Culture and Conflict | On the Brink of Nothing New


Culture is often at the root of human conflict throughout history.

War, conflict, and strife require a certain cessation of empathy and civil consideration of other people and their perspectives.  When faced with a threat, real or perceived, it is basic human instinct to quickly recognize, vocalize, and magnify the immediate differences in the individual or group which presents the threat.  While sometimes contrived, such conflict is often unintended as a lack of understanding seeds the comprehension of perceived difference as an inherent threat.  It can therefore be concluded that culture is often at the root of human conflict throughout history.

With this reality in mind, we can see that, while the phrase Culture War may not have entered into the popular lexicon until James Davison Hunter coined the term in 1991, culture and conflict have belonged together since the beginnings of civilization.  Such cultural conflict is generally either deliberate, incidental, or derived.

Deliberate conquest is often built upon the catalyst of cultural difference, either in enabling another culture to be viewed as an existential threat or engendering a sense of supremacy necessitating deliberate cultural diffusion through influence and the sword.

Incidental cultural conflict has often arisen due to the unintended consequences of diaspora.  Whether through immigration or emigration, or even simply exploration, different cultures have come into contact with one another absent true malicious intent and even, at times, with an honest expectation of peaceful coexistence who, nevertheless, end up embroiled into conflict over seemingly irreconcilable cultural differences.

The most complicated cultural conflict, and the type in which our nation finds itself most heavily engaged in, is that which is derived.  Culture does not exist in a vacuum, it is equally defined by its origins and its destination.  Often in history, cultures have been derived from similar origins and yet proceed towards different destinations, even within the same society.  As the cultures diverge, they each become pressed upon by new considerations and perspectives which increase the separation and cultural differences, until a basis for conflict has developed.

A cursory glance of American society reveals the workings of all three types of cultural conflict.  We can see the divergent cultures of tradition and reform, built upon similar origins but proceeding towards different goals.  We can recognize the incidental conflicts arising from these divergent cultures, as well as general unrest resulting from ethnic strife.  And lastly, we can clearly see the evidences of deliberate attempts to force diffusion as competing concerns alternate their attempts to use the arm of government on their behalf.

The undercurrent for cultural conflict is the recognition or perception of a threat.  We need not look further to understand why American society has been brought to the brink, then the acknowledgement that the varying sides of our “culture war” view their opposition as a threat, as an entity outside the realms of civil plurality, and truly as an enemy of their way of life.

It is clear that we are on the brink of true cultural conflict, a crisis which has already begun tearing at the fabric of our free society.  We must look to this conflict and its consequences with grave concern and disapprobation.  But, it is not as if such a situation is unique in the annals of men.  It is, unfortunately, nothing new.

-The Millennial Federalist

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  1. Culture and Conflict | At The Brink of Something Different – The Millennial Federalist

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