Friday, July 28, 2006

Multiculturalism's Endgame

There is an article in the Guardian in the U.K. that suggests that the multicultural philosophy is close to collapsing of its own internal contradictions. (Hat Tip: No Pasaran!.) In it, Germaine Greer suggests that a British author whose mother is a white Brit and whose father was born in Bangladesh is not culturally pure enough to write a book (Brick Lane, about to be made into a movie) about Bangladeshi life in Britain:

As British people know little and care less about the Bangladeshi people in their midst, their first appearance as characters in an English novel had the force of a defining caricature. The fact that Ali's father is Bangladeshi was enough to give her authority in the eyes of the non-Asian British, but not in the eyes of British Bangladeshis.

A connoisseur of absurdity cannot help but relish the whole episode. A white dinosaur Australian feminist takes it upon herself to take to task a “half-Bangladeshi” British writer for being insufficiently ethnically authentic. In this we see the entire multicultural pathology: trendier-than-thou elite leftists desperately racing to pile up the most tribally sensitive bona fides, even to the point of someone with no Bangladeshi blood pronouncing someone with half of it as inadequate.

The wheels, I think, are coming off the whole multicultural philosophy, which seeks to divide society into a series of cultural boxes, and then to put its own properly trained elites in charge of keeping the boxes impermeable and pure. There can be no “Britishness” to Germaine Greer, only the never-the-twain-shall-meet separate cultures of whites, Bangladeshis, etc. That the parents of Monica Ali (and that name itself, with its mixture of Christian Christian name and Islamic surname, is an act of defiance against cultural isolation) would dare to mate and create children that don't fit neatly into any of the preexisting cultural boxes is a fatal blow to Germaine Greer's entire culturally static conception of the world.

People like Monica Ali and her parents are the best hope we have against the ideology of cultural purism, as her very existence is a brick thrown into the glass house of cultural sterility that is modern multiculturalism. (When a Klansman speaks of the threats Jews and blacks pose to Aryan culture, we are rightly repelled. When multiculturalists speak of the threats minority cultures face from contamination by the majority culture, we are strangely fascinated.) This episode reminds me of the hilarious story of Rahila Khan. She was an author whose book, Down the Road, Worlds Away was published in 1987 and reviewed very favorably:

Virago Upstarts is a new series of books for girls and young women… . This new series will show the funny, difficult, and exciting real lives and times of teenage girls in the 1980s.” No prizes for guessing the reality of the real lives, of course: and Rahila Khan gives us “twelve haunting stories about Asian girls and white boys … about the tangle of violence and tenderness … in all their lives,” written “with hard-eyed realism and poignant simplicity.”

As for Rahila herself, she was born in Coventry in 1950, lived successively in Birmingham, Derby, Oxford, London, and Peterborough, married in 1971, and now lives in Brighton with her two daughters. She began writing only in 1986 (presumably when her daughters demanded less of her time), and in the same year six of her stories were broadcast by the BBC. Virago accepted her book, an acceptance that, in the words of Professor Dympna Callaghan, Professor of English at Syracuse University and author of a Marxist analysis of the exclusion of women from the Renaissance stage, “seemed to fulfill one of Virago’s laudable objectives, that of publishing the work of a diverse group of contemporary feminist authors.”

Alas, when a literary agent tried to contact Ms Khan, it turned out that he was neither female, let alone a “contemporary feminist,” nor Asian. Rather, “she” turned out to be the Rev. Toby Forward, a drearily conventional white Anglican priest. That he could write so compellingly about the lives of young Asian women while being so white and male seemed to put the whole multicultural literary project – we need to hear the authentic voices of dispossessed communities, etc. – in great peril. Indeed, in the article linked above Theodore Dalrymple notes that he had the same background – child of a gritty urban working-class neighborhood with tensions between whites and Asians – that the fictional Ms Khan was thought to have. And yet his whiteness apparently deprived the work of all its literary merit. And so of course there was nothing for the publisher to do but to destroy all the unsold copies of its own book, so that anyone who bought one now possessed a rarity.

The notion that tribal identity is destiny is incompatible with a free and harmonious society. The good news is that in the daily business of life – going to work, shopping, dating, marrying – people know that all the multicultural gibberish is irrelevant. The rise in multi-tribal workforces, in inter-tribal marriages, and so on, is making a hash of multiculturalism. And the end cannot happen soon enough.


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