Culture Conflict in Global Expansion
Inherited resistance to change and or protective shield?
by Michael Mifsud, Writer, Entrepreneur
Culture – a strange word that evokes visions of substance, color and communal living. It can however refer to so many things that it needs to be defined in context to be able to appreciate it as the organic, slowly evolving, form of social expression that it is. In this study of conflict and change in the face of foreign intrusion, culture means customs and specific means of communication which may or may not involve any more than body movement or identifiably different ways of doing things that many a stranger to the shores often take for granted. Where at first contact acceptance seems guaranteed, reaction over a longer period can be devastating.
very basic example of time honored custom is the traditional handshake, which
could in some country be taken as a threatening gesture. Another, is the kiss
on the cheek which could for example in some countries cause unbearable
embarrassment. In fact, to be able to communicate effectively with any person,
let alone a crowd, the identity of the people being addressed is of the utmost
importance if any form of acceptable welcome or cooperation is to be provoked. We have heard about those peculiar accounts of nose rubbing, wife
donations and even joint herbal smokes or drug ingestion. The pipe of peace of
the classical Indians of cowboy fame and the sinister, almost ingenuous dance
of the Basque welcome that could be anything but that. These are examples of
social display that until recently marked the voice of a people and held them
together with beliefs that would one day be denied, too suddenly, too
aggressively. For those village priests, doctors or even skillful politicians, the ease of
with which local communities could be organized would disappear for ever.
Nothing would ever be as simple or as
effective as they way things were always done, for good or bad. If the size and complexity of the people and
their cultural behavior had previously served to unite them in peace and
individual interindependence, such changes of awareness, whether deemed
expedient or in their own interests, have always in fact led to their own detrimental slide towards chaos. These
situations need no examples that we have not seen throughout the less evolved
sections of world society – like most of
Bread and circus may be another form of gradual absorption into alien doctrines, as football does so cleverly today, but on its own it is unlikely that the doors of cultural acceptance can be left open. In fact, given national vices as instruments of taxation by governments and the lethargy inducing aspects of the entertainment media, as a means of obtaining undisturbed time to rule and make mistakes, culture can be and is always manipulated to political advantage. The business of collective abuse of public weaknesses is in itself often a cynical approach to cultural developments intended to erode political resentment. Public holidays, flag days, national mournings, with all their trappings further the political circuitry that fuses it with indigenous inherited values. Gangland goes to church and sectional chiefs show an interest in charitable deeds to get past those barriers that require the fusion of interests and identity.
cultural porridge of a nation and its effects on the people can prove to be as
detrimental as it is beneficial to a nation’s health if abused by a dictatorial
The collective cultural urge to close ranks.
everyone can be guaranteed to skate around the delicate minefield of the way
things are done by a people unless they are neighbors of long standing. In
which case, their foibles and stances are well known to each other and in most
instances, what keeps them well apart. Their differences are their aggravations
and their frontiers, their statement of
The barrier of cultural differences.
Cultural differences, particularly that which are manipulated by the wily chiefs or Heads of State of many countries, unfortunately lie at the very base of the wholehearted but mainly useless contribution towards world poverty that the wealthier communities of the world have ladled out. Where it has been given with every intention to educate and improve, it has unwittingly met with the barrier that allows such aid to be deflected where education means loss of power. The expressed gratitude expected may often be seen by insecure leaders, as acknowledgements of reconciliation with the blurred outside enemy that they utilize for confident, repressive government. In some communities, welfare funds do not even reach the middle strata of those impoverished and often starving communities for the very basic reason that their culture and social structures stand in the way. This may sometimes have nothing to do with selfish egocentric leaders, but act like massive barricades that prevent not just absorption of ideas and material goods, but leave relatively little room for the barest of mechanisms for self denied improvement. This is strange and incomprehensible to those whose efforts went deep into the provision of these funds and probably even helped to open up the channels within those communities, where the call for help was not even uttered. Culture as a barrier is seen by many as no more than a colorful display of feathers or exotic body movements chillingly responsive to the sounds of primitive instruments. It is not seen as a way of insisting that things should be done differently and thereby hangs the tail by which many a good intention or misapplied innovation falls on barren ground. Questions have to be asked:
Do cultural values that have resisted the test of time and which prevent economic development deserve respect? Does the replacement, reformation provide a quality of life that justifies the loss of ideals, however fanciful? There are no easy answers, but folkloric researchers and nostalgia seekers are in no doubt about the sadness and loss of identity that produce modern, sterile and egoistic societies. Can these transitions, however economically sensible, be justified as a means to an end that could have preserved the cultural values at least? The way forward, it would seem, is not that simple. Back to basics finds a resounding echo in the dismal experiments of new towns and wholly manufactured communities. The destruction of the high risers and the return to the land for some were the first signs of the failure to take cultural values along with progress. The corner shop may not be that far from being enshrined in a protective status.
Tribal nations and ceaseless warfare.
full problem when it comes to staging a presence in countries with alien
cultures and needs is simply that it cannot be done from the outside.
in some of the saddest remote areas of the world, what culture remains after
centuries of conflict has lost its layers of social cohesiveness and harbors
self-destructive forces. It is this that invites fundamentalism as a lifeline.
Investment in cultural support therefore creates channels for minimum basics to
reach their targets. Insensitive Western religious movements in their puerile
soul collection fantasies have left a motley of identifiable cults all too
eager to displace each other and utilize whatever regime to do the work for
them. Racial differences, once mooted by
cultural similarities and perhaps origins, reduced to their mere markings
literally, as happened in
Investment in Culture.
funds into low economic societies as has been seen, is an imprecise science
with much of it usually feeding itself sideways with little chance of it
reaching the members of the community whose lives depend on it. The same formula affects the entry of foreign
innovations and trading possibilities. The reason, as we have seen, is the
impermeability of a culture that has its reins in the “font honoris”, leaders or shamans with access to its system of
communication. Even in some European
countries such systems are still in place and an inner world of cults and
religious organizations ensure that foreign interests are kept outside the
spheres of influence. In fact so strong is this hidden network that even
European rulings are ignored if they in any way affect cultural beliefs like
widely spread displays of the most amazing degree of animal cruelty. Disdain for support that affects the
politically-inspired deception of the state of the nations is also another
obstacle to outside help. The attempt to
gloss over difficulties in favor of playing for time is also among the
tendencies shown to delay the inevitable collapse of the economies. Money therefore from an institutional point
of view, even as an attempt open up new economies, cannot be simply given out,
for the simple reason that in the extreme cases, where poverty and cultural
prejudices are high, the recipients’ organizers would not know what to do with
it and ignore any professional advice that did not come from their own cultural
introspective beliefs. Much of the aid could also end up in overinvestment in
commodities like cattle and grain without a suitable basic structure and
environmental condition to sustain it. In
remember standing once before a celebrated guerrilla fighter from
as important as the way that a people do things and the nature of their
aspirations are therefore not being given the priorities that they deserve. The
simple business of investing and strengthening local cultures is obviously the
only way to carve the channels that lead to the pipe of peace. False moves in a
culture taken by surprise and harnessed to social systems we call primitive are
not only bad mistakes, but cultural retaliation has a long memory.
Knowledge is important in the hands of intelligent minds, but overly useless in the hands of the rest for the simple reason that it ceased to be of survival interest and more encouragement to run away from day to day realities.
given the level of understanding and social priorities in societies whose tenuous
links between its members rest on witchdoctors or anointed chiefs, even a
simple thing like a television screen linked to the outside world could cause
panic not merely through its innovation, but through the misapplication of the
messages, uncensored images, can launch. Massive insubordination as cultural
taboos are broken easily wrecks the very fibers of the simple controls that
kept each family united in a purpose. Eroded, ancient tribal differences can
emerge if we consider that the top layer is
removed and lower levels balance out by attaching themselves to new
aspirations which result in the fragmentation of the original body. These emerging tides often seek benefits through
newly-defined identities which puts them at odds with those that went off at
different angles. In fact, at times they create new social strata where there
were none before. It is the question of
the feathers in the headgear where number and color can produce symbolic
challenges. This is what happened in
mind used to manipulation rarely finds time or has the capability to meet
changes rashly imposed. Social cohesiveness is often taken for granted but the
weak force that keeps it together is
easily displaced by something as simple as the promise of an illusion –
the promised land. In the East, at the
time of the removal of the Berlin wall, one of the great
sources of inspiration for those who moved into Berlin with such force, was,
according to many interviewed, the size and power of the cars they only saw on
films. The distress, it would appear,
that scenes of crashes in
The cultural glue of social unity.
Culture is the glue of society. Without it there is little sense of unity of purpose or genuine zest for life. The trials and tribulations are highlighted in its absence whilst the challenge is negated. If we examine the very basis of our own modern structures and go back through their histories to the dawning of civilizations, we see “common survival needs” emerging. Not just the basic human need for protection of the young and the food and shelter of survival, but the need to draw closer to all others within the same structures for support and comfort in numbers. Family units in nature are often quite self supporting and in fact deny access to other families because of the potential confrontation of the males. To glue the males therefore, a very special outside force is required that will override the fear of impregnation of the females by their guardians. There are many cases in nature where the male eventually leaves the mother and children to their fate as he spreads his seed, but in the first instances, the protective shadow is there. Making friends with the people next door requires the male to share interests with his friend or collaborator. Fraternity, for that is what it is, then becomes the building block of the emerging community and later civilizations. The male social unit so prevalent throughout history is the only force that keeps whole communities together under an artificial non-natural political structure. The secret societies that have harnessed the power sources of most countries at any one time demonstrate the peculiar and powerful nature of the force. In some countries these are practically states within states and curiously enough, they are conservative in essence and have proven overprotective as far as national “tribal” values are concerned. It does not need too much thought to realize that at times they add to the background cultural resistance of the country when faced with foreign invasive cultures in the form of immigration, debilitating outside competition or importation of non-aligned ideologies. The countries which enshrine fraternity in their constitutions, can be guaranteed to have powerful elements of this nature in their social framework. This is yet another factor that has to be worked into the globalization process before it reaches shores likely to contain inner elements of this nature. Despite the sophistication of these hidden social networks, they can be present in even the most underdeveloped countries where social strata permit. The massive international reaction against a different type of male bonding called “Gay” and based on sexual preferences, is born on the back of the protection, not of the family, but the concept of fraternity, which is the backbone of most great civilizations. It is this that Jesus referred to as the greatest love – for a man to lay down his life for a friend and which Plato alluded as the highest expression of love. It is for this reason that the appellative of “Platonic” is put into place to define its existence beyond sexual motivation. Both concepts may be based on the same forces, but have otherwise little to do with one another. The Spartan dream and the so called Grecian “Patrician Love” belongs to the Platonic concept as were the male marriages of the ancient emperors and the Templar pairings now emulated in the legal halls of the advocacy, the compulsory pairing of upper military personnel and the Spanish Guardia Civil – a semi chivalric movement based on fraternity. Friendship as a binding force is, perhaps for these delicate reasons, often neglected with the erosion of the most powerful social force known to human society. The behavioral expression of this force in any society is therefore a language to be learnt long before any social contact is entertained.
The hand of friendship – a sacred commitment little understood.
within its own cultural structures required little more than an overall figure
in the concept of crown or major warrior to create an increasingly complex
community, utilizing alliances with other culturally similar forces to produce
a township where all its varied elements served a common purpose. When the
ancient peoples of
male bonding in the socio-political sense needs a closer look. In its original
concept, the term “soldier” came from an ancient meaning “to solder” i.e. to
join. The Basque, according to the greatest etymologist of all times, Professor
Higgins, had a cultural sacramental degree called “soldurii” which in effect
bonded men in lifelong friendship or blood brotherhood. The use of fraternity
therefore was the concept of the soldier – the human military machine that
utilized the force to encourage discipline and create a double headed warrior.
Ancient mystery societies also supported fraternity in this ceremonial
conjugation which gradually established a family of families throughout what
would later on become nations. There is
evidence in Mithraic stellae of male sacramental vows and ceremonial bonding
which was taken for granted before the family took its place. The Spartans are
an obvious case and the social contribution to security becomes all the more
obvious as the men share a society all to themselves and thus supporting
communally and indirectly, however
paradoxically, the much revered and religiously enshrouded natural blood
family. Today, both institutions work side by side comfortably and take
strength from one another in moments of
adversity when friends help out.
Fraternity, therefore, as a cushion in the process of the irreverent
expansion of global interests, cannot be underestimated and it is no
coincidence that organizations like the Lyons, Masons and Rotarians are
spearheading global fusions that guarantee, at least, favorable social
responses before the avenues open up to trading and mutual cultural sympathies.
Given the need to be able to move large numbers of people in stable and
self-reliant enclosures we call communities, the need for common beliefs is
paramount in its consolidation objective.
Responsibilities of global interests.
expansion is not only an unstoppable process, but a much needed one in terms of
the world society that will hopefully eradicate unnecessary hunger of the many
at the hands of the few. The spread of education in all its primary points of
assistance is a natural result of this globalization process, but like all
things relating to human nature, it is not as immediately productive as all
that. The story of the
Even if pressed with every attempt at providing explanations for their behavior, the simple answer is that these recalcitrant people, bound by cultural tardyons that has been the language of their existence from time immemorial, are through fear defensive fears, not going to be able to make up their minds or obtain the courage to go against the teachings and indirect threats of their doctors and chiefs. It is not difficult to understand therefore why modern gadgetry like telephones and television aerials, which unite globally at the touch of a button, can cause such cultural confusion and interfere with the organizational processes of the community. In fact, in some of the lower economic countries of “modern “ Europe, the effect on harvest gathering and family labors has been disastrous to the point of driving them not only from their ancestral lands, but from the very villages that they lived in. Watching cheap soaps and lewd programs have not only removed the will to work under what are fairly harsh conditions, but displaced the urge into fanciful and usually inaccessible sources of new income. Immigrants, desperate to send money home, have taken their place and unhappily exploited like slaves in encampments more reminiscent of concentration camps where their very identities can be wiped by dogs and guns from the face of the earth.
Many denounce the primitive undemocratic structures that accommodate some so called backward societies, but on analysis they will find that both family and fraternal traditions are in place and often with great ceremonial display to accentuate their blessings. Their needs, unlike those where there is no remnant of family security and dog eats dog, cultural unity has, like the rocks of time, been eroded so seriously that only the application of strict religious principles based on fear will ever get them together again. This, unhappily, was the achievement of Communism and later on similar political forces garbed in fundamentalist religious aspirations. Sudden changes towards instant modernization, particularly in large social groupings already displaying accumulated wealth by the exploiting few, may well not serve the purpose and perhaps even unleash ancient fragmentations that would be difficult to reconfigure.
Insensitivity, therefore, is the bane of modern globalization and major international interests which supply addictive, inconsequential products and services need to be controlled, and if necessary, offered alternatives through incentives, to adapt to real needs. It might sound a bit facetious, but fizzy drinks and somber burgers may be whims for the West, but if it replaces the very meager basics required to feed so many, it is easy to understand how destructive it can be even in the short term. If enticing signs which appear on television screens of other similar societies, the need for such spurious and disdainful merchandise is obviously going to be created, Some may consider expunction of these or mere censorship of footage as outrageous in an age of freedom of expression, but when millions die in the so called “third world” through alcohol abuse and diabetes-induced soft drinks without proper nourishment, it is a sad state of affairs. Controls therefore are necessary in many instances. Profits can and are being extracted from trading interests in these countries, but the nature and quality of the service at the right price is the sum total of contribution that carries its own sense of real values and pride in the supply.
Some, as always, would call this unfair in terms of democratic values, but then in the main, well-fed sectors of the world, where variety is not really the spice of life but pretends it is, mistakes can be absorbed in the same way that some of the mishmash is, at no cost to life or social breakdowns. In places where food is limited and often consumed in unfair quantities by the few, bad habits or trends can be adopted to provide good results, like cheap nutritious whims and fancy-wrapped educational products. Why this is not the norm is because inefficient leaders and greedy merchants often associated with corruptible administrators, go for easy pickings in their personal ambitions. How millions of helpless families, devoid of access to both education and food if not shelter, can be left to the agonizing ends they face is beyond the understanding of those brave and intelligent international organizations like Greenpeace, Amnesty, Doctors without Frontiers and Transparency, among many that mercifully provide some sort of reprieve. Democracy, therefore, is not always the panacea in all manner of places. Cultural expressions unite and healthy values support, and whoever disrupts this in the pursuit of gain is a persona non grata in the world of men.
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