From “The Multicultural Morass,” The New Criterion (March 2012):
Back at the turn of the last century, the issue in the United States was encouraging people from different countries and cultures to assimilate to the American “melting pot.” It’s trickier today in Europe. On the one hand, there is a largely self-segregating population of Muslims. On the other, you have the ideology of multiculturalism, born and bred by Western elites, which sings the siren song of “diversity” and “equality of cultures,” but always with an Orwellian twist: “All cultures are equal, but some (in particular, some non-Western) cultures are more equal than others.” This is the dirty little secret about multiculturalism that Ms. Merkel and now some vigilant British MPs have exposed. In essence, as Samuel Huntington noted in his book Who Are We?, multiculturalism is “anti-European civilization. . . . It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” Multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt, which is as impotent as it is insatiable.
That’s the curious thing about multiculturalism: it is a Western export that is itself anti-Western. Born in the academy, it is the creature of political correctness. Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness. Courses on minorities, women’s issues, and the Third World proliferate; the teaching of mainstream history slides into oblivion. “The mood,” Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote in The Disuniting of America, “is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions from non-Western cultures.”
But as the tocsins sounded by Ms. Merkel and that coalition of British MPs remind us, multiculturalism is not only an academic phenomenon. The attitudes it fosters have profound social as well as intellectual consequences. One consequence has been a sharp rise in the phenomenon of immigration without—or with only partial—assimilation: a dangerous demographic trend that threatens national identity in the most basic way.
Multiculturalism is also an important element in a wider culture war: the contest to define how we live and what counts as the good in the good life.