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Works and Days

Western Guilt

March 12th, 2008 - 9:13 pm

Lord Multiculturalism

For forty years critics have attacked Western culture in general and its American brand in particular for an assortment of perceived sins. Minority groups have alleged America was singularly racist. Radical feminist have charged that it is sexist and male-dominated. Gays have complained about homophobia. Hard-core Leftists argued that the United States is exploitive and in thrall to a few elite capitalists.

All these critiques shared a common philosophy and a shared purpose—other than trying to achieve cosmic victim status as recompense for individual disappointment.

First, the charge was that our culture was inordinately dominated by white, heterosexual Christian men, who had systematically oppressed others to maintain their own privilege. Second, the solution was to enact affirmative action, change attitudes, pay fines, create new government programs to remedy the sin, and, in general, to begin ensuring that race, gender, and class “matter” more in American life.

But one doctrine united them all—multiculturalism. It preached that America is not a melting bowl of different races that are to be assimilated, integrated, and intermarried under a common culture, whose traditions, government, science, and laws derived from a singular Western civilization—one that began with the ancient Greeks and Romans and gave the individual far more freedom and security than did other indigenous cultures in Asia, the Americas, and Africa.

Instead, multiculturalism insisted that Western culture was the culprit for global inequality and the cosmic unhappiness of the individual. We all are to embrace distinct and different cultures, none of them inferior to any other, all meriting equal consideration and worth. No one dare suggest a foreign practice inferior, another country less successful than our own—especially given our supposed history of assorted sins. All, however, always flew on Western jets, took Western medicines, and used Western appurtenances from the Internet to cell phones.

Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury admitted that imposition of Sharia Law in Britain was unavoidable. Does that mean that should some British citizens choose to kill their daughters out of “honor”, or circumcise their female infants, it is just “different” and therefore immune from criticism? I thought feminism tried to ensure equal protection of all women under the tradition of Western secular jurisprudence.

Harvard University just announced that in defense to Islamic students it would segregate its all-use gym so that Muslim women would not have to exercise with men. Will Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists have similar demands? I thought that the woman’s movement was supposed to bar just that sort of discrimination—forced segregation on the basis of gender?

California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo and UC Berkeley have begun arranging joint engineering program with Saudi Arabian counterparts, among them King Abdullah University. But some complained that meant they would be a party to the exclusion of Jewish students and faculty, and the segregation of women. Wasn’t the university supposed to be the bastion of equal protection, in its loud denunciation of racism and sexism as it had in the past when it led the boycotting and embargoing of apartheid South Africa?

In 2006 Palestinians in their state-run newspapers published a series of odious racist cartoons of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Such primordial bias drew almost no media attention—at least far less than what met the Danish cartoonists, of a private newspaper and without official sanction, whose caricature of Mohammed as a terrorist led to riots across the Muslim world, and Western censorship and apologies.

The truth is that multiculturalism trumps all else. If Islamists, or people of the Middle East, express racist, or sexist, or homophobic sentiments, they usually get a pass from the West. So ingrained is the notion among our elite that there are no absolute standards of ethics and morality, that we have lost the ability to apply abstract moral judgment without exception.

There is irony to all this—other than the obvious fact that Western trash-talkers themselves rarely leave the protection of their Western embryos. Aggrieved racial groups, feminists, and gays in the West have made their appeals for equity on the principles of freedom and rationalism. Western society is self-reflective and self-critical, and embraces reason not superstition.

Therefore when a law, custom, or received wisdom can be shown to be illogical and biased, reason dictates that it should change. How odd, then, that these Western pressure groups have suspended criticism of anti-Semitism, misogyny, racism, and homophobia under the guise that such offenders from other cultures abroad are apparently different and thus not subject to the same standards they have used to indict their own.

The truth is that in the world today, if a young girl is murdered in Britain by her family for lost “honor”, if an Israeli professor is discouraged to participate in a joint American academic program abroad, if university facilities are to be cordoned off out of religious and gender considerations, if a black woman is to be portrayed as an ape in a cartoon, don’t expect Westerners to complain. You see, the offender is of a different race, culture and religion than our own in the West, and therefore either can’t be an offender like we are, or is to be given an exemption in deference to our far greater past sins.

In short, Lord Multiculturalism trumps every left-wing critique, every –ism and –ology.

Tidbits

Spitzer suggestions

1. Please no more dutiful wives on television. Is the point to mitigate the shame? If so, it doesn’t work, but suggests instead that his career is a sort of shared investment, both financial and status-wise, and the two, Clinton-like, will not endanger their joint venture. He can face the music alone, just as he was caught alone.

2. The god of all politicians should be Nemesis, an all-seeing deity whose eye sees all, and metes out justice in kind and amount commensurate with the perpetrator’s hubris.

3. The age of the prostitute—22 years—seems under-emphasized. Besides the issues of criminality, lying, misuse of funds, et al, there seems something especially disturbing about a middle-age male paying some 22-year old for sex, to such a degree that she must discourage the mature governor by reminding him that his proclivities are “dangerous.” Class is of interest as well. She was once a 17-year-old runaway and high-school drop-out. Wouldn’t the humane, the liberal Democratic thing have been, when learning of her circumstances, to say something like, “Wait, you don’t need to do this, here’s a better deal: I will pay you not for dangerous sex, but to finish high school?”


More Suicide Bombers in Baghdad

Islamic human cruise-missiles went off in Pakistan and Iraq this week, and not long ago in Algeria and Israel. Suicide bombers have been able to do what the most sophisticated Western weapons cannot—navigate through crowds undetected and blow up targeted groups and individuals. The human brain is more sophisticated than a computer, and, given the sick realities of the Middle East, a young Muslim represents less material investment than a $1 million missile. The more we turn to drones and robots, the more the primordial Islamists turn their propaganda to young, sexually frustrated, angry males, who have been taught to hate and blame all of the failures of their societies and themselves on a Western other, to be fixed by a sexual reward in Paradise. They more cheaply and more efficiently can trump Western technology, since built into their guidance system is a powerful directive that still baffles the West, we are willing on occasion to risk dying in order to live; the suicide bomber is living to die, a much stronger impulse, at least in the short term.

Ode to an Orchard

I watched yesterday a 20-acre nectarine orchard—already pruned and cultivated—yanked out by a bulldozer in north Fresno, ostensibly for more tract development. As I drove by, the news reported $108 a barrel oil, and the French Foreign Minister suggested that the magic of America was over. All this comes as a consequence of a pathetic dollar, huge foreign debt, mounting national debt, sizable annual deficits, and a mortgage crisis.

At some point as I watched the trees fall, I thought have we Americans forgotten we must eat and need fossil fuels still to live? Here in California we are tearing out some of the world’s best farmland—with ideal weather, good loam soils, gravity-fed Sierra Nevada water, skilled farm managers—to build houses that could otherwise either be put on marginal soils, or in greater density to discourage the paving over our national assets, and a time when food grows scarce and expensive.

In terms of energy, we continue to delay coal plants despite our vast reserves, we dither on nuclear power, we won’t drill off the California coast or in tiny parcels in a vast Alaska, while we talk grandly of wind and solar and hydrogen and all the other solutions that are decades away from contributing in major ways to our energy needs—while our enemies in the Middle East are building trillion dollar reserves that will find their way into the hands of those who want to kill us. Do we think Nigeria or Russia is easier on the environment than we are when drilling oil, or that the Chinese have cleaner coal plants? If we really live on planet Earth, then isn’t it incumbent on us to exploit our own resources safely to ensure others less careful do less damage to our shared globe?

Can’t we find a single Presidential candidate who says: ‘Hang on. We are going to get serious. We our going to build coal, nuclear, more hydro-electric plants. We want as many Americans as possible to buy a second electric plug-in car for urban driving; we want more efficient gas and diesel engines; we are going to cut spending, radically so, to balance the budget, pay down the debt, pay off our foreign debt, and raise the value of our currency. Tighten your belts: federal spending is frozen for five years; we are going to raise the Social Security retirement age and reform the system. The borders are going to close, and citizenship is going to mean something again.’

Should McCain say that, it would trump ‘hope’ and ‘change’ and the 1960s tired old agenda, adopted by both parties, that got us in the mess we’re in.

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