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Modern American culture produces highly individualistic career and identity paths for upper- and middle-class males and females. Power couples abound, often sporting different last names. But deeply held religious identities and military loyalties are less common. Few educated Americans have any direct experience with large groups of men gathered in intense prayer or battle. Like other citizens of the globalized corporate/consumer culture, educated Americans are often widely traveled but not deeply rooted in obligation to a particular physical place, a faith or a kinship.
Most of the 7 billion people on Earth today are not such modern atoms. As in the past, they live in territorial ethnic groups and language communities — extended family units that in turn connect with national and religious identities uniting adult males. Such brotherhoods blend the blood ties of kinship with the shared blood sacrifice of religious military covenants.
If we are to be realists, we must understand that such large communal loyalties, for which men will gladly fight and die, explain a great many of the world’s conflicts — and mark the pathways to peace. American and European educated elites may be outgrowing the “superstition” of religion, the “chauvinism” of nations. But armed men elsewhere navigate by a different compass.
Let us enter their world for a moment, in the name of realism.