Most of us evince a certain mistrust or even shock at the notion of a unified human culture; we hear much about the evils of globalization, we react with horror at the notion of a quaint little town in Somethingstan seeing the opening of a McDonald’s or Starbucks, we worry that if we completely accept another culture, we will be dominated by it to the exclusion of the conventions we hold dear.
I have come to wonder of late, though, whether a global culture would have to be this way. Is it necessary that we abjure our ethnocultural ‘soul’ in order to embrace the culture of another, or can we allow them to coexist?
History shows that the greatest motivator to unity is the presence of a common enemy – a ‘them’ to our ‘us’. I have little doubt that if we were to discover intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, we would rapidly cease to be French, or Jewish, or black, becoming merely different flavors of ‘Earthling’. Even if the extra-terrestrials showed no hint of a threat, a large number of us would choose to see them as an enemy solely based on our primitive fear of the unknown. In the face of this perceived threat, national boundaries would become obsolete and religious differences would largely die out as our fear of the poorly-known was set aside in place of this greater fear. Few would suggest, however, that we would lose our individuality. Just as African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and Caucasians manage to hold onto their own beliefs and values while forming part of an integrated American nation, we would under this hypothetical scenario consider ourselves Islamic-Earthlings or Australian-Humans or other such designations.
So… if we would be able to make this transition when faced with extra-terrestrial life, why are we so convinced that we can’t do it on our own? We can put aside the comparatively small fears and choose to instead understand each other, learning from the richness of each other’s cultures. A Christian can learn from a Hindu, a Kazakh from a Paraguayan. I believe that this would enrich us rather than lessening us.
We have had the phrase “the human race” in our lexicon for many decades now – perhaps it’s time there actually was one.