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October 21st, 2017

Insight

What's Behind 'Multiculturalism'

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published July 27, 2017

What's Behind 'Multiculturalism'

Two well-known columnists — Ben Shapiro and Walter Williams — criticize the left's love affair with Islam this week. In his column, Shapiro says that the left aligns with Islam because both want to destroy western civilization. Williams defends the west's values against those on the left who claim all cultures are equally valid, and he points to slavery, female genital mutilation, anti-Semitism, the stoning of women and the murder of homosexuals in Islamic countries as proof.

Both men warn that multiculturalism is a threat to the west. That's true, but it's important to understand why multiculturalism has become so destructive.

First, multiculturalism has devolved to the point where other human beings are viewed as exotic pets. Some years ago, I attended an academic conference in which scholars discussed the fate of indigenous peoples in South America. Unsurprisingly, speakers denounced the "western patriarchy" that forces our value structure and economic system on these tribes, and argued that the primitive peoples must be permitted to preserve their ways of life.

But their proposed solutions sounded more like "forced" than "permitted." There was to be no cultural exchange with these peoples — including such basics as infrastructure or medicines. As it happened, I had just read articles in National Geographic in which native Amazonians explained their need for paved roads to get crops to market, and praised eyeglasses for improving their vision for hunting and fishing. Yes, they wanted to preserve certain aspects of their culture. But they wanted to decide what the best mix of "old" and "new" would be.

I asked my colleagues, "Isn't it patriarchal for us to decide how and whether these peoples should advance? If they decide that they want paved roads, penicillin, eyeglasses and Coca-Cola, who are we — who already enjoy these things — to tell them no? It's as if we want to keep them primitive for our benefit — because it makes us feel better to know they're there, like some sort of third-world zoo."

In fact, condescension is behind much of what passes for multiculturalism today. It takes a special kind of cruelty to watch other human beings suffer with afflictions and under conditions that have been solved elsewhere, and to call such detachment "cultural sensitivity."

Second, appreciation for different cultures tends to require a set of absolute values; for example, the ability to acknowledge things as "beautiful" or "beneficial." Now we're told that there are no such absolutes. Furthermore, that admiration often results in the widespread sharing of certain aspects of other cultures' ways of dress, art, music, cuisine or worship. That is now denounced as "cultural appropriation." Meanwhile, legitimately backwards, harmful, destructive or violent practices are ignored under the guise of multiculturalism.

Finally, what's behind the current flavor of multiculturalism for some hardcore leftists is hatred of Judeo-Christianity and rejection of its G0D. This is evident not only in their treatment of observant Christians and Jews (especially their views on Israel, as Shapiro notes), but in their attack on science and truth.

In the absence of an absolute, there is no "truth"; there is only "power" and "personal narrative." Thus does good become bad, wrong become right, ugliness come to be hailed as beauty. A human baby in utero is "just a clump of cells." Killing it becomes a "human right." Teaching small children how to perform sex acts becomes "education." A man becomes a woman (and vice-versa) by proclaiming that (s)he feels like one.

Anyone who says otherwise — first and foremost the G0D of Jews and Christians — is the enemy.

Why the deference to Islam, then? While there are notable exceptions (Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Bill Maher, for example), Islam is often insulated from criticism by the left out of cowardice. Others (as Shapiro notes), see fellow travelers in Islam's battle with the west. But there are many who afford Islam protection under the label of "multiculturalism" because Allah is no more real to them than are Zeus or Cupid. In short, they tolerate Islam because they don't think it's true — but they despise Judeo-Christianity because they fear that it is.

This is not a godless worldview as much as it is a worldview in which every man is his own G0d. The Book of Psalms tells us, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no G0D.'"

And we wonder why so many in our culture are so foolish.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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