Regarding All Cultures are Not Equal
There was an interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times recently. Its rare for an Op-Ed in a newspaper to actually be interesting, so this one caught my attention.
David Brooks, the author of All Cultures are Not Equal, is a conservative in the fairly traditional sense.
The premise of his Op-Ed is that multi-culturalism is a failed ideology and economists, scientists and liberals don’t really understand much of anything about culture and society, because the multi-culturalism that many of them have embraced seems to be going nowhere and not bearing fruit.
His Op-Ed is interesting because it is as just as right as it is wrong. Interestingly, he does at least frame the problem correctly, despite failing to fully understand the implications of his observations himself.
Go into the field that barely exists: cultural geography. Study why and how people cluster, why certain national traits endure over centuries, why certain cultures embrace technology and economic growth and others resist them.
This is the line of inquiry that is now impolite to pursue. The gospel of multiculturalism preaches that all groups and cultures are equally wonderful. There are a certain number of close-minded thugs, especially on university campuses, who accuse anybody who asks intelligent questions about groups and enduring traits of being racist or sexist. The economists and scientists tend to assume that material factors drive history - resources and brain chemistry - because that's what they can measure and count.
But none of this helps explain a crucial feature of our time: while global economies are converging, cultures are diverging, and the widening cultural differences are leading us into a period of conflict, inequality and segmentation.
Actually, this is a field of study that has dominated a certain school of thought for 150 years. That school of thought is Marxism. And, interestingly enough, David Brooks, the conservative, comes to the same basic conclusions that Karl Marx came to. Also, the scientsits are correct that material factors drive history. This has been proven time and time again. What does Mr. Brooks think that it is, the "hand of God"?
He goes on to say:
If you look just around the United States you find amazing cultural segmentation. We in America have been "globalized" (meaning economically integrated) for centuries, and yet far from converging into some homogeneous culture, we are actually diverging into lifestyle segments.
Not long ago, many people worked on farms or in factories, so they had similar lifestyles. But now the economy rewards specialization, so workplaces and lifestyles diverge. The military and civilian cultures diverge. In the political world, Democrats and Republicans seem to live on different planets.
Ahh... yes, indeed, and now we get to the point. What Brooks is discussing is one of the central points of Marxism. One of the primary objectives of the Communist movement was to create an economic system that preserved a common social structure, because Marx recognized that capitalism and its heavy focus on division of labor and marketing would drive society irreconcilably apart.
He concludes with:
People like Max Weber, Edward Banfield, Samuel Huntington, Lawrence Harrison and Thomas Sowell have given us an inkling of how to think about this stuff, but for the most part, this is open ground.
If you are 18 and you've got that big brain, the whole field of cultural geography is waiting for you.
Well, actually Karl Marx gave us a much better framework for “thinking about this stuff”, but the reason that we haven’t thought about “this stuff” in America for the past 50 years is because of the strongly anti-Marxist and pro-capitalist movement in America.
Capitalism and corporations are the central forces driving the breakup of the traditional social bonds. Indeed for the past 100 years in America the intellectual left has been denigrated as “cultural elitists” and rejected by both the Liberals and Conservatives, yet here is this conservative pondering the questions that “Cultural Elitists” have pondered and answered generations ago.
Leftists are not Liberals! Leftists are anti-liberal. Leftist are Cultural Elitists, just as Mr. Brooks is I can assume. It was Karl Marx and others in his camp who stated that class interests should transcend all other interests, and also that every society has its exploiters and its oppressive institutions.
It is the rejection of international solidarity and the movement to bring reform to societies around the world by Leftists that has led to the alternate embrace of “multi-culturalism”.
This is why we see Liberals today who amazingly champion the Muslims of the Middle East and oppressive societies in Africa. To many Liberals it seems that every society is good except your own. They fail to recognize a GLOBAL struggle, and they fail to come to the aid of the intellectuals and secularists in developing societies because they mistakenly believe that radical Islam is okay for “those people”. What about the people in Iraq and Iran and Saudi Arabia that hate Islam and hate theocracy and are oppressed by their own society?
Yes, all cultures are not equal, this is correct. We should recognize this and stop teaching multi-culturalism and instead teach rational secular society, which has proven through the past 200 years of technological, scientific and humanitarian advance that it is superior, and we should be helping to spread a culture of science, civil law, democracy and rationalism around the world.
But we haven't done that because its easier to exploit under developed people and take their resources at low cost.
We should be teaching our children to reject the obviously inferior cultures of religiosity and consumerism.
But, here’s the problem you see. The real reason that “multi-culturalism” has come to dominate our society is because #1 it benefits those that are in power economically and #2 its more acceptable than trying to come to terms with reality and define a culture.
So many Christians lament “multi-culturalism” , but the truth is that Christianity itself benefits from it. If we want to abandon the banner of multi-culturalism then we would have to really shine a strong light on what culture we would then embrace as “the best one”, and in truth, Christian culture could never stand up to that scrutiny. Multi-culturalism allows Christians to get by on bogus claims and baseless worldviews just like it does all of the other traditional, neo-traditional, and new-age cultures.
The Secular Left concluded that all cultures were not equal years ago. They were prepared to stand by rational secular democracy as the superior superior culture long ago, but the conservatives decided that instead of face extinction at the hands of secular intellectuals, they would rather hide behind multi-culturalism themselves. Now that the Secular Left has been fairly well defeated by the cooperation of the Liberals and the Conservatives, the conservatives feel strong enough to come out and try to proclaim their own superiority.
For more on the subject of social fragmentation see:
Division of Labor, Assembly Line Thought – The Paradox of Democratic Capitalism