The Salisbury Review
Autumn 2004 (Vol.23 No.1)
After twenty years of unjustified celebration, multiculturalism looks set
for demotion. Its central notions constitute an unruly but influential
package. All cultures are equal. British culture is racist. Incoming
cultures should be regarded as a resource. All intellectual life reduces to
'social construction' such that there are no incontestable truths. Trevor
Phillips of the Commission for Racial Equality has now, unexpectedly,
repudiated the key contention that newcomers do not need to learn British
ways. Edward Thomas, here reviewing Brian Barry's book on multiculturalism,
says other 'progressives' are repudiating the various doctrines similarly.
The general collapse of the credo relates to the public's rejection of
unsustainable immigration and its detection of serial government deceit over
the question. Roger Sandall identifies another reason: the likely refusal of
majority populations to fund welfare, disproportionately used by minority
beneficiaries who reject the majority's political and moral culture.
Multiculturalism gratuitously confuses race and culture. For example, people
of Caribbean background are racially different from British whites but
culturally scarcely distinguishable. Indians and Pakistanis are similar to
whites racially, but very different culturally. Despite this insensitivity,
multiculturalists for years so successfully appealed to English Protestant
guilt, that they seemed to have acquired irresistible political momentum and
vast reserves of public finance.
Cunning ideologues, skilled in dishonest use of truths, helped
multiculturalism along. Multiculturalism may, after all, refer to fact or to
policy. As a fact it is undeniable; the world has many cultures. Were
that all the word implied, it would have engendered fewer ills. As a
policy multiculturalism is a set of noxious and wayward lies. It is not
in the first league of perversity, where pride of place belongs to the
totalitarian movements, most recently the Islamic fundamentalist revival.
Multiculturalism shares with these outlooks, however, their hatred of
excellence. Before very long the wonder will be that something so incoherent
survived several decades, though it has taken considerations external to its
absurdity to deflate it.
Multiculturalism benefits from political error. David Webb observes that
nationality is not conferred downwards by the state, but arises
organically from people's horizontal relationships. Edward Dutton
points out that the sense of Englishness has been deliberately attacked in
state schools. We can witness this in our younger population's ignorance of
English culture. They have no knowledge of our traditional weights and
measures for instance.
Multiculturalism also preys on the love of cliché. Malcolm Rees attacks its
most pervasive one: that we should not think in categories. This is an
injunction that everyday life - which requires 'true' and 'false' and 'safe'
and 'dangerous' etc, to be distinguished - renders ridiculous. Richard
Packer's review of Keith Windschuttle's book on Tasmania, exposes another
clichéd and related disposition, the determination to see in European
colonial history only its bad sides, and invent these when they are absent.
Sophie Masson deals with the strange cultural vicissitudes of France, where
in the confusion of modern French intellectual life, even an alienated
writer like Michel Houellebecq has protested against the multicultural
pieties destroying France too.
In Britain there is a particular scorn for Christianity among the native
multiculturalists. This is no more than Enlightenment folly. What, however,
inspires the celebration which the very same scoffers reserve for Islam,
beneath whose episodic veneers of civilisation there has always lurked the
ineradicable savagery of its origins? Most Muslims are decent people. If the
world must learn to live with Islam, however, should not the latter pay
attention to the world? Why should we forget how the Arabs initially
murdered their way to mastery of Christian North Africa and the
Middle East? Alfred Sherman is right that resurgent Islam expresses
impotence and despair. Even so, the conquest of the rest of Christendom is
still probably on the agenda.
Nor should we forget that free societies have the institution of free
marriage. Arranged marriages and the virtual ownership of women are
improprieties to us. That multiculturalism should be financed publicly is a
further impropriety. The British are not intolerant bigots, but admirably
open-minded people. Why should their own resources be used to insult them?
An open-door policy for all newcomers is clearly unsustainable, and
newcomers who want to stay should learn our ways. Is it not time to let
British opinion prevail?
(C) Salisbury Review, 2004.