Between 1997 and 2002, the U.N. Mission of Kuwait picked up 246 parking violations per diplomat. Diplomats from Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Mozambique, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Syria also committed huge numbers of violations. Meanwhile, not a single parking violation by a Swedish diplomat was recorded. Nor were there any by diplomats from Denmark, Japan, Israel, Norway or Canada.Believe it or not, this flows in a lot when we talk about changing a culture. Hard to do, and it takes decades.
The reason there are such wide variations in ticket rates is that human beings are not merely products of economics. The diplomats paid no cost for parking illegally, thanks to diplomatic immunity. But human beings are also shaped by cultural and moral norms. If you’re Swedish and you have a chance to pull up in front of a fire hydrant, you still don’t do it. You’re Swedish. That’s who you are.
All cultures have value because they provide coherence, but some cultures foster development while others retard it. Some cultures check corruption, while others permit it. Some cultures focus on the future, while others focus on the past. Some cultures encourage the belief that individuals can control their own destinies, while others encourage fatalism.Always be careful how you define victory.
...cultural change can’t be imposed from the outside, except in rare circumstances. It has to be led by people who recognize and accept responsibility for their own culture’s problems and selectively reinterpret their own traditions to encourage modernization.
Harrison observes that gigantic investments in education, and especially in improving female literacy, usually precede transformations. Chile was highly literate in the 19th century, and in 1905, 90 percent of Japanese children were in school. These investments laid the groundwork for takeoffs that were decades away.
Harrison points to many other factors — leaders who encourage economic liberalization, movements that restrict the power of the clerics — but the main impressions he leaves are that cultural change is measured in centuries, not decades, and that cultures are separated from one another by veils of complexity and difference.