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Monday, July 19, 2004
Perhaps not so confused

Oliver Kamm is circumspect about Ken Livingstone's recent choice of friends, noting how the Mayor of London has "ended up discrediting his office by confusing multiculturalism with genuflection towards bigotry".

One of his commenters is sceptical on the degree to which this really is confusion: "Alas, it would seem that this is precisely what [multiculturalism] has become". Is this right? Certainly, whatever multiculturalism was intended to be in theory, it is more and more obviously the reality with every passing day. You show me a proud and prominent multiculturalist and I'll show you someone happy to call 'Islamophobic' anyone prepared to speak up for the rights of Jewish people, or at least a defender of those who do.

I suspect the problem lies more in the way that we already had a culture that was tolerant and liberal (in the classical sense) long before multiculturalism, and that the compromise reached then has only been degraded and shifted in a negative way since. What England had prior to multiculturalism was a reasonable consensus that already took into account most points of view conducive to a free society and produced an outcome that then suited almost everyone. Multiculturalism's threat has been the way that, instead of encouraging newcomers to assimilate to that old liberal consensus, or at least to join a new one, it has encouraged those of foreign cultures to live apart from it and to separate themselves from its principles and values, and to take pride in the differences - "celebrate diversity" - irrespective of whether those differences are actually prideworthy. Indeed, it is a defining point for multiculturalists to label racist anyone who distinguishes between superior and inferior cultures.  

If, as many on the American far-left believe, the white man really were the cancer of human history and if all the world's evil really came from the West, then multiculturalism could mean something else. But the fact is that Western civilisation has produced the most free, tolerant and open societies in human history, and genuflection towards bigotry is exactly what is being advocated by those who demand we surrender some of our values and virtues in order to reach an accommodation with those to whom such principles are alien.

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