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Posted on June 13th, 2012, by

The modern epoch is characterized by the profound changes that affect all spheres of life. Basically, these changes are determined by the process of globalization involves many countries in the common world market and international economic relations. In actuality, globalization involves not only political but also social, political, and cultural changes. As a result, the world is growing to be more united and homogenous. In such a situation it seems to be possible about the real unification of the world and the development of the new world community which would naturally deprived of any conflicts in the results of its homogeneity. Nonetheless, the real situation is quite different and, what is more, in stark contrast, to such optimistic forecasts the conflicts between culturally similar communities are constantly growing and the problem of extremism and fundamentalism has become one of the major problems of the modern world leading to polarization of different nations or cultures within the world community. One of the major reasons for such a paradoxical glance may be found in the concept of the narcissism of minor differences, which is actually based on the idea that even slightest differences may lead to a profound conflict between different ethnic groups, cultures, etc.

At first glance, the concept of the narcissism of minor differences is quite paradoxical since, according to this concept, the most severe conflicts are often provoked by differences which are absolutely insignificant and do not playa principal role in the life of the conflicting communities. Obviously, it would be more logical to presuppose that serious ideological differences would rather play much more important role in relations between communities than minor differences.

However, on numerous scientific works and empirical data indicate to the important role minor differences may play in the relations between different communities. In this respect, it should be pointed out that, as a rule, conflicts between neighboring communities are much more often than the conflicts between communities that are geographically distanced from each other. At the same time, the neighboring communities have quite similar cultures and ideologies that do not differ dramatically. Moreover, some conflicts may even appear within one and the same community and, in such a situation, it is impossible to speak about some substantial differences between conflicting parties but only about minor differences that have played the crucial role in stoking the fire of the conflict.

In fact, it is possible to draw a lot of examples of such conflicts provoked by minor differences, which seemed to be absolutely insignificant at first. For instance, it is possible to mention the existing socio-cultural conflict or, it would be probably better to say, tension between Eastern and Western Germans. It is not a secret that the attitude of the representatives of this homogenous community, which have not only the common history, traditions but which are actually representatives of one national group, are quite negative. As a rule, Western Germans feel certain superiority in relation to Eastern Germans and they often attempt to emphasize this superiority.

Similarly, the conflict between two communities on Cyprus Greek and Turkish are also enforced by minor differences. For instance, specialists (Prunier 2004) underline that the inhabitants of the island can easily differentiate themselves on the basis of the preference of different brands of cigarettes. To put it more precisely, Cypriot Greeks prefer cigarettes packaged in blue and white, while Cypriot Turks prefer cigarettes packaged in red and white in accordance with the colors of the national flag of each nation respectively.

In fact, it is possible to continue the list of communities which are in conflict with each other even though they are close not only geographically but also culturally and often have common history. Among these conflicts the most widely known are the conflict or tension between Englishmen and Scotts, Spaniards and Portuguese people, conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, and others.

Obviously, despite seeming insignificance of minor differences, they can play the crucial role in the progress of the conflict or growing tension between representatives of different communities or different parts of one and the same ethnic community.

According to many specialists (Said 2003, Ignatieff 2002), the minor differences are often exaggerated and become the subject of serious contradictions because people, even though they live in a culturally close environment, tend to use these minor differences simply to differentiate themselves from other communities, or other people. Practically, it means that people simply want to preserve their cultural identity in the rapidly changing world when national and ethnic differences tend to disappear. As a result, they use minor differences in order to underline that they are different from their neighbors, for instance. As a rule, they use those differences with ridicule and, in such a way, they emphasize not only their own difference but, what is more, their superiority in relation to their counterparts.

Consequently, it is necessary to underline that basically the narcissism of minor differences is basically provoked by the eagerness of representative of some national or cultural group to preserve the sense of their national or cultural identity, their difference and uniqueness from other groups.

Obviously, such escalation of tension and conflicts between different groups on the basis of the narcissism of minor differences is inimitable in the modern society since it threatens to the stability and normal development of the entire world which gradually becomes more and more homogeneous and, thus, the minor differences would play increasingly more important role.

Thus, it is possible to recommend the development of tolerance not only to substantial differences which are obvious to all people and which also could be a source of conflicts, but also it is necessary to develop the tolerance in relation to minor differences that may be observed not only within one community but even within a family. In this respect, it is possible to develop educational programs targeting at the development of tolerance, explain the mass audience the real causes of the conflict and tension and show people the extent to which the minor differences causing conflicts are insignificant and simply ridiculous. In such a way, it would be possible to minimize the negative effects of the narcissism of minor differences.

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