Grace Durbin, a fellow blogger on WordPress and writer for Elitedaily, published a piece back in November on the state of violence in our country. The first half of her post records her pregnancy, her partner abandoning her, then the birth of her now 1-year-old daughter, followed by the epiphany of living in a “culture of violence”. What would she do if something tragic happened to her? Who would care for her young daughter? As she witnesses, reads, and hears about young girls being sexually assaulted, young men, like Mike Brown, who “hit the ground in a storm of unmerited violence” and boys like Tamir Rice, she can only conclude that her daughter’s life is imminently threatened by this “culture of violence”. She says “Police officers gun down our children and then justify it”. We have a “culture of violence” and “a tolerance of injustice” she tells us.
Durbin surely has a left-leaning mentality but is well intentioned in her fight against problems that plague our society With that said, I want to address her notion of a “culture of violence”. It is all too common to speak about diverse behaviors in our society as a “culture”. For example, a “culture of violence”, a “rape culture”, “drug culture”, “misogynist culture” (which has started the “war on women”) and so on. Social ills get lumped into a kind of “culture”. There’s a reason for this.
A culture is the sum total of shared behaviors and commonalities between a particular group of people. Therefore, their activity and active lives with one another set the apart from other groups (multiculturalism seeks to over throw this by merging all cultures into one, larger conglomerate). A culture informs the people of a group on various standards, principals, and guidelines in order to function in a given society. If one were some how disjointed from his cultural rearing, it would be almost impossible to interact in that given society. He would feel foreign and others would see him as a foreigner. The patterns of behavior, mannerism, customs, and minutest details of culture are so ingrained within us that it is hard to even be consciously aware of these at times. Culture is a strong basis in the formation of identity (multiculturalism splinters identity by suggesting that different sources of conflicting cultural information can be received without any problem whatsoever).
In a diverse or plural society, a common culture above all inhabitants, guiding them like a star, is obviously absent. Shaking hands is just one of many ways we greet people; it can never be the de facto way we greet people in a diversified society. Each path a person decides to take is simply another form of human expression and is equally valuable in the way of human perfection and happiness. This is the very essential nature of a diverse society. No common avenue can monopolize a group of people; there has to be many different streets and winding roads (all of which end at the same place). The trick though is that these “paths” are being made as the individual walks them. They are never truly set. This is called the “creativity” of the human spirit. This creativity in conjunction with individual autonomy is the recipe for self -determination (as Mark Richardson, from Oz Conservative calls it). What this means is each person decides for himself what the meaning of his life is and nothing/no one has any authority in that very sacred experience (if you don’t believe me, try and tell someone else they are wrong or suggest to them another way of living and you will find yourself condemned). Thus, happiness is completely and utterly left to the human will and spirit – having no meaning apart from this – and the means by which a person achieves happiness is set to the person himself.
But this raises a problem. Under Modern Liberalism, societies are becoming more “diversified”. What you get is a plurality of lifestyles ( and this certainly opens the door to call everything a “culture”). However, not every choice can be called good, even Liberals accept this. It is clear that rape is a serious crime, that drugs are destructive, and violence is rising on the home front and around the globe. Should the Liberal be consistent and accept responsibility for this? After all, personal choice is a reflection of autonomy and creativity. Liberals are wise to have a kind of “safe word” if you will. Before things get too awful, personal choice and autonomy can only be respected so long as it does not disrupt the “journey” of other self-determining agents. For this reason, we have law and human rights. “Rights” protect the individual in their pursuit of self-created meaning. That’s what life is all about, right? Imagine a local baker refusing his service to a gay couple wanting to wed. His disapproval of their choice is wrong, because it violates their “rights”. But what else can that mean except that he has suggested there is way people ought to live whether they like it or not?
The conundrum is this: The individual is the most fundamental and sacred thing in a society; individual will is the source of meaning in a persons life. They must be protected from others (institutions included) who would seek to violate this and thereby control them. But not every choice an individual makes is respectable or worth upholding. Thus, law and “rights” are interpreted as those things that protect each individual from each other, inasmuch as those choices would hurt the other(thereby isolating those kind of choices as disagreeable to the liberal experiment). But what makes this violation “wrong” or “bad”. What standard does a Liberal have, if the most fundamental and sacred thing is the individual and their will? That is the problem. Liberal egalitarianism means respecting every instantiation of human expression (so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else). We cannot respect every choice for obvious reasons. Liberals are hard pressed to answer why choices that violate the “rights” of others are “wrong”.
This brings us back the topic of “culture”. One way Liberals deal with this inconsistency is by displacing personal or individual responsibility and replacing it with “culture”. This does not mean that the person goes unpunished or unattended though; however, the popularity of explaining away problems through “culture” is clearly on the rise. Nobody questions the experiment of modern Liberalism when a young man rapes someone (i.e. it can’t be this obsession with personal freedom and a doing-what-you-please-all-the-time mentality that causes any problems) ; it’s due to “misogynist culture” and the “war on women”. Sure, the young man must face a judge. But how do we stop rape? We certainly don’t place the blame on the young man, at least no entirely; we attack this abstract thing called “misogynist culture” for influencing our young men with erroneous ideas that compel them toward this behavior. When a drug addict cannot escape his addiction, we take him away from the “Drug culture” that has compelled him to behave this way. People are not entirely or even majorly responsible for their behavior; it is caused and created by factors apart from their will. As long as extraneous factors play a large part in the decision making process of the individual, they are not free in their “creativity” and determination of meaning in their life (as any good Liberal will tell us). Thus, a very popular way the Liberal thinks he saves himself from inconsistency and submitting to the idea that inherent qualities might play a role in who and what people are and do, they demarcate a plethora of different “cultures” responsible for all the “bad” behavior. Instead the individual being blamed in any serious or genuine way, culture is a way to substitute this and thereby surpass the problem of morally wrong choices an individual makes.
Liberals are wrong though. There is no ethereal thing (“culture”) that exists out there secretly influencing people to do things against their precious little wills (the implication being if there weren’t these diabolical “cultures” out there, nobody would be living like this). Culture is just the way we describe the habits and patterns of behavior of a given group of people; it comes to exist because a group of people, through custom, tradition, myth, and behavior create that culture. If people kill each other with guns, they do not do so because of a “culture of violence”; a culture of violence emerges because groups of people are becoming more violent (and violence then becomes normalized). If people are addicted, they’re not addicted because a “drug culture” made them this way; the popularity of drugs emerges because more people are using drugs as a norm. It is true that once culture is established it comes to inform those brought up under it. But Liberals are one-sided with culture: they choose to see it as a powerful influence while ignoring that people are responsible for the very existence of a culture. . A “culture of violence” and “black culture” protect kids like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin who rob stores and threaten police officers (and likewise, saying “white culture” is the problem with white people ignores the possibility that white people may in fact, by their very nature, be more inclined towards a destructive and oppressive ambition). Treating culture like this diverts our attention from the responsibility of a group, and even the possible qualities and inherent propensities of a group, because we think the “culture” makes them behave this way. Thus, if we can change the “culture” we can help the people oppressed by it (and thus we find all kinds of government agencies that seek to do just that). But once again, treating culture like this is backwards. The group of people are responsible for their culture; culture is not responsible for them. People do not like to entertain this idea because it does not fit neatly with modern liberal egalitarianism (it suggests that bad things can and do often come about through the will and choices of individuals and groups of individuals). It also suggests that some groups of people are better off than others (which definitely explains the mass immigration of Hispanics, Blacks, and Arabs into white countries).
I disagree with the sentiment that these “cultures” are responsible for the way people behave. People are responsible for the existence and sustenance of their culture. It is a reflection of those people. Whatever “cultures” we find in a society are directly related to what people in that society allow (and so it is more a testament of choice than a person being influenced and coerced to choose).