Friday, January 16, 2015

Liberalism and Multiculturalism

This post is a response to a facebook post by Arpit Kothari. I've pasted his posted below:

In case anyone's been struggling to resolve the conflicting ideas of multiculturalism, and criticism of Islam - how to reasonably hold a liberal perspective without becoming a terror apologist:What is wrong with “multiculturalism”? That depends on how you define it. If you mean “tolerating or celebrating the customs of people from another land,” it’s fine—and desirable. The U.S. would be bland and uniform without its many immigrants, their celebrations and holidays, their food, their politics, their philosophies, and so on. But when multiculturalism involves importing antidemocratic ideas into a democratic culture, then it becomes problematic. The kind of “multiculturalism” that Charlie Hebdo opposed, and wished to be dissolved by “French” values, was Islam’s veneration of sharia law, its institutionalization of the subjugation of women, its calls for the death of apostates, gays, and adulterers, its belief in corporal punishment for criminals, and the Muslim habit, in some places, of patrolling the streets, looking to find and admonish young Muslims partying, drinking, listening to music, dancing, and associating with members of the other sex. Fun is a no-no.Above excerpt from this great piece:

The question of "how to reasonably hold a liberal perspective without becoming a terror apologist" indicates that there are some flaws in the liberal perspective itself. Clearly there is some contradiction when people's ideology leads them to a wrong conclusion. I would argue that there are two major themes in modern liberalism driving towards that unintended conclusion of being a terror apologist. So I'd like to briefly discuss what the core of traditional liberalism is, what the offending themes of modern liberalism are, and how that can be resolved.

Liberalism is the embrace of personal liberty. But we have to be careful to understand its context, lest we get carried away and say "liberty is being able to say or do whatever I want." Clearly shooting people is unacceptable, so we know there are limits on liberty. Liberalism comes to us from medieval Europe, and it was a change in political philosophy that said (1) governments exist to serve the people, not the converse, and (2) the legitimacy of government comes from the people. While these may seem like obvious ideas to us, that were revolutionary for their time, when Europe was ruled by monarchs whose legitimacy came from God himself. In this original context, liberty pertains to the governed masses as a whole and is in relation to the government. Later, the Renaissance would enhance the notion of personal liberty, yet this liberty is still in relation to the government. The people asked "let me live a moral life without government interference", not "let me do as I please without being judged", which brings me to the first fatal flow of modern liberalism.

Moral relativism is the notion that moral judgment on an individual must be made from that's persons viewpoint. This is often used when studying historical figures. We don't judge Alexander the Great harshly for being brutal, because he lived in a more violent era. We can also use it when analyzing members of other societies. We don't criticize a jungle villager from Papua New Guinea for his ignorance, because we understand that he had no chance at education. Unfortunately it has become popular to extend moral relativism to members of our own society. "Oh if you grew up in his neighborhood you'd be a thug too." "Her decisions weren't that bad considering her upbringing." "He wasn't successful because he faced institutional oppression." These sentiments may make us feel like good compassionate liberals, but they are extremely dangerous. A society must have a set of core values, and it must judge its constituents so that they uphold them. A common meme we encounter these days is "you can't judge me." This is bullshit. If society cannot hold its member to its core values, then there is no society at all.

The second fatal flaw in modern liberalism is the worship of multiculturalism. It's easy to imagine where this comes from. In a closed society, there is no multiculturalism. Think Stalin's USSR. The culture is imposed on the people from the government. Therefore, if a society has multiculturalism, it must be free! While that's as far as the logic takes us, some want to continue on, and assume that a lack of multiculturalism indicates a lack of liberty and that more multiculturalism means more liberty. If I see a seagull, I can deduce there is an ocean nearby, but I can't say that the more seagulls I see, the bigger the ocean must be. Or that a lack of seagulls proves there is no ocean close by. And yet, people see diversity as an end unto itself, and seek to actively maximize it directly. They scatter bird seed and, as the seagulls flock they say, "wow, look how big my ocean is getting!" Multiculturalism is like love; you can't force it. It won't work and it defeats the purpose.

So where does that leave us within the context of Europe's multicultural issues? For one, any insinuation that native Europeans are to blame for the improper actions of their immigrants is nonsense. Immigrants to any society must conform or leave. We expect the host nations to be open and give all resources needed to participate in the society (e.g. a modern education), but vigorously enforce the societal norms. No relativism, no special exceptions for multiculturalism; all citizens are judged to the same standard. The problem isn't that liberals are terror apologists, it's that they've become apologists for asocial behavior in general.

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