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Saxons Awake!


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.