The cream rises, the stones sink: Here’s why

Life’s funny, isn’t it, in the way it apportions winners and losers? Some rise to the top, like cream, despite all kinds of supposed disadvantages. Others sink to the bottom, like stones, despite having apparent good chances in life.

In my graduating class at Madison Consolidated High School, three students, a girl and two boys, were within milli-fractions of having the same grade-point average, right at the top of the class. At least two of them, probably all three, could be described as coming from working-class families. One came from a large family. They were all intelligent, most certainly, but I’d guess several other students, myself included, were probably just as smart. But I wasn’t anywhere near the top of the class. I just didn’t care at that point, wouldn’t study things I found boring or “too hard,” and never was fortunate enough to find a teacher who could motivate me to try to excel.

The three classmates I have in mind excelled because they were disciplined — because they had an inner drive that wouldn’t accept less than the best. I’d guess they probably also had parents who expected the best from them, and would have leaned on them heavily for getting a “B”, let alone the “F”s” of which I got several.  My parents were dismayed at my relatively low grades, but could do nothing with me. I didn’t have the “inner drive.”

Ethnic groups, and countries, also have a tendency to either rise or fall. Over time, these rises and falls are predictable.

Take Japan, for instance. About 123 million Japanese are crowded onto four islands — which are not blessed with ample natural resources. But in the 19th Century, after a long period of “hermit nation” status, Japan emerged into the Industrial Revolution, and in about two generations built itself into an economic and military power.

Japan’s rapid rise engendered extreme militarism and an aggressive drive for empire, which was finally blasted at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending World War II. Japan was in ruins. But then — admittedly with a lot of help from the U.S. which had defeated it in battle — Japan rose from its own ashes within a relatively few number of years and became a world power again, economically.

Twice in a hundred years, Japan re-made itself, and went charging right on. Why? Well, because the Japanese believe in working hard, for one thing. It’s the Confucian Ethic. Confucius was Chinese, but his rules for a successful life have affected not only his native land, but also other East Asian peoples — namely Japan and Korea. The Japanese also have a “group ethic” which says that the success of the Japanese people is more important than that of an individual Japanese person. And Japan has kept itself very ethnically pure — about 99 percent, according to some statistics. Think that statement sounds racist — the idea that “diversity” might have held them back? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Japan’s made it while being homogeneous; the U.S. became great while it was 82 percent to 90 percent European-descended. China, which is the rapidly rising next “world leader,” is about 92 percent Han Chinese — only 8 percent are of other ethnic groups. And it’s been a government and national entity for longer than any other existing nation.

The Jews present an even more striking example of  “inner drive,” plus intelligence. The Jewish people for 2,000 years mostly avoided intermarriage with other groups, concentrated on succeeding in such fields as business and the medical professions — and didn’t even have a country of their own until 1948. They were driven out of host country after host country — often for being “too successful,” which inspired envy and resentment among those who didn’t do as well.

When the Jews were expelled here and there, they could have hunkered down, said, “We’ve been treated unfairly!” demanded that someone make good their losses and take care of them. But they didn’t do that. As Tevye says in “Fiddler on the Roof” when his family is leaving Czarist Russia for America, “We’ll have to wait for the Messiah somewhere else.” For 2,000 years, the Jews “went somewhere else,” made the best of it, and ultimately, made good. An amazing record.

Then, on the other side of the coin, there’s Haiti. We’re being asked now, a year after Haiti’s disastrous earthquake, to dig down and come up with more money to help them. This, after most of the money we already sent them (including a donation from Old Corporal) was stolen or wasted.

Our “powers that be” are telling us we need to give more money to help get “Haiti back on its feet.” Excuse me, but when was Haiti ever “on its feet”? The black majority there drove out its French masters in the 1790s, the country became a “republic,” so-called, in the early 1800s, and it has been a squalid, backwater basket case ever since, oppressed by corrupt leaders, lacking that essential “inner drive” that spells “success” for individuals and nations.

Plus, the intelligence, as I said before. You can have one, but not the other, and you’ll sink, quite possibly. World statistics on national IQ give us a big clue on this point. Japan’s is 105, one point below that of South Korea, at the very top of the heap. China’s is not far behind, at 100 — a handful of points ahead of most of the European nations and the U.S.

And, way down on the bottom, below some sub-Saharan African countries, is Haiti, at 67.

Nuff said.

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3 comments for “The cream rises, the stones sink: Here’s why

  1. mrzollman
    January 23, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Hello, Old Corporal. What an interesting topic you chose for your topic today. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and it “made me think”. How is it, then, that some Hatian people can come to America and suddenly do quite well here? Maybe the basic intelligence is there, but no good teachers to motivate the children? You are right, though, that they are going to have to pull themselves up with their own bootstraps to get going again. I was mortified when I saw they might actually WELCOME Baby Doc back into the fold! Me thinks he smelled American funds coming to help and wanted his SHARE?

  2. foobar
    January 24, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    Here is an excellent time-line of Haiti troubles: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/country_profiles/1202857.stm – It’s almost impossible to shine as a human while in great poverty and while any resemblance of a government that controls you is full of corruption. So much is being a product of your environment I think. Great article OC!

  3. January 27, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    old corporal, your comments about haiti brought back some old memories. this time of the year 48 years ago, at the hight of the cuba missle crisis, we were pulled out of gitmo on an lsd (back then this was a ship not a pill to take a trip on) loaded from the bow to the stern with construction equipment and fire engines. we were not told where we were going or how long we would be gone but we all had to update our next of kin forms. as it turned out we hooked up with a ship task force that sat off the coast of haiti waiting for orders to go ashore. our mission, if we were to go ashore, was to hold the airport and keep it open and running. we sat off haiti for a week watching fires and explosions that could be clearly seen at night. for reasons unknown to us, haiti was never invaded and we returned to gitmo to continue constructing bunkers, sam sites, extendind the length of the airport runways etc. everybody knows how the cuba missle crfisis played out but there was never any coverage about haiti. i seriously doubt if haiti would have been invaded in 1963, it would not have changed things today. the ruler at this time was baby doc’s father, papa doc. with all the billions that have been spent or given to haiti since the devastating earthquake, the total numer of houses constructed is around 300. the us should have shipped all the fema trailers that nobody wants or uses because the next hurricane, fema will just order thousands on new ones. a fema trailer should provide more shelter than a blue tarp and plywood. the corruption in haiti is no differerent than the corruption in iraq, afghanistan, pakistan etc. except we are not shedding american blood in haiti right now. will america ever learn from it’s past mistakes? the defination of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. unfortunately all the sane people all locked up. enough rambling. good article old corporal.

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