Multiculturalism is a word of recent invention created to describe a political order in which a set of laws provides for equal citizenship and equal legal rights for all people who live within that nation regardless of cultural affiliation or ethno-racial identity. It’s a popular conceptual punching bag for people of all political persuasions, but its existence is ephemeral. There are many people who will criticize multiculturalism, but there are few obvious defenders of an explicitly ‘multicultural’ order.
The reason for this is that no one with power in Western countries effectively believes and governs as if all cultures should be treated as equal.
There is a supreme secular national culture that effectively limits cultural expression in each national unit. These national-secular cultures try to make themselves fit into a larger international order represented by the United Nations and other international NGOs that puts limits on what is permitted to be said and believed.
The secular-national cultural mouthpieces prefer – unlike explicitly atheistic nations like the Soviet Union – to portray themselves as neutral arbiters that favor no particular race nor any particular religious sect.
It’s common for modern speech-writers to refer to Islam as the ‘religion of peace,’ even though its history has been defined by imperial expansion. Mohammad spent most of his adult life as a prophet, raider, and military conqueror. The greatest figures in Islamic history are mostly conquerors. The notion of any religion as a ‘religion of peace’ is sort of ridiculous on the face of it, because all surviving major religions have aspects that concern both the right conduct of war and the right conduct of peace.
‘Tolerance’ of multiple religions under a single government is often described in contemporary times as a Christian virtue, but as recently as 91 years before the writing of the Declaration of Independence, France expelled its entire Protestant population due to religious differences.
But the trend among Christians since the modern period has been towards ecumenicalism and a retreat of religion from the throne of power. In general, Westerners expect this to be the case everywhere — and it was until relatively recent times. The photos comparing Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation — educated women in knee-high skirts — and under Taliban rule — women in burkas — illustrates the maturation of the post-colonial world. What looked like an emerging secular world-civilization has fragmented into something that the old post-war multicultural order has struggled to both perceive and acknowledge.
In practice, modern multiculturalism has been more concerned with neutering ‘problematic’ cultures than it has been about creating a political order in which multiple unique and sovereign cultures live under the same government sharing the same land.
Multiculturalism is never really intended to mean that different cultures with substantially different moral strictures can be treated equally under the law and permitted to rule their own enclaves independently. That has proven time and again to be too much for America, at least.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was killed by a mob of angry non-Mormons in response to the destruction of an anti-Mormon newspaper headquarters. The US government eventually ended the practice of Mormon polygamy by force in the 1858 Mormon War.
Similarly today, the US doesn’t tolerate official polygamy by Muslims and other sects that permit or encourage plural marriage. If it does effectively tolerate furtive polygamy within some Muslim communities, it does it without admitting to doing it to the public. So, while you can probably get away with a plural marriage behind closed doors, the IRS won’t allow you to file returns together as a polygamous unit.
Longstanding, multigenerational practices that encourage female circumcision, child marriage, or arranged marriage are also either banned or discouraged – even though these are often sacred cultural rituals with longstanding legal precedent in the cultures that uphold those norms.
In fact, the much-maligned colonialists once did much to suppress such practices in the countries that they occupied.
The Civil War was the largest cultural conflict in American history by body count. Few people today would argue that the Antebellum Southern culture should have been preserved to survive side-by-side with the rest of the country under the same federal government, but that is the logic suggested by multicultural advocates.
The people in good standing with modern Western states say that they believe a multicultural and diverse society are good things, but how they behave in their lives and govern the institutions that they control is at odds with the principles that they give lip service to.
Under the new world order of diversity, professing a religion ought to have no more meaning than deciding whether to wear a pair of shoes from Adidas, Nike, or Payless.
When multiculturalists say that they believe that every minority race and religious group should be encouraged to flourish independently under the same government, they generally don’t mean that a Muslim man should have the right to marry his nieces and to buy and sell slaves as permitted in the Quran. He doesn’t mean that the Muslim mayor of an American town should be allowed to try and execute confirmed homosexuals under a separate Sharia court, as expected by his religion.
What they tend to mean is that he can be a sort of Muslim who eats pork and drinks beer – a Muslim-in-name-only who does not actually obey the dictates of his religion. In the same way as a Jew who observes the Sabbath is awkward outside of certain closed Orthodox and Hasidic communities, a good Muslim is not a good multicultural citizen.
A good Jew is a Woody Allen type Jew — the big-hat Jew with the forelocks and the eight kids pushing a stroller through Prospect Park is a bad Jew with regressive ideas about anal sex. While the bad Jew may escape a lot of the negative attitudes towards his beliefs that the redneck Baptist with his pickup truck, his guns, and his biblical literalism might earn him, he does not exactly enjoy the pigfat-greased ramp to influence, authority, and wealth that his secularized cousins do.
A good Protestant isn’t rude to his Catholic co-worker about the devil Pope and his machinations. He does not hand out Chick tracts or smash idols.
And so on. You can profess to any belief as long as you downplay any of the beliefs that could potentially harsh the vibes of your fellow citizen-units under the secular order. By doing so, you melt down the cultures contained within the secular container-culture into a meaningless pastiche of Irish bars, gefilte fish jokes, and Korean tacos.
You can believe anything so long as it’s the religious equivalent of beige.
Similarly, if you as a Catholic sent your daughter to a secular private school and she spoke up in a sixth grade health class saying that virginity until marriage is the ideal, abortion is murder, and that sodomy is a grave sin, she would probably be suspended and you would get your name as her parent in the local newspapers. Under contemporary mores, you would be a bad parent for telling your daughter that virginity is a virtue. Even sending her to a private school, most of your bourgeois peers would tell you that you are a bad person.
So, why is it that expressing the religious views which happen to be common throughout the world as it is today and throughout history – certainly more common than they are in the West — considered to be violations of the multicultural rule book?
Why, if we are supposed to welcome Indian immigrants into the United States by the million are we not also supposed to celebrate the common Indian practice of arranged marriage? Arranged marriage is less culturally foreign to Americans than the contemporary celebration of homosexuality and transgenderism. Arranged marriage and semi-arranged marriage were common until the most recently expired century in every country in the West.
Another issue that the advocates of Tower-of-Babel-culturalism have to deal with is the cognitive dissonance of acknowledging that China – a nation of over a billion people – ascending to become one of the largest economic and military powers in the world over the course of a few decades despite permitting next to no external immigration and maintaining policies of official discrimination against non-Han ethnic groups.
The diversity cant that we are taught to mouth – that diversity confers an unstoppable advantage to any organization that adopts it as a guiding principle – is directly contradicted by rapid rise of a monocultural empire that has advanced from mass starvation to becoming the foremost manufacturing nation on the planet in the course of four short decades.
If this were true, 90% Han China which brutally suppresses minority religions and ethnic groups should have never managed to pull itself up from the depths of Maoism with the considerable assistance of free access to American markets since 1972. Their lack of diversity and lack of access to alternative perspectives should have doomed their modernization project to failure. And yet, if you want to buy anything that can fit on a cargo container, you will probably get a better price on that product or component if you buy it from a Chinese factory despite all the linguistic and legal challenges.
If China imported 200 million Africans, would it be improved? Why are Westerners not threatening thermonuclear war against China if it does not accept hundreds of millions of Africans and Arabs across its borders? Isn’t this a human rights issue? Do we not have the capacity – if not the moral obligation — to destroy China if it does not accept multiculturalism?
Why is America’s commentariat obsessed with Russian espionage and retrogressive Russian views on social mores when China is a much worse violator with a much more extensive trade ties to the US?
What about Japan? Shouldn’t Japan accept Chinese immigrants? Why not Africans? What about Russians? Should we not nuke Japan again for being racist? We have an American base sitting there on Okinawa – we could bring vast boats loaded with demographic enrichment and force the Japanese to open themselves to the world like MacArthur did so many years ago. It would be trivial – the supine and 110% bigoted Japanese race are completely reliant on the United States for national defense. Anything we wanted to force them to do, we could do. If we wanted to force Emperor Akihito to run around in a dashiki and only communicate through rap verse, we could do it by force of American arms.
That’s a bit of a joke, but not really. Multiculturalism as a system of belief is not really intended for export or for universal application despite its pretentions to universal authority.
The enforcement of the diversity agenda tends to be limited to the WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Developed) nations and those little countries that are both weak and desperate for foreign aid from Western governments and NGOs.
It remains confined to the Western states despite some half-hearted attempts at evangelism into the periphery European countries and internationally. When America attempted to impose it by the Bradley, the Tomahawk, and the Abrams in Iraq, it sparked a civil war and little else.
If anything, the American intervention into Iraq made the region less multicultural and more fragmented along religious and ethnic lines. What had been a unitary secular state composed of multiple religious groups under a single set of laws and state became a fragmented democratic government split into different ethno-religious spheres of influence.
When America attempted to create it by technologically empowered subversion in Egypt and Syria, it created only mass deprivation, a return of military dictatorship, and war.
Multiculturalism can also take on the aspects of highly consequential ‘reverse colonialism’ cloaked inside the rhetoric of anti-western anti-colonialism. American universities and corporations do what they can to skim the best and brightest citizens from foreign nations to be educated in American institutions and to work in American enterprises. This denies human capital from foreign countries that desperately need the talent while also creating more competition for native Western skilled workers.
During the cold war, we called this kind of human capital poaching a ‘brain drain’ deliberately engineered to undermine rival nations. Today, we portray the same policy multiplied to a gargantuan scale as something benign and positive towards the foreign countries that we undermine by doing so.
The most ardent advocates of multiculturalism are the administrators and faculty who lead American universities. These institutions benefit from hundreds of thousands of foreign-born students who come to study every year. Many of them pay full tuition, but others get tuition, room, and board paid for by the American taxpayer either through the states or the federal government.
These universities are also hotbeds that grow the multicultural story. You can be a gay transgender furry Muslim student with a Methodist xirlfriend, so long as you keep your religious expression within the carefully defined rules of expression.
But ultimately the university administrators don’t really care about what they teach students so long as they can keep warm bodies coming through the system. They don’t really care about the consequences of what beliefs they inculcate into graduates because they get paid even if they teach nothing of value and create a lot of social chaos in the process. It doesn’t matter to them because they get paid no matter what happens. The more inclusive they can be – the more people they can import into their system to churn out regardless of academic standards – the more money that they make and the more political importance they gain in a one-heartbeat-one-vote political system that asks nothing and expects less from the electorate.
There are other inherent contradictions to the new system that were not present in much older systems of government that encompassed multiple cultures.
That multiple cultures have lived under a single government is not a new thing either in Western history nor around the world. But what it does usually entail are different sets of rights for different groups of people. The Roman empire featured many different gradations of citizen, partially but not entirely defined by descent. Before World War I, there was no such thing as an international passport system. While there were at times border controls – and certainly duties and taxes imposed on the trade of goods — there were many restrictions on what kind of person could own property and what trades they could join.
The spread of enlightenment ideas gradually reduced these restrictions, but engendered the creation of many new regulations on the conduct of life for newly equal national citizens. While anyone could, in theory, enter any profession or purchase property, there came to be a new mass of stipulations on what could be done with that property and how trade could be conducted.
In the Western world today, governments have sought to ‘level the playing field’ by granting special rights to ethnic minorities, religious minorities, and women. The ideal of equal rights under the law has largely been discredited — special civil rights are intended to be a corrective to the previous ‘equal rights’ regime that still permitted private enterprises and state and local governments to have a free hand in determining whom they admitted into their organizations and under what terms.
These playfield-leveling policies necessarily discriminate against the groups who are supposed to be leveled down while the favored groups get leveled up.
While civil rights policies are often portrayed both by critics and advocates as strengthening a multicultural order, what they actually do is fracture the society and undermine the principles of equality under the law that the secular constitutional state requires to maintain its legitimacy. One might surmise that that is the hidden intention behind all of it, but I doubt that that’s the case. Too many people earnestly believe that leveling policies promote an egalitarian multicultural order to accept that all of them secretly understand that this will ultimately break it apart into mutually antagonistic factions.
Under the crumbling liberal system, a secular state promised to secure a constitutional order in which different religious and cultural groups could live together under the same government and set of laws. In order to maintain this, the different component cultures were expected to surrender authority, distinctive cultural practices, diverse languages, and internal sets of laws to the central government.
This fragmentation we see today with the new system of free-for-all multiculturalism necessarily increases the cost of maintaining political order to the state. When a local community decides to stop cooperating with the municipal police and uses another foreign language to communicate internally, the police will have to take more risks and spend more resources to maintain the law in that community.
When what was once a unitary secular order supported by many ecumenical communities that shared some general principles about what the good, beautiful, and true are supposed to look like is supplanted by a fragmented multi-tribal order that speaks differently and thinks differently when you travel a town or two over, the feasibility of a federal government ruling over all of it declines rapidly.