For the multiculturalist, these are dark days. Western values of tolerance and freedom of speech are being challenged by voices from the Dark Ages calling for the beheading of those who offend them. Clearly, there's something wrong when the leaders of that culture are those making that call. Is this culture of repression and violence really equal to the values of the west?To the tolerance and freedom these apostles of the past despise? Really? A culture that takes violent umbrage as easily as it might take a life. A culture that responds to offence with fatwahs, threats, destruction and violence. Salman Rushdie. Oriana Fallaci. Pim Fortyn. Theo Van Gogh. 9/11, Madrid, Bali and London. The victims of Islamic threats and violence show these recent threats must be taken seriously. Serious too is the question that now confronts the honest cultural relativist: Is the culture that produced these brainless, chanting, threatening hordes really equal in value to the one that produced Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Really?
The view that all cultures are equally valid is known as multiculturalism, which holds that we may not criticise other cultures as the shambles that they are, no matter how bad. Those who hold that view might already have stopped reading and called me a racist. I hope not. I hope to show them that racism is perhaps on the other foot.
As Ayn Rand pointed out, trying to equalise two values that are objectively unequal is like trying to square the circle. You can't do it. You can either raise a hero to the mountaintops, or you can just raze the mountains -- the latter is always easier. Just as destruction is always easier than construction, so spitting on the civilisation created by the west while raising barbarity to the mountaintops is easy and fun, and gets you out into the open air.
Western culture in the view of the multiculturalist is less equal than all the others; western valuesby this view, are imperialistic, destructive and 'Eurocentric.' Appeasement of the barbarians and apologising for the west's achievements is the leitmotif of the multiculturalist. To use the freedom of the west to denounce the west; what could be more ingenious? Mark Steyn makes the philosophical point (Hat tip Stephen Hicks):
One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they'll marvel at how easy it all was. You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that's a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural ‘sensitivity,’ the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want—including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers.However, honest people who hold that view are presently seeing it thrown back in their face by flag-burning, hate-chanting, embassy-destroying representatives of a culture that values repression over freedom, and destruction over human life. The appeasement or apologia provided by cultural relativism only gives such people fuel.
Ibn Warraq throws down a gauntlet to those who hold that view, and who still seek to enjoy all the benefits brought by the west:
This raises another more general problem: the inability of the West to defend itself intellectually and culturally. Be proud, do not apologize. Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins our fathers? Do we still have to apologize, for example, for the British Empire, when, in fact, the British presence in India led to the Indian Renaissance, resulted in famine relief, railways, roads and irrigation schemes, eradication of cholera, the civil service, the establishment of a universal educational system where none existed before, the institution of elected parliamentary democracy and the rule of law?Great column -- a great column-- and worth printing out and reading in its entirety, and then sending on to your friends. Western culture has nothing for which to apologise. Nothing.
What of the British architecture of Bombay and Calcutta? The British even gave back to the Indians their own past: it was European scholarship, archaeology and research that uncovered the greatness that was India; it was British government that did its best to save and conserve the monuments that were a witness to that past glory. British Imperialism preserved where earlier Islamic Imperialism destroyed thousands of Hindu temples.
On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Mozart, Beethoven and Bach? Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Breughel, Ter Borch? Galileo, Huygens, Copernicus, Newton and Darwin? Penicillin and computers? The Olympic Games and Football? Human rights and parliamentary democracy? The west is the source of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery, defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience. No, the west needs no lectures on the superior virtue of societies who keep their women in subjection, cut off their clitorises, stone them to death for alleged adultery, throw acid on their faces, or deny the human rights of those considered to belong to lower castes.
But this is offensive, you say? To describe western culture as objectively superior to all others is racist, wrongheaded, and 'Eurocentric,' you say? Well, no it's not. By the standard by which such things are judged, ie., human life and wellbeing, western culture is immeasurably superior to all the others. And as George Reisman's classic pamphlet, 'Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism' argues, if racism exists in such a view, it the racism goes all the other way. Western culture itself is entirely independendent of race; its benefits are available to all who choose to embrace it. Here's just a taste of Reisman's well-considered argument:
Reference to an objective superiority of one civilization or culture over another, encounters the opposition of a profound, self-righteous hatred of the very idea. Thus, cultures may practice ritual sacrifice, cannibalism, mass expropriation, slavery, torture, and wholesale slaughter--all of this is accepted as somehow legitimate within the context of the culture concerned. The only alleged sin, the only alleged act of immorality in the world is to display contempt for such cultures, and to uphold as superior the values of Western culture. Then one is denounced as an imperialist, racist, and virtual Nazi.Multiculturalism is in crisis. Help it out. Give it a kick while it's down by reading and passing on Reisman's and Warrraq's arguments to everyone you've ever met. Do your own small part in protecting Western civilisation.
It should be realized that those who take this view do not regard as the essential evil of Nazism its avowed irrationalism, its love of force and violence, and its acts of destruction and slaughter... What they hold to be the evil of Nazism was its assertion that Nazi culture was superior to other cultures. Needless to say, of course, it is only on the basis of the recognition of objective values that one can seriously condemn Nazism--not for its absurd claims of superiority, but as a primitive, barbaric culture of the type one would expect to find among savages.
The fact that civilization is an intellectual matter is not known to the critics of "Eurocentrism." In their view, Western civilization is a matter not even so much of geography as it is of racial membership. It is, as they see matters, the civilization of the white man... The critics of "Eurocentrism" proclaim themselves to be opponents of racism. In fact, they accept exactly the same false premise they claim to oppose--namely, that civilization, or the lack of it, is racially determined...
They claim to hold that race is irrelevant to morality and that therefore people of every race are as good as people of every other race. But then they assume that if people of all races are equally good, all civilizations and cultures must be equally good. They derive civilization and culture from race, just as the European racists did. And this is why they too must be called racists...
...what they want is to conduct the study of the various civilizations and even the state of outright savagery itself in a way that makes all appear as equal... Now such a program means the explicit obliteration of distinctions between levels of civilization, and between civilization and savagery. It presents ignorance as the equivalent of knowledge, and superstition as the equivalent of science.
Everything--logic, philosophy, science, law, technology--is to be ignored, and a culture limited to the level of making dugout canoes is to be presented as the equivalent of one capable of launching space ships. And all this is for the alleged sake of not offending anyone who supposedly must feel inferior if such a monumental fraud is not committed...
Race is not the determinant of culture. Not only is Western civilization open to the members of every race, but its present possessors are also potentially capable of losing it, just as the people of the Western Roman Empire once lost the high degree of civilization they had achieved. What makes the acceptance of the "Eurocentrism" critique so significant is that it clearly reveals just how tenuous our ability to maintain Western civilization has become.
LINKS: 'Sensitivity' can have brutal consequences - Mark Steyn
Democracy in a Cartoon - Ibn Warraq
Education & the Racist Road to Barbarism - George Reisman
Western Dhimmitude - Cox & Forkum
More from the Archives of Not PC: Multiculturalism, Individualism, Racism.