Going ethnic 119

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, says multiculturalism has failed.

It has. It was a bad idea to start with.


Multiculturalism is based on a fallacy: that “diversity” – measured in the number of different discrete ethnic groups and the intensity of their self-conscious difference – is an indication of tolerance and that such tolerance is the most important civic virtue.

What are in-comers assimilating to when they immigrate into a Western country? At a minimum, they should obey the law – most importantly where the law contradicts their customs (polygamy, mutilation, domestic abuse) – and speak the language. They should also adopt the traditional mores of the public square: the customs of greeting and farewell, hospitality, conversation, queueing, and the codes of deference and dignity (the veil is no longer a sign of respectable women, but of gender inequality). Assimilation should also mean above all else understanding and accepting the concept of individual liberty, particularly free speech. If assimilation conflicts irreconcilably with the core identity of the in-comers, they should leave.

To tolerate in-comers setting up ghettoes (Chinatowns) is one thing, but it is quite another to allow them to establish a foreign jurisdiction within a state where the state’s law does not reach. States-within-states – the logical conclusion of multiculturalism – is not evidence of national openness and tolerance, but of a cold (potentially boiling) civil war. Multiple, separate groups (apartheid, surely) are evidence of separatist mind-sets and mutual distaste, if not revulsion. The more diversity is used as a proxy for tolerance, and the greater the number of militantly diverse groups, the more intolerant and divided a nation becomes.

What of the in-comers should the host nation be assimilating? Their participation in the economy. No more, no less. The in-comers customs may add color to the high street – exciting restaurants, music, dancing, hairstyles, clothes. But that is a matter of taste. Some of their public manners – greetings, hospitality – may even be reciprocated by their host nationals. Certainly, petty xenophobia and snobberies of host nationals should be discouraged. The law itself should protect in-comers from violence and exclusion from the market. But in essence the host nation is assimilating bodies, and the host-nation is entitled to assume that their minds have adapted to the laws and ways of the nation. The in-comers, in other words, are assimilated by their hosts to the extent that they may be regarded in the same way as any other fellow national not known to them personally: as strangers who can be trusted to know the rules, not foreigners who cannot be so trusted. The in-comers are owed no love, no hate, just the common respect of indifference. That indifference to the in-comers would be proof of a tolerant and open society, and should be its goal. “Celebrations” of diversity could be enjoyed as parades, or fairs, or what have you, not as distortions of the economy by policies of quotas and legal special treatment.

But surely, cry the multiculturalists, the presence of diverse cultures enhances our national lives? Universities (where multiculturalism was born) are firmly convinced that higher education – the sharpening of mental faculties and the acquisition of knowledge – is about diversity, meaning the presence on campus of students who “represent” different races, national origins, economic classes, religions. Almost every brochure sent to prospective students boasts about diversity – as if it were itself the product being offered by the university. I have found no convincing argument that the mere presence of diversity adds any intellectual advantage to the university experience. Yes, there is talk about “perspectives” – but the only courses that might actually benefit from a class members’ biographies are the confessional courses – sociology, English, history, education etc. – where multiculturalism is dogma in any case. A minority student is more likely to learn what should be his culturally correct thinking rather than know it by virtue of being born to a cultural identity. The result is, again, apartheid – in subjects (black studies, Islamic studies, gender studies), in living (separate ethnic dorms) and in social life (separate tables in dining halls). (Think of Michelle Obama’s thesis.)

What multiculturalists refuse to accept is that the Western tradition is one of cultural assimilation. The Western world has gorged itself on the ideas and practices from cultures around the world. The Western tradition of exploration, conquest, rule and study of peoples around the globe has enriched the West materially and far more significantly, intellectually. Western scholarship of other cultures is vastly more broad and deep than Eastern scholarship of the West. And our civilization has taken that knowledge and used it to develop scientific, technical, philosophical and political understanding superior to any other. By assimilating – integrating – into Western culture, immigrants will be given far more of all cultures than they give up of their own.

Multiculturalism, in short, far from promoting tolerance and national virtue, is the fastest way to cultural impoverishment and political disintegration.

C. Gee    October 21, 2010