Bad families, bad countries

Books and movies nowadays have settled on a comfortable position regarding bad people. A bad adult was very likely abused as a child, and this has something to do with why they ended up bad, without, of course, excusing it.

Regarding the influence of countries on their citizens as opposed to families on their children, we take a curiously different position. Some governments are bad, we agree. The people of these countries, however, are good. We may criticize the wicked practices of the regime that has driven country X into the ground in the past 50 years, but we have nothing against the ordinary citizens of X, who are fine, decent people.

I wish it were so, but I think our model of families may be more accurate than our model of nations. My suspicion is that if a society is prosperous and fair, its citizens tend to be trustworthy and open, and if a society is venal and corrupt, they tend to be grasping. Of course, these are statistical statements, with a thousand exceptions. But I suspect it’s true on average.

Americans used to be famous for their corn-fed openness. Here in the age of Trump, they may be changing.

[22 February 2020]

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