It’s very hard to understand just how it is that our cultural norms change over time. It’s a bit easier to see how much they change, but we don’t have reliable data that goes back very far.
The staff here at NobodyisFlyingthePlane likes to think of the changes we go through in cultural norms as a natural part of our evolution as a species. It’s not biological evolution, we haven’t meaningfully changed in all of recorded history. But in that same period we have gone through an enormous cultural evolution, and from the looks of it we have a long way yet to go.
Changes in our shared values are important indicators of this evolution. Changes that occur within the span of a single lifetime are hard to adapt to. All of the bursts of evolution in our views on racism have been very violent. This is a tough value for humanity to swallow. Some humans are better adapted to accept changes. Some of these changes run contrary to our biological adaptations, especially our small group and tribal affinities. Views on race, ethnicity, and even nationality hit these walls often.
Humans adapted to survive better as groups than as individuals. The size of those groups varied with the availability of resources. When resources become scarce group affinities play an important role in the allocation of those resources.
Our species is deep in the process of redefining and reconfiguring traditional group affinities and the manifestations of racism and xenophobia we are seeing are a natural result.
We have a lot more skirmishes ahead of us in the culture wars, but the consequences are not trivial and they can’t be viewed simply as old values vs. new values.
The essence of what drives these battles is the conflict between egalitarian views and limited resources. The majority of humanity seems to have agreed that all humans have equal worth or value, but we haven’t yet agreed how to distribute resources in a manner that reflects that equality.
So long as we are still competing for resources we are going to form group affinities. We’re biologically coded to do so. Racism, xenophobia, and other us vs. them battles are losing favor as a means to define our group affinity. While they endure we need to look beyond just changing opinions about them. To really bring about an egalitarian society and celebrate this change in humanity we need to look at our systems of resource allocation and seek to change our economies to reflect our cultural values.
Today in the United States, sweeping majorities of the public say they support fair housing laws and the ideal of integrated schools. Nine in 10 say they would back a black candidate for president from their own party, and the same say they approve of marriage between blacks and whites. That last issue has undergone one of the greatest transformations in polling over the last 50 years. In 1960, just 4 percent of Americans approved.
When norms of acceptable behavior and speech start to shift, it can disturb the shared beliefs, values and symbols that make up our culture. “It’s really all of those things that we’re watching right now — they’re all up for discussion,” Ms. Sobieraj said.
When norms change, the highly educated tend to adopt them the fastest. And when political leaders agree, those attitudes spread through the population the more information people have about them. When political leaders don’t agree, attitudes tend to polarize (for example, liberals say climate change is human-driven; many conservatives say that it’s not).
The Showdown Over How We Define Fringe Views in America https://nyti.ms/2vQXinG