Is multiculturalism losing its mind? By which I mean, has it lost its intellectual spine?
Yes, it has decayed into something much less than multiculturalism, which is cultural relativism. There’s a sense in which multiculturalism exists as an obvious fact. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-faith and multi-ethnic world, and that’s not going to stop. This aspect is unarguable, and it is this aspect which I’ve spent most of my life celebrating. But when it decays into cultural relativism, it becomes the end of a moral sense. It means that you can say: “Well, if it’s your culture to kill writers, you should kill them because that’s what your culture dictates”. That’s the extreme caricature of it. The day-to-day reality of it has been a weakening of our sense of what our own values actually are. Instead, we constantly seek to appease people who say that our values upset them. And that is dangerous, not just for the majority communities, but more so for the minorities, because if culture relativism is the problem, then the bigger culture will always win.
And dissenting voices will be stifled
Yes. I sometimes feel that Western ears are better tuned to the most conservative Islamic voices. They want to listen to the mullahs and other assholes. But the fact of the matter is that throughout the Muslim world there are a lot of people struggling with these ideas and debating how we can have modern societies in Muslim countries. They wonder how to break the power of the priests, corrupt politicians and generals who use religion as a way of holding people back. These conversations take place very quietly, but there’s no doubt that they’re happening. It’s just that no one is looking for them. If you compare it, for instance, to the way we in the West responded to the Soviet Union, we did not listen to the official voices. We didn’t believe that Stalin or Brezhnev were the people to listen to. We sought out the different voices and gave them enormous privilege. The fact that those samizdat texts were smuggled out by Zhakarov and Solzhenitsyn and everyone else, those became what we agreed was the truth. And so we looked as the dissident voices at being more valuable than the official voices, and that played a great part in the defeat of Soviet communism. We are not doing that in this case. We are doing the opposite. And that’s our intellectual failure.
Posted: April 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm