Back in September of 2001, as the West reeled from the 9-11 atrocities, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inspired the world’s leaders to throw a politically correct hissy fit. His great crime? He spoke truth to multicultural power:
"We should be conscious of the superiority of our civilization, which consists of a value system that has given people widespread prosperity in those countries that embrace it and guarantees respect for human rights and religion.”
To make matters worse, Berlusconi added that the respect for human rights and religion are very sorely absent in Islamic countries.
Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, wringing his hands to the brink of deformity, professed outrage at a Berlusconi statement. Jean-Christophe Filori, Spokesman for the European Commission, declared, "We certainly don't share the views expressed by Mr. Berlusconi.” And Giovanni Berlinguer of Italy’s Center-Left opposition criticized Berlusconi’s statement as “eccentric and dangerous.”
One might object to Berlusconi’s timing. Diplomacy is based, of course, upon tip-toeing around the exalted, easily-bruised feelings of one’s fellow statesmen. He made his comments 13 days after the 9/11 atrocities. However, attacking the substance of Berlusconi’s statement is an absurdity. But multiculturalism is based on absurdities.
Multiculturalism has made straight talk about cultures very difficult. Why? Because race is the subtext of multi-culti mush. Indeed, the foolish conflation of race and culture was made explicit back in 1938, when the American Anthropological Association passed a resolution asserting the equal worth of all cultures; accompanying the resolution was a condemnation of racism. The uniting of these two ideas—the rational condemnation of racism with the irrational assertion of cultural equality—shows just how fully the Association equated race with culture. Ruth Benedict, a towering figure in anthropology, was explicit about the matter. She claimed that “we do not want or claim the kind of superiority that the racists offer.” Like the AAA, she couldn’t keep two matters straight: race on the one hand, culture on the other hand. Only racists, Benedict argued, claim cultural superiority.
This news must come as a great shock to immigrants, who arrive in the West in mind-boggling numbers, both legal and illegal. Indeed: if all cultures are of equal value, why emigrate? Why leave behind family, friends, and face a harrowing, perhaps even deadly, journey? Why not just stay home and "celebrate diversity"? Perhaps our PC clerics—always preening about their solidarity with the oppressed—should take time from their graduate seminars and four-star hotel confabs to enlighten those naive immigrants who considered Western culture superior to their own. Maybe the clerics can even help the immigrants see their own internalized racism! Such an admission is the first step, after all, in learning how to indulge in ritual PC self-flagellation, publicly bewailing oneself as a deeply stained Westerner! (Don’t laugh…it can get you tenure).
Prior to 9/11, multiculturalism, according to one’s temperament and taste, could be many things: an amusement; an occasion to laugh at vain and silly PC clerics; an insult to common sense.
Today, the multi-culti disease is a far more serious illness, and for a tragic reason: Western culture is under violent attack by Islamists. Obviously, Western culture must be defended. However, the Establishment Left is loathe to defend a culture created by ghastly Dead White Males. Instead, the Left—in a tireless outburst of hypocrisy—condemns the West with rhetoric as harsh as Islamists’:
"(T)he American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder. Whom are we calling terrorists here?" -- Barbara Kingsolver, novelist.
"I also think that there is a strong streak of racism whenever we engage in foreign adventures. Our whole history in regime change has been of people of different color." -- Ed Asner, actor.
"The warmongers who stole the White House (you call them "hawks," but I would never disparage such a fine bird) have hijacked a nation's grief and turned it into a perpetual war on any non-white country they choose to describe as terrorist." -- Woody Harrelson, actor.
"Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, D.C., and the planes' destination of California--these were places that voted AGAINST Bush!" --Michael Moore, Michaelmoore.com, September 12, 2001.
“Capitalism and imperialism were the real co-pilots of those planes.”—Jeanette Winterson, novelist
“America has no thought, no values, and no ideals.”—Amad Nawful, Jordanian Muslim Brethren. (His sentiments could easily come from any Western "liberal," right?)
Barbara Kingsolver complains that the American flag embodies a litany of sins. Each of the wrongs that she lists is, of course, a genuine wrong. Yet she attacks the very nation that’s gone to historic lengths to combat those wrongs. If Kingsolver could look beyond her own navel, she’d see Indian women fleeing arranged marriage and potential burnings; Mexicans fleeing endemic corruption; Africans fleeing tribal bloodshed or female genital mutilation.
And scandalously, she’d see the immigrant embrace of modern capitalism, the bete noire of the intelligentsia that’s liberated historic numbers of women (Kingsolver, for instance) from the strictures of patriarchy. Modern capitalism has also benefited the PC hypocrites who condemn Western culture, even as they enjoy the West’s historically unique opportunities….the very opportunities that Islamists seek to destroy and that PC hypocrites cannot bring themselves to defend.
Asner and Harrelson, two leading Hollywood intellectuals, make the same error as the anthropologists: they assume culture really boils down to race, and therefore a military attack on another culture is really militarized racism. Naturally, Asner and Harrelson overlook that the US has several times helped defend Muslims (e.g., Bosnians, Kosovars, Kurds, Marsh Arabs, Somalians, etc., etc). Asner, a historical amnesiac, also forgot that the Nazis, who suffered “regime change,” were not “people of color.”
As for Moore, his adolescent screed is beyond pathetic: he sees not the slaughter of innocents, but an occasion to whine about the 2000 election. Winterson? She offers the rote dig at capitalism, the very system that’s made her a respected author around the world. One waits—pointlessly, of course—for Winterson to tear up her royalty checks. Perhaps if we hold a candlelight vigil….
A better idea: celebrate the West. No culture has done more to shatter the barriers of race, class and gender, the putative "Holy Trinity" of faculty lounge leftists and dissident movie stars. No culture has done more to secure the freedoms that make possible the pursuit of happiness.
And no culture has done more to protect dissidents. The PC hypocrites should remember that Salman Rushdie was sentenced to death for attacking a nation’s leader. Barbara Kingsolver was not. Ms. Kingsolver, are you out there? If so, celebrate that!