The inability of culture to keep up with change is behind many contemporary problems.
We tend to overlook the importance of culture in making the job of living in society bearable.
Much of our behavior is culture-driven. And culture is a sophisticated invention that does a great deal to facilitate our interactions.
Historically, those peoples whose cultures have failed to adequately facilitate their interactions have tended to be overwhelmed by peoples whose cultures served them better. The end result is that the cultures that have survived tend to be robust and useful.
Often we see the power of culture most clearly in its absence.
Consider the phenomenon of urban crime, which tends to occur anywhere people have left traditional towns and villages and been plunged into an environment of great scale and anonymity. In the absence of any ties of connection, or of community opinion or censure, people end up doing pretty much whatever they feel they can elude the authorities on.
The absence of a functioning culture also shows up in such recent phenomena as "road rage." Somehow we haven't yet found a way, outside of police forces, to deal with the hostile or antisocial urges that can arise from the experience of driving a car. In fact, to a surpising degree, we lack even a common definition of what acceptable road behavior is. In many cases, it is a clash of such values and standards that eventually touches off conflict of a more violent form.
On balance, this should not be especially surprising. We have only been driving cars for a relatively short period of our history. Cultures tend to evolve slowly.
Virtually all aspects of our lives have changed dramatically in recent decades. Moreover, barring some major cataclysmic event, such as a prolonged and severe worldwide economic depression or a widespread nuclear conflagration, it seems unlikely that the ongoing evolution of our technological underpinnings will slow down enough to give culture a better chance of catching up.
In this increasingly jumbled and chaotic context, the growth of religious fundamentalism of all types probably contains no small amount of yearning for a proven culture to reassert itself, and to make the world more liveable and workable once again.
(c) COPYRIGHT 1998 ROBERT WINTER. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.