Editors note: This is a guest blog by Simone’s daughter, Dina Cramer.
There are a number of major ideas, which although born in one place, flourished in another. Examples span quite a range of disparate areas and I will present them here in chronological sequence.
We begin with the birth of two religions. Buddhism was developed in northern India in the 5th century B.C.E. by Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha. Its message was spread throughout the Far East and it was adopted by China, Japan, and a number of other East Asian countries. However, India, where it began, is today a Hindu country.
Christianity arose in what was then Palestine, which is today Israel. This is the country of Jesus Christ’s birth, and it is where he preached and where he was crucified. Afterwards his religion spread to much of the western world. However it is not a dominant religion in his home country, and Israel, where Christianity began, is today, of course, Jewish.
Another idea which migrated from its country of origin and from its intended beneficiaries is Communism. Developed by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in Germany with the publication of The Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Das Kapital in 1867, Communism was intended as a political-economic system which would liberate oppressed workers in industrialized western countries. It never took root in the intended environment and instead spread to undeveloped agrarian countries, the largest being Russia and China. Instead of liberating workers, the ideology was co-opted and used as a stepping stone to power by dictators who became the new oppressors. I wonder if Marx and Engels envisioned their system being used by Stalin or Mao to starve, massacre and imprison tens of millions of their own citizens. Again a movement flourished in a different country from its birth and in a different way than was intended.
A different kind of example is the Montessori movement. This was a system of pre-schools and early education developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in Rome, Italy in 1907 for children of the poorest slum of Rome. These ideas were brought to the United States in the 1920’s but died out only to be revived in the 1960’s when they became popular and were adopted especially by the upper middle class. Since then this movement has flourished throughout the U.S., extremely popular with highly educated people, leading one to wonder why a system based on the needs of destitute Italian children of the early 20th century transferred so readily to well-to-do modern Americans.
How about labor unions in the United States? These did not change countries but moved within a country. They were developed in the 20th century with the intention of protecting factory workers and members of trades. For a while a small but significant proportion of these did receive union protection. But for a number of reasons including the decline of the manufacturing sector, trade and industrial unions tended to wither away. In the meantime, it was the public sector which adopted unions with great enthusiasm: local, State, and Federal employees. Yet these employees least need the protections that unions give as they are already protected by civil service. (Full disclosure: I have been both a civil service employee and a union member at the same time.) So this gives public employees two layers of protection, which they still enjoy today, while many workers in the private sector lack even one.
Why did these ideas fail to take off in their place of origin, yet flourish in other soils? Please take a moment to comment with your own ideas. I would be particularly interested in hearing about other examples of this phenomenon.