A Caricature of the Culture of Success

Across his body of extant works, the economist Thomas Sowell writes eloquently of the culture of success brought to America by immigration. Some communities have privileged education to the extreme. In his 1981 work Ethnic America, Sowell’s profile of America’s Japanese and Jewish immigrant communities is what I think of when I read a caricaturing passage in Graham Greene’s 1932 novel Stamboul Train.

Speaking of a medical doctor, Greene writes:

There had been his duty to his parents who had gone hungry that he might be educated. He remembered the day when he took his degree, and how they had visited him in his bed-sitting-room and sat quiet in a corner watching him with respect, even with awe, and without love, for they could not love him now that he was an educated man; once he heard his father address him as ‘Sir’.

Some subcultures in America don’t have this tendency. That fact can be found in data that captures socio-economic status. It’s a stronger predictor than the presence of prejudicial discrimination, so this artistic rendering of the phenomenon is worth some reflection.

Eric Shierman lives in Salem and is the author of We were winning when I was there