Culture as a weapon

At its simplest level, culture represents the ways we do things in life, underpinned by certain beliefs and values. It produces good conduct, which is essentially uniform across the globe. Yet, it is the weapon of choice in inter-tribal contests reflecting a cult of difference-with-superiority. Who benefits?

Any divergence from instinctively shared rules about good conduct may have derived initially from isolation, and a fear of ‘the other.’ When a number of extended families, each linked by their particular set of genes, evolved pragmatically, or even by necessity, over time into a tribe, they would have been linked by language, and agreement about how to do certain things.

These could range from actions and practices related to tribal harmony, external security, long-term viability (such as outlawing incest), and governance; as well as activities of a creative nature – painting, sculpture, song and dance, and all manner of crafts. Either following the establishment of ritualistic procedures, or associated with that, there may have arisen some philosophical considerations, or simply attempted explanations, about nature and the place of these people within it (including the conservation of necessary natural resources).

There may also have arisen to influence self-selected shamans (or other priesthoods), or individuals seeking authority to rule through a claimed descent from an imputed god in an assumed over-world. A belief system would then have arisen which articulated these distinguishing attributes of the tribe into a coherent whole. Tribal, that is, cultural differences may thus, over time, reflect accidents of development, the need to ensure viability, and the display of power by priests or rulers.

A major issue is whether the cultural differences which have developed over time and across the globe are so different as to warrant or justify inter-tribal separation or even conflict.

In the absence of conflict over resources, differences in the ways people speak or dress, the way they relate to one another, or the ways they cook and eat their foods, do not seem to be important, although certain food taboos may not be shared. How people relate to others not of their kind is, however, strategically affected, not so much by how they pray, but to what (or whom) they pray. Praying to the same god has not led to a unity of minds. Presumably, all the religious people of mankind accept that there is only a sole creator of all that is, named God.

Dogma divides. For what benefit? For the exercise of power, through a cult of difference and implied superiority. Cultural differences based on divergent religious dogma are then emphasised to justify separation and, if necessary, conflict.

Prof. Huntington’s thesis about probable future conflict being between civilisations may yet bear fruit. Wars between religion-derived cultures have already begun.