Some reflections on “multiculturalism”
(NB: this is an anti-racist argument)
by Stephen Moriarty
We live in a world in which ethnic conflict is a problem of immeasurable seriousness. Swift had it right when he hinted that humans would fight over which end of their boiled eggs they broke first. How do we explain this? Most arguments make out that ethnic conflict is either inexplicable or immoral or both. Yet there must be an explanation, and since such conflict is conducted by human beings, there is clearly a point at which people overcome their scruples about it.
I think one of our difficulties is that it is usually assumed that a persuasive moral case is a persuasive political case, but it is not, as Machiavelli pointed out long ago. People do not act in line with even their sincere moral beliefs. We fully accept this with regard to things. We know the world would be a better place if possessions were shared and cared for by everyone, but we also know that our sinful nature makes us incapable of this. Capitalism is founded on this concession to “sin”. Marriage and “just war” are similar concessions by Christianity.
The conviction that human nature is essentially good, or can be made so, is a “bourgeois ideology” in the Marxist sense. Sensitive people who live in comfortable circumstances can benefit from the exploitation of those less fortunate with an easier conscience when they believe that life in poorer parts of society is only poorer, rather than also more vicious. This is important because it is difficult otherwise to understand the actions of the Left in destroying the only practical basis for socialism – national identity – by its actions after 1997. The answer is that it was never genuinely socialist in the first place. Its socialism was a bourgeois pose, a display of status by those who never wanted to face its consequences.
Indeed Marxism is a bourgeois ideology in the Marxist sense: the insight was hardly new that people tend to believe what suits them, and Marx excluded sexual motivation and thus relieved prudish people from having to think about the intractability and universality of human evil. This unwillingness to face the reality of universal evil leaves Marxists (and we are all Marxists now) prone to believe in evil in a religious sense (as supernatural) and therefore also prone to witch-hunting and wishful thinking.
The blogger Steve Moxon says that the PC project is a reaction to the failure of the Marxist prophesy of a proletarian revolution. The proletariat, stereotyped as white working-class males, has been rounded-on by its erstwhile champions (a Marxist/Dickensian sentimentality about the working-class was widespread until very recently), who now fetishise anything that is notwhite, working-class, or male, he says. Nevertheless low-status males remain, he says, the least privileged group in all societies; he says there is now a “runaway” bias against them such that their manifestly rough deal, in particular with regard to access to sex and reproduction, is not addressed. I think it is interesting that the two groups involved in the “grooming gangs” were low-status males and white girls from the British underclass.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the “grooming” cases was its show-casing of anti-white prejudice, although one should also mention the long paralysis of the authorities in the face of the problem. Such prejudice is common, as I once heard a brave black caller to BBC Radio 5 attest. The existence of this prejudice is like the existence of Saturn’s moons: it blows a whole world-view to pieces. As Albert Memmi describes in his book Portrait du colonise, portrait du colonisateur, the indigenous population becomes stereotyped as lazy. This is partly because indigenous people have usually established a civilisation in which there is some room for leisure and sharing and because they make up a full spectrum that includes the old, the sick and the feeble, whereas immigrants are obliged to work very hard (and all due credit to them for this) and are almost by definition dynamic. They also often have an ambassadorial pride in their birth-identity.
Furthermore, civilisations have strong hospitality codes that dictate self-effacing generosity to newcomers. Thus it tends to be the host civilisation that breaks down when confronted by mass immigration, because this self-effacement interrupts the normal process of inter-generational acculturation (see the “diversity agenda” in schools and on the BBC, for instance). Yet, in the unconscious of the colonisers, a people who have allowed themselves to be colonised are contemptible, all the more so perhaps when they have previously dressed up their cowardice as charity and thus insulted everyone by condescension.
The black lady who responded calmly to Emma West said that she was here to do the work people like Emma West didn’t want to do. This opinion is understandable because it must be difficult for immigrants to find an explanation for their being invited here in such numbers and under so little compulsion to assimilate if it was not because there was something wrong with the indigenous population. Many immigrants must have the impression that the British ruling class has decided to replace its people despite all the obvious risks, and that therefore the English working-class must have been truly useless.
The English working-class are thus in grave danger of becoming the “Other” to the “British”. They are, to many, the main moral, ideological and practical obstacle to the New Britain (Peter Mandelson’s phrase). They are subject to negative stereotyping on the grounds of culture, class, race, and “loser” status in the current colonial process (and as the descendants of the foot-soldiers of imperialism). The less the New British have in common (and multiculturalism is an ideology that celebrates division), the more they need a scapegoat; and the more the English attempt to resist, the more they will prove their savage incompatibility with modernity.
It is this that partly explains the oft-noted anomaly of greater hostility to immigration in low-immigration areas. In a society based on the notion of relatedness, inherent but taboo negative qualities are projected onto outsiders (“the Other”). When there is sufficient immigration, this ideology becomes untenable, not so much because it has been debunked (which it is to a degree), but because it becomes taboo: people suppress their fear in order to be able to go on with life. It becomes necessary to believe that the new situation is alright, that a society without kinship bonds is not less secure than one with them, and that the enemy is now those atavistic individuals whose persistence in regretting the change is a painful reminder that all may not be well. These become the scapegoat for all the fear and repressed “longing for the tribe”. They become the Other onto which the new taboo of racism can be projected. Racism becomes almost the only sin (and it is indeed a kind of original sin because it is inherent in all of us – we have an instinct to preserve local adaptation by mating with people like ourselves) because, in the effort to believe everything is alright, newcomers are sanctified, and since they are really normal, sinful, people, this means that much normal human sinfulness is placed beyond criticism. Only racism remains as “wrong”. This is “liberalism” and “multiculturalism”.
Thus the natural tendencies of human beings are inverted, rather as gravity holds up the arch. Perhaps societies always function in this masochistic way. As Roger Hicks has pointed out, we can see parallels with the Communist taboo on possessiveness, the Catholic taboo on sex and the general religious taboo on reason: they all use “prestige suggestion”, the bold denial of obvious truth, combined with Girardian group-psychology, to instil guilt and fear. While societies based on kinship can scapegoat outsiders (harmlessly?), those based on “anti-racism” (see below for why this is in quotation marks) will always need an internal scapegoat because they are based on the idea that there is no such thing as an outsider.
I am trying not to romanticise tribal society here. It is probably true that scapegoating was a normal part of tribal life, and an individual or group within the tribe might have found themselves accused of treachery, of being an Other, but in general the natural function of Othering was probably to keep the tribe alert to the very real danger that other tribes posed whilst maintaining “civilised” behaviour within the tribe. I suppose I am trying to trace out what happens when this natural function of Othering is frustrated by the guilt-mechanism of “anti-racism”.
While multicultural societies intend to treat all groups equally, in fact it is the indigenous population, as a consequence of its nostalgia, which provides the scapegoats. In practice it is only the indigenous population, initially in the majority, that has to adopt the new paradigm: in-coming groups, whilst ostensibly treating “racists” as the Other just like everyone else, remain able to “to other” foreigners, since they are one and the same people: indigenous individuals.
Thus the culture of indigenous population comes under an intense assault. Any attempt to maintain that culture is rejected by many of the indigenous because such loyalty is implicit evidence that the ideology of multiculturalism is flawed and that the new structure is dangerously unstable. Unable to face their situation, they instead redouble their efforts to believe that everything is alright: there occurs a frenzied fetishisation of the foreign and a further stigmatisation of the domestic culture, bringing about its collapse.
Thus what appears to be the apogee of progressive politics – multiculturalism – is in fact its nemesis. Every progressive cause is sacrificed upon its altar: manners, feminism, gay-liberation, child-welfare, animal-rights, rationalism, free-speech, economic equality and, most ironically of all, anti-racism. The mechanism by which (admittedly limited) progress is possible – rational debate leading to consensus – is wrecked by the apparatus of multiculturalism (which is, of course, merely relativism writ large): speech laws (they “creep” because any controversial opinion is a metaphor for the taboo); patronising, indeed racist, sensitivity to “cultural practices” (which become totemic – provocatively assertive); the fragmentation of the demos.
At the bottom of this catastrophe is hypocrisy. Richard Millet has quoted Moliere: “L’hypocrisie, c’est un vice a la mode, et tous vices a la mode passent pour virtus.”
Multiculturalism is a racist ideology.