Speaking of Multiculturalism

New Criterion, November 2010 | Go to article overview

Speaking of Multiculturalism


Do you suppose Angela Merkel, the trenchant German Chancellor, reads The New Criterion? We ask because she seems to share our anitpathy toward "multiculturalism," that spurious doctrine, born in the hothouse of Western universities, that proclaims the glories of "diversity" and egalitarianism but is really a blind for anti-Western, and especially anti-American, animus. "All cultures are equal," chant the multiculturalists, like characters out of George Orwell's Animal Farm, "but some are more equal than others." It is one of the great rhetorical ironies of the age that what travels under the name of "multiculturalism" is really a form of monocultural animus directed against the dominant culture--our culture, the culture of the West. In essence, as Samuel Huntington noted in his book Who Are We?, multiculturalism is "anti-European civilization.... It is basically an anti-Western ideology." Multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt as impotent as it is insatiable. The "sensitivity" of the multiculturalist is an index not of moral refinement but of moral vacuousness. As the French essayist Pascal Bruckner observed, "An overblown conscience is an empty conscience":

    Compassion ceases if there is nothing but compassion,
   and revulsion tunas to insensitivity.
   Our "soft pity," as Stefan Zweig calls it, is stimulated,
   because guilt is a convenient substitute
   for action where action is impossible. Without
   the power to do anything, sensitivity becomes
   our main aim. The aim is not so much to do
   anything, as to be judged. Salvation lies in the
   verdict that declares us to be wrong. 

Multiculturalism is a moral intoxicant; its thrill centers around the emotion of superior virtue; its hangover subsists on a diet of ignorance and blighted "good intentions."

Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness. …

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