Wouldn't it have been great if, when we were growing up, there had been an audible signal when each of our beliefs achieved the rigidity of concrete? Imagine hearing inspirational music with announcements declaring, "Listen up, this is important. This is going to be your opinion from now on." Of course, this doesn't occur. Instead, our respective cultures play a strategic role in shaping our views without notice for most of our lives.
There was no music or voice-over announcement when I absorbed the notion that an in-your-face insult had to be answered with a physical response. Nevertheless, this ethos is still so much a part of my psyche that no amount of intellectual rigor can rid me of the felt need to respond to an egregious insult in this manner. At my age, though, I imagine the offender might yet go unscathed.
If people are increasingly defying norms and behaving more and more in ways other than are commonly considered acceptable, or if their actions fly in the face of local expectations, such behavior will be experienced as existentially frightening by those who revere custom. An endangered worldview portends mortal peril, and the visceral response is to fight such change as something evil.
Reflection of this kind takes a formidable amount of soul-searching. Our desire to be honest with ourselves has to be stronger than the concrete in which our foundational beliefs are set, if we are to venture far enough to see the issue from another point of view, let alone change our minds.
This is precisely why learning about our history is so important for deciding who we really are and how we are to behave. We typically use all sorts of expressions that bear little resemblance to their origins. For example, it is not uncommon today for people to refer to someone during an argument as an SOB. But few, I suspect, mean this in the way it was used in the Old South, when the worst possible insult was to literally demean another person's mother with the term. When we fail to understand how and why we hold our beliefs about the world, we are too easily manipulated politically and the emotional fallout shows itself as a surplus of arrogance and contempt.
A genuine sense of moral objectivity becomes possible only when we delve deeply into the genealogy of our beliefs and discover things that, had we known earlier, would likely have caused us to honorably change our viewpoint. But here is the really hard part: Even when we do change our minds, intellectual effort alone is not enough to neutralize the deep-seated emotion in which our beliefs are set. To truly change our minds, we have to override the old conviction with a passion more powerful than the emotion that enabled it to establish itself as belief in the first place.
To accept one's culture without question is to spend life as a prisoner of the past.