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How Multiculturalism Took Over America (Continued II) By: Lawrence Auster
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 09, 2004

Moderate Myth Number Three—“Why Can’t We Have Both?”

If there are no important differences between Western and other cultures, then no hard choices between Western and other cultures are necessary. When a niece of mine was in college she said to me: "Western culture is good, but others are good, too." Her point was that we should welcome all cultures and fear none. Like my niece, the typical moderate liberal cannot understand that certain differences may be irreconcilable. Confronted with dichotomies as old as the hills, the moderate innocently asks: "Why can't we have both? Why can't we have Western culture and multiculturalism? Why can't we have excellence and diversity?" When his wishful thinking collides with reality, he must resort to further evasions. Jim Bowman writing in the Chicago Tribune complained that advanced courses in the Oak Park elementary schools were being dropped because those classes tended to be all-white, which went against the school's goal of racial diversity in every classroom. "A good thing, diversity, is used as a club to bash another good thing, gifted or advanced classes." The schools, Bowman writes, "have elevated racial diversity (our civic religion) from a legitimate, permeating element to an illegitimate, all-encompassing one."(14)


But what is the difference between a "permeating" element and an "all-encompassing" one? Somehow Bowman imagines that the drive to establish proportional racial diversity in every niche of society is suddenly going to be abandoned when it threatens something he likes, such as advanced academic classes. Unable to grasp the radical essence of his own ideas, the moderate liberal always ends up believing that he can eat his civilization and have it. We should further point out that since the calamitous Grutter v. Bollinger decision of June 23, 2003, in which the Supreme Court found a justification for racial preferences in the U.S. Constitution, the idea that we can have guaranteed racial proportionality along with traditional individual rights is becoming virtually the received wisdom among liberal and conservative elites. Thus John Burns in the December 14, 2003 New York Times spoke of "entrenched individual and group rights" [emphasis added] as part of "the core of a civil society," as though this revolutionary notion was now simply taken for granted by everyone, while National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, in a commencement address at Michigan State University on May 7, 2004, spoke of "our faith in diversity and individual rights." Like Burns, Rice seems to assume that these two ideas are not diametically opposed to each other, but exist in some kind of providential harmony.


Moderate Myth Number Four—Everything Is Multicultural


In order to break down any resistance to multiculturalism, it wasn't enough to portray it as mainstream; it also had to be seen as inevitable. The moderate multiculturalists achieved both these ends by means of an audacious myth. America, they told us, has "always" been multicultural. In fact, all the societies that have ever existed have been multicultural. Multiculturalism is simply the human condition, not to be questioned any more than the air we breathe. Many advocates of this view are not multiculturalists per se but old-fashioned progressives (or, to put it less politely, international socialists), who have an ingrained hostility toward nationhood, religion, and all other inherited group distinctions, which they see as obstacles to the political and economic unification of mankind under an egalitarian government. When these progressives say that "all cultures are multicultural," they are not really seeking to emphasize cultural differences (as the radical multiculturalists do), but rather to underscore a universal sameness that would render nations—or at least the American nation—obsolete.


I first became aware of this attitude on the left when chatting with a politically leftish female acquaintance of mine. It is futile to oppose multiculturalism, this exuberant lady told me, because all civilizations have been created by diversity; even ancient Greece, she said, was the product of many diverse peoples and cultural traditions coming together. I asked her what those diverse traditions were, and she emphatically replied: "We can't know that." Her insistence on the diversity of ancient Greek culture, combined with her odd refusal to consider what this diversity consisted of, made me realize that her motives were ideological rather than intellectual. The reason she had no curiosity about the cultures or beliefs that produced Greek civilization was that such information must lead to the conclusion that Greece, though of "diverse" cultural origins, had a "diversity" that was distinct from that of other "diverse" cultures. And that would have forced her back to the truth she wanted to deny—that different cultures are different and not easily assimilable to each other. When she called ancient Greece "diverse," she was not trying to say anything specific about ancient Greece. She was saying that all cultures are diverse, and therefore that all cultures are the same.


The belief in a "universal" multiculturalism has become a truism in left-liberal circles. Writing in the moderate leftist journal Dissent, Reed Dasenbrock argues that medieval England, because its language was a hybrid of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French, was "multicultural." But if late medieval England was truly a hybrid culture, as Dasenbrock believes, then it was one culture, not a multiculture, in the same way that a hybrid plant species is one species, not a combination of different species, or that a human being is one person, not simply a mix of his mother's and father's characteristics. In other words, Dasenbrock has misconstrued one of history's most remarkable instances of cultural assimilation as an example of its opposite—multiculturalism. He goes on to argue that the whole of Western culture is really "multicultural." Like medieval England, Western culture was also a mix of distinctive cultural components, which he identifies as the Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity:


[I]t took an immense synthesizing labor across centuries to bring them into some sort of harmony. Dante, Spenser, and Milton—in seeking to fuse classical culture with Christianity—are thus … multicultural … and if we fail to realize this immediately, we are only testifying to how successful their work of assimilation was.(15)

As with his discussion of "multicultural" medieval England, Dasenbrock's proof of a multicultural West demonstrates the exact opposite: that during the centuries following the fall of the western Roman empire, there was a slow but successful blending of distinct traditions into a new culture that we call the Christian West or Western culture.


Yet Dasenbrock does not even stop at appropriating the entire West into the multicultural project. "Multiculturalism is simply the standard human condition," he declares. "We now need to do this [i.e., to bring different cultures together] with the totality of the cultures of the world." [Emphasis added]. He describes his goal as "the construction of a world culture," and ultimately a world government. Yet he also assures his readers that fusing the West with the world "doesn't represent a surrender of the Western tradition as much as a reaffirmation of it." This is an absurd statement, yet it follows with absolute, logical consistency from Dasenbrock's absurd premise. Since he has defined the West as "multicultural," i.e. as a collection of many different and unrelated parts, it follows that to combine the West with every other culture—Islam, Confucianism, animism, and so on—would only increase the number of parts and therefore enhance Western culture! The truth, of course, is that in such a promiscuous mix everything distinctive and individual about the West would be obliterated. But Dasenbrock has attained, at least in theory, the left's millennial goal of a world without borders, a world without "us" and "them," a world without distinctive cultures and their mutual hatreds, and, most important of all, a world without the historically white America and the historically white West.


The irony is that by today's standards Dasenbrock is a moderate. His method is not vilification of the West, but word-magic: Describing the West as a historically diverse mixture of many elements (a vague generality with which even cultural conservatives would have a hard time disagreeing), he then turns that description into an activist project to reconstruct the world by combining all diverse cultures into the global culture of his imagination. Finally, since this global project is only enhancing the cultural diversity that he has already posited as the defining characteristic of the West, Dasenbrock can plausibly claim that he comes not to destroy the West, but to fulfill it. The argument is a tunnel from which our culture cannot emerge alive. Once you have accepted the "moderate" premise that America and the West have no enduring identity of their own but are defined by diversity, it becomes logically impossible to oppose the rest of the multiculturalist program.


Moderate Myth Number Five:  The Pro-Western Multiculturalist


Another soothing fiction that has helped advance multiculturalism is a personality type rather than an idea. It is the friendly Third-World immigrant, who warmly professes his or her love for America, yet who, on closer examination, reveals a desire to do away with America as an historically distinct country. Such a moderate is the novelist Bharati Mukherjee, an immigrant to the U.S. by way of Canada, who had this to say in a public television interview with Bill Moyers in 1990:


What I like to think, Bill, is that you and I are both now without rules, because of the large influx of non-Europeans in the '70s and '80s, and more to come in the '90s. That it's not a melting pot situation anymore, and I don't like to use the phrase melting pot if I can help it, because of the 19th century associations with mimicry; that one was expected to scrub down one's cultural eccentricities and remake oneself in the Anglo-Saxon image. If I can replace melting pot with a phrase like fusion vat, or fusion chamber, in which you and I are both changed radically by the presence of new immigrants, I would be much happier. So that you are having to change your rules, I like to think, and I am certainly have to change my Old World rules.… [Emphasis added].

There are no comforts, no old mythologies to cling to. We have to invent new American mythologies. Letting go of the old notions of what America was shouldn't be seen as a loss.… I hope that as we all mongrelize, or as we all fuse, that we will build a better and more hopeful nation.(16)

Underneath Mukherjee's confiding and civilized tone, she was informing her American audience that they must "mongrelize" themselves in order to accommodate non-Europeans. In this new dispensation (unchallenged by her supremely passive and "open" interviewer, Bill Moyers, who piously hung on her every word), the preservation of America as a historic nation and people was not even an issue any more. To grasp how unnatural this situation was, imagine an immigrant in some relatively sane country—say Japan or Italy or the pre-1965 America—who, shortly after his arrival, announces to his new countrymen: "Oh, by the way, you people must—in order to make me comfortable—give up everything that has constituted your culture and identity. But don't worry! You shouldn't see this as a loss!" He would be thrown out on his ear. Yet by the 1990s America had become the sort of decadent place where a smooth-talking "moderate" could make a career saying exactly that.


Like most imperialists, Mukherjee seemed complacently oblivious to the culture and people she wished to dominate. At one point in the Moyers interview, she predicted an increase in ethnic violence, "because there's a kind of disinvestment in America.… [P]eople have not invested in the country. There's been a 'What part of the pie is for me?' kind of an attitude …" It didn't seem to occur to her that the disinvestment in America that she regretted may have had something to do with the devaluing of America's historic identity that she applauded. Indeed, if anyone was wondering, "what part of the pie is for me," it would seem to be Mukherjee herself and her fellow immigrants, whom she spoke of as "we, the new pioneers, who are thinking of America as still a frontier country."


I think that the original American pioneers had to have been in many ways, hustlers, and capable of a great deal of violence in order to wrest the country from the original inhabitants. And to make a new life, new country, for themselves. So that vigor of possessing the land, I like to think, my characters have.

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