WINNING THE SOFT WAR OF THE MIND
Soft war of the mind is obviously a word game in connection to Geert Hofstede’s software of the mind. Soft war might be said to take the place of what formerly was the cold war. What both have in common is the danger of escalation into diverse shapes and forms of hard or hot war as a consequence of their mismanagement. In that sense the culture issue indeed takes the place of what were the ideological wars of the past century. Also my personal observation seems to suggest that one of the key cultural questions of our time is about who has to adapt to whom culturally. In other words: “Who has to submit to the other’s culture?” The struggle about who prevails and who surrenders culturally is about who wins and who loses at a cultural or mental software level. And therefore it may be termed a war on the mental software level or a soft war.
This is a subtle, largely subliminal, surreptitious war; an all encompassing guerrilla warfare where the battlefield shifts unpredictably, while it is nowhere and everywhere. Though it be an extreme comparison it can be likened, strategically, to the use of sophisticated high-tech weaponry that seems to leave the hardware intact but impacts the software and therefore by indirection also the human and social hardware controlled by that software. Soft war is more than a parody, a pun à la Shakespeare, it seems to be a cultural challenge that needs to be addressed for the sake of mankind itself.
Mental software specialists pretend to work in order to bring about the opposite of the mental soft war. Instead of facilitating what Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars might call mutually beneficial 10/10 synergies or win-win solutions, they sometimes try to win the mental software war by imposing what they consider their cultural preferences or those of their clients because this creates the best conditions to win in subsequent cross-cultural interactions
However, the purpose of this paper is not to design more sophisticated strategies for the parties at soft war, but rather a strategy for man and mankind to win the war on soft war: To Win The War On War per se; the war of what may be considered the war on cultural terror, an expression which specifies what has for some time already been called the war on terror. Indeed, for those who have to submit and surrender in the soft war on cultural domination, however subtly, it is a form of terror, because they are deterred from realizing their cultural autonomy and self-determination at the human mental software level and as a consequence at the human hardware or physical level as well, for, after all man is an interdependent whole with regard to psychosomatic structures and functions.
So, the key question of this exposé, I repeat, is to show how man can win the war on soft terror and not how parties involved can win soft war, for the latter would mean to provide ammunition to soft terrorism, to cultural terror. And let’s face it, it would imply cultural terrorism and that would actually by itself be a violation of best political, ethical and cultural principles and practice.
The combination of strategic and intercultural terminology seems to be a clash of different worlds: on the one hand the hard terminology of cold and hot war and on the other hand the soft terminology of the human psyche. The term soft war epitomizes the counterpoints. And yet the prevailing, official political doctrine has introduced it implicitly already a decade ago by the politically correct term of war on terror which is, more specifically, a war on cultural terror that is frequently and more simply framed as war on fundamentalism.
However, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the soft war phenomenon. More generally the soft war assumption seems to be applicable to any human interfacing where people with diverse mental software or culture are interfacing. When people bring their accustomed competitive mental models to the cultural interfacing, the question arises as to whose mental software will prevail in this subtle, soft competition. The better competitor can determine the conditions for further interactions. It can result in a freezing of cultural imbalances, which can be difficult to change in the longer term.
There are those cultures, whose members assume that they are superior historically, technologically, economically, racially, tribally, ethnically etc. and that they therefore cannot and will not change or adapt to other cultures and their members in any way and in any interaction. I recall the following event from a world-leading university: At the University of Cambridge, a speaker and culture expert stated “we are British, we cannot change”. Others may similarly be inclined to state “we are Chinese…” or this and that and the other. This is understandable. Most of us at times have similar responses when core identities are threatened, but one must face the consequences that such attitudes corrupt authentic relationships from the start and are no helpful basis for the solution of the challenge discussed.
The anecdotic experience again represents only the tip of an iceberg. It is significant, for if such words are uttered in a scholarly environment of such prestige it is seems to indicate that the very culture specialists may promote the said soft war on culture, because there assumption seems to be: We have for such and such unspecified reasons an entitlement to not adapt to anybody’s cultural ways in the world, because we are so uniquely ourselves that we have become unable to adapt and that anyone who wants to interact with us has to adapt his ways to our ways. - And yet, we have to learn to look compassionately at those in whose “empire the sun once never set”, or at those who call themselves “the kingdom of the middle”, for no one is free from such symptoms until he is firmly established in transculturalism.
Those may subscribe to cultural relativism in theory, but what they practice is cultural absolutism. The target of this soft warfare is tacitly assumed to submit in the sense of giving up his cultural entitlement and autonomy and to adopt the ways of the one who postulates the submission; to shoulder the entire load of the intercultural interfacing process. This cultural scenario is a win-lose scenario, a strategic soft war on culture scenario, to which many contemporaries are exposed on a fairly regular basis without questioning it because it is subtle and therefore passes without being noticed.
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- D.E.A./UNIV. PARIS I Gebhard Deissler (Autor), 2010, Winning The Soft War Of The Mind, München, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/159044