Multiculturalism is a logically incoherent and self-destructive ideology that resembles colonialism and is equally morally wrong.
In this post I am going to examine the origins and current status of the multiculturalist discourse in Europe.
During the 18th century Western powers went to the four corners of the world and colonized poor countries. Western values, customs, and systems were imposed on the people living there and whatever riches could be found were scavenged. Two countries that I have personal experience with, China and Japan, both look back on their experiences with colonial powers with deep dismay, shame and in China’s case even anger. Japan was never formally colonized but did experience the consequences of gunboat diplomacy and was forced to sign the unequal treaties that were part and parcel of the colonial powers’ efforts in carving out e.g. extraterritorial privileges abroad: Foreigners in Japan could not be tried under local laws in local courts because they answered only to the laws and customs of their home-countries. In an attempt to contain foreign presence and influence in the country, the Japanese bakufu government early on felt forced to completely cede legal control of a handful of small islands and parts of cities, such as in Yokohama, Kobe and Nagasaki. Following the Meiji-Restoration (1868) the power and presence of foreigners gradually expanded outside these enclaves and trading posts to the rest of Japan.
At its peak (or nadir if your will) it was said that the sun did not set on the British Empire. This was possible partly because of superior technology. Partly it was made possible through how the venture was justified to the public at home in Europe.
To some people the project was sold as a moral duty for the peoples of the West to go and civilize the savages. This idea was famously captured in the poem by Kipling “The White Man’s Burden”. Although Kipling wrote most of his work tongue-in-cheek, the term “white man’s burden” was, according to Wikipedia, taken by its contemporary readers as racist, or taken as a metaphor for a condescending view of non-Western national culture and economic traditions, identified as a sense of European ascendancy which has been called “cultural imperialism“. An alternative interpretation is the philanthropic view, common in Kipling’s formative years, that the rich have a moral duty and obligation to help “the poor” “better” themselves whether the poor want the help or not.
Following the 2nd World War the idea that Western powers should go and dominate other parts of the world as rulers was exposed as both morally corrupt and untenable. Instead, the West adopted an idea that both sounds like and has about as much intellectual depth as a bumper sticker, that “all cultures are equal”.
Especially following the 70’s Marxist indoctrination that nothing except comparative financial status matter in inter-group relations, the ideology gained serious traction. When mentioned in connection to post-colonialism it was often followed by a nervous laughter, like we-didn’t-REALLY-mean-it, and by the way, you can all come and live with us now. We went and lived with you guys! Now you can come and live with us… See?! We are all friends and equals here. No need to get pissed at us for oppressing you guys all that time. Right? Right?
Such guilt laden, absolvency-driven immigration policies were furthermore fuelled by the strong rejection of anything that resembled nationalism. The very idea of ‘the nation’ was ruled out as a kind of fascism and labelled politically incorrect.
These dynamics have left strong marks all through Europe – especially Britain, France and Germany but Holland, Switzerland, Austria, and Scandinavia are also clear examples.
By the 70’s and onwards the rather passive idea that all cultures are ‘equal’ had evolved into an activist agenda of multiculturalism, or the idea that when it comes to cultures, the more the merrier. That the rights of newly introduced minorities should be given preference over those of already existing majorities and that any practice whatsoever should be respected insofar as it could claim status as part of a “culture”. In praxis, this has meant the promotion of cultures and peoples from less-developed countries and the denigration of their Western counterparts.
In recent years this process has been sped up by the formation, professional management of and generous funding flowing into organizations such as OIC, which has preyed on the guilty conscience of the West in order to gain concessions.
In Sweden Social Democrats such as former Prime Minister Oluf Palme felt that through mass-immigration they could create a moral superpower. Today 1 million out of approx. 9 million people living in Sweden are immigrants draining the generous welfare state of around 2 per cent of GDP annually. Last year I listened to an interview with a Swedish Social Democrat who, without joking, explained their policies by saying that in the future, immigrants and Muslims in particular, would be taking over Sweden. If white Sweden was lenient and generous today at least they could hope that in the future the new rulers would also be lenient against them. I have been looking and looking but I cannot seem to relocate this recording.
In the UK Gordon Brown’s government refused to sign the UN Convention on the Right of Indigenous People (ILO 169) on the grounds that there are no indigenous people in England. His predecessor, Tony Blair, secretly used mass immigration as a tool to “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”. (Recently, he has apparently revised his opinion on the wiseness of this decision.)
When the annual “International Culture Festival” takes place here in the decidedly left-wing part of Copenhagen where I live, the only countries that are ever represented are those from poor countries in places such as Africa, South and Central America and South East Asia. When a country becomes wealthy it automatically loses its status as a culture?
In the eyes of multiculturalists at least it seems some cultures are more equal than others.
Immigration policies based on multiculturalism actually exhibit the same traits as the earlier colonial efforts did – except the traffic goes the opposite way.
Just like colonialists carved out extraterritoriality and extrajudiciality in the colonies, in today’s Europe more and more areas are outside the control of national governments. In France the government has officially registered 751 zone urbaines sensible that exist outside the fabric of French society, economy and law, while being physically inside France.
British authorities have officially agreed to uphold the rulings of religious courts in the civil courts system. These religious courts include Shariah courts that systematically discriminate against women.
In Germany chancellor Merkel recently conceded that multiculturalism in her country has utterly failed. Although Merkel was referring exclusively to her own country, the situation in Germany is actually not markedly different from the rest of Europe.
Just like Western colonies abroad were morally repulsive, so is the current development of increasing numbers of parallel societies that are alien or even hostile to their host nations morally wrong.
Multiculturalism and its related standpoints are questions of personal choice and conscience. If you, like me, are a human being of flesh and blood who hold certain values to be better than their logical counterparts then it is plainly not possible to say that all cultures equally good. If value ‘X’ is the opposite of value ‘Y’ then I posit that you cannot claim that both are equally good and still call yourself a rational person. I concede that many questions in life are best not described as black/white polar opposites but some are indeed.
To dispute the notion that all cultures are equally good and valuable and deserving of respect I only have to point out that, unless you hold no values dear at all, then the existence of polar opposite cultural traits in cultures around the world should make you realize that all cultures cannot be equally ‘good’ at the same time.
Logically speaking, as a sane person to another, you cannot be a liberal Scandinavian at heart and a member of the Taleban at the same time.
Another example, this one taken from history, could be the Mesoamerican cultural practices of performing large scale human sacrifice and maintaining permanent aggressive military campaigns in order to keep a steady flow of humans lined up for the carving table. Although I am not a fan of the conquistadors, on this particular point I am somewhat relieved that they were not multiculturalists who thought all cultures were equal and deserving of protection.
A few notes on universality and chauvinism: I am not claiming that my values are universal. I don’t believe in universal values in a spiritual way. The entire idea of protecting and to some extent respecting different cultures is exactly that they are man-made in self-sustaining groups of people who join voluntarily and thus form societies where they agree on how to live together – peacefully. That is in itself worthy of praise. On a cosmic scale, however, I think that all cultures and their ideals are probably equally insignificant.
On a global scale I hold strong feminist views and also favor wide-reaching freedoms of the press. Never ever will I be able to say that the opposite sides of those ideological scales are as worthy of my respect as I consider my own preferred sides to be. That is why I am not a multiculturalist. I refuse to give up fighting for what I believe in just because it’s somebody’s culture to beat their wives or kill homosexuals.
Before you start thinking up clever Hitler-analogies to throw at me, let me clarify some things for you:
This is not about color of the skin. I am not opposed to migration as such, nor to ‘the other’, the unknown, the alien or the unfamiliar. I think that Edward W. Said was an idiot. I am opposed to certain values and ideals that I find repulsive based on the fact that they are the polar opposites of the values and ideals that I hold to be the best foundations of society. This becomes a pressing political issue because in real life those repulsive ideologies tend to live strong in the cultures of people who sincerely want to come and claim social benefits in my country. Unfortunately they are also people who are not too keen on changing their minds about customs and ideals that Europeans otherwise left behind in the Dark Ages.
On my personal part this also means that there are some parts of the world that I would prefer not to live or travel in. It means that I favor controlled immigration to my country. And it means that in the face of ideological challenges, I favor a principled defense of those aspects of my culture that have formed the basis of one of the wealthiest, safest, healthiest, and most free societies in the history of the world.
No excuse for being free.
Well thought out post Jonas. I understand your point completely as I experienced the problems firsthand while living in France. You make a lot of good points.
The only comment I would like to make is we have to look at Multiculturalism in distinct locations and different characteristics as it is hard to just condemn it for the entire world. I think the word "Multiculturalism" has also become too politicized in Europe and to an extent in America.
I live in San Francisco and this city is "multicultural." It always has been and the different groups have mixed for a long time. Now it is ordinary to have such names as "Jenny Wong," and "Fred Nakamura." In fact, we don't even hear the word "multicultural" as it is a fact of everyday life. There are still parades for the Chinese, Japanese, Irish and so on but you experience these cultures on a daily basis anyway and they all become simply "San Franciscan."
I guess the metaphor I would like to use is that of cooking. If you throw all the ingredients in and let them simmer for a long time at the right temperature you'll get a delicious dish. However, if you throw in wrong ingredients all at once and cook at much to high a temperature, what you will get will not taste very good.
Thus "European" multiculturalism tastes a bit bitter right now, but in SF it is wonderful and one of the main reasons I moved here.
But again, I understand your point and even though I like "multiculturalism" in San Francisco, I have a hard time with it in Paris. Would be interesting to see how things turn out 50 or even 100 years from now. As for the USA, the distinct ethnicities will become "American" just like they've been doing for the past 200 years. Europe might have a harder time.
I was actually trying fairly hard not to mix ethnicity up in this post.
You have brought up the example of San Fransico a couple of times now saying that it is multiculturalism brought to life – a place where people of all ethnicities live side by side and get along.
Now there is an info-graphic that I would like you to take a look at.
<a href="http://:http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4981425631/in/set-72157624812674967/” target=”_blank”>:http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/4981425631/in/set-72157624812674967/
It is a map of etnicities in San Fransisco, Oakland and Berkeley.
The map shows that 1) the area is predominantly white, 2) blacks and white tend not to live in the same areas and blacks are, furthermore, concentrated in a few areas where they form a large majorities, 3) Only a few areas such as Daly City, Fruitvale, Richmond, and Sunset seem to have truly mixed ethnicities – and that mainly means whites and asians.
The album also contains other maps of ethnic concentrations in large American cities. Check them out.
What I'm trying to say is that even in San Fransisco the story of multiculturalism is not as simple as just one large 'the melting pot' where everybody live next to each other and color of the skin is a thing of the past.
Even in SF do people tend to live in neigborhoods where look like their neighbors.
the link does not seem to work… copy this URL to a browser:
Yep, looked at the map. Multiculturalism does not mean that every neighborhood must be a perfect mix of every single identity living side by side and singing kumbaya. There are still very strong ethnic neighborhoods where mainly new arrivals feel more comfortable. Over time their children become integrated and do not feel the need to settle down in the same neighborhood but some do.
SF is still a shining example in my opinion and it is Europe that has a big chip on their shoulder. You guys have a lot of baggage. We are doing just fine here on the Left Coast.
Left Coast – LOL
Jonas, an article for you. I only read the first couple paragraphs and am not motivated at all to debate Multiculturalism in Europe. Just adding the article here since it is right on Topic
Europeans Against Multiculturalism
Political Attacks Misread History, Target Muslims, and May Win Votes
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