Throughout history we have struggled to understand the nature of human violence and conflict.
We consider people who are not like us to be different or strange. If the differences are perceived to be wide enough, we may come to regard people as partially human or even non-human.
It is human nature to be suspicious of others, especially strangers.
‘Stranger’ is the name we give to someone who may live in close proximity, but who does not share our same cultural values, rituals, life-style, habits, customs, or religion.
Strangers are perceived as a potential threat to us, or to our common way of life. So we fear them.
Fear is a common feature of human nature. As Einstein and others have pointed out, we are motivated by fear and longing.
Fear is a powerful emotion, useful in defending against predation and other forms of danger. In the extreme, fear promotes hatred and leads to violence.
Tolerance is a result of longing for peaceful coexistence and social stability. Tolerance helps to build non-threatening relations among people, especially strangers with wide cultural differences.
A tolerant society that welcomes newcomers, is committed to getting along, respects differences in others, and is morally indignant toward discrimination is naturally unwilling to see their own customs be replaced or degraded by a strange and different culture, no matter how enlightened their outlook. Some individuals may be willing, but not whole societies.
The fear of our own ways becoming displaced by a strange culture is unacceptable to the vast majority of individuals, and most communities will do whatever is necessary to stall or prevent it.
To be successful, a species must be both competitive and cooperative. Cooperative species tend to be passive, while competitive ones destroy each other.
History has shown that war is inevitable due to genetic, social and cultural differences.
Throughout generations, entire communities have been overpowered by enemies of one kind or another who have been inclined to replace the previous culture with their own, mix the new with the old, or simply modify the existing culture in new ways.
An obvious alternative to this social chaos and chronic violence is global assimilation.
Assimilation is the mixing of different populations. Diverse populations within the human species can be broadly grouped (in alphabetical order) as Africans, Arabs, Asians, Europeans, and Hybrids.
When two individuals from different populations create an offspring, the result is a hybrid generation. When a hybrid generation emerges, the assimilation of the two previous groups has begun.
For thousands of years, invasion, migration, immigration, and slavery, as well as the advent of cities, all have induced or contributed to the forced assimilation of different genes, societies, and cultures.
In contrast, the recent emergence of world organizations such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization and other similar institutions are, by their presence, promoting a toleration of diverse societies and cultures on a global scale.
The effect on world culture today is that toleration and forced assimilation has jump-started the process of genetic, social, and cultural homogeneity.
However, assimilation, like any force of nature is not expressed without a price. On a global scale, the perceived cost of assimilation through hybridization is loss of genetic purity, social fidelity, and cultural consistency, and for many a loss of personal identity.
Though disagreeable to most, these changes may last for a comparatively short time. Within several generations the qualities of purity, fidelity, and consistency, temporarily subdued, become renewed on a global scale. What was once hundreds, thousands, or millions of people protecting separate social and cultural enclaves, as we know the world today, may eventually become billions of people organized into a single assimilated population, one society, one culture.
The cost of global unity may be a few generations of assimilation through human trial and struggle, at a one-time loss of self-identity and national pride. While the benefit is social harmony on a tolerable scale for all generations.
Although homogeneity on a world scale would greatly reduce cultural discrimination and class distinction, as we know it, it would also reduce cultural diversity, and would not resolve conflicts caused by individual struggle for power and wealth, lack of resources, population growth, civil war, and other persistent social dilemmas.
A natural reaction to cultural homogeneity, and one that may presently be seen around the world, is to strengthen nationalist and separatist sympathies; to become intensely preoccupied with local cultural values as a means of defending against waves of social and cultural integration. Another is a reaction to government immigration policies that threaten to diminish one’s cultural identity.
A far-reaching side-effect of assimilation may be genetic similarity. A species whose population is genetically the same will run the risk of quickly becoming extinct through the invasion of an uncontrollable disease or other potential threat.
We may accept or disregard the idea of global assimilation, but it is entirely unclear to what extent humanity has the ability to control its destiny. The real future of social integration may be out of our hands.
Fear and tolerance are powerful forces that continually shape the direction of human interaction. As a global community, we have the capacity to consider our social role in the world, and to act upon it thoughtfully and responsibly. Yet the evolutionary forces of natural selection and variation, symbiosis, time and chance, from which fear and tolerance arise, will no doubt have a great influence on the dynamic social and cultural changes that affect our future.