I came across an article by author and playwright, Philip Slater, titled “Why America is Polarized.” This is perhaps one of the best explanations I’ve read explaining why religious fundamentalism is on the rise, not only in America, but around the world. Slater’s basic premise is that, “The purest forms of a cultural system always appear as it decays.”
Slater talks about the dramatic changes taking place in our world, and especially in our culture. He describes the old system we are leaving behind as Control Culture. Control Culture’s underlying focus on order led to the creation of rigid mental and physical compartments. Control Culture is being replaced by a Connecting Culture which has as its guiding impulse to bring down walls and permeate boundries–to bring everything–ideas, people, images, culture, species–into relation with everything else.
“Connecting Culture reverses all the themes of Control Culture, seeking to tear down the artificial walls it has built. Whereas the Control Culture viewed the universe as a gigantic, clockwork machine controlled from above, Connecting Culture sees it as a self-generating organism. The Connector world-view is consistent with the revolutions in science brought about by Darwinian theory and quantum physics. Its growing power is one reason the evolution-creationism debate is so heated.”
Slater says that during these times of transition, it is the nature of many in society to attempt to resist the coming changes by “rolling back” time to a romanticized view of times that are less turbulent. Today, we have instant communications with nearly anyone around the world. Walls are coming down, people are able to interact more readily. Controls begin to crumble at an increasing rate. This is hard for many people, so they resist by retreating to the purest forms of their belief systems.
It is Slater’s view that this change is inevitable. He believes that Control Culture will eventually be replaced with this more progressive Connecting Culture. His optimism about the change is tempered by the reality that this change will take a long time to complete. In fact, Slater posits that it might be several generations before it’s complete.
So there is some hope for the future, but it’s going to be a long time coming.