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Culture and security: The need to create new norms in the age of social media

Dec 26,2018 - Last updated at Dec 26,2018

The latest technological developments have changed the relation between culture and security. The ability of individuals to pose a threat to international security dictates the need to develop the security conceptual framework to deal with the challenge of “inclusiveness”, which means that no one will be left behind. 

A long time ago, culture was acknowledged as a significant component of security systems, as physical security is impacted by cultural norms. Nevertheless, global security requires a new approach to the relationship between culture and security. New global cultural norms for all should be enshrined and cherished. But states cannot, in the current global environment, impose cultural norms.  

Economic and technological development over the last few centuries has changed the rules for individuals to satisfy their material needs. Historical experience tells us that political disorder has taken place as a result of the technological-economic changes. Sociopolitical instability stems from the inconsistency between old political systems designed to serve society within the old “techno-economics”, and the new material reality created by the new techno-economics. Huge efforts have been exerted by brilliant minds to address the challenge of “political order in changing societies”, as Samuel Huntington’s formulated it in a book given the same title. Institutionalisation, as advocated in Huntington’s book, has been envisaged to be one of the tools to maintain political order in changing societies. 

Institutions function as the bridge between security apparatus (hard tools) and culture (soft tools). Helping people adapt their behaviour to the new norms and standards is the core objective for any state’s “cultural strategy”. Opportunities created by technology and market dynamics do influence peoples’ aspirations and the way they act; however, it is culture that can formulate individuals’ activities to satisfy needs within the institutionalised model of behaviour.  

This post-WWII approach translated into local solutions for the culture-security dynamic. The perception is that the outer world is built of an ugly mixture of ideology, identity, security and strategic requirements, with a flavour of modernity. Institutional frameworks are designed to meet one priority: practicality within the local context. During these times, the perception of the home country as the perpetual universe has been promoted by states as a sign of patriotism. The legacy of this cultural practice should be revised in light of the increasing influence of social media that dictates a global prism on all cultures.   

We have been taught that the world out there is the enemy, and now we aspire to be part of the same world we have historically despised. With a broken common sense and shaken institutional frameworks, new policies for cultural development are urgently needed. Relying on security apparatuses to maintain and protect the artificially prolonged transition stage is not the proper approach. 

Having said that, the challenge is not only to stop subduing culture to security needs, but to “culturise” the security conceptual framework. Protecting the unity of the security apparatus against decay factors requires easing the pressure of the inconsistency between “techno-economic” and dominant culture norms. It requires effective revision of the strategy designed in line with the state’s monopoly of culture and mass media, which was possible and reasonable until the reality of social media has imposed itself.

In the era of mass media monopoly, governments and state agencies managed effectively to turn the entire society a consumer of the “cultural products and services” they created. This clientele relation between state agencies and societies should be entirely deserted, not only in the culture and education realms, but in every other aspect as well. 

The only way to clear the path for society to become part of the international and global culture is by ending the clientele approach, and start listening to the voices of the people. This implies three major steps:

Liberating the cultural stages, rebuilding the common sense, ending the current dynamic of closed isolated groups and ending the exclusion of a wide range of voices. This is the only way to allow new cultural norms to emerge and prevail. 

Revising the officially adopted concept of patriotism. This implies that a good citizen is not the one who abhors the rest of the world. 

Bridging the gap between education and cultural activities. Schools and universities have been used as tools to isolate a broad spectrum of intellectuals and push them into closed circles. 

As enlightenment and modernity are the products of continuous debate in societies, the mere function of security apparatus in this regard is to keep this debate within civic peaceful boundaries. 

These are small tips to design a national cultural strategy that will help, among other measures, render individual citizens constructive partners in the human march towards a better future. These steps are urgently needed to create a national cultural context to rationalise the national debate, in the age of social media, and help people break the chains of the current impasse. 


The writer is a political analyst. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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