I grew up on a hog farm in one of the poorest counties in Ohio. We did our field work with draft horses. Then I moved to the mountains of Tennessee, where I practiced medicine for 20 years in the fourth poorest county in the fifth poorest state in the country (or maybe the other way around). My neighbors and I voted in an old “community center” which was a low concrete block building the size of a two car garage, with a leaky tin roof, whose only source of heat was a wood stove in the corner. After spending nearly 50 years in very poor communities, two years ago I moved to Hilton Head, SC, where I have a thriving concierge medical practice. The transition from poor communities to a very wealthy community has been fascinating to me.
The poor communities I lived in had a lot in common. They were nice places – very close-knit communities which tended to be dominated by a few large extended families which had been there forever, with many smaller but equally well-established families. You weren’t really from that community unless you were born in the same house as your great-grandfather was. You were identified by who your family was, and where you went to church. So our communities were structured by, and unified by, families and churches.
Not that we were all united all the time. For example, we made fun of one another’s families. And we made fun of one another’s churches. But at the end of the day, there was more that bound us together than pushed us apart.
One of those things that bound everyone together was the schools. When I was in high school in rural Ohio in the 1980s, a couple of disgruntled students vandalized the school one Friday night. They were there for hours, tearing things up. Word got out, and by noon the next day, everybody with a mop and a bucket in our county was in that school cleaning up the mess. Our few janitors would have taken several weeks to clean all that up, but the crowd of volunteers had it cleaned up in a little over 24 hours. That meant we didn’t miss a day of school, which reduced the crime committed from a felony to a lesser charge for the vandals. That bothered me, but it probably shouldn’t have. They’re both doing well in life, now.
The reason I bring all this up is that Hilton Head has none of those things. All those things that held my previous communities together – families, churches, and schools – those things do not exist here. At least, not really:
Hilton Head essentially did not exist 50 years ago (it was a small island used for timber production), and most of the communities on the island have been built in the last 25 years. There is a small Gullah presence, and they have been here for generations. So there are a few old families here, but their influence in the community as a whole is very small.
Very few people here go to church, and the churches that do exist here are often more social clubs than truly houses of worship. My family and I are devout Christians, and we continue to search for a church that meets our needs. There are churches here, but their influence in the community is very small.
Most people move here to retire. The average age of my patients is around 75 years old. I’m not sure what percentage of households here have children under 18 in the home, but it must be a very small percentage. My point is that we do have a public high school, but its influence in the community is very small.
The reason I find this so interesting is that Hilton Head is a very close-knit community. There are about 40,000 full-time residents here. My town in Tennessee and my home county in Ohio both had about 10,000 residents. So Hilton Head, with four times the population (nearly none of whom are actually from here), and essentially no families, no churches, and no schools – you would think that it wouldn’t even really be a community at all. What holds this place together?
Hilton Head feels like a very friendly small town. It’s a nice place. Every time we go out to eat, we leave with new friends. Everybody knows everybody. If you need something, someone is always willing to help. If they can’t help, they know someone who can. That other someone may not know you, but he’ll be happy to help you, too. This is a nice, close-knit community, for no obvious reason. I find that interesting.
Although perhaps there is something, somewhat less obvious, that holds this community together: Western civilization.
Respect for others. Property rights. The rule of law. Free speech and thought. Judeo-Christian ethics (even among those who do not practice a Judeo-Christian religion). Free markets. Self-responsibility, and “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s stuff.” And so on. There are reasons that Hilton Head is a nicer community than, say, Aleppo, Syria. Even though Aleppo has established families, influential churches, and community schools, just like rural Ohio and rural Tennessee. But Aleppo is not Ohio or Tennessee.
So perhaps Hilton Head is not converted from a bunch of individuals to a pleasant, close-knit community by families, churches, and schools. And perhaps my communities in rural Tennessee and rural Ohio weren’t, either. That’s the way it seemed, but I’m starting to think that there was something less obvious at work. Less obvious, but more ubiquitous. Something so omnipresent that I wasn’t even aware of it, like a fish isn’t aware of water.
Maybe western civilization is a good thing, after all. Amazing stuff, as a matter of fact. Heck, they ought to teach it in schools. But they don’t. They teach multiculturalism – that all cultures are equally wonderful. What if that’s not true?
Those in rural Ohio and rural Tennessee would suggest that western civilization has significant advantages, if they happened to notice it. I suspect that those in Hilton Head would share that view. Those in Aleppo would likely agree, in their heart of hearts, as well. Immigration patterns suggest that people all over the world take this view, as a matter of fact. Even the outspoken multiculturalists at the UN take this view – they wanted their headquarters in New York. Not Aleppo.
Immigrants don’t come here because we have money. They come here because we have western civilization. It’s wonderful. And everyone knows it. Even the multiculturalists, who put a great deal of effort into maintaining their blissful delusional apparent ignorance on the topic.
I believe that people all over the world are basically the same, but cultures are profoundly different. And immigrants coming here from all over the world, apparently, agree.
The world is not divided into nice places and miserable places because of an unequal distribution of natural resources, or brain power, or arable land. It’s because of an unequal distribution of western civilization. A civilization which we ignore at our own risk.
And everyone else’s risk, too, come to think of it.Published in