A second point in Stan Rosenthal’s article:
South Ossetia has its own culture and language, and is essentially part of North Ossetia, which is inside Russia and very much orientated towards Russia in a way that the South has never been orienated towards Georgia.
Isn’t this always the way? Like a set of Russian dolls, if you try and explore the ethnic make-up of any country, there always seems to be smaller, more well defined ethnic sub-groups within that country. Perhaps a more apt metaphor is the fractal. The outline of the shape (or country), looks quite simple from far away. However, as soon as you zoom in, you notice ever more levels of detail and complexity.
I said earlier that Georgia’s rulers have created problems for which their people are now paying. In South Ossetia, it looks as if they have been suppressing a minority for a political win. Again: Isn’t this always the way? Accentuating differences, exploiting divisions, demonising the Other. Multiculturalism can guard against this, by saying “here is someone different from you, and yet they have value,” although stressing the similarities between cultures may, paradoxically, be the best way to convince people of that value.
Clay Shirky’s comments, about how technology might actually entrench cultural differences, is worth recollecting here. In this era of digital communications, it is possible to travel globally but live locally, maintaining your cultural roots and relationships with ever more efficiency. Technology could mean that ever smaller cultural groups remain viable, when in the past they would have been assimilated. This, in turn, could see an increase in conflict, as these smaller groups assert their right to self-determination.