Our Cultural Distances, Is it Safe, and Gender Inequity

There is a house in New Orleans. More than one. Ott Howell, now an old man, stayed behind during the winds, rain and flood of Katrina to protect the house he has worked in for nearly three decades, the Beauregard-Keyes house, named after both the complicated confederate general and the now mostly forgotten best-selling female author. As he gave us a personal tour of the historic mansion, it was hard to believe that the kindly, gentle Ott, who professed a hatred for guns, was once a prison guard in the notorious Angola prison just outside of New Orleans. Al Jackson, a 72-year-old kindly man with lineage dating back to the early 20-century jazz greats, similarly gave us a personal tour of the Treme Petit Jazz Museum housed in the old Black Musicians Union Hall, a smallish home in the oldest African-American neighborhood in America. Al explained through photos, paintings and old tape cassettes how jazz sprung from the gumbo of African, Caribbean, German and French influences. He described the rampant racism such musicians experienced in pioneering an original American art form that like all things American, came from many lands. Well, there is a house in New Orleans. More than one. And they influence us to bring you news of the cultural distance between countries, China’s Achilles heel and a ranking of gender equity. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, a jambalaya of international data and information.

The Treme Petit Jazz Museum in New Orleans

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NINA SIMONE – The House of The Rising Sun (Best Version) Lyrics

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Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Our Cultural Distances

How important is culture to a country’s economic and political success? We have no idea but some researchers have attempted to quantify just how culturally similar countries are to each other. Or, as they ask, “Just how psychologically different are the nations of the world compared to each other and to the over-scrutinized United States?” They come up with some interesting answers. Countries in general are more culturally distant from China than they are from the United States. And Hong Kong is just as culturally close to the U.S. as it is to China (or distant, depending on  your point of view). India has the most cultural diversity within its country, the United States the least (making New Orleans just that more special for its distinctness). Yemen is most culturally distant from China and the second most culturally distant country from the U.S, which I guess makes them pretty unique. Given the checkered history between the two, Vietnamese may be surprised to learn they are culturally closest to China. Although we are unqualified to vouch for their methodology, the study looks at a variety of cultural factors, including individualism, long-term orientation, value of hierarchy and others. We await a study of the culture of the researchers.

Is It Safe?

A former boss once told us that innovation is successful in places where it is okay to fail. So we’re very innovative. We have written that China does not get enough credit for being technologically innovative; case in point Chinese researchers apparently have succeeded in transforming copper into gold. But is the Chinese government now implementing policies that will put such innovation at risk? You’ve heard of the social credit system they have been instituting. They’ve now also begun instituting such a system for its scientists, according to an article in Nature (via Marginal Revolution). “Researchers in China who commit scientific misconduct could soon be prevented from getting a bank loan, running a company or applying for a public-service job. The government has announced an extensive punishment system that could have significant consequences for offenders — far beyond their academic careers.” As in the broader social credit system created in China, accused researchers will be banned from flying and getting on trains, along with losing grants and promotions. At the same time, on China’s popular Wechat app, censorship is on the rise at the same time as many Chinese receive their news via WeChat. But if you were wanting to read about the arrest of Huawei’s CFO, you were out of luck, according to the Vancouver Sun. Draconian consequences for failure and increased censorship could smother Chinese innovation in its high-tech, Internet of Things cradle.

Breaking News: Gender Inequity Still Exists

All over the world. But there have been some slight improvements over the last year according to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap Report while noting “there is still a 32 percent average gender gap that remains to be closed.” The annual report benchmarks 146 countries across  four categories: economic opportunity, educational attainment, health factors and political empowerment. The largest gender disparity is in political empowerment. The smallest disparity is in education and health. Healthy, wealthy and wise? We’re doing okay on two out of three. Europe and North America lead the way on having the best gender equity with the Middle East bringing up the rear. Worrisomely, Africa has regressed in the last year. In terms of countries, Iceland is tops for gender equity while Yemen comes in last. Peruse the top and bottom tens below.

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