3. Continents of the Mind
Cultural exchange and conflict
Cultures are substantial at the centre and vague round the edges. They are made of shared ideas, perceptions, beliefs, arts and styles, languages, conventions, judgements, mores and history. This is humanity's software. Culture and race, ethnicity, language and nationality are involved, but this is multi-faceted, and few people sit in a clearly-defined cultural box.
Subcultures exist within cultures, cultures cross boundaries, and cultures and subcultures coexist within countries or even on one street. Our character is affected by our originating culture, yet foreign, exotic and mixed influences are important, particularly amongst the young, and have been so for centuries. Cultural attributes shift surreptitiously, and cross-fertilisation over the millennia has been intricate and enormous.
Cultural change percolates mostly through cosmopolitan groupings: city populations, travellers, traders, sailors, conquerors and migrants. Cultural shifts often arise amongst younger generations. Mixed marriages are important cultural interfaces.
Xenophobes tend to forget that all cultures and ethnic groups are mongrel, dependent on taking in new blood and interacting with foreigners to generate dynamism. Cultural identity changes, but it is never weakened if it is vibrant.
Cultural voids can be traumatic. Many cultures have been undermined or wiped out by Western imperialism, yet a void is also a birthplace for a new cultural spark. Cultural regeneration could be one of the strong points of the 21st C. Inter-cultural friction is a sign of fermentation as long as we don't take things too far.
In the human aspect of the globalisation process, we are embracing other cultures' ideas and ways, yet there is an equal and opposite accentuation of cultural uniqueness too. When a culture is alive, creative and confident, openness and protection don't conflict.