Cultural Caviar

The Deranged Origin of Multiculturalism

September 22, 2017

Multiple Pages
The Deranged Origin of Multiculturalism

The DACA issue compels us to confront our time’s either-or: patriotism or multiculturalism? We can’t have it both ways; which shall it be? Though it would have been unthinkable at any other period in history, most of the intellectual class chooses multiculturalism. Their preference, that is to say, is not for the interests of their own country, but for those of non-Americans. This is bizarre, for while patriotism, like so much else in human affairs, is a mixed thing—often crossing over into a crass and dangerous nationalism, for example—it does refer to actual practices and customs, embodied values whereby people define themselves and, in some cases anyway, live the good life as they pursue common ends. As a concept, patriotism has a real world significance and application. It is not so with multiculturalism, because this no longer denotes the activity of disparate peoples basically becoming less so as, through assimilation—that is, the adaptation of a particular, rather bourgeois way of life—they become a coherent culture.

For today to require that people submit to certain criteria in regard to lifestyle is to be racist (or ethnocentrist, or intolerant, or whatever), since the highest good is diversity, even to the point of undermining our own interests, which, of course, are not always compatible with other people’s, nor obviously equal to them. Since for the multiculturalist intellectual we have no right to require that other people, in order to live among us, submit to our way of life, the state, if it goes the multiculturalist path, must become a vast confusion of conflicting interests. Nor can they be sorted out, because, again, such intolerance of diversity would not be politically correct. So we can only hope that immigrants will choose our way of life, which, of course, they may or may not do.

“Like safe spaces, micro-aggressions, and bias response teams, multiculturalism is a distinctly academic notion, the product of the Leftist academy.”

What is more, insofar as illegal immigrants and their children want to live here, it’s certain that they are essentially self-interested, like any other animal whose fundamental characteristics are need and desire. Hence the naiveté of assuming that “dreamers,” for example, are some sort of national good. Indeed, on September 19, while trying to advance the cause of those whom the media disingenuously describes as “undocumented immigrants,” Nancy Pelosi was rewarded with their ungrateful interruption. “We undocumented youth demand a clean bill…We undocumented youth demand that you do not sell out our community and our values…We undocumented youth will not be a bargaining chip for Trump,” the San Francisco protesters chanted in a frenzy that included a demand for amnesty for all illegal immigrants. We see here the audacious entitlement of non-citizens who assert that our government should answer to them. America is the land of opportunity, the saying goes, and what makes our country so universally attractive is the fact that human nature itself is fundamentally opportunistic. Having been shouted down as “a liar,” Pelosi sniveled back: “You’ve had your say, and it’s beautiful music to our ears.” It’s as if a man were to spit in your face and you were to thank him in return. Pelosi could learn a lot from Machiavelli, who taught that the price of generosity is insolence.

From a certain point of view, to be sure, the multiculturalist intellectual appears wonderfully generous and compassionate. He does not want anyone to suffer, and God knows, there’s never any lack of suffering on this harsh planet. So he wants America to be a kind of party of plenty to which everybody is invited. He affirms “open immigration” and lauds “sanctuary cities,” denouncing anybody who advocates only legal immigration as “racist.” And yet his goodwill comes at a high cost: however many invitations he may send out, there’s only enough food and drink at the party for some, a tragedy that his sentimental mind does not want to acknowledge. So he turns his eyes away. The truth burns too bright, he feels, and now he burrows into delusion’s dark cave.

With their eyes fixed on reality, both Martin Luther King Jr and Booker T. Washington, we should remember, were against illegal immigration—an idol for the multiculturalist intellectual—because they knew it was awful for the poor, and for black Americans in particular, who most felt the effects of the general devaluing of “unskilled labor.” It is a vital question: Just how “inclusive” should we be? They weep very loudly, the leveling relativists, but still the nation must ask itself: Who is more important, the poor of El Paso, Texas or the poor of Juarez, Mexico? We realists, we patriots choose the first. But in the age of tolerance the incompatibility of human values is intolerable. And now listen to the multiculturalist intellectual’s conclusion: “Compromise is painful; therefore, comprise is wrong.”

And it is revealing, it is just what we should expect that Americans who subscribe to this comforting illusion are never working class. Their social betters shall be comfortable in any event, unlike the poor whose quality of life declines as illegals and their children work for wages at which the rest of us scoff.  Now it’s here, one notices, that there emerges another facile type, no better informed than his counterpart on the Left. Representative here is Bill Kristol, who, in his February 7 interview with Charles Murray, lamented the plague of our “decadent, lazy” and “spoiled” white working class. We no longer want to dig ditches and build houses, he declared in apparent moral peril, cash registers cha-chinging at the standard display of virtue. The plain as day truth that such blue collar work, for many if not most people, no longer suffices for living a respectable life, one in which a person can support, and therefore have, a family, does not occur to Kristol. The son of Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb, and the former student of Harvey Mansfield, Kristol would seem to have an outstanding pedigree. Still, the editor of the Weekly Standard seems no more competent at political philosophy than his potbellied body would be at the manly jobs he wishes other people would do: for from Plato and Aristotle on, it has been a truism that a state which does not look out for the common good—for the majority, in other words—is bound to degenerate a great deal, to decline significantly as resentment asserts itself in the form of revolt.

Outside the West, we learn the same truth from Confucius. Of course, for like all politics, such wisdom is ultimately a reflection of human psychology itself. Unlike Bill Kristol, the true conservative is on the side of the poor, which is not to say he advocates irresponsible entitlements, because he knows that rights are essentially negative. Unlike Bill Kristol, the true conservative wants to limit immigration as such because he knows doing so is in the best interest of native workers. In Charles Murray’s words: “We as Americans owe an obligation to our fellow Americans…that should take priority over our obligation to the world’s population and globalization. So I’m in favor of limiting…immigration.”

Ours is a bewildering situation. How did we get here? Like safe spaces, micro-aggressions, and bias response teams, multiculturalism is a distinctly academic notion, the product of the Leftist academy. Indeed it issues from the deranged character of academic life itself. Academia is a uniquely competitive world, marked by deep anxiety and even hatred (albeit usually concealed, as that vice tends to be) since in order to succeed other’s must fail, as in law, medicine, sports, and elsewhere. But between the vanity in academia and that in a law firm, for example, there is a significant difference. Because academics work in ideas, the vanity is exceedingly powerful, and accordingly, the people unusually prickly, although, being unusually weak and cowardly (just compare the ordinary professor to a construction worker, or indeed to any man), academics are inclined to conceal their prickliness more than most, thereby only exacerbating their malaise.

And since, as in a bad marriage which people stick out for their children’s sake, academics must somehow manage to get along, they take diligent care to feign respect for each other’s scholarship (“I have long admired your work”) and for people themselves (“I really enjoyed meeting you—hope to see you at the next conference”). This is of course part of the general insincerity of academic life, which, like an art gallery, a poetry reading, or any number of other highbrow contexts, is palpable to ordinary people. As has often been said, those who live long in delusion lose the ability to perceive reality itself: delusion is their reality, nor do they know it. And so it happens that, having long played at believing everybody is equally deserving of respect, from famous Department Chair down to obscure adjunct and inept graduate student, the academic is already psychologically conditioned to believe in the multiculturalist fantasy.

For, since in order to deal with his colleagues day after day he has to live a lie—indeed be a lie—he applies his general habit of false evaluation (again, having forgotten that it is false) to peoples and cultures, in spite of their innumerable conflicting interests, values and histories. Just as he pretends that his generic Marxist interpretation of Hard Times is of intellectual importance, so he pretends that twenty-first century America is compatible with Islam. Because of how the academic himself has long lived, and therefore long perceived and evaluated, the world is somehow, someday supposed to be as blissfully diverse, tolerant and enlightened as an academic conference, as the academic, in his conceited delusion, conceives of it. From a general life of lies (publication as such a virtue; committees of resentment as public service; the tritest cant imaginable as wisdom against the grain, and so on) to their projection into human affairs in general: that is the typical academic mind, and here is the source of the Left’s multiculturalist utopia.

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