This post is a rebuttal to all the right-wingers who get their world news from frontpagemag.com.
I find no inherent value in diversity. I only value it as a tool for achieving real progress and social justice. Being a humanist, I’m much more interested in celebrating our similarities than differences. This website’s slogan, “Embrace Unity,” is supposed to be a counter-point to the sometimes overzealous multi-culti people who like to “Embrace Diversity,” but let me state that I am not opposed to embracing diversity.
Usually embracing diversity is pretty harmless, like Black History Month, or La Raza’s latino themed cultural events on college campuses. There was a trend of liberal jews sporting keffiyehs in solidarity with Palestinians, and then it spread to wider “hipster” culture becoming a fashion statement and losing most of its meaning in the process, as fads tend to do generally. Those things are very cutesy and can promote tolerance and so anyone who scoffs at Multi-Culturalism must obviously be some sort of hard-hearted meanie.
Yet, it can also lead down more sinister roads, and certainly presents many double standards. La Raza means “The Race” in Spanish. It would not be tolerable to start a white appreciation group on campus called The Race, so why should it be acceptable for anyone else? It has been argued that it is acceptable though because they have been marginalized and are in need of pride. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Plenty of extreme nationalist movements started out as small groups of excluded people banding together… like the Hutus of Rwanda, who went on to commit unspeakable acts even worse than those perpetrated upon them. Now, I’m not arguing that this will certainly be the outcome of La Raza or any other group, but it is simply a fact that nationalism has a very dark history.
To understand why Multi-Culturalism exists, one must understand how ideas spread generally. Memes are a very strong force in culture. The concept of a “meme” was coined by a very lovable inflammatory thinker named Richard Dawkins. It is simply a prima facie argument that ideas go through a sort of natural selection process. The ideas which hold characteristics which mandate their spreading are going to become predominant. Dawkins uses this idea often to explain how religions sprout up.
Why is the Roman Catholic Church the biggest church in the world? According to memetics, it is because it has characteristics which make it reproduce itself quickly. It is documented that medieval priests quickly recognized that the threat of Hell really boosted church attendance, and thus we saw more fire and brimstone rhetoric. The religion speaks of the need to save peoples’ immortal souls to ensure then Infinite Salvation instead of Infinite Damnation. Thus, we got Catholic missionaries taking trips to the most remote places on Earth. The Bible tells you to “be fruitful and multiply.” The Pope tells you contraceptives and abortion are sinful. See a pattern? Is it any wonder then why the Catholic Church has a billion people? Certainly Islam shares similar traits as well.
Compare this to the Shakers, who believed it was a sin to have sex even for procreation. Although they were able to briefly perpetuate themselves by massive adoption, I think it should be rather obvious why they quickly died out. The same could be said about suicide cults. Similarly, even just regular religions that are less obsessed with spreading the gospel to others are not likely to be very large… like Judaism, though in Judaism we are also now seeing a sort of fundamentalist and evangelical strain emerging via the forces of natural selection.
Multi-Culturalism and Political Correctness are successful memes, just like religious ideas are. I think the reason for that is rooted in capitalism’s reproductive fitness, which is considerable since it has encompassed nearly the entire globe. Capitalism, or more precisely Social Democracy since every economy is a mixed economy, necessitates peaceful relationships so that capital can flow. As you know, trade creates interdependence, and this means we cannot afford to severely offend, say, the Chinese, no matter how much certain people might like to.
Granted, when this Political Correctness is taken too far it can lead to infringements upon Freedom of Speech which nobody could refute, as was the case with Mark Steyn and Geert Wilders, both utterly repulsive figures who nevertheless deserve freedom of speech. Yet, that doesn’t take away from our personal responsibility to be truthful and loving, and yes, to even be Politically Correct most of the time. This needs no state enforcement, just regular ol’ peer-based enforcement. The Danish Cartoon scandal was another example. Clearly the riots in retaliation were far more despicable than the cartoons themselves. In fact, I’d go so far as to say there was nothing inherently despicable about the cartoons. It just showed poor judgment to publish something that is likely to be taken so offensively. It sort of reminds me of pushy vegans who often end up working against their own noble goal.
Obviously, I readily concede that there is a dark side to PC and overzealous multi-culti stuff. Yet, ideas don’t just pop into existence for no reason. Knowing this, it would be a good idea to be prudently open-armed towards muslims. That way, we can open up more and more trading links, and by extension cultural links and a mutual understanding of our interdependence. One of the things I would very much like to see is for projects like the One Laptop Per Child to successfully connect children from around the world to the Internet. There is talk by some on the left of horrible “Cultural Imperialism.” My hope is that is exactly what occurs, and they become infected with these horrible memetic viruses of Political Correctness and Multiculturalism which have the ability to temper the worst aspects of many cultures, such as terrorism, racism, female genital mutilation, etc. If Imperialism becomes the autonomous spread of ideas like PC and mulit-culturalism, or even more hopefully, humanism, then I guess I’m an imperialist.
Similarly, democratic modes of governance seem to foster a similar moderation of extremism. Look at Turkey as compared to the theocratic Iran. Turkey, a representative democracy, does have a relatively strong Islamist party, but even they realize that in order to get along in the world they can’t be incredibly Politically Incorrect, especially when they are at the mercy of a relatively secularized electorate. You can even see this shift in Hamas. Hamas’s charter might as well have been written by Hitler himself. Yet as they have become an actual political party, their rhetoric has changed dramatically. Look at this more recent quote:
“Our message to the Israelis is this: We do not fight you because you belong to a certain faith or culture. Jews have lived in the Muslim world for 13 centuries in peace and harmony; they are in our religion “the people of the book” who have a covenant from God and his messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him), to be respected and protected… Our conflict with you is not religious but political. We have no problem with Jews who have not attacked us – our problem is with those who came to our land, imposed themselves on us by force, destroyed our society and banished our people.” Source here.
Compare that to their founding charter from 1988 which calls for the murder of all Jews and cites the Koran and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery to support this.
Furthermore, I hope we continue to maintain a slow stream of muslim immigrants who can eventually become assimilated. I can’t tell you how many muslim women I have seen in burkas carting around little girls with Nikes and without headscarves. The same was true when I visited Europe. How many of these children will grow up to be like Salman Rushdie? Hopefully many
The soft power wielded by Barack Obama, at least in comparison to the complete lack of it from before, should help make the goal of nonviolently resolving our cultural differences even more possible.