Choose The Society You Want

We're not demanding enough.

We accept very low standards.

And then, worse, we think that those standards can not be changed. That's not true.

The under-graduate's cliche, compare and contrast, is the traveler's, the immigrant's, the exile's, privilege and curse.

As I awoke this morning my thoughts drifted across the cultures of Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Antigua in the Caribbean. Yesterday, I wished a security guard in an office block an enjoyable Songkran for on Wednesday starts the Thai annual holiday that commemorates the beginning of the Thai New Year. She laughed.

A laugh in Thai culture is not a laugh in British culture. Indeed, it is often used in social situations where in British culture it would not be appropriate. The laugh in Thai culture may carry different meaning. So I was curious about her reaction so later today perhaps I will check with a Thai friend to see if it can be decoded more accurately. But what it did make me reflect on is some of the differences between cultures we inherit and cultures we choose.

Some years ago on an infrequent visit to the United Kingdom I had that unfortunate conversation when I described that where I lived in Thailand one didn't need to lock one's door. The front door hadn't been locked for years. And where a French friend of mine had left the keys in his cars for more than a decade, and even when he is away for long periods in Europe. The British person's reaction was telling. It appeared to run the range of suspicion, to incredulity, until coming to rest on a bed of assumption that was spread with the notion that whoever they were talking to must be "incredibly naive."

At the same time, I felt a sensation that often accompanies the delivery of new information. It's rejection, and the rather British manner of blanketing that rejection with an ad hominem character assassination. Inverted, illustration of an omniscient compulsion to conform that permeates certain strata of British society.

illustrated a stasis, an inability to change, an outright rejection of a better way.

If one of the privileges of the latter decades of the twentieth century was affordable travel for those of developed countries, then the view new and different societies that came with that travel are part of the privilege. Sometimes one could be lead to believe that travel is synonymous with "shopping" and "bargains," as a first reaction sorry evidence of impoverished culture. The true gift of travel is to seek new ideas, ways of thinking, amid the manners of different ways of living.

And to take those ideas home.

And to compare them.

Contrast them.

And to decide, if that's better why not do it?

Would you prefer to live better?