Victor Davis Hanson
March, 12, 2008
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 purposeother 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 allmulticulturalism. 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 civilizationone 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 ownespecially 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 womans movement was supposed to bar just that sort of discriminationforced 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. Wasnt 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 attentionat 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 thisother 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, dont 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 cant 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.