Cultural Auras

American culture has many 3-ish qualities - competitive, worshipping success, glamour, and image-creation.  This page has a few of my opinions on several historical cultures.

Ancient Greece - 1 + 7
Ancient Rome - 8
China - 9w1, with 3 and 6 influences
United States - 3 + 1 + 7

Others: England, France, Democrats and Republicans.


Ancient Rome: 8

Ancient Rome began as a few city-states on the Italian peninsula, but eventually expanded to include much of modern-day Spain, France, Turkey, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa.  From the beginning, their culture was driven by conquest, military power, and expansion, which are values of ambitious 8s.  One of ancient Rome's most prominent leaders, Julius Caesar, was also an 8.  The Romans gave considerable cultural autonomy to the lands they conquered - as long as they paid taxes and recognized Roman authority.  Again, many 8s are like this - demanding loyalty but granting remarkable autonomy within certain absolute boundaries.  Roman culture borrowed (some would say stole) heavily from others; for example, their religion was taken first from the Greeks, and later from the early Christians, and their architecture also borrowed heavily from ancient Greece.  When Rome ran out of new territories to conquer, their society lost a major source of economic revenue, as well as a source of imperial pride.  Without new conquests, the strain of defending its vast territory against myriad outsiders took an enormous financial toll on the empire, which slowly declined until 476 A.D. when the Western portion of the empire collapsed.

Ancient Greece: 1 + 7

Ancient Greek culture was competitive, and valued high achievement.  This in itself is not unusual for a Western culture, but the ancient Greeks also idealized perfection, beauty, symmetry, and order.  These ideals were incorporated into their architecture, government, mathematics, philosophy, athletics, sculpture and art, all of which stressed high ideals, virtue, and aesthetic order.  Greek mathematicians invented the "golden ratio" (1.618...), which they believed to be the ideal proportions for everything, from architectural structures to paintings to natural organisms.  Greek culture also prized rationality, and kept secret their own mathematical discovery of "irrational numbers" (numbers that cannot be expressed as a ratio of two integers) - this was practically a heretical idea.

Of course, no culture is monolithic, and there were other subelements of Ancient Greek culture that do not seem 1-ish.  For example, the Greeks worshiped Gods that were essentially like men, only with more terrifying appetites and powers.  There may have been a 7-ish streak to the culture (Epicurean).

Ancient China: 9+1

Ancient Chinese literature, poetry, religious, and social beliefs heavily emphasized social harmony, as well as harmony with nature.  Much more than Western poetry, classical Chinese poetry almost obsessively dwells on the wonders of nature, as do classic Chinese paintings.  9 cultures generally dislike continuous conflict and power struggle, which may be one reason why the rigid Confucian social ideals were so widely accepted in China for over two millennia.  Confucious (a 1) defined an age and gender-based social hierarchy with the emperor at the top, and everyone else below in a fixed but orderly ranking.  Chinese society unified itself culturally and politically in 221 B.C., far earlier than any other region of similar size.  Unity remains a national goal today, although it has been distorted and manipulated by the communist government into an excuse to bully Taiwan and Tibet.

Ancient China had a strong self-preservationist cast.  The country has been economically self-sufficient for almost all of its history.  The Great Wall was designed to keep China's neighbor's out, and represents another self-preservationist defense mechanism.  The Wall's construction began about 2000 years ago, and it has been built and rebuilt several times despite its enormous financial cost.  Whereas many Western cultures used their wealth and resources to expand globally, China never did so, even when it had the resources, money, and seafaring technology to do so.  Even Zheng He, the Chinese navalist who sailed as far as Africa during the 15th century, did not trigger interest in global trade among the Chinese, who considered themselves self-sufficient and not in need of outside commodities.

Inertia is a characteristic vice of Enneagram style 9, and Chinese society's early precocious advances fell victim to a similar form of stagnation.  It is a great historical mystery how China, from the year 221 B.C. to the year 1900, went from being one of the world's most advanced nations to one of the most impoverished and backward.  The 9-like culture might be one reason.

Modern China: moving toward 3, with a 6-ish government.
Modern Chinese culture still retains 9-ish desires for stability, unity, and continuity with its own past.  But business, profit, and money are increasingly important, motivated by the combined desires to recover lost prestige, to catch up to the West, and avenge their humiliating treatment by 19th century European powers.  China is increasingly concerned with how it is viewed by the rest of the world, as evidenced by the national obsession with acceptance to the World Trade Organization, and campaign to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

Strangely, the government of China has moved in a different direction than the people.  Instead of becoming 3-ish, they’ve adopted a lot of unhealthy 6-ish elements: dogmatism, paranoia, over-reaction to minor threats, and resistance to major change.  The government wastes considerable energy attacking relatively small groups of people (Tibetans, Taiwanese, and Falun Gong), whom they view as major threats to the entire lifestyle of the Chinese.  Taiwan and Tibet each have a population less than 2% of China's, yet government propaganda blames them for a host of Chinese society's ills.

United States: a 3 society with 1 and 7 influences

3-ish elements in America are quite plain to see: American culture is competitive and goal-oriented, and Americans worship success, winning, and being “cool”.  The quintessentially American institutions of Hollywood and Madison Avenue are both focused almost exclusively on image-creation.  A puritannical 1-ish streak was also present from the early years of this nation.  Many 19th century presidents were 1s, including George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Grover Cleveland.  American views on sexual openness, drug use, and other social issues are also quite puritannical compared to the European countries from which most Americans trace their roots.  However, this 1-ish element faded considerably during the 20th century.  Americans today are known more for demanding instant gratification than for their ideals.  For better or worse, affluence has encouraged Americans to seek more experiences than before, to eschew self-sacrifice, and to pursue (and expect) quick and easy solutions to almost everything.

Other contemporary cultures:

    England: 1 moving toward 4.  1-ish aspects: In centuries past, England was the self-annointed "civilizer" of the world, the modern birthplace of representative government, the Magna Carta, and constitutional monarchy.  Former English colonies are almost all representative democracies, a claim that few other European colonies can make.  This may be due to the organizing and stabilizing influence of the British legal and financial systems.  England has also long exhibited 4-ish qualities such as a reputation for fostering eccentrics and dandies.

    France: 4+7.  Fine food and wine, romance, and a disdain for anyone not French.

    The Democratic party in America:  7 - more open to new ideas and diversity than the Republicans, but also prone to fragmentation and lack of discipline.  The party preaches inclusivity, and for the most part practices it.  The Democratic party consists of an astonishing kaleidoscope of different interests: labor unions, most ethnic minorities, intellectuals, Hollywood, trial lawyers, women, and professionals.  One might say that Democrats are simply more fun J.

    The Republican party in America:  6 - concerned with security issues, national defense, morality, but also with a frighteningly dogmatic right wing.  Traditionally, the Republican party has been better at coordination and working together as a group than Democrats.  However, this cohesion is partly due to the party's lack of diversity; the party is dominated by the interests of white, male, affluent, heterosexual Protestant Christians.  The party is generally indifferent or actively hostile toward those who are not white, affluent, Christian, or heterosexual.