Cultures in Conflict

I almost suspended my blog series to publish this post earlier.  Instead, I am writing it on Wednesday for release on Friday. It is showing my perspective from Wednesday, to see how well it holds up to the light of Friday.

I am befuddled by the reaction of the protestors. Why they take such an interest in the fate of another person, in a place far away from them, in a criminal case.

I know we are to care about others, but the way these people identify with the victim as themselves seems very communally dangerous.

Of course, I see the event as an exchange between one individual and another, or an individual and the representative of authority. They picture this as the clash of one group against another. This is the prime advantage/disadvantage that each side faces: there is a war of two cultural perspectives.

The protesters demand justice for their group, by insisting that an individual from the other group be punished for the crimes of the other group against them. That the evidence against the individual isn’t even compelling enough to warrant the justice system to go to the effort of a trial is immaterial to the needs of the justice for their group. One doesn’t have to do anything individually wrong to merit punishment.

Thus we can have social justice for groups and injustice for the individual, or justice for the individual with social injustice. This is the frame that is painted by the conflicting cultural perspectives and imperatives. Are we groups, or are we individuals.


But which frame prevails? How do they relate to each other? How does responsibility get assigned to the group or the individual? Am I limited by the groups I am assigned as belonging to, never able to get beyond them and their definitions, or am I an individual able to define myself and chose to change myself and my destiny by growing, creating and reforming myself and others?

Will people see what I do as a result of “what I built”? or will everything I do be a result of the groups I am seen as affiliated with by the culture?

There are groups we are “innately” associated with, and groups we choose to belong to. Are our group associations to be primarily seen as the ones of individual choice, or will the “hard-wired” ones be the prevailing ones in our identity?

Based on the culture you come from, different of the above questions will seem reasonable, while others will seem insane. It is even possible that some of the questions will seem heretical and unaskable by the group mentality that arises.

Are we a nation of laws, and if so, what type of laws? Are they laws that govern individual actions, or those that govern people by the actions of the groups they belong to?

As you can see, the thoughts in this blog are neither swift nor precise. But they are core to the sort of events facing our culture. We have to get outside thinking the current assumptions of our society — the things that “just are” — to think critically about these things, and the impacts they have on us all.

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