Culture Wars: Myth or Reality?

By David Eaton

Does the “Culture War” actually exist or is it purely a myth?

In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, Morris P. Fiorina of the Hoover Institution published Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, in which he contends the idea of America being a “deeply divided” nation is specious.

Offering copious data, he claims a high percentage of Americans possess moderate viewpoints regarding social issues and politics, and we are not as “deeply divided” as those on the fringes of the political spectrum (or the news media) would have us believe.

Yet, the divisiveness that has become so pervasive in our culture indicates that our country is, in fact, highly polarized.

According to Fiorina, these fringe elements tend to confer with coteries who reinforce their particular perspectives and do not represent the large, moderate and politically ambivalent demographic that seeks pragmatic solutions to problems.

This is a countervailing argument to that of Pat Buchanan who has long held America is under siege due to the encroachment of non-traditional religious (or contra-religious) influences and not-so-well intentioned multiculturalists who see little or no value in the Western tradition. For Buchanan, nothing less than the soul of America is at stake.

Fiorina admits, perhaps unwittingly, that there is something to Buchanan’s claim when he states:

“The culture war metaphor refers to a displacement of the classic economic conflicts that animated twentieth-century politics in the advanced democracies by newly emergent moral and cultural ones. Even mainstream media commentators saw a “national fissure” that “remains deep and wide,” and “Two Nations under God.”… [M]any contemporary observers of American politics believe that old disagreements about economics now pale in comparison to new divisions based on sexuality, morality and religion, divisions so deep as to justify fears of violence and talk of war in describing them.”

By admitting cultural concerns have displaced what heretofore had been conflicts born of economic concerns, Fiorina seems to be conceding that the “culture war” is more than just a metaphor.

My contention is that cultural Marxism, the ideology behind the evisceration of Western values, is not merely an invention of paranoid religionists, but a real threat to the best of the West.

Buchanan’s apocalyptic prognosis may be seen as expressions of paranoia and hyperbole (even racism), but few would argue that in the second half of the last century, we witnessed the kind of social and cultural upheavals that give credence to the idea that the polarization we now witness is quite severe.

Fiorina based much of his data on the American political environment during the 2002 midterm and 2004 presidential elections. Though the Red State/Blue State paradigm has become a common way to portray the political divide that now exists in the United States, it remains a generalization that does little to explain how and why political and cultural fault lines have developed to the degree they have. He concedes as a nation we are “more purple” than red or blue and making across-the-board generalizations may not be helpful in accurately assessing our current cultural dichotomy. He correctly asserts that party operatives and insiders are more entrenched and strident in their opinions than Joe the plumber.

Culture warriors of any stripe are generally more zealous and intensely opinionated than the citizenry at large. Fiorina doesn’t argue that political operatives are not heavily engaged in influencing the public, nor does he put forth any solutions with regard to the pervasive influence pedaling rampant in contemporary culture — whether perpetrated by politicians, clergy, activists, entertainers, or the media. Citing “novelty and negativity” as features that enhance news value, he views the media as being an accelerant of inflammatory rhetoric because vociferous exhortations and denunciations from partisans produce a sense of conflict, which makes for juicy sound bites and revenue-generating copy — and justification for the term “fake news.”

In spite of the data, Fiorina’s assertions do not take into account how “friendly fire” in various cultural skirmishes affects the general welfare of the nation. It’s one thing to contend that by and large Americans are not caught up in culture wars on a daily basis to the same degree as political elites, but it’s quite another to suggest that the battles don’t exist, or, if they are being fought on the periphery by partisans, that the effects of those battles don’t impact our social condition in significant ways.

The passing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), for instance, was championed and/or denounced by partisans on both sides of the debate, but the law affects almost every citizen one way or another. The bifurcation has become especially fractious between religionists and secularists. Fiorina’s statistics may indicate that the chasm is primarily politically driven, but evidence has mounted since 2004 that those “newly emergent moral and cultural” concerns play heavily into the psyche of a larger demographic.

Alan Abramowitz’s 2010 book, The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization, and American Democracy, and Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler’s Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics (2009), offer more countervailing evidence to Fiorina’s contentions.

Abramowitz’s well-researched findings indicate the partisan political divide that simmers in the political arena reflects a more significant division, one that goes beyond the common contention that only political elites and their acolytes are caught up the fray. Hetherington and Weiler offer an insightful view that a significant underlying factor in the battle for the hearts and minds of the populace is the degree of structured “authoritarianism” we want in our lives. Questions about “who controls who and what,” and under what ideological rubric are never far from the surface when social, political and cultural debates occur.

For Hetherington and Weiler, this cultural and ideological dichotomy “is not between two groups with the same psychological disposition who merely disagree” but are “animated by fundamentally different dispositions” and “dramatically different worldviews.” Abramowitz, Hertherington and Weiler all contend those worldviews are increasingly connected to the issue of morality, and as a result, the issue of religion becomes ever more vexatious. The palpable alignment of political parties in the United States with either religionists or secularists makes it difficult to refute this particular contention, and Fiorina acknowledges there is nothing new about “cultural conflict” vis-à-vis the role of religion in the United States.

In what has become a rather heavy assault on religion and “conservative” dogma, merely labeling someone or a particular idea that is antipodal to a liberal, egalitarian worldview as being “fascist” now passes as a viable critique. This has become a common defense mechanism for the purveyors of cultural Marxism and PC-based multiculturalists, and one that is decidedly illiberal. As British journalist Melanie Phillips observes, the current iteration of culture wars and the subsequent “unraveling of the Enlightenment” is the result of the spurious rationale “that reason can exist detached from the civilization that gave it birth…the fundamental error of thinking that to be ‘enlightened’ necessarily entails a repudiation of religion.”

Hetherington and Weiler also cite the metaphorical social theories of University of California at Berkeley linguistics professor, George Lakoff, who posits that conservatism is the progeny of what he terms “the strict father” model, while the liberal view is the progeny of a “nurturant parent model.” For Lakoff, a proponent of the Rockridge Institute, a progressive think tank that assists liberal politicians, the “strict father” is preoccupied with tradition, hierarchical order and structure, whereas the “nurturant parent” is concerned with well-being compassion, justice and equality. Lakoff contends that both views have value but acknowledges that the proponents of these seemingly antipodal outlooks see each other as being threats to their respective agendas.

The opprobrium of the combatants on both sides extends beyond news bites and strident op-ed pieces, and according to Hetherington and Weiler, these opposing views “go far beyond disagreements over policy choices and even ideology, to conflict about core self-understandings of what it means to be a good person and to the basis of a good society.”

What we deem to be worthy of our concerns has both a subjective/emotional aspect as well as an objective/intellectual aspect. Yet judgment of any kind has come to be seen as a manifestation of the “strict father” authoritarian model and out of step with progressivism — and decidedly anti-egalitarian — when it can easily be argued that having both authoritarian and nurturing attributes are not mutually exclusive in the development of a more humane society. As Divine Principle posits, this is not an either/or proposition, for both are in accord with concepts of the Three Blessings, polarity and the Four Position Foundation.

The CAUSA International Lecture Manual, published in 1985.

Traditionally, religion has acted as the proverbial “moral compass” in the process of achieving a moral and ethical society/culture in which love and trust were intrinsic to everything — family, community, business, education, arts, media, economics, etc. Judeo-Christian theology instructs that at some point in history there was a deviation away from God and godly behavior, thus restoring the lost ideal by making our way back to “the Garden” became the essential trial for humankind to free itself from the bondage of sin and spiritual darkness. Compromising or violating those foundational elements would be seen as a violation against the common good of the community at large. Hence, judgment enters the equation..

As philosopher Roger Scruton observes, judgment is implicit in any faith-based community because once ideals and tenets are firmly in place, there is expectation that good citizens of the community will abide by them in order to realize the “ethical vision.” For the religious person there is an understanding that judgment is our destiny — something we will all face when we ascend to the next realm. This concept is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian psyche, and though we may live our lives with the intention of doing what is morally and ethically correct, how we behave in relation to others is the ultimate measure of our contributing to an ethical society (not to mention where we may find ourselves in the next world).

T. S. Eliot believed that the interface between religion and community “cannot be finally divorced from one another” and that religion, poetry and education could foster collaborative efforts towards establishing a more humane society. As the apostle James put it, “faith without works is dead.” The Unitarian Universalists echo that sentiment when they say, “More important than the creed is the deed.”

There are those in the Unification movement who argue that any discussion regarding the “culture war” is tired, old, Cold War rhetoric — a shopworn myth that needs to be dismissed as inconsequential in the pursuit of our vision of a culture of peace. Obviously, I’m not convinced of that particular assessment.

Given the presence of cultural Marxism in our society, I advocate for a CAUSA-type initiative to educate and elucidate both our members and the public to the pernicious effects of this fallacious ideology in much the same way our movement did in North and South America in the 1980s.

Education is paramount because it is perilous to ignore the reality of the “culture war” raging before us. Merely “coexisting” will not bring us to the point of reconciliation. Being engaged in the process of creating a culture of peace requires being proactive in promoting the God-centered virtue and values as defined in Divine Principle.

David Eaton has been Music Director of the New York City Symphony since 1985. In addition to his conducting career, he has been an active composer, arranger and producer with 55 original compositions and over 700 arrangements and transcriptions to his credit. One of his recent compositions, “70 and Counting!”, was performed at the United Nations as part of its 70th Anniversary concert in 2015. In 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by UTS.

9 thoughts on “Culture Wars: Myth or Reality?

  1. There is an overarching strategy being played out in our present time that essentially pits one group against another so that a third party that lays in wait can take advantage of the deteriorating or ineffective situation.

    The creation of in-fighting among competing individuals, social class groups or highly polarized parties is how the game is played. The grand game is played under many pseudonyms, models and disguises. The grand masters of the game are embedded in universities, corporate board rooms, other types of academic think tanks and jaded seminaries. When they say, “more important than the creed is the deed,” the grand masters move into social action, pitting the haves against the have-nots, concocting toxic brews of resentment, jealousy, idolatry and the imitative promulgation of defective ontological narratives; these are the end of history characteristics of culture in perpetual dystopian disarray.

    The reversal of this trend is outlined by the philosophy of Unification Thought and the revelation of the Divine Principle. They represent the requisite course on the redirection of cultural history and the recovery of the lost civic mind. Unity, Justice, Tranquility … to secure the blessing for ourselves and Posterity.

  2. Yes, Robert, I agree. That’s why I’m advocating (as are other Unificationists) for an educational initiative that can begin to bring the truth of DP into the social/cultural equation. The CAUSA model is a good one in that regard.

    We hail “Headwing Thought” as the new philosophical/ideological paradigm that will bring about the transformation of culture. Since “Godism” is a central thrust of “headwing,” it is necessary to identify the godly virtues that can assist in the process of betterment — individually and collectively.

    I know there are some who dislike terms such as “war,” battle,” “assault,” etc. They consider these terms too inflammatory and not in keeping with a “parental” mode of problem solving. There are others who argue for “coexistence” and “consensus building.” These are fine tactics, but my emphasis here was to accurately define the problem and offer a way to “combat” (another inflammatory term, sorry) the pernicious effect of cultural Marxism and offer a countervailing option rooted in Principle.

    Those who are the driving forces behind cultural Marxism are not seeking coexistence. They are looking to destroy Western culture through the evisceration of the religious patrimony that the West is based on. These folks are not diplomats, statesmen, negotiators, or consensus builders. They are very much in the same ilk as Stalin, Mao, Gramsci, and Rudi Dutschke who believed that “the long march though the institutions” was the best way to advance their secular, revolutionary goals. If violence was needed (e.g., Stalin), so be it. If the removal of free speech was needed (e.g., Herbert Marcuse), so be it. It becomes all about control and power at the expense of civil liberties.

    As Alasdair MacIntyre writes in his book, After Virtue, Marxists of any stripe organize and move toward power, and in so doing, “become Weberians in substance, even if they remain Marxists in rhetoric; for in our culture we know of no organized movement towards power which is not bureaucratic and managerial in mode, and we know of no justifications for authority which are not Weberian in form. And if this is true of Marxism when it is on the road to power, how much more so is it in the case when it arrives. All power tends to coopt and absolute power coopts absolutely.”

    This is why education on these matters is essential.

    • The work of translating the Unification Thought laws of creation, history and methodology into a useful educational model is an important task. An external training paradigm has already been developed by industry. The “Balanced Scorecard” is an entrepreneurial adaption of Essentials of Unification Thought by Sang Hun Lee (2nd ed., 1992), using the three object purpose – four position foundation thesis (TOP/4PF) to explain executive business strategy. The resemblance in theory perhaps occurred entirely by coincidence.

      Understanding the balanced scorecard model is especially insightful towards understanding practical organizational psychology, problem solving and management styles. The four quadrant positions are translated into stakeholders, vision-purpose, finance and operational methodologies. Because there are several different stakeholder needs, their standpoints have to be profiled separately as investor-owners, government agencies, market consumers and contracted employees. These stakeholder inputs (objective purposes) are crucial to understanding external business and organizational design. The four quadrant balanced scorecard methodology and Unification Thought methodology (laws of creation and problem-solving history) are substantively overlapping.

      The two models, BSC and UT ought to be basic components of UM training in applied leadership, strategy, reciprocal relationships, and operational planning. This is why comprehensive education on these matters is essential.

  3. The (formulation/exposition of the) Balanced Scorecard seems to be more than coincidental, but let’s not go there right now. I would have to agree that it certainly should be of great interest to the UM, just as benchmarks are to anyone involved in most every contemporary technological/industrial endeavor.

    As for the proposal given here, in effect, to revive the CAUSA model, it would seem to have fallen on deaf ears for some time. The same (or similar) idea has been put forth in the “war” against radical Islam (perhaps this is simply part of the same) for several years now, yet what has actually been produced or done in that vein?

    Without at least implicit support from the very top for such an initiative (real, not mythical), it would seem that attendance in the arena for such shall, ultimately (and unfortunately), remain fairly sparse (or relegated to “schismatics”).

    Or perhaps, on the other hand, such is simply how things are — by design (e.g., the Bruce Lee method [Jeet Kune Do] of “fighting without fighting)?

    After all, “Eastern” values do matter — just as much as Western ones – don’t they?

  4. Many members will be happy to know that CARP is in the process of developing a CAUSA-like approach to the issue of the culture wars. Stay tuned.

  5. Keep us posted, Bob. CARP should be a key player in this educational modality.

    Some older CARP members have been lamenting the kind of “career-oriented” path that CARP has taken over the past decade. The “research of the Principle” needs to be re-established as the fundamental focus of CARP activities, and this would include pointing our the problems of cultural Marxism and offering principled alternatives.

  6. One possible very contemporary, contrasting element or resource for such is the book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari. It takes (secular) humanism and materialism to their most extreme (transhumanist) conclusion: Man becometh God.

    A comprehensive overview of other flashpoints in the culture wars must therefore include technological developments as well as other contributing factors (and our response to issues) such as racism, “multiculturalism,” etc.

  7. Einstein always began his quest for greater understanding of the physical world by seeking the simple solution. The response to “racism” and the hijacking of multiculturalism is having a parental heart. Sounds simple…because it is. Parentalism embodies love, compassion, nurturing, and mentoring. It’s about higher virtues, not race, ethnicity, gender, materialism, etc.

    Our identities are determined by what we value, what we treasure, what we love. If, as Yuval Noah suggests, that “man becometh God” in the material sense, he might be taking his cue from Nietzsche; not sure. But according to our founder, our path should be leading us to the proverbial “right angle” where we are in complete harmony with ourselves and others in a mode of “living for the sake of others,” which is what being good parents should be all about.

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