On the Clash of Cultures


It is no secret that there are overt confrontations between extremist Islamic fundamentalist-activists and Western, Christian, and other cultures. This has led to the idea of the clash of civilizations. Because the extremists of one particular religious group are more vocal in their hatred of the others, more intolerant in allowing other religious groups in places where they hold power, and often engage in violence and massacre of innocent people, one speaks of a clash of civilizations. But this gives only a partial, if not a wrong, picture of what is happening in the world today.

In the current world the appropriate distinction should not be made between Eastern and Western, American and European, Indian and Japanese, Jewish and Islamic, cultures. Rather, one should consider those whose minds have been opened by modern science and its methodology, and whose hearts and worldviews have been awakened by post-Enlightenment values on the one hand (the Future-inspired Group), and those who still remain anchored to ancient truth-statements about the physical world  and mistreat fellow humans on the basis of race and gender, caste and color, belief and unbelief (the Past-inspired Group). The clashes between these two groups is not always violent, but are very intense all the same.

In this profounder sense with  potential for enormous long-range impacts on the course of the history of many cultures, the clash of cultures/civilizations  is not so much BETWEEN nations and religions, but WITHIN nations and religions. That clash is  between the awakened and the unawakened sectors of the culture. It occurs in debates and discussions, on the internet and on the street, in elections and houses of worship, in newspaper columns and commentaries, and elsewhere too. Usually, but not always, the so-called political conservatives, fundamentalists, and traditionalists are firmly committed to holding on to the past and fighting the change-bringers, while the so-called liberals, progressives, and leftists  call for drastic and rapid changes.

It often happens that the first group calls the second traitors to their country or culture, while the latter, in their own extremist language, often describes the later as fascists, ignorant fools, and dangerous. Extremists on both sides may be grossly mistaken. In nations and societies where there are no open discussions and periodic changes in power-holders, extremists rather than the moderates  are the ones who will determine in what direction the society and culture  will evolve or degenerate.

 June 9, 2013

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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