Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

One of the things that consistently puzzle me is how different cultures handle change.

Over the past 150 years, the world has seen all kinds of terrible wars, killing hundreds of millions of people and causing all sorts of hatred and ill will.

Some of these cultures get up, dust themselves off, and go on -- sometimes achieving greatness. Other cultures, sometimes with far less injustice done (if you can measure these things, which I doubt) carry grudges seemingly forever.

Even in personal relations, I've known people in the states who suffered terribly by some criminal, only to have them forgive the criminal and move on with their lives. On the other hand, there are those who suffered the same thing who carry hatred in their heart until they die.

I remember seeing a person on TV from Jerusalem. They were talking about how their great-great grandfather lived in a house but was evicted by the Israelis. And how angry they were about it all. I could see that this was really bothering them.

Hell, if I spent my time emoting over wrongs my entire ancestry both committed and suffered through, I wouldn't have much left of a life left.

Why the difference? That's above my pay grade -- hence the reason I find it so fascinating. I can unequivocally say, however, that hating someone or some culture is a fool's game that hurts the hater much more than the object of hatred. There is a terrible strain of nihilism alive in the world. So many lives wasted by it. Very sad.




    Why the difference? 
I suspect that in the particular example you gave it's not really about the great-great grandfather's eviction, but rather that's just a personal thing to relate their general grudge and opposition of Israel to.

I suspect that if you were a native American living in shitty conditions in some reservation you would also have harbored much more grudge against these (now ancient) injustices than if you're a white American whose ancestor got killed by Apaches 200 years ago- it's easier to forgive & forget when you are the winner: after all your hypothetical self is now in no way affected by that 200 year-old injustice.


Want to make sure I'm clear on this: I'm not saying that different people don't have a legitimate reason to be upset. If you're living in a former communist state in shitty conditions because the Soviets destroyed your country, sure. If you're living in poverty in some third-world country because your elected leaders like playing the "big man" in politics and killed all your family? Sure.

There are lots of great reasons to be angry about your current conditions _and_ those things that have gone on before. It just doesn't accomplish much. It creates a culture of anger, vengeance, victimhood, and nihilism.

I think the danger here is to confuse the issue and start talking about who really has a right to be upset or what kind of justice is demanded by current conditions. That's a completely different conversation -- one that must happen in all of these cases, but one which happens in a lot more productive manner when people forgive. Take a look at what happened in South Africa, for instance. Not a perfect resolution, but they are not spending the next 100 years in blood feuds either.


I agree that's it a lot less productive than forgiving and forgetting (I wouldn't give South Africa as a positive example but that's a different discussion, perhaps post WW2 western Europe or post cold-war Europe), and a lot of conflicts would have probably been solved by now had it not been so easy a trap to fall into.

However, I'm not sure it's possible to evade that mentality unless you are able to lead at least a minimally comfortable life - or at the very least it become a lot harder the shittier your life gets.

On a more anecdotal level, as an Israeli I remember a great sense of optimism on both sides when I was a teenager in the early/mid 90s - the territories got autonomous rule, a peace treaty was signed with Jordan (2nd one between Israel and a neighboring country since Egypt a decade and a bit before) and it genuinely seemed as if peace is inevitable.

Then at some point stuff started getting bad really fast, each side only "retaliating" to the other sides actions and the vicious cycle continued to this day ("we're not the bad guys, we're just reacting to what the other side just did!").


I do not agree with you, but regardless, the example you gave - South Africa - proves the point of the person you were replying to, i.e. they "won", so it is easier for them to forget. Not to take anything away from the extraordinary sacrifices of the native South Africans, but at the end of the day, they got to rule their land again, while the native Americans - and the Palestinian - never got to.

PS this is separate from the issue of whether the land belongs to native americans, native africans, or palestinians, I just mean that getting what you were demanding to be yours makes it easier to forgive previous wrongs.


I'm Polish, and this is very true. People here, especially old one, feel like victims of history, and are holding grudge.

Young people just go on, catching the chances we eventually have, not thinking too much about history. For the generations that had bad luck to live under German or Soviet occupation during WW2, and then in communism, they still holds grudge (and I understand them).

We even have great poetry about this: Czesław Miłosz "The Envoy of Mr. Cogito"

"...and do not forgive truly it is not in your power to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn beware however of unnecessary pride ..."

It's easy to forgive, when you're the winner. For people that had to live as victims for long time, when they see nobody cares anymore, it's hard.

This subject is currently highly dividing point of public debat here - two greatests parlament parties are defining their difference using this division.


What about when the strategy of the aggressors is explicitly to hold on for long enough that they can use exactly this argument to keep what they've appropriated from their victims?


I'm not sure what your point is, exactly. How does being mad about it help?

If you have some plan to undo the injustice, that's one thing. But if you are suffering for several generations in a futile attempt to undo the injustice, perhaps it's time to give up and pursue some other goals.

Aside: in the case of land disputes, how did the "victims" come about the land in the first place? Even if they were truly the first humans there, does that give them some divine right to it? And what about nomads?


True, the injustices committed against Native Americans are within the lifetime of the current generation. Look at the history of AIM and incidents that occurred in SD and the governments ignoring of current problem with reservations on the Mexican border. Heck, a court settlement on land use fees that didn't get paid (thanks Department of Interior) is just now circulating.

Some cultures still live by the stories of their elders. The education includes all the old stories. Now add a government that tried to destroy all native languages and traditions, move unprepared members to cities (90% suicide rate). Then add a rediscovering of the old history and attempts to pull themselves back up and find what it means to be in this new world. Some tribes did better, some did worse.

I suspect if a culture was based on the passing of stories from the former generation to the new, continuity breakage problems will be large. The USA isn't really that way, but some cultures inside it are. Add to that some of the rhymes we teach kids that made no sense to the parents of the now "properly" schooled children ("Jack and Jill went UP the hill to fetch a pale of water" doesn't inspire confidence you are teaching proper survival skills to a kid).


"Why the difference?"

That's an interesting question.

My view is: cultures which are quick to forget the past find it easy to move on. Cultures which cling to their history, find it harder to forgive-and-forget.

Expanding on that: you have a limited amount of bandwidth in terms of attention. If your gaze is on the past, it's much harder to move forward; sort-of like it's hard to drive a car forward by looking at the rear-view mirror. On the other hand, if you force your gaze to the future, it is much easier to move forward and keep moving forward.

As someone said, "forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past, for some hope of a better future".


Not sure Europe fits that, looks back at the past but forgives a lot...


Harvard Professor Robert Putnam's study showed that the more racially diverse a society is, the lower the levels of trust. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/ideas/articles/2007/08/05/t...


Its worth noting that it's actually subjective ethnic diversity that has these effects, rather than actual race. As a really clear example, Kenya and Tanzania both decolonialized with roughly the same mix of tribes in their borders but due to the different paths they've taken post independence most Kenyans think of themselves as primarily of their tribe first and Kenyans second, its the reverse in Tanazia. And Tanzania now has a much higher level of trust than Kenya, just as Putnam's work would suggest.

The second thing worth nothing is that more ethnically diverse societies tend to have faster growing economies than more homogeneous ones, even after taking into account their less efficient governments.


Well, I don't know about that but Somalia seems like an example that goes against that rule. They have had no stable government since 1991 and been fighting ever since yet they all belong to the same tribe, they speak the same language and are all of the same religion.


Is there some empirical measure of "the degree to which someone should actually be trusted," and if so, are the racially diverse societies less trustful than they should be, or are the racially homogeneous societies moreso than they should be?


It might be worth noting that there's another possibility besides those. Perhaps people actually are less trustworthy in more racially-diverse societies, in which case it needn't be the case either that the more diverse societies aren't trusting enough or that the less diverse societies are too trusting.

... How plausible is that? Dunno. In a racially-diverse society, especially a poorly integrated one, people of different races might well tend not to treat one another in ways worthy of trust. But it's complicated: they might also be more reliable towards others of the same race. In such a society, anyway, there'd be no such thing as "the degree to which someone should actually be trusted" because it would depend on who's considering trusting whom. Not to mention, e.g., that in such a society there could be a lot of divergence between how much you "should" trust someone else for your own sake (less) and how much you "should" trust them to help fix the messed-up state of society (more), etc., etc., etc.

Some things that aren't clear to me about Putnam's work, and that seem important: In racially diverse societies, is it only inter-race levels of trust that are lower? Putnam's work, IIUC, is concerned with the USA; are things different in places where there isn't a history of slavery? or where racial diversity on something like equal terms has been going on for longer? What actually happens over time in these less-trusting more-diverse places? Is it specifically highly-visible racial diversity (black, white, ...) that is associated with these differences in trust, or do you get the same thing with religious or cultural diversity that doesn't have quite such visible markers?

Oh, I can answer one of those. According to http://abstractnonsense.wordpress.com/2006/10/09/ethnic-dive... Putnam found that intraracial trust is less in more-diverse settings, as well as interracial trust. That's a shame.


I believe Trust but verify is the best alternative.


I think a better way of putting it is "Trust, but protect yourself in case you are wrong". As I wrote elsewhere, I think saying that you "absolutely trust" someone (anyone) is one of the most arrogant things you can say; you are not only saying you trust that person, you are also saying you don't believe you could be mistaken. Believe me, there is always room for a person to make mistakes.


I don't quite see how this is different from "say you trust, but act as if you don't", aka "don't trust, but lie about it".


Trust but verify = Make an informed decision


Couldn't agree more. However, for Pakistan and it's people, hatred towards India is a way of life. That's their inspiration, that's what they live up to. They possibly don't have any economic, social or technical goals to look up to. In such a scenario they naturally turns to religion and religious leaders feed this hatred mantra. Hence hatred becomes their living breath. Of course, this is all hearsay and I haven't personally been to Pakistan to witness any such feelings.


I am 4 short of 500 karma, so I can't give you a downvote - instead, I make this comment. I'm an Indian, and I find it very hard to believe that an entire nation unequivocally hates another country. Firstly, there are plenty of educated, curious and free-thinking Pakistanis who bear no such hatred toward India - just read the blogs in the Dawn website. Second, among those who aren't educated nearly well enough, I imagine that the preoccupation with day-to-day survival is far more important to them than the hatred that they are told they should feel toward a remote enemy.

On a meta note, why is this still on the front page? This is worse than politics - any discussion of this will devolve into vague statements(in the absence of actual knowledge or data) about how one country is better than the other and then rapidly into name-calling and jingoism. I hope we can keep this type of story away from HN.


Well, to put things into perspective, a couple of years back I asked a pakistani cab driver if this 'anti India' sentiment is prevalent in Pakistan and he gave an unequivocal yes. He belongs to the free-thinking tribe. What I've said here is based on his anecdotes and that's why I said it's hearsay.

"Second, among those who aren't educated nearly well enough, I imagine that the preoccupation with day-to-day survival is far more important to them than the hatred that they are told they should feel toward a remote enemy" - For a majority of such people, day to dy survival is nothing but breathing and showing hatred towards India. How else does militancy grow and survive ? India is right next door to Pakistan, nothing remote about that.


You seem to be disagreeing with Taseer's article, yet you give no concrete reasons or evidence -- only anecdotes. Do you also find it very hard to believe that Pakistan's hugely wasteful military is an artefact of its drummed-up animosity toward India?


I don't disagree with the article per se, I disagree with this method people seem to have of painting a large and diverse country with a single brush. I am entirely ignorant of Pakistan's inner workings, so I don't have an opinion on the article itself, other than noticing the obvious logical flaw and the fact that this article and its discussion are entirely inappropriate for HN.


hear hear


I echo spiffworks.


  The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief; 
  He robs himself that spends a bootless grief


> Why the difference?

Religion or religious history can account for at least some of the difference.

A lot of religions explicitly teach and emphasize forgiveness, even for grave injustices [0]. When people have an attitude that says "forgiveness is required", this can have a lasting and widespread influence. Nations with a strong history in such teachings, even if they are not particularly religious now, may retain that attitude toward forgiveness.

[0] A friend of mine wrote, after his sister was murdered, that he had no option but to forgive, that regardless of his emotions, his theology required it. http://darrow.faithweb.com/murder.htm


Total guess for this particular case (but I've seen it over and over). If you're well off, not getting genocided, etc you past wrongs don't bother much. If not, then past wrongs are what you blame for you're cured Ty shitty situation.


The perceived likelihood of success makes an impact as well, I think. For example, much of my family were Pontian Greeks from the Black Sea coast, and at one point their attitude was very similar to that of Palestinians--- commitment to regaining the lost homeland and reconstituting their former nation, anger at expulsion, etc.

After the 1920s or so, that sort of irredentist sentiment slowly waned as it became clear that Greece was never getting any of Asia Minor back, so there was really no point in spending your life with that as your goal; might as well just learn standard modern Greek and integrate into Greek society. But I can imagine an alternate history where Pontian Greeks are living in neighboring Greece in refugee camps, considering it only a temporary location while agitating to recover their homeland.


Nihilism by definition would actually eliminate these issues because they would leave the subjects with nothing to fight over.

I don't think that word means what you think it means. Please stop blaming the world's problems on amorphous and complicated concepts that you only vaguely remember from PHIL101.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: