Large, Insular Countries

It’s a peculiar thing about countries with large populations that they often tend to be insular, uninformed about what goes on in other parts of the world, and mildly paranoid, if not xenophobic. The U.S. provides a leading example: the intermittent periods of “isolationism” provide a testament to insularity. Proverbially clueless about the world outside their borders, Americans have also gained fame for their paranoia and xenophobia. But the prominence of these characteristics is tempered by the country’s historic openness, large educated classes, and sophisticated urban centers. Other large countries provide more striking examples of xenophobia and paranoia, such as Japan, Russia, and to a growing extent, China.

Large populations render countries more self-contained economically and culturally, which tends to make them more insular, if not more xenophobic. A small country, by contrast, is constantly looking out at the world to see how it will be or can be influenced by the larger, more powerful countries. They tend to be more cosmopolitan and more open to outside influences.

One convention I can get used to

With some micro-cosmic exceptions, Brazil tends to fall into the purview of a large insular country. What might be associated with a country´s insularity? One of the principal features might be “conventionality.” More open countries tend to evince less rigid conventions, which is to say they go about the same ritual in different ways. Brazil remains plainly conventional, which makes sense: it’s a traditional country—the largest Catholic country in the world— and on average Brazilians have low levels of education. Moreover, Brazil has no clear unconventional role-model, unlike other Latin American countries who emulate worldly Spain or Latino USA. Brazil clings to its own conventions. I´ll follow up on this line of thinking and my ultimate thesis, next post.

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