Take British PM David Cameron's recent Munich speech. In this speech Cameron rejected a policy of multiculturalism in favour of a "muscular liberalism." According to Cameron, liberalism needs to be more strongly asserted as the basis of national identity and belonging. This, he claimed, would prevent alienated Muslim youth from turning to Islamic terror groups.
If you were to go back 25 years or so, there would have been little dissent on the right to Cameron's speech. The criticism of multiculturalism would have been thought sufficiently right-wing by the average conservative. Politics would not have moved beyond the limits of Cameron's speech.
And that's still largely the case. However, there are at least some voices on the right not falling into line but thinking through the repercussions of Cameron's position - and making principled criticisms of it.
Some examples? Well, there was my own effort. I pointed out that Cameron is advocating a civic nationalism in which a community is bound together by a common commitment to liberal political values. But civic nationalism has its problems:
- It requires political conformity. If you don't accept a liberal political philosophy, then you're not part of the nation.
- It is an indistinct form of identity. There are many Western nations claiming to be defined by the same liberal values. So why shouldn't they then merge together?
- It is not a deep form of identity. A civic identity isn't likely to inspire a deep commitment to the nation or a willingness to make sacrifices on its behalf.
Presumably said civic religion will permit these other competing faith systems so long as the citizens pay sufficient homage and don't oppose the state religion, viz his "freedom of worship" quote above.Elusive Wapiti is sceptical that the civic creed will manage to hold things together so easily. First, because it doesn't offer the same depth of meaning as the other faiths and so won't be recognised as primary and, second, because it fails to provide a basis for the self-regulation of civil society.
But, as men cannot serve two masters, the tolerance of heterogenous faiths will ensure the cultural Balkanization he criticizes will remain firmly in place...for I am convinced that the thin Enlightenment 1.0 gruel proffered by the secularists cannot compete with the more robust value systems that compete for the hearts and minds of the citizenry. Moreover, because the secular humanist liberal faith does not provide much for the citizenry to internalize as a guide for behavior, except for the pursuit of individual autonomy, the State will inevitably have to resort to iron-fist-velvet-glove governance to keep all those individual wills-to-power and competing theories of governance in check if it wishes to remain in power.
Then there is the bracing challenge to Cameron made by Frank Ellis. Dr Ellis has written an open letter to David Cameron which is well worth reading. One of the arguments he makes is that there is a fundamental contradiction in wanting a national identity that is "open to everyone":
You have been reported as saying that multiculturalism has failed. I see no clear statement of that in your speech at all. In fact, you claim that it is the indigenous population that has driven Muslims into their parallel societies.Dr Ellis also quotes the Turkish Prime Minister encouraging immigrants to resist assimilation as a "crime against humanity":
That you are still advocating some form of the cult is clear when you argue that ‘instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone’.
National identity by its very nature is exclusive, partial and narrow. A national identity that is ‘open to everyone’ is not a national identity. National identity is determined by a combination of genetic, racial, cultural, psychological, geographical, linguistic and mental factors, tempered by the blows of history, by shared suffering in war and peace, by humiliation and glory, by the memory of those gone before.
How can my English national identity be open to everyone? The answer is that it cannot. National identity that is open to everyone ceases to be a national identity; national identity that is open to everyone is just another way of promoting multiculturalism without using the m-word. In other words, it is a deceit, a ploy to disarm the critics of multiculturalism...
Nor do immigrants wish to share their identity with white Europeans. When, in 2008, he addressed a large Turkish audience in Cologne, the Turkish Prime Minister, Reccep Erdogan was quite clear by what he understood on the question of integration. He told his audience: ‘I understand the sensitivity you show towards the question of assimilation. Nobody can expect that you tolerate assimilation. Nobody can expect that you submit yourself to assimilation. Then assimilation is a crime against humanity.’ Erdogan’s vision of how he expects Turks to behave in Europe is just one of a number of reasons why a Muslim non-European state such as Turkey can have no place at all in the EU.
Finally, Lawrence Auster wrote a terrific post setting out the differences betweeen right and left liberals when it comes to issues of multiculturalism and assimilation. Again, if you haven't read it yet it would be profitable for you to do so. I'll quote the section most directly relevant to Cameron, in which Auster criticises the politics of right-liberals:
The second wing is right-liberalism, a.k.a. the "right." The "right" says that the West is good, but that it is good only insofar as it is defined as a universal society consisting of equal and interchangeable rights-bearing individuals. It is not good insofar as it consists of distinct historical nations, cultures, and peoples. The "right" believes in the West, but the only good the "right" recognizes in the West consists in those values and procedures that are the product of liberal individualism.
The "right" calls for non-discriminatory openness, not to alien cultures, but to the individuals who belong to those cultures. It says that people from other cultures must be admitted into the West, and that after they are admitted, they must "assimilate" and "integrate" into the Western culture. The "right" thinks this is possible, because it assumes that people from other cultures are entirely passive and have no cultures, cultural agendas, or cultural personalities of their own that they care about and seek to express. The "right" assumes that people from other cultures want nothing more than to earn a living, raise their children, and "enjoy our freedoms." In other words, the "right" sees people from other cultures not as moral actors in their own right, but as good little children whose only role in the world is to fit into "our" right-liberal program.
So, when the tens of millions of individuals from other cultures who have been admitted into the West turn out to be, not mere faceless ciphers wanting only to earn a living and "enjoy our freedoms," but carriers of alien cultural identities and of claims and grievances against our culture, i.e., actual human beings who are not like us and who want to make their own mark on the world, the right-liberals have no response except to dismiss such claims and grievances as irrational multiculturalism, and to say that we have not tried hard enough to assimilate the newcomers and must try harder. The call for "more assimilation"--meaning the assimilation of essentially unassimilable people--never has any practical program connected with it; it is the emptiest of rhetorical ploys, the only purpose of which is to defend from criticism and keep alive the right-liberal ideology.
As I said at the beginning, it's heartening to see such intelligent criticisms of right liberalism. It may not be enough right now to have a practical impact, but it's a step in the right direction. It's a model of what is needed on a larger scale in the years ahead.