Try to Remember
Francis Fukuyama concludes in the February 2007 edition of Prospect Magazine that Europe no longer remembers what it is, but that "immigrants" do. And that by and by the "immigrants" will tell Europe just exactly what to remember. But he stops at that point, as if trying to recall what comes next.
Multiculturalism, as it was originally conceived in Canada, the US and Europe, was in some sense a "game at the end of history." That is, cultural diversity was seen as a kind of ornament to liberal pluralism that would provide ethnic food, colourful dress and traces of distinctive historical traditions to societies often seen as numbingly conformist and homogeneous. Cultural diversity was something to be practiced largely in the private sphere, where it would not lead to any serious violations of individual rights or otherwise challenge the essentially liberal social order. Where it did intrude into the public sphere, as in the case of language policy in Quebec, the deviation from liberal principle was seen by the dominant community more as an irritant than as a fundamental threat to liberal democracy itself.
By contrast, some contemporary Muslim communities are making demands for group rights that simply cannot be squared with liberal principles of individual equality. These demands include special exemptions from the family law that applies to everyone else in the society, the right to exclude non-Muslims from certain types of public events, or the right to challenge free speech in the name of religious offence (as with the Danish cartoons incident). In some more extreme cases, Muslim communities have even expressed ambitions to challenge the secular character of the political order as a whole. These types of group rights clearly intrude on the rights of other individuals in the society and push cultural autonomy well beyond the private sphere. ...
Modern liberal societies have weak collective identities. Postmodern elites, especially in Europe, feel that they have evolved beyond identities defined by religion and nation. But if our societies cannot assert positive liberal values, they may be challenged by migrants who are more sure of who they are. ...
Immigration forces upon us in a particularly acute way discussion of the question "Who are we?", posed by Samuel Huntington. If postmodern societies are to move towards a more serious discussion of identity, they will need to uncover those positive virtues that define what it means to be a member of the wider society. If they do not, they may be overwhelmed by people who are more sure about who they are.
Fukuyama's article is full of wonderful phrases which one can't help thinking he may have read, at one time or the other, in some of Mark Steyn's writing. But the phrases "game at the end of history" and "postmodern elites, especially in Europe, feel that they have evolved beyond identities" are particularly striking ways of repackaging that old saw "my s**t don't stink". That Westerners have somehow levitated above the primordial need to perform the bodily functions -- and to survive is one of the grand understated premises of the age. And its biggest lie. There is a striking scene, in the 1998 fictional thriller Rainbow Six, where radical environmentalists who had planned to exterminating humanity to allow the earth to revert to some huge game park are punished by stripping away their clothes and told they will be home free if they can make their way some hundred miles across the Amazon jungle to the civilization they had hoped to destroy. Unfortunately for the environmentalists, they had not evolved to the point where they could levitate across the forest and consequently died, probably in excruciating agony.
The larger question implied by Fukuyama's article is how much of the current world crisis is actually due to Western vanity? And one of the fundamental measures of vanity is to what trivial solutions the clueless will resort to solve the most intractable problems. To the problem of hunger, Marie Antoinette was reputed to have said, "let them eat cake". By that standard the vanity of the West is nearly at par with Antoinette's. To the problem of the Muslim challenge challenge to Western Identity we have, well, "citizenship classes". Fukuyama notes, "Britain has recently been borrowing from both American and French traditions as it seeks to raise the visibility of national citizenship. The Labour government has introduced citizenship ceremonies for new citizens as well as compulsory citizenship and language tests." Let them eat cake.
Ralph Peters recently raised a ruckus by declaring that on the day Europe rediscovers itself, it will rediscover the Concentration Camp. There surely must exist alternatives between the ineffectual and the unthinkable; between the tea and crumpets of the citizenship class and the bread and water of the Death Camp. To think otherwise is to remained paralyzed. Unfortunately all the effective responses entail recalling the most unthinkable of all memories: the realization that Leftist thought, or a large part of it, has led the West to this pit of horrors. Until we remember that we can forget everything else.