Location: London, United Kingdom

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Let's Think Again
As we move inexorably towards a world dominated by our friend mahmoud ahmadinejad with his scores of fine and upstanding scientists hard at work ensuring that hunger and poverty are eradicated from all corners of the Islamic world, I thought it worth opining on a topic recently raised by the BBC. In a book review he wrote a while back, John Derbyshire, the marginally right-of-centre journalist, said:

"In the Empire Boys' Annuals of my own British childhood, the human world was a diverse place indeed, populated by head-hunters, cannibals, Polynesian bungee-jumpers, ferocious Gurkhas, exquisitely polite Japanese, reed dwellers, cave dwellers, tree dwellers, suttees, thuggees, fellows who inserted four-inch wooden disks into their lower lips and women who elongated their necks by adding a metal ring every year. Now youngsters are assured that though people who live in foreign parts may sometimes look a bit odd, they are really just middle-class Americans in thin disguise. Little Masai boys like to play soccer, says the "Social Science" textbook issued to my fourth-grader. In China they prefer volleyball. Uh-huh."

What exactly happened between the author's childhood and the educational regime to which children in Western Europe and the United States are subjected today? The answer of course is "multiculturalism". The idea that all cultures are equally good -- or at least equally un-bad. This is a very powerful & influential idea. The reason for this fact is that most people now think that it is the only alternative to chauvinism -- the idea that all cultures that are different from one's own are inferior to it. Isn't it a little obvious that multiculturalism is clearly not the only alternative to chauvinism? They are actually two forms of the very same mistake: the moralistic fallacy of deciding what the value of something is without sufficient regard for all the facts. Multiculturalists edit out facts that are unfavourable to others. Chauvinists edit out facts that are embarrassing to themselves. Both are evidence of irrational behaviour. There is an obvious alternative to both: the modern, scientific world view that has dominated Western thinking for the last century or so (at least until recently in the U.S....). According to this view, whatever your moral evaluation of the world might be, it should be based on the facts. If you find another culture that you can learn from, admit it. If you encounter one that, on reflection, you think is wrong, then admit that too.
I "celebrate diversity", but I believe that the diverse individuals, corporate bodies, and peoples of the earth are related to one another by varying degrees of contrariety, opposition, and competition. This world that we live in, with its lavish variety of types is, whether we like it or not, an arena of competition and not a global ‘knit your own yoghurt’ love-in. In such a world, the only way to think that diverse ways of life are all equally good would be to deny that they are really all that diverse.
The question is whether the liberal social experiment of multiculturalism has been going too long to reverse and if not, how much blood will have to be spilt to reverse it. I have a sneaking suspicion that ahmadinejad's behaviour will act as another 'turbo-charge' to the process of Western society's evaluation of the merit's of such folly.


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