these values to a theological status. During Google’s recent dispute with the Chinese government, the Western media were full of claims that Google was a “human right“. To people in most nations, that’s just childish nonsense. Americans cannot understand that what they have, is merely a reflection of what they are and where they have been. And that other nations developed differently and hold different values. We see this in everything from Google to Twitter to IP and patent claims, to business practices to social conventions. With IP and patent issues, for example, pluralistic societies are much more “open-source” than is the US. It’s a bit like hearing a funny story and passing it on without even thinking of “crediting the original source”.
People in pluralistic societies are much less concerned with ownership of ideas, concepts, designs. Much is generally considered to be in the public domain. And there is no basis – “democratic” or otherwise – on which you can tell these people they are wrong. But Americans, with their moralistic Christianity and fierce individualism, cannot understand this, and constantly demand that the entire world adopt American attitudes and values – on the simple-minded thesis that these are “universal”. But they are not universal, not in any sense. They are American constructs or, at least, Western ones. Most of the world does not think that way and resents the push to be remade in the American image. The world does not like to have foreign American values shoved down their throats.
So, my American friend, who do you think you are, to demand that the entire world adopt your values, systems, standards, beliefs? And you do indeed demand this, often using the power of your military to achieve it. In truth, very little of what you hold to be so dear and so true, is “universal” in any sense of the meaning of that word. You have what you want, so be happy with it. But you are only 4% of the world’s population. What do you think about, that you should blindly demand that the other 96% of the world’s people adopt what you have? They don’t want what you have. They don’t want your “universal” values – or your “democracy” because neither your values nor your system of government are in any way universal. Other nations don’t want to be like you; they want to be like them.
Mr. Romanoff’s writing has been translated into 32 languages and his articles posted on more than 150 foreign-language news and politics websites in more than 30 countries, as well as more than 100 English language platforms. Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new anthology ‘When China Sneezes’. (Chapt. 2 — Dealing with Demons).
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