Part 2: Understanding the Culture War

Read the on-point one paragraph Part 1. Here are a few more quick and brilliant assessments I read in a compilation on culture wars today:

According to the culture wars thesis, individuals on either side of the divide see their worldview as absolute and the opposition’s as illegitimate and “utterly alien to the American way.” The [“I deserve”]-based emphasis of contemporary discourse along with the polarizing nature of modern public debate (fostered through sound-bite long news accounts and the inflammatory language of [blogs and social media]) serves to exacerbate the cultural chasm. The result is a climate where activists engage the battle with a winner-takes-all mentality and where the more nuanced voices of the “muddled middle” are eclipsed by the sensationalized pronouncements of the extreme. Pointing to the absolutized certainty with which the different sides hold to their positions, C. Taylor observes that “the very nature of the Kulturkampf resides in the certainty that only one solution is defensible.” As a consequence the opposition is vilified and a rational search for common ground becomes increasingly untenable.

-James L. Nolan

And then these short strokes of analytical genius appearing in John Davison Hunter’s The Culture Wars Reflect the Polarization of American Society:

Is it not impossible to speak to someone who does not share the same moral language? Gesture, maybe; pantomime, possibly. But the kind of communication that builds on mutual understanding of opposing and contradictory claims on the world? That would seem impossible.

The problem is not that positions on complex issues are reduced to caricatures, even if they are ugly and slanderous. In political discourse this has long been a practice. Rather, the problem is that democracy in America has evolved in such a way that public debate now rarely seems to get beyond these caricatures.

The terms of the so-called debate have already been set for us by powers and processes over which we have no control. Thus, for all of the diversity of belief, opinion, and perspective that really does exist in America, diversity is not much represented in public debate. Rather than pluralism, democratic discourse tends to reflect only the dualism of opposing extremes.

Do you feel public discourse will only continue hearing the extremes as normalized, or will there eventually be room for mutually beneficial dialogue? Where is public discourse going?

Much love.

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  • Perhaps we’ve reached the limits of Liberal Democracy’s capacity for solving the problems created by Liberal Democracy as it is currently constituted, viz: a Corporatist Market State which seeks to drive us ever further toward a radically atomized individualism.

  • J.

    “The terms of the so-called debate have already been set for us by powers and processes over which we have no control” Great quote. This guy get’s it right. Thank you.