0 Replies Latest reply on Aug 30, 2019 9:56 AM by David Friedman

    Cosmopolitanism and Culture

    David Friedman Wayfarer

      I don't have a specific question, but I just think this passage from a two page essay

      published in 1891 on the value of cultural exchange called

      "Cosmopolitanism and Culture" is striking:

       

      "Taking an impartial view of the whole subject, we can hardly doubt that

      in becoming more cosmopolitan we gain more in every respect than we lose by

      the change. The process is not unlike the development of boys and girls into

      men and women. Looking back at childhood's days, our view is often affected

      by the glamour of the past, and we see them in a rose-colored light; yet if we

      could become children again we should find the pettiness and the narrow limits

      of a child's life intolerable. It is natural to regret the dying out of time-honored

      customs and the loss of old associations, and to find whatever takes their places

      incongruous and unattractive. But their extinction means that kind of progress

      without which life would be mere vegetation, and the sacrifice we make in

      giving them up is an unqualifiedly wholesome one. Controlling our unreasonable

      prejudices in such matters, we can learn to think with calmness even of

      Thackeray's prospective steamboatmen in Palestine shouting, with strident

      voices, -

       

      Ease her! Stop her!

      Passengers for Joppa!

       

      In the United States this outgrowing of old-fashioned and narrow ideas

      ought to be easier than it is anywhere else. Our population is made up of so

      many different national elements that we may familiarize ourselves with a great

      variety of such types without going beyond our own borders. Many of our

      foreign-born citizens are quite as American in feeling as any native of the

      country, and in that respect their descendants seldom differ at all from the rest

      of the people. Still, they both necessarily retain some of the characteristics of

      their original stocks, and both have helped to carry out the work which was

      begun by the diversity of the colonial populations. In the natural order of

      things we Americans ought to be the most cosmopolitan people in the world."

       

      It reminds me of our current debates on how open or closed we should be as

      a society: whether in terms of economic policy, immigration, cultural exchange, etc.

       

      These texts can still speak to our modern issues even after over a hundred years.