EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


November 11, 2012

Column: Expect more fights over speech

Global culture is the next frontier. We are witnessing the beginnings of what will be a lengthy struggle to shape global values. The violent protests and debates over free speech that recently convulsed many countries will turn out to be but one episode. And it will involve not just Muslims and Westerners.

As globalization has knitted the world into a singular space, including media, the Internet and the flow of markets, so we are shifting to a global context in the debate over cultural values. Increasingly, different parties will seek to determine the foundations of global norms.

Here in the United States, we have presumed a national culture, or the common values that provide the foundation for the give-and-take of our civic and political life. Other countries have had their own cultural models. The geographic scale of such cultural points of reference has shifted over history.

The arc of human history shows a continuous ratcheting up in the scale of community. From roughly the 17th century, we saw the emergence of centralized states and cohesive nations.

Yet all these shifts were accompanied by a good degree of violence and struggle. Why? As the scale of human community grew, so different groups struggled to shape the nature of these communities — not only over economic advantage but also culture and values.

Just consider American history. As the United States was increasingly integrated through industrialization, so conflict over slavery grew more acrimonious. Indeed, the nation’s bloodiest war was the Civil War, not one with outsiders. Slavery represented a deep fissure, invoking vastly different images of American political and cultural values.

The violent protests across parts of the Muslim world over insults to the Prophet Mohammed — a repetition of the Danish cartoon crisis — exemplify a new stage in these struggles. That scale is now global.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News

NDN Video
The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe
Photos of the Week