Tuesday, December 7, 2010

E pluribus unum

Roger Scruton believes that "multiculturism" in Europe is in retreat: The American Spectator: "Multiculturalism, RIP." From the essay:
....[C]ulture and race have nothing to do with each other. There is no contradiction in the idea that Felix Mendelssohn was Jewish by race and German by culture — or indeed that he was the most public-spirited representative of German culture in his day. Nor is there any contradiction in saying that a single person belongs to two cultures. Felix's grandfather Moses was a great Rabbi, upstanding representative of the Jewish cultural inheritance, and also founding father of the German Enlightenment. ....

Once we distinguish race and culture, the way is open to acknowledge that not all cultures are equally admirable, and that not all cultures can exist comfortably side-by-side. To deny this is to forgo the very possibility of moral judgment, and therefore to deny the fundamental experience of community. It is precisely this that has caused the multiculturalists to hesitate. Rightly enjoying the polytheistic festivals of the Hindus, the Carnivals of Caribbean blacks, and the celebrations of the Chinese New Year, they have led us to believe that cultural difference is always an addition to social life, and never a threat to it. Anyone who discriminates between cultures, therefore, really must have something more dangerous at the back of his mind — a desire to exclude on grounds of strangeness, which is the first step towards the racist mindset.

But experience has finally prevailed over wishful thinking. It is culture, not nature, that tells a family that their daughter who has fallen in love outside the permitted circle must be killed, that girls must undergo genital mutilation if they are to be respectable, that the infidel must be destroyed when Allah commands it. You can read about those things and think that they belong to the pre-history of our world. But when suddenly they are happening in your midst, you are apt to wake up to the truth about the culture that advocates them. You are apt to say, that is not our culture, and it has no business here. That is what Europeans are now saying — not just a few crazies, but everyone. And the multiculturalists are reluctantly compelled to agree with them. ....

....We don't require everyone to have the same faith, to lead the same kind of family life, or to participate in the same festivals. But we have a shared moral and legal inheritance, a shared language, and a shared public sphere. Our societies are built upon the Judeo-Christian ideal of neighbor-love, according to which strangers and intimates deserve equal concern. They require each of us to respect the freedom and sovereignty of every other, and to acknowledge the threshold of privacy beyond which it is a trespass to go unless invited. Our societies depend upon a culture of law-abidingness and open contracts, and they reinforce these things through the educational traditions that have shaped our common curriculum. It is not an arbitrary cultural imperialism that leads us to value Greek philosophy and literature, the Hebrew Bible, Roman law, and the medieval epics and romances, and to teach these things in our schools. They are ours, in just the way that the legal order and the political institutions are ours: they form part of what made us, and convey the message that it is right to be what we are. ....

So what happens when people whose identity is fixed by creed or kinship immigrate into places settled by Western culture? The multiculturalists say that we must make room for them, and that we do this by relinquishing the space in which their culture can flourish. Our political class has at last recognized that this is a recipe for disaster, and that we can welcome immigrants only if we welcome them into our culture, and not beside and against it. But that means telling them to accept rules, customs, and procedures that may be alien to their old way of life. Is this an injustice? Surely not. If immigrants come it is because they gain by doing so. It is therefore reasonable to remind them that there is also a cost. .... [more]
The American Spectator : Multiculturalism, R.I.P.