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Friday, April 29, 2005

Multi-culti collision with reality

Multiculturalism and cultural liberalism collide in a place called reality! British columnist John O'Sullivan presents some interesting observations and analysis in this article. The focus is on Britain but it has relevance for anywhere. Many people assume that being nearly infinitely tolerant is a good thing, but it is possible to be so openminded that your brains fall out. Here are several excerpts with emphasis mine.

…all change occurs at the margin. And these marginalized figures revealed in their clash that multiculturalism and liberal values are incompatible.

Multiculturalism is easy enough to grasp. It is the doctrine that all cultures are equal and must be given equal respect and protection by government. It was fueled by the arrival in Britain of immigrant groups with different religious cultures. And it has led to such social changes as rewriting British history and allowing strict Muslim dress in school.

Cultural liberalism is a larger and vaguer concept. Its essential meaning is that people should be helped to free themselves from irksome traditional moral customs and cultural restraints. And in the last 30 years it has affected a quiet revolution in Britain — in religion, family life, national identity, and moral values.

Public life is increasingly and aggressively secular.

Family life has been devalued: Fewer people get married; more get divorced; more children are born out of wedlock.

A combination of cultural liberalism and welfare has produced its own human sacrifice in the form of a growing underclass, victims of crime, and children with fewer opportunities because they are brought up in homes without two parents.

For a long time, it seemed that multiculturalism was simply one ingredient in cultural liberalism. But this was a delusion resting on three errors: First, it did not take into account that a nation, society, or community is held together by a common culture and common moral values — often values that its members are not conscious of holding until they are challenged. That common culture had already been subtly undermined by cultural liberalism; it was now directly assaulted by multiculturalism.

Second, it did not take into account that some of these cultures and multiculturalism itself were incompatible with liberalism. Multiculturalism holds that all cultures are equal; liberalism is the doctrine that all human beings have equal rights; so if a culture holds that some human beings, (e.g., women) have fewer rights than others, then liberalism has to confront that culture and reject the multiculturalism sheltering it.

And, third, liberals have failed to persuade these other cultures that the liberal theory of universal human rights is an entirely secular one posing no threat to their religion. Muslims in particular persist in seeing it as an expression of Christian civilization — which, historically, it is certainly is — and thus tainted at best.

Even from a narrow political viewpoint, it seems unrealistic of liberals to take on Muslims and Christians simultaneously. It also ignores the cultural truth that debates between secular liberals and Christians in the West are arguments within the family. They almost never involve first-order differences such as honor killings. They are debates in which it is possible to live with defeat.

Besides, how many divisions does secular liberalism have? Would a liberalism divorced entirely from religion and its own cultural heritage have the numbers and morale to resist what looks likely to be the proselytizing force of growing numbers of Muslims in Europe? Liberal multicultural Holland — which simply dithers in the face of Muslim terrorism — offers very little assurance here. Many Dutch liberals are now worrying that their multiculturalism has an ethical vacuum at its heart that ultimately disarms them in matters as necessary as punishing murder and protecting critics of Islam.

The newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, on the other hand, proclaims that Europe can resist multiculturalism and live with Islam without surrendering to it — but only if it recovers its own Christian traditions of moral behavior. Given that some of the fruits of Britain's cultural liberalism taste distinctly sour, secular liberals might be persuaded to examine this prospect sympathetically. They should be at least half-encouraged by the Pope's acceptance of the mutually stimulating role of religion and secular liberalism: "To this extent we must be grateful to secular society and the Enlightenment. It must remain a thorn in our side, as secular society must accept the (Christian) thorn in its side."

Pretty relevant and potent observations if you ask me!!

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