Multiculturalism vs Liberalism

In an interesting post Sunday about the Present Prophetic Cartoon Kerfuffle columnist Mark Steyn notes that
Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a "diverse" "tolerant" society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot.
This is a very important point. Personally, I would never dream of portraying the Prophet in a cartoon--not because I'm afraid my house would be fire bombed but simply as a matter of respect for my Muslim brethren to whom such a depiction would be blasphemous. I am always heartened when I hear of Muslims who are indignant about negative depictions of Jesus, and I am happy to return them the favor when it comes to their own religion. Like many, I was outraged by the "Cruci-fixin's" that was to have been one of the main anti-Christian jokes on an upcoming episode of "Will and Grace" (since pulled by the network), so I think I can understand how faithful Muslims feel about the way their Prophet is sometimes used for political or social purposes. But there is obviously a difference between feeling outraged or, perhaps more consistently, saddened by such things and going down to the nearest Consulate and throwing stones at people.

I think it's important to remember that for every weirdo throwing a Molotov cocktail there are many thousands of devout Muslims who would never dream of acting violently towards even the worst of sinners. Islam, like Christianity, worships the God of Mercy and Compassion. The violent folks are not acting qua Muslim when they act violently. There are Christians who sometimes act that way too, though you don't hear about them very often, and they are not acting qua Christian when they act that way, either. These people are not religious fanatics, they are simply fanatics.

For people like that, democracy is actually a Bad Thing, since it tolerates dissident views. In this sense these fanatics are no different from the Communists or the Fascists, for whom the elimination of opposing views by whatever means necessary is licit if done in service to The Cause. When I was in college there used to be these student groups who set up tables in the Student Union to display their literature, and I used to like to go to the Young Spartacus League table, because those guys were off the scale in terms of political wackiness. They were always willing to argue with people stopping by, however, so I often took the liberty. I asked one of them once why he advocated revolution and violence to bring about his Workers' Paradise--why not use democratic methods instead. His answer, given in all sincerity, was quite simple: probably the majority of folks wouldn't approve of the programs they would put in place, so you have to force it on them. Shouldn't the majority rule, I asked. No, only the workers should have any say. But a lot of workers--at least in this country--don't support communism either, I said. That doesn't matter, he said, they will once we've re-educated them to support it.

Well, it's a point of view. I hope you will forgive my sense of Schadenfreude when I report that this conversation took place in 1976--not long before a very different Revolution took place that my Young Spartacan could not have felt very happy about, the Reagan Revolution, followed by the fall of European Communism. I hope he's been re-educated sufficiently to appreciate how much better off he is now than he would have been after his own revolution.

Folks who insist that everything be their way or the highway (to hell) are not thoughtful people. This is true not only of pseudo-Muslim fanatics throwing bombs at people but also of the intolerant Left in our own political culture. One reason why a joke like "Cruci-fixin's" is acceptable in (some parts of) our culture is because Christianity itself is growing ever less acceptable to the folks on the left for whom Christianity represents sexual repression and anti-materialist zealotry. A TV show that makes a blasphemous joke about an innocent person's cruel, tortured death throes is quite different from a riot, of course, but both are about as inappropriate as you can get. I imagine that some of the same people responsible for making jokes about the unimagineably cruel death by crucifixion, which usually involved six or seven hours of horrendous pain and agony, are also very much opposed to the death penalty in our country, which usually takes all of 10 minutes--but consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, I suppose.

I am not a Muslim, and there are aspects of Muslim culture that do not appeal to me. I might be tempted to write about those aspects someday, but I would never make derogatory remarks about the Prophet himself, simply out of deference to the idea that intelligent people can differ about the nature of the True and the Good. It is precisely this deference that makes genuine dialogue possible, and it is dialogue that makes Liberalism--the only kind of multiculturalism that matters--possible. This is a fact that is lost on the likes of the writers for "Will and Grace", as it is lost on many of the self-styled "Brights" who ridicule Christianity and its contributions to Western civilization. For such people, the elimination of religion is not too much to hope for, even if it means re-educating the millions of persons for whom religion is our only contact with what Plato called "the really real." For these fanatics, it's their way or the highway. They are the intellectual fascists of our time.


My way or the highway...

Reminds me of this:

There is a sad truth in the story that was prevalent in New York City during the depression. The communist orator in Central Park was encouraging his hungry hearers to be loyal communists because, very soon, the Revolution would come. And when it did, what a change-about there would be! He said, "Now you eat bread and water while the swells on Park Avenue eat strawberries and cream. Come the Revolution, they will eat bread and water while you eat strawberries and cream." Someone objected, "But, Comrade, I don't like strawberries and cream." The speaker eyed him for a moment, "Come the Revolution, you'll eat strawberries and cream and like it."
-- Gerald Kennedy, _A Reader's Notebook_, 1953

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