mourides

Minorities get blamed for everything. They even get blamed for being themselves; for preferring their own culture. The criticism itself is made by those - claiming various degrees of indigenous status - who prefer their own culture, as perceived to have prevailed before the latter minorities threatened it. A third group has yet another preference, for a yet another culture: one which defines itself as the inclusive sum of all cultures.

You can argue over the extent to which individuals identify with a tribe (or should do, or shouldn't, or... whatever your politics dictates) but it does seem that people have a basic preference for "their own" - however defined. This is just a statistical observation, not a moral one. It is undeniable that religious groups prefer to in-breed; that minorities prefer their own; that majorities prefer theirs, even if perforce much more plural. Even multiculturalists prefer each other. Humans have innate preference for their own; they get defensive when these are perceived as threatened or hindered. This is just a biological observation, not a moral one.

Nevertheless, the flaw of the multiculturalist position is that it makes no such claim; not even the amoral one that "that's just how humans are". Multiculturalism is essentially an ideological position: a hope that cultural "mélange" will lead to the flourishing of humanity - as opposed to an empirical one: an acknowledgement of the nature of the human material we have to work with, and to struggle with.

Whatever the political/historical origins of multiculturalism in its ideological form, it appeals almost entirely to our good wlll, to a yearning hope for an end to all suffering. In the face of contrary evidence, a multiculturalist clings to his dream as a meek Christian does to inheriting the earth. The liberal sociologist Robert Putnam published possibly the widest ranging US survey - E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century - and was criticised for tagging on an unsubstantiated and over-optimistic conclusion. One that contradicted - by his own admission - the undeniably pessimistic message of his data:

Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television... Putnam challenged the two dominant schools of thought on ethnic and racial diversity, the "contact" theory and the "conflict" theory. Under the contact theory, more time spent with those of other backgrounds leads to greater understanding and harmony between groups. Under the conflict theory, that proximity produces tension and discord. Putnam's findings reject both theories. In more diverse communities, he says, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise. And in perhaps the most surprising result of all, levels of trust were not only lower between groups in more diverse settings, but even among members of the same group.
(New York Times)

The problem is neither with "backwards" minorities nor "racist" indigenous populations. It is with the ideology - the idée fixe - of multiculturalism. Civilization is the shift from tribalism, via nationhood, towards universal values. But this itself is a singular value; it opposes the claim that all values are equal. In a world where tribal self-identification - religious in particular - is on the increase, I don't see much basis for optimism.

(Image: a Paris demonstration by Mourides.)