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


Example 5. The more outspoken multiculturalists—i.e., the articulate ideologues of the left—will admit that the cultures they want to "include" in the American culture are radically at odds with it. Diversity consultant Edwin J. Nichols teaches the following model explaining the divergent intellectual styles of ethnic groups:  

                       The Philosophical Aspects of Cultural Difference:

European and Euro-American: Member-Object; the highest value lies in the object or in the acquisition of the object.

African, Afro-American, Native American, Hispanics, Arabs: Member-Member. The highest value lies in the inter-personal relationship between persons.

Asian, Asian-American, Polynesian: Member-Group. The highest value lies in the cohesiveness of the group.

Native American: Member-Great Spirit. The highest values lies in oneness with the Great Spirit.(5)

Observe how Nichols portrays the Western orientation in negative terms ("Member-Object," "acquisition") that suggest cold selfishness and materialism, while he describes the non-Western cultures in positive terms ("inter-personal relationship," "group cohesiveness," "oneness with the Great Spirit") that suggest warmth and humanity. Yet Nichols' very attempt to debunk the West and praise the non-West has the opposite effect from what he intends, since the unpleasant-sounding phrase "Member-Object" is really a way of describing the Western belief in objective truth—the very basis of Western religion, science, philosophy, law, and government. Since the non-Western orientations that Nichols promotes are all antithetical to Western objectivity, how could they possibly be "included" with it on "equal" terms? Similarly, Nichols unfavorably contrasts the European logic system, based "in dichotomy, by which reality is expressed as either-or," with "African logic" which is "characterized by the union of opposites."(6) It is hardly coincidental that the “unity of opposites” along with these other totalitarian concepts was an integral part of Stalinism’s official ideology, “dialectical materialism.” Nor is it an accident that the wonderful African freedom from "either/or" dichotomies, touted by Nichols, explicitly excludes something indispensable to Western civilization—the rational faculty by which we attempt to distinguish between what is objectively true and what is only a feeling or opinion.

 

We might also point out that the Arab "Member-Member" orientation, which Nichols contrasts favorably with the Western "Member-Object" orientation, is not merely a multiculturalist invention.  It is seen in the Arab ethos in which "keeping face" is more important than speaking the truth, as David Pryce-Jones has described in his important book on Arab culture.(7) We can see the Arab attitude toward truth in those Arab-American "moderates" who with straight faces deny that there is such a thing as Arab and Moslem terrorism. These are the same "moderates" who have organized mass campaigns of intimidation against American journalists who revealed the facts about Arab and Moslem support for terrorism.(8) Given the Arab/Moslem frame of mind that is intensely ethnocentric and fundamentally at odds with Western notions of rationality and fairness, we can only conclude that if Moslems gained real power in America the result would be the same kind of chronic inter-group conflict, political instability, and lack of freedom that obtains in every Arab country.

 

The inclusion of non-Western cultures as organic and equal components of our culture must spell the ruin of our culture, since those other cultures are—and are explicitly understood by their spokesmen to be—radically incompatible with our culture. Inclusion is not a good idea that suddenly turns bad and harms our culture; such harm is its destined result, even its conscious aim, from the start.

The Denial of Difference

Even as the symbolically equal inclusion of minority cultures threatens the identity and existence of the national culture, so-called "moderate" multiculturalists tell us that changing our culture beyond recognition does not threaten our culture at all, but just makes it more inclusive. According to Professor Carlos Cortes:

 

Overwhelmingly, this curricular reform has involved no rejection of American Unum, no repudiation of Western civilization, no adoption of valueless, non-judgmental relativism. Rather, it has involved a serious recasting of the meaning of American Unum as a more Pluribus concept that recognizes the importance and value of engaging and considering previously marginalized voices and perspectives.(9)

Beneath the soothing, professional verbiage, we can discern the familiar outlines of the multicultural paradigm: that there is a designated Hispanic, Asian, Afro-Caribbean, and woman's "perspective"; that each of these perspectives must have equal representation in every academic subject and hiring decision; and that the goal is power and official recognition for those groups as groups. Cortes must also know that as those previously marginalized groups become dominant, the former majority culture, along with its "Unum," will disappear. His real message is that the disappearance of the majority culture, by which he means white Anglos, is just fine, so long as we maintain a pleasing front of "Unum" that will keep the gullible Anglos safely pacified until the transition to the multicultural society is complete.

 

Cortes reveals his real intentions when he says that, until the state of perfect inclusion has been reached, the minority cultures must continue to enjoy privileged enclaves in the curriculum (which is sort of like calling for the withering away of the state, then adding the caveat that in the meantime society must come under the dictatorship of the proletariat.) In other words, while the majority culture is in the process of being submerged by the proportionally equal inclusion of every minority culture, every minority culture is to be guaranteed the mastery of its own domain. The majority will give up its identity, while the minorities aggrandize theirs. This is no mere theory, but an activist agenda that has been put into effect throughout our society. In every field one can think of, ranging from student groups to professional associations to legislative bodies, the former mainstream organization has been "quota-ized" via minority representation so that it no longer represents or can represent the traditional American majority culture, but only the idea of "diversity," while at the same time each of the minority groups has been granted the right to a separate and exclusive sub-organization to represent its racial interests. There is the Congressional Black Caucus that speaks for blacks as blacks, but no Congressional White Caucus that speaks for whites as whites; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that speaks for Hispanics as Hispanics, but no association of white elected officials that speaks for the interests of whites as whites; an Hispanic Journalists' Association, but no European-American Journalists' Association; black policeman's organizations, but no white policeman's organizations; an infinite number of nonwhite student organizations, but no white students organizations. And, of course, any attempt to create white-oriented organizations is stopped in its tracks by the same mainstream institutions that officially promote the development of non-white organizations.

The Myths of Mainstream Multiculturalism

If multicultural “inclusion” is as obvious a deception as I have been suggesting, and so evidently directed at the destruction of America's majority culture, why have mainstream Americans, particularly conservatives, been so blind to it? One reason is the multiculturalists' skillful portrayal of multiculturalism as a benign and harmless movement, based on established principles that everyone, except bigots, embraces.

 

The multiculturalists say that "respecting other cultures" poses no threat to American culture. This claim goes unchallenged by the leaders of the majority culture, partly because they believe it, partly because they want to appear inclusive rather than alarmist. According to the social democratic critic Paul Berman, most academics who support multiculturalism have no conscious desire to destroy Western intellectual culture. They only want to "expand" the Western tradition by including previously overlooked or excluded voices.(10) Regarding multiculturalism as essentially benign, they dismiss the conservatives' attack on it as overwrought.

 

But as soon as multiculturalism is admitted into the mainstream, it suddenly turns out that "respecting minority cultures" means nothing less than granting those cultures a form of sovereignty, which means delegitimizing the mainstream culture in which the minority cultures have just been included. Even though this turn of events has exposed the "moderate" position as radical, anyone who questions it is now placed on the defensive. Almost overnight, what had once been considered radical, and had to conceal itself, has become the mainstream consensus; while what had once been seen as the mainstream consensus, and excluded radicalism, has been silenced.

 

Finally, even after this darker side of multiculturalism has been revealed, there is no end of liberals who cry "But that's not what I mean by multiculturalism! I'm in favor of the good multiculturalism." As if to say, "This bad multiculturalism is not really happening. Therefore I don't have to do anything to oppose it. I'll just keep calling for the good multiculturalism." Meanwhile, like the pod people in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the bad multiculturalism continues to take over more and more of America's body without anyone's seeing that it is happening, until the moment arrives when we discover, in Nathan Glazer's pathetic phrase, that "we are all multiculturalists now."

 

The myth of the "moderate" multiculturalism is a theme with many variations:

 

Moderate Myth Number One—Multiculturalism Is Only Theoretical

 

One of the factors that helped multiculturalism gain a foothold in the academy is the notion that multiculturalism is part of the twentieth century's great intellectual movement of cultural studies, in which researchers in such fields as anthropology, archeology, and comparative religion have made extraordinary progress in understanding ancient and non-Western cultures and religions.(11) In fact, cultural studies have often served as a front for ideological agendas.

 

At a symposium on "The Plurality of Civilizations" at an academic conference in Chicago some years ago, Professor Allen Heumer gave a talk on the religious beliefs of the Lakota Sioux.(12) The Lakota, he argued, do not worship nature gods as is widely believed, but a transcendent deity not unlike the God of Judaism and Christianity. He concluded that the Lakota religion has a deep spiritual validity that we should understand and respect.

 

As an apparently serious attempt to explain a non-Western culture to Western minds, Heumer's talk exemplified what some have called the good multiculturalism, and his paper received a sympathetic response from a generally conservative, or at least not left-wing, audience. But when I chatted with Heumer afterward, he unveiled a radical agenda that had not even been hinted at in his scholarly paper. The Sioux, he matter-of-factly told me, should carve a sovereign nation for themselves out of chunks of Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota. Somewhat taken aback, I replied that this would mean the break-up of the United States and possible civil war. Heumer said that was no problem. "What would there be to fight over?" he asked in a tone of airy dismissal. When I said that it is precisely over such issues of sovereignty that nations have always fought wars, he brushed that aside as well. He seemed indifferent to the prospect that other minority groups, each claiming large chunks of territory, might also want to secede from the United States. At this point, a deferential-seeming black graduate student from Canada who had been listening to our conversation politely suggested that my attitude was "reactionary."

 

Thus, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the focus of the scene had shifted from (1) Heumer's engaging analysis of the inner life of a non-Western culture, to (2) his demand for political sovereignty for that culture, to (3) the labeling of a critic as "reactionary" for questioning this demand. Pretending to seek some "higher truth" in a non-Western culture that could be seen as common to all cultures (an endeavor that would naturally appeal to well-meaning, universalist academics, especially conservatives), he converted that other culture into a political weapon that he then turned against our culture. For a non-academic like myself, this brief conversation seemed to capsulize everything I had heard about the radicalization of the universities in recent times.

 

Moderate Myth Number Two:  Cultural Differences Don’t Matter

 

Resistance to multiculturalism has also been softened by the idea that the non-Western customs being included in our society are insignificant and inoffensive, on the order of ethnic foods or folk songs. Educational historian Diane Ravitch, who is both a moderate supporter and a moderate critic of multiculturalism, and is generally included in the ranks of cultural conservatives, once said (in a published exchange with this writer) that "[i]n the United States, one may be a good citizen without relinquishing one's native culture, language, religion, food, dress, or folkways."(13) An ardent believer in the liberal democratic tradition and the idea of a common citizenship, Ravitch could only have made this remarkable statement if she believed that there are no cultural differences that can actually matter in a political or civic sense. If ethnic particularities cannot become a basis for civic conflict, then there's no need for minority immigrant groups to give them up.

 

To maintain this view, Ravitch has to ignore the many ethnic differences that obviously do matter in a civic and political sense. West African-style polygamy, Latin American clientism, Moslem absolutism, Arab tribalism and familism, Chinese secret societies, Haitian voodoo, African female genital mutilation, and Hmong cruelty toward animals, are some examples that come readily to mind. The moderate multiculturalists ought to explain how the carriers of such customs can be good citizens in a constitutional democracy founded on common allegiance to reason and respect for the rights of others.

 

Even "mere" differences in clothing are not necessarily benign or insignificant from the point of view of maintaining a common civic sphere. Would Ravitch have no problem with, say, a Congressman wearing a Sikh headdress on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives? How about a district attorney sporting an Afrocentric robe and cap, or a female Moslem police officer with her entire face covered in a black veil? Such things are no longer impossible. Since the 1980s the Canadian government has permitted Sikh-Canadian policemen to wear their traditional turbans while on duty. Black lawyers in the U.S. have demanded the right to sport provocative ethnic clothing such as the kente cloth and outlandish hairstyles as expressions of their feelings of racial solidarity with their clients and members of the jury. Moslem women wearing traditional head coverings are increasingly visible in America, and will soon be moving into the professions and other prominent positions.

 

My point here is that the common political culture Ravitch claims to believe in cannot long survive without certain pre-political commonalities—including language, food, dress, and folkways—that Ravitch dismisses as insignificant. Flamboyant dress conveying a distinct civilizational or racial identity not only breaks down the sense of a common culture, but the sense of a common citizenship.

 

If minority groups do not need to give up any aspect of their culture, as Ravitch and others have suggested, then it is hard to see why they shouldn't have their own systems of justice as well. Such an alternative system is already being practiced by black juries who refuse to convict their fellow blacks regardless of the evidence. Depending on the ethnic identity of the parties in a given case, there could be an African tribal council one day (complete with "enstoolment" ceremonies and ritual bows to ancestors), a Communist Chinese-style inquisition hearing the next day, a Mexican village-style gathering the next day, then an Iranian-style revolutionary tribunal presided over by a Mullah, then a trial with a black judge and jury getting revenge against the racist police. When things like this start happening, will the liberal believers in a pluralist civic culture—having encouraged non-Westerners to keep their language, dress, and folkways—cry out: "But this is not what I meant, not what I meant at all"? 

 

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