Recently, I have been re-reading a book by Eduard Storch called ‘Minehava’: in it, the history teacher/anthropologist turned author explores how and why early European tribal peoples turned from matrilinear societies into patrilinear ones. Since his books targeted about the same age-group as Lois Lowry’s ‘The Giver, the explanations are a ‘little simplified’. But, the basics are there: population growth leads to greater population density, more ‘intercultural contact’ leads to increased need for resources, assuring survival of the culture more willing to assert its dominance…
It got me started thinking about just how great a societal uphaval the change must have been. The adjustment to the expectations of the new social order must have been significant.
Now, we are also going through a bit of ‘societal upheaval’.
Of course, things are more complex now: the larger a human society is, the more complex ‘running it’ becomes. And, the ‘societal upheaval’ we are undergoing now is also much more complex. Yet, deep down we know that it is nothing less than the beginnings of the integration of all humans into one, global culture.
Let’s face it – that is what is happening. Whether we jump on the bandwagon quickly and work towards an integrated political system (world government) or not, the ease and speed of communication and immigration means that human societies throughout the world are indeed in the early stages of global cultural integration. (The economic bit had started quite a while ago…)
So, how will this play out?
Will the ‘best’ values and cultural practices ‘win’?
We could have a long and heated debate on what ARE the ‘best’ values and cultural practices – and not come to an agreement. (Actually, a brawl is a more likely outcome…over the internet, a vitrual brawl, but brawl none-the-less!) Yet, that debate would be mute. Because THAT is not the deciding factor for selecting the dominant factors in our emerging cultural hegemony…
Throughout human history, we have seen that it is not the ‘wise’ whose opinions are followed – perhaps for a little while, but not in the long run. Nor is it the ‘numerous’. And, let’s not even raise ‘the voice of reason’: it only alienates the ‘unreasonable majority’!
Instead, it is those who are the ‘loudest’ whose voices dictate the course of human history!
Those who are the most stubborn, uncompromising and who are willing to drown-out all competing voices (regardless of how ruthlessly) – THOSE are the voices which always (eventually) come to dominate any dialogue – and it is THEY who eventually succeed in having their own values and practices imposed on the whole of society as the cultural ‘norms’. Just look around!
Can we do anything to ensure that our voice – the voice of those who espouse freedoms of thought and speech, the voice which respects each individual – can we do anything to make sure that THAT voice is not drowned out? That it is not silenced forever, destined to be nothing more than a footnote in the histry about ‘extinct cultures’?
I don’t know.
It may be too late.
And even if it were NOT too late, I don’t know if this voice would even stand a chance. After all, when one’s very principles require one to treat others as equals – only to be treated (according to thier principals) back as an inferior – that tends to limit one’s ability to achieve ‘things’ (like, say, the survival of one’s ideas and ideals).
(I know I am expressing this poorly, sorry – I just don’t know how to say it better! What I mean is that just like a person who will not use violence, even in self-defense, does not stand a chance of survival against a gang of those intent to do violence to her, so the voice which will not silence others will have little chance to be heard over the noise raised by its opponents who have no such scruples. And, losing these ‘scruples’ would be to stop being that voice…)
So, what CAN we do?
Aside from shouting as loudly as we can, without inhibbiting anyone else’s ability to shout, the only thing we can – and MUST – do is to teach people, especially young people, to question.
To question EVERYTHING.
Yes, it is not much. And, it can be trying (yes, I AM raising a teenager!). But teaching people to question everything: from political correctness to their own views – secular, religious or whatever… from science to cultural practices, from teachers and parents to their friends – that is what will teach them to evaluate for themselves which ideas and ideals are worthy of keeping, and which are not.
And THAT is teaching them to exercise the freedom of thought!
I cannot think of any weapon that would be more powerful.
Which brings me to my last question: can we arm enough young people with this weapon to make a difference?
I don’t know…. But, I’ll die trying!