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The Ark and the Titanic

Two iconic vessels that define our multicultural times.

by
David Solway

Bio

November 3, 2011 - 12:40 am

In our indulgent multicultural society, it has become a rule of conduct that one must neither insult nor restrict the expression of another’s religion even if the price we pay for our overweening tolerance is individual suffering and cultural upheaval. But of course, the multicultural ideology of laissez-faire is fundamentally duplicitous and is applied selectively, for Judaism has recently come under fire in the form of anti-Zionism and Christianity tends to be regarded with suspicion, if not contempt. The faith which has been the greatest beneficiary of such relaxed, insidious and self-immolating attitudes is, naturally, Islam, although few will admit this in official and public discourse. As former Islamic zealot Ibn Warraq asserts in Why I Am Not a Muslim, “Western scholars and Islamicists have totally failed in their duties as intellectuals. … They have betrayed their calling by abandoning their critical faculties when it comes to Islam.”

It is no easy task to get one’s mind around the fact that we live in a society whose intellectual vanguard and its numerous adherents have taken up the case for unstinting immigration, whose chief stipendiaries are the growing number of Muslim immigrants many of whom refuse to integrate into the majority culture and, indeed, are not required or persuaded to do so, owing to the principles of the multicultural ethos. Newcomers are not urged to assimilate but to maintain their cultural identities and usages, even if the practices they import from their countries of origin are, by Western standards, primitive, atavistic or barbaric. Unless indicted for war crimes, everyone is welcome to make their “contribution” to the so-called cultural mosaic.

This is a policy blunder from which we may not recover. It is a grave error to conceive of society as a sort of gigantic and permissive Noah’s Ark in which every creature almost without exception is welcomed and given sanctuary, even those engaged in boring holes in the timber, throwing their bunkmates overboard and blowing up the wheelhouse. Such is the multicultural model currently in vogue and in the long run it doesn’t work. As Salim Mansur, author of Delectable Lie, contends in a recent article, the time has come to admit “the failure of official multiculturalism in securing social harmony, or advancing national interest.” If we do not rethink the premises of that species of demagogic preferentialism we call multiculturalism and its attendant language of obfuscation, the ship of state will eventually founder.

Roger Scruton in The West and the Rest sees the multicultural idea as devolving into “a form of apartheid” in which the newcomer may give his allegiance to his own group rather than to the environing political culture which sustains him, and may even regard the state which defends his freedom and subsidizes his existence as a legitimate target for destruction. “People who see all law, all social identity, and all loyalty as issuing from a religious source,” he writes, “cannot really form part of this political culture, and will not recognize either the obligation to the state or the love of country on which it is founded.” Admission to the culture and the political order must be strict and those who may pose a significant threat, whether individually or communally, must be carefully screened and refused their boarding cards.

As I argued in The Big Lie, a viable society does not resemble the interplanetary tavern in Star Wars serving all the weird and wonderful but also rowdy and uncontrollable denizens haling from every quadrant of the known universe. We will certainly have to become more responsible and less maudlin in determining what array of behaviors qualifies as good citizenship and how to prevent the self-ghettoizing of immigrant communities. But all this, of course, presumes that it is not already too late, for, in the present environment, even if Islamic terror and other forms of incursion, such as sharia law, should be countered, the Islamic baby carriage is hard at work and the issue that must be joined may already have been decided, at least for Western Europe.

In this way, the current misconception of the Ark, conceived not as vessel intended to preserve the culture from the deluge which threatens it but as a vast liner welcoming all and sundry aboard without stringent qualification, morphs into the Titanic. I can understand education theorist Frank Smith’s despairing remark, ad libbed during a pedagogical lecture at Brigham Young University, that one had better abandon the Titanic before it is too late. Why wait for the iceberg? It seems clear that we have arrived at a valedictory juncture, foolishly determined to emulate Felicia Hemans’ preposterous hero in her poem “Casabianca,” once on the high school curriculum, who refused to abandon ship before “sail and shroud…mast, and helm, and pennon fair” littered the sea with their wreckage.

But is this a feasible scenario? The problem with jumping off the Titanic is that there is really nowhere to jump. Everything is the Titanic: the ship, the sea, the land, the lifeboats, even the iceberg. Such apocalyptic counsels, of course, disregarding their improbable character, have been offered many times before, perhaps most famously by Horace in Epode 16 where he notes that Rome is about to do what its enemies never could, namely, destroy itself, and recommends abandoning the ship of state. “Let us be on our way, all citizens,/or those above the dull-witted herd: defeatists and weaklings/can rest indolently on their unlucky beds.” The predicament, as we have seen, is that there is no landfall waiting to receive us.

But who knows? History is not reliably predictable and we might always get lucky. Perhaps the emblematic Ark, newly governed by a responsible hierarchical structure, good seamanship and shared commitment, can be restored to its original purpose as a preserver of the culture. Perhaps the Titanic will right itself and make port, where it may even undergo a process of refitment and the eschatological argosy be saved. Or a better analogy might be the famous incident in which a stricken US Airways airliner made an emergency landing in the Hudson River and stayed afloat long enough for the passengers to be rescued.

I would like to believe — assuming there is still time — that a cynical and obtuse political elite will be moved one day to reconsider its destructive fantasy of cultural specificities entrenched at the cost of social unity and recognize the multicultural delirium for what it is: the loss of culture and nation and its replacement by ethnic fragmentation. As William Gairdner warns in The New Criterion, “multiculturalism has mutated into multi-fascism, a trend that is creating mini-nations within nations, many of which, as in France, are now violent ‘no-go’ zones for the police.” Or even worse, we may awaken one day to find an alien ship sailing upon our waters.

But it will take considerable reeducation. We are now well past the eleventh hour which once, long ago, when we were still in school and presumably learning something, merely signaled recess time.

David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, was released by Mantua Books. His latest book is The Boxthorn Tree, published in December 2012. Visit his Website at www.davidsolway.com.
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