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The UniversalSolvent Meditationson the Marriage of World Cultures Frederick Turner AS A CONNECTED BUT TURBULENT series of meditations, this essay resembles the issue itself that it addresses: the issue of interculturalism, the mutual impact and result of the unparalleled mixing that has been going on in recent years among the world's cultures. This mixing process is a classically turbulent system-perhaps the most complex of all turbulent systems, its larger social movements echoed on a diminishing heirarchy of scales down to the cultural translation problems that beset an individual as he or she invents a viable self. Interculturalism itself comes in a bewildering variety of genres, each with its own pressing and highly ambiguous set of moral and epistemological questions. Consider this brief and incomplete list of intercultural genres: tourism, international charity, evangelism, colonial administration, anthropology , true trade (as opposed to mercantile colonialism), political and military contacts, academic consultation and exchange, artistic collaboration , artistic influence, asylum, statelessness, refugeeism, education abroad, intermarriage, and emigration. Anyone who walks the streets or campuses of the new tier of world-cities will be struck by the fantastic combinations of races in friendship, marriage, 75 work, and study. My son, born in America, is half British and half Chinese; he plays baseball with a Slav from Poland and an Arab from Algeria; I eat at French/Lebanese, Thai, Salvadorean, and Israeli/Chinese restaurants, buy software from emigrant South Africans, celebrate the Zoroastrian New Year with Farsi friends from Iran, and collaborate on artistic and intellectual projects with a Macedonian Yugoslav, a Greek, a Hungarian Jew, a Japanese, a Latin American, and several Germans. Yet in a strange way the place I live in does not cease at all from being Texas to the core. Cultural information not only has the property of being transferable without loss, but also of being almost infinitely super-imposable. Many cultures can occupy the same place or brain without loss; there seems to be no cultural equivalent of the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which forbids two particles from existing in the same energy state and place at the same time. Of course any celebration of a new era of tolerance and ethnic harmony would be premature. The collapse in our century of the great empires-the Austrian, the British, the Soviet, and soon the Chinese-has left large areas of the world in a state of Balkanized tribalism, and it well may appear that we are further away than ever from the interculturalism we anticipate. The Tutsi exterminate the Hutu, the Hausa and Yoruba the Ibo. Savage tribal pogroms and the intentional starvation of whole populations are the rule along the whole sub-Saharan rim. Serbian demagogues threaten their neighbors. The Bulgarians are oppressing their Turks, the Rumanians their Hungarians, the Azerbaijanis their Armenians, the Chinese their Tibetans, and several countries their Kurds. Tribal/religious wars convulse Palestine and Lebanon. Tamils and Sinhalese murder each other's children without mercy. The ethnic Russians are now so hated and feared throughout Europe and Asia that when economics and demography have eroded their power they may be in danger of racial extermination. It may even seem a decadent luxury to trouble our conscience with the problems of cultural mixing when such a foul-tempered resurgence of racism and ethnocentrism is under way. And yet it could be argued that these horrible events are belated but inevitable consequences of world forces that will eventually lead to a more comfortably intercultural world; that such places are undergoing processes analogous to the tribal wars of dark-ages Europe or to the religious wars of the Reformation, and that in each case a Charlemagne or Metternich will emerge, speaking for a new consensus superior to local loyalties. Perhaps the great empires had held those tensions in an artificial stasis, and now they are playing themselves naturally out. In this view the eventual result of the enormous mobility of persons and information will be something like the condition of the United States or the European Common Market; or like those countries which, having once possessed colonial empires, have now 76 had their homelands peacefully invaded by their erstwhile subjects and find that together with the inevitable stress...


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pp. 75-98
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