America saw some serious growth and success in the first half of the 20th century, and I've often pondered the immigrants that came here. I get the impression that the best from all over the world were drawn here like flies to honey. The best of the lower classes maybe, but bold and industrious no less. You'd have to be to pack up your crap and move to America - just that act alone separates the wheat from the chaff. So what else would you expect from a country getting constant infusions of brave and talented folk than major growth and dynamism?
But I wonder if there's more to it - that it's a feedback loop, where the bold and industrious are made more bold and industrious by the way we roll here? Traditionally the lure for immigrants seemed to be "The sky's the limit. Work hard, play your cards right, and the world is your oyster in America.", and I guess from the Government's view might be characterized as "Go ahead and come on in. Do your thang and we won't hold you back, but we're not gonna hold your hand either." This begs the question: what if you take the brave and the bright and send 'em to France? Do they excel and produce in a society that coddles them? Or do they thrive by being thrown to the wolves? Do people in general thrive by being thrown to the wolves? I think so.
Take weight lifting for example: the muscles grow stronger and bigger only through activity and stress. The respiratory and vascular systems also seem to thrive on challenges. "A man'll rust out quicker than he'll wear out" as the Colonel used to say. I know you can tone and bulk with certain eating regimens, but I've never heard of any serious way to get strong or big without kicking your body's ass.
The immune system apparently does well with a certain amount of filth too. I keep hearing about how kids in the country don't have allergies nearly as much as their urban and suburban counterparts. Does anti-bacterial this and that help us stay healthy? I'm not so sure. I certainly don't remember anyone having an allergy other than hayfever as a child, and I think most of 'em would file it in the Nuisance category, not the Life Threatening category. If being exceptionally clean = healthy, I'm not really seeing the proof in that pudding.
I'm also beginning to think that art thrives on a certain amount of tension. Like a guitar string that needs to be wound tight to do its job, art needs to struggle a little: against The Man, the upper class, the censors, etc. If you wanna be an artist, and that means poverty, getting kicked around, outcast, and generally a hard row to hoe, you better damn well want to be an artist and have something to say. Again, that tension's a natural filter that lets the best be the best, and keeps the mediocre on the sidelines.