Communication Between Cultures

(Sean Pound) #1
Although many of our examples demonstrate clashes that have long historical
antecedents, Huntington speaks to future intercultural contact and the potential pro-
blems that can arise when deep structure beliefs clash:“The great divisions among
humankind and the dominating sources of conflict will be cultural.”^3 Although
Huntington advanced his proposition nearly twenty years ago, his words are as timely
today as when he wrote them. He further explains the rationale behind this in the
The people of different civilizations have different views on the relations between God
and man, the individual and the group, the citizen and the state, parents and children,
husband and wife, as well as differing views of the relative importance of rights and
responsibilities, liberty and authority, equality and hierarchy.^4
All the issues Huntington cites, as well as the examples noted earlier, penetrate to
the very heart of culture. They are what we call in this chapter the deep structure of a
culture. Such issues (God, loyalty, duty, family and kinship, community, state, alle-
giance, etc.) have been components of every culture for thousands of years. In fact,
when the world’s first cultures started forming—over forty thousand years ago—these
same elements were at the core. The earliest expressions of culture reveal that our
“ancestors”had interests in spiritual practices, kinship relations, and the formation
of communities. These“communities,”then as now, assisted cultures in keeping
order within the culture and protected the members of the culture from outside
threats and influences. Our point is that since the dawn of civilization, the institu-
tions of family, community, and religion have held a prominent sway over the actions
of all cultures. Let us look at four reasons their influence is so powerful.



The social institutions of family, state, and religion carry the messages that matter most
to people. Whether you seek material possessions to attain happiness or choose instead
to seek spiritual fulfillment, the three deep structure institutions help you make major
decisions regarding how to live your life. These cultural institutions and the messages
they generate tell you whether you should believe in fate or the power of free choice.
They form your notions about right and wrong, why there is suffering, what to expect
from life, where your loyalties should lie, and even how to prepare for death.

Deep Structure Institutions and Their Messages Endure

Deep structure institutions endure. They work in harmony to preserve the wisdom,
traditions, and customs that make a culture unique. From the time when early Cro-
Magnon cave drawings appeared in southern France until the present, we can trace
the strong pull of family, community, and religion. Generations of children are told
about the messages of Abraham, Confucius, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad,
and other spiritual leaders. Whether it is the Eightfold Path, the Ten Command-
ments, the Analects, the Five Pillars of Islam, or the Vedas, the meanings of these

Deep Structure Institutions and Their Messages Endure 71

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