Differing Realities

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The physical division of society is one problem; the cultural division is another.

The historic community

Democratic nation states have largely been characterised by the population having a fairly homogeneous identity in relation to the nation. There are states where two or more ethnic or religious groups have never created a real communal identity - Belgium, Israel and Lebanon are three examples - but most democracies are characterised precisely by the population experiencing the nation state as a common project. There is an inherent expectation of a common loyalty towards the nation, even if people have fundamental disagreements about politics.

Modern, divided societies

Globalisation is creating societies where ethnic, cultural and religious minorities live side by side but with limited contact both with each other and with society in general. The earlier common loyalty to the nation and the wider community can therefore no longer be taken for granted.

Modern technology is leading to ever increasing specialisation within education and the workplace. In addition, we all have individual preferences with regard to the media we choose to get our news and experiences from. These things together make it increasingly difficult to maintain common frames of reference, and there is therefore also a risk that we no longer feel loyalty to one another within the same community, or experience that we have a shared responsibility for the society we share.

The increased access to information is of course a step forward, but to the extent that we only expose ourselves to those inputs that we already know we are interested in, we are undermining the possibilities for common dialogues, common visions and a common debate.

Next chapter: A Lack of Education and Cultivation