Sunday, March 4, 2007

Britain’s Existential Problem: Part I - Multiculturalism

I am an anglophile – and remain so despite the recent unjustified attack by the Prince on that American icon, McDonalds. My respect for the U.K., its traditions, its history, and its people could not be higher. British culture at its best is, in my view, the pinnacle of culture in the Western World. Unfortunately, I also recognize quite clearly that the U.K. is in serious trouble, and at the top of the list of those troubles is the question of whether the U.K. can integrate its Muslim population, and if not, can Britain survive the coming storm with its Anglo-Saxon ethos intact?

With that said, I think that Britain's troubles are manifold, but in large measure derive from a particularly virulent form of multiculturalism and its intertwined doctrine of moral equivalence. A good place to start looking at its problems today is to look at multiculturalism's origins and how it mestastisized throughout the U.K. in the years following World War II.

Britain, Multiculturalism, and Moral Equivalence

Take up the White man's burden –
Send forth the best ye breed –
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness
On fluttered folk and wild –
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.

Rudyard Kipling, excerpt from The White Man’s Burden, 1899

Kipling wrote The White Man’s Burden both as an exhortation for the United States to take up the banner of imperialism from Britain, and as a warning of its costs. You will not find a hint of the multicultural philosophy in this most decidely non-pc work. Multiculturalism would not really start to take hold in Britain for yet a half century. Kipling's work encapsulates the British belief that had existed for centuries, that the U.K.’s culture and societal values were morally superior and, as such, colonialism and imperialism were not only justified, but a moral imperative.

It was quite idealistic, and it conveniently ignored the profit motive that directly motivated colonialism. But, there is nothing evil in a profit motive – indeed, it is a simple reality of mankind. In all the places where people enjoy the most freedoms and the highest standards of living, even among the poorest of them, it is in those countries that embrace capitalism and acknowledge the reality that mankind is motivated by profit in return for their effort.

What were the Anglo-Saxon cultural mores that molded Kipling and the British citizenry of his day? There was democracy, a freedom of the press, a freedom of speech, there was education and culture, there was rule by law, there was tolerance – including religious tolerance, there was a sense of fair play and a chivalric ideal, and there was capitalism.

Were there a lot of acts taken by the British that were not only out of line with those mores, but indeed, blatant acts of brutal suppression? One could fill tomes with the atrocities. But the passage of years has shown that, where the British footprint was the largest – in the New World, in India, in Hong Kong, those higher mores – or the desire to achieve those mores – have been Britain’s enduring legacy. In essence, imperfect though our systems may be, Britain, more then any other country, can lay claim to being the mother of the best values that dominate Western society today.

But in the century that has past since 1899, Britain has changed in many fundamental ways. World War I saw the flower of British youth wasted by foolish generals in carnage on a never before seen scale. By the time Hitler rose, many of Britain’s colonies had risen in rebellion, taking a position that Britain had no right to impose their will upon the native inhabitants. In fairly short order, by the mid-point of the century, Britain had given up all but a few small remnants of its once huge colonial empire, having neither the manpower to maintain its colonies by force, nor the desire to further coercively impose its will upon restive colonies. The natives were shouting at the top of their lungs of their desire to rule themselves, and they demonized Britain and colonialism in the process.

But divesting the empire did not bring a clean end to Britain’s imperial period. The legacy of imperialism was ingrained in the British psyche. And with that, a large segment of the British intelligentsia bought into the proposition that not only did the natives have a right to self rule, but that Britain’s history of colonialism was a clear and immoral violation of that right. All prior acts of Britain were viewed not in the reasoned context of world history at any particular time, but through a modern, moralistic lens colored with the original sin of colonialism. Thus, history was set adrift from its moorings in reality. And being the intelligentsia, these were the writers, the teachers, the elected government officials – and thus, the people who held sway over the information in society. The end result, as one loyal subject of the queen cogently – and recently – observed, is that “[a]n overwhelming, politically correct, colonial guilt complex exists in Britain today and colonialism is synonymous with evil.”

With Britain’s past – and thus the mores and ethos that motivated that past – seen as evil, the concepts of multiculturalism and moral equivalence became the morally and politically correct doctrine of British society. By multiculturalism, I mean, a belief that “All cultures are equally good.” In other words, cultural norms are not subjected to a value analysis. Rational judgments of the relative value of any particular element of the comparative cultures are explicitly excluded from, and condemned by, multiculturalism. Inextricably intertwined in this concept is the equation of moral equivalence. The act of one country or one person is morally justified because of some act or prior bad act of another country or person.

When multiculturalism first started to creep into vogue in British society, it had two major lures. The first lure was that it allowed one to feel morally superior by divorcing themselves from a sinful past. Adherents adopted the proposition that, yes, the U.K.’s colonial past was evil, but the person bore no responsibility for that because they now recognized it as such. But then the truly insidious nature of multiculturalism surfaced. That being that it combined both a belief that one’s own past was sinful with a failure to subject the history and cultural norms of another country to a value analysis. Thus, the equation became that all other cultures are superior to our Western culture.

The second lure of adopting multiculturalism, from the time it first appeared in Britain until the point that it was thoroughly ensconced, was that it came with no societal cost. In the post World War II world, Britain had not yet opened the flood gates for Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants. Radical Islam was entombed far away in the Middle East and its reality known only to a few scholars. The only existential threat to Western Civilization was the Soviet Union, and it was held in check behind the Eastern Block borders by NATO.

Today, the story is completely different. Today, multiculturalism has matured and spawned numerous policies and norms – not the least of which include a lax immigration policy, a criminalization of the criticism of Islam, and a cringing guilt reaction when radical Muslims scream the word “Islamaphobia.” And today, for people who expouse multiculturalism, and indeed, for all of the people inhabiting the U.K., the bill for adopting the philosophy of multiculturalism is now due and owing.

How dangerous is the multicultural philosophy to the U.K.? It will take more time to answer that then this post. But its danger can easily be seen in the one example below:

I believe that we can all agree that a nuclear armed Iran may pose a threat to the Western world. In a recent piece in the Guardian, "Why Can't MP's See The Folly of Trident," Mary Riddel posited two related arguments that derive directly from the philosophy of multiculturalism and use the equation of moral equivalence. The first was that the U.K. could not upgrade its nuclear arsenal while at the same time maintaining that Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. The second argument, this one made implicitly by reference to how other countries view the U.K., was that Iran should be allowed a nuclear weapon if the U.K. has one.

What follows is my response that I posted to the Guardian website and elsewhere on this blog:


Britain and Iran do not inhabit the same moral plane. State sanctioned murder on a grand scale is not something in which Britain normally engages. No one on this earth is worried that the U.K. will decide to smuggle a nuclear bomb into Delhi and then either set it off or otherwise use it as a form of nuclear blackmail. Britain does not open its meetings of parliament each week by asking for death to all of the people who inhabit Israel and America. Britain does not pay terrorist groups on a varying scale dependent on how much death and destruction they cause in Israel or elsewhere as needed. Britain does not use real physical torture as a state sanctioned instrument of its policies. Britain does not glorify suicide and suicidal cults. Britain has never sent tens of thousands of teenagers to their death by sending them unarmed to clear minefields or to charge machine gun nests in time of war. And Britain is not a theocracy founded upon an incredibly aggressive and triumphalist religion that explicitly animates its state policy. As the preeminent American scholar on the Middle East, Bernard Lewis wrote a few months ago:

A passage from the Ayatollah Khomeini, quoted in an 11th-grade Iranian schoolbook, is revealing. "I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [i.e., the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another's hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours."

In this context, mutual assured destruction, the deterrent that worked so well during the Cold War, would have no meaning. At the end of time, there will be general destruction anyway. What will matter will be the final destination of the dead--hell for the infidels, and heaven for the believers. For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement.

The ultimate truth is this – the argument of moral equivalence is always a utopian canard. Britain and Iran do not inhabit the same moral plane. There is no hypocrisy in Britain's retaining or improving its nuclear arsenal in this imperfect and dangerous world even as it demands that a truly dangerous theocracy cease and desist in its own drive for nuclear weapons.

And the assertion that the U.K. "merit[s] the means of mass annihilation because [they] are 'good' and other countries are 'bad' is seen as risible throughout the non-nuclear world," that assertion is ridiculous. It is the penultimate multicultural argument, devoid of any discriminating value judgments or analysis. Rather then repeat, with slight variation, the argument made above, let me just put it simply: Please name for me any country still extant that has predicated its defense policy on opinion or popularity polls taken in other countries?

I will not hold my breath while you try to list them.

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