Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is America an open society?

This question stems from conversations with my fiancée as well as friends here in London and could also be phrased:
Is the US or the UK a more open society?

(with regards to ideology and/or immigration)
- feel free to toss other countries into the equasion.

Post your thoughts in the comment area if you would (please).

Some random thoughts/questions on this:
  • Cassius Clay became Mohammad Ali (in what some call more of a political move than a religious one) in 1964 after joining the Nation of Islam - what would Americans think if someone of his fame did this today ?
  • The great physicist David Bohm was forced out of Princeton when it surfaced that he was a sympathiser of Communism (he later got a job in Bristol, England)
  • London, Madrid, and the US have all been targeted by Islamic Terrorists in the last 1o years - why? But let us not foget those in India recently as well. Are there more cases of calculated domestic Islamic terrorism?
  • Is America "a nation of immigrants" as JFK proclaimed in 1958 or a "Christian Nation" as John McCain and the Republican Party of Texas (amongst others) seem to believe. Can these two notions coexist? (my own sense is that 'Christian' is exclusionary - while 'immigrant' is inclusive - even Native Americans immigrated at one point).


Tom said...

I was quite young when Cassius Clay changed his name, but I think it was accepted pretty well. Clay's was a very peaceful conversion. I *think*, too, he thought of Cassius Clay as being a slave name. Something similar would be accepted as easily today, I think -- except that I think there is much, much more entertainment journalism and they might bring vastly more attention to it in the way they hype everything, nowadays.

I think America remains especially resistant to Communist ideas, but we recovered long ago to the McCarthy madness. It's not altogether a bad thing; Communism is pretty damn spooky.

I think Americans are very, very comfortable in their private lives of saying any damn thing and exploring exotic philosophies, maybe more so than anywhere. But out in open society, many nations in Western Europe seem more accepting of public weirdness and are more socially libertarian and liberated.

Buddhist_philosopher said...

More anecdotal evidence: I spoke with some flatmates (two EUers and one Indian) last night and they were quite clear that they see the UK as a more open society - the Indian woman noted repeated difficulties and refusals on attempting to get a US Visa to attend her brother's college graduation. Getting to the UK, she said, has been much easier.

Gary said...

It's off-topic - by a long way - but I wanted to let you know that Forest Wisdom is changing its url this coming Friday. The new url is:


You might want to change the link to Forest Wisdom on your blog, Justin.

As to comparing the UK & the US with regards comparative freedoms, I think they're much of a muchness to be honest. It's when we compare the West with places in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa, and the Far East that we see just how liberal the US & the West is.

An example: In the UK, you can say almost anything about the British monarchy and no one bats an eyelid. The press publishes the most insulting stories, photos, and cartoons of the British royal family. (You might consider the UK TOO free in this regard. It's somewhat demeaning to say the least!)

In contrast, the law in Thailand (where I live) regarding any negative or humorous remarks or images regarding the Thai monarchy is as strict as can be in a modern country. Journalists have been imprisoned and/or deported for writing articles that the authorities felt were disrespectful to the monarchy. This year, a Swiss man who'd lived in the country for over a decade was imprisoned for scrawling on a poster of the Thai king in Bangkok when he was intoxicated. Only an intervention by His Majesty allowed the man to be released from a long prison sentence and permanently deported. And Thailand is one of the freer states in this part of the world!

Be well,

Buddhist_philosopher said...

Hia Gary -

Good point, and yikes. Yes, in the big scheme of things the US and UK are doing pretty darned good - though I'd still think we (both) can do a lot better! :)