• xenopolitix

590. Waiting (VII)

From 1997 to 2008 two buzzwords dominated Western political discourse: multiculturalism and globalisation. As with all such buzzwords, these two phrases generated innumerable books, articles, and TV shows devoted to “the issues”—today you would be hard pressed to find someone under thirty-five who knows what either term means. The terms broke down around 2008: globalisation—associated with an idea that supposed global economic integration led to more prosperity—came unstuck with the 2008 financial crisis. Whatever the particulars behind that crisis, it also killed globalisation as a buzzword.

Around the same time, thanks to continual strife between Islam and the West, multiculturalism fell apart—replaced, on the right, by a civic nationalist discourse that celebrated “Western values” and the “Judeo-Christian” front against Islam. The left, for its part, abandoned a conciliatory approach where all cultures interacted under the eye of putatively “neutral” states and moved to a forceful attack the West as such—so that “white supremacy”, an actual set of institutions connected to the American South in the 19th century, became the target; although the term was now extended to essentially incorporate the West entire.

Multiculturalism was an inherently Canadian concept; why? Canada is a bi-national state, British and French; and the Canadian establishment decided in the 1960s that they had “solved” the nationality problem. There is a relation to Britain here too: Britain is “the four nations”—with the Celts, Anglos, and Normans united under a common crown; arguably, the mother country provided an example where a multiracial and multinational state already functioned successfully. The Canadians took it one step further and believed they had achieved rapprochement between two traditional enemies—British and French—on the same soil.

Unlike in America, there was no Canadian “melting pot” because Canada was not an Enlightenment project; her egalitarianism was not universalistic, as with France (where the Republic thinks a man from Niger who knows Racine is fully French). Canadian multiculturalism was egalitarianism for multiracial, multinational states where people retained their differences but lived in a common framework—otherwise known as the “salad bowl” approach, every bit of the salad is distinct (not a melting pot) yet adds to the overall flavour. Canada also benefited geographically in this experiment: unlike Europe, Canada is huge—you can move across the country and never see a Chinaman from Vancouver or a Muslim from Toronto; nothing like Britain, where different races and religions are stacked right on top of each other in a tiny tinderbox. Canada has natural capacity to deescalate inter-racial and religious conflicts through her vast space, especially now many economic activities are not tied to location.

Hence at university it was a Canadian academic, Will Kymlicka, who was promoted as the central theorist of multiculturalism. Kymlicka studied under GA Cohen @ Oxford, a man who promoted “no bullshit” Marxism—by which he meant Marxism parsed by analytic philosophy (i.e. without the unscientific weirdo dialectics; without “historicism”, as Popper might say). Hence multiculturalism is Marxist, but it is a peculiar ahistorical Marxism (a contradiction in terms, really)—and this explains the odd way in which multiculturalists blandly see no difference between a Zulu, an Indian, and an Arab; they are strictly presentist, impeccably “non-totalitarian” because they have avoided dialectics and historicism.

I knew a conventional Marxist who refused to use the word “multiculturalism”; for him this progressive liberal term was quasi-fascistic. The crime was to include the dread word “culture”—the kultur, the barbaric substrate, closely associated with Spengler and Hitlerism. A good Marxist only sees the class—culture (heroic poems, tribal blood ties) is verboten, mystification created by bourgeois ideologists. Similarly, conservative liberals, those who talk about “universal Judeo-Christian values”, will also see multiculturalism as “fascistic”—again, it mentions kultur. Actually, multiculturalism’s “culture” is prophylactic, vaccine-strength; every “culture” under multiculturalism, when correctly interpreted, turns out to be progressive liberalism (e.g. an academic will say Islam actually anticipated contemporary ideas about transgenderism, unlike those barbaric white Christians)—in other words, multiculturalism is an attack on Western kultur.

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