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The Virtual World

BY HAMMOUDI ABDELWAHAB

There can never be a "civilizations clash", for the simple fact that Civilization is only the natural tendency of humanity towards its evolution to perfection. Civilization has no other goal than to widen the field of conscience of man and, therefore, his responsibility towards himself, towards the humankind, his kind and towards the creation.

Civilization always comes to moralize any kind of violence and make it serve the society. It socializes the violence. This is done through the Justice and the Public (Police) Force. Civilization works for the betterment of humanity and its outcome is always the material progress.

This is true of all past and present civilizations. No one in the world would be against products of civilization such as electricity, planes, cars, medicine, television or any other manufactured tools, or ruling concepts such as democracy and justice that facilitate man's life.

Only the use of these (material, spiritual or intellectual) products can differ from region to region. The possession of a car in some countries goes far beyond its intended purpose, and his owner gains a new social status. The possession of a gun becomes a sign of virility in many parts of the world. In some societies, the act of appropriation transforms the object. It becomes a fetish.

And here comes the concept of culture. Every geographical area has its own microclimate, its own vegetation, its own culture, its own ethnic group, its own history. Culture is the fruit of a particular ethnic group, formed through immemorial centuries in a particular region.

Culture is what we sow as sentiments, feelings, ideas, hopes, emotions in the collective subconscious of the human group to which we belong; and which is socially expressed in the form of different intellectual and spiritual activities. Culture is a living system of the human biological substratum. Culture exists even among populations with no civilization at all. Culture is a personal way of seeing and living life. Most of it looks quite irrational to the logical spirit.

Culture is a way of life. It is the way through which people use the product of civilization. Culture is subjective, it makes us stubborn: we are always right! The other is wrong. Social groups are ruled by the fact that their culture determines their way of seeing the world, and their way of defending this way of seeing the world. And any culture imposed upon another culture is experienced as violence. The first violence against it is seeking to deny it. This is the peculiarity of any domination. Against the violence of its negation, it reacts by the violence of surviving. Thus, the shock of cultures.

So violence between nations, whatever we might say about it, is never the fact of a clash of civilizations. It is often the clash of cultures. There has never been a shock of civilizations. There has never been a shock of religions (except when the true religion dies and becomes just a series of mere soul-empty traditions or weird cultural behavior).

There has only been and still exists the shock of cultures. The proof, two countries of the same religion and the same civilization can fight each other:

Christian countries: Germany/France (1942)
- Islamic countries: Iran/Iraq
- Buddhists countries: China/Japan

Inside the same country: civil war (Ireland).

Any civil war is of cultural origin (conflict between the different variants of the cultural mother stump and its interpretation). The American civil war was of cultural essence (the abolition of the slavery and therefore the instauration of a new moral value: equality and freedom for all. (New judgment value = moral= cultural). And when there is a conflict between two cultures, we are in the presence of a paradox: The conflict is Virtual! No part in the conflict sees the other as it sees itself.

Even in the case of a civil war. Each one sees only the image it has of the other. And the conflict becomes tragically unrealistic. We fight ghosts. We fight a projected vision of the other. And that is why the outcome of any virtual fight always baffles us.

It is like in a PC game. Only our vision of the characters on the screen prevails. The other vision behind the screen is not taken into account. The enemy is just an Object (Virtual). It is not a human being. It is a one-way game.

Let us take an example in History and consider it as a PC game:

The battle of Little Big Horn, changes of meaning, whenever the player changes. Whether the player is a white man and the Indians are on the screen, or the player is an Indian and Custer and his men are on the screen.

During the Second World War, the Japanese Kamikaze was either an act of honor (from the Japanese vision, which is cultural) or just suicidal madness of despaired soldiers (from the US vision, which is also cultural).

It depends on who is in front of the PC screen. This is to say that in fact, there is no real war, and the war that needs to be won, is a virtual one! It needs no army, no weapons.

It is a war on the cultural side. Wars of liberation were also cultural, battles to re- conquer ones cultural identity. In fact, what makes the unity of a human group? It is its cultural unity, what we call its identity.

That is why any change inside any group has to be internal and take the form of a global readjustment to a new external and internal situation. By this process, take the form of a dynamic evolution of the group which makes a leap forward, in its surviving and evolutionary quest. If the change is initiated from outside, it is felt as an aggression. And even if this change initiated from outside occurs, it is an external mechanical change and not the product of internal genitive convulsions that constitute the evolutionary peculiarities of any living creature. The group is a living creature.

People can coexist only in the recognition of their mutual specificity. The comprehension and the recognition of the specificity of the other is what we call tolerance. When we ignore the cultural reasons lying behind an individual's act, we find difficulties in decoding his psychological behavior and thus respond in the wrong way.

Beyond the appearance that is the various peoples, there is the essence which is the humankind.

Any human suffering appeals to me. To this suffering, I must answer. If I remain insensitive to it, then something is perverted in me. But there are sufferings which are indecipherable.

And this is a problem of Culture, too!

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