Some time ago, I wrote what follows to a friend and Professor of French Literature at York University who, like me, was struggling with the term “multiculturalism.”
Thank you so much for the nice lunch and the convivial conversation. I have missed that, living, as I do out in the country. I have reflected on the slogan on your new book (in my loose translation of your French), which you float under the label “transculturalism.”
“Peace is the genuine meeting with the Other, it is the total acceptance of difference.”
It is a moving dedication to some of the best impulses of the human spirit – to neighbourliness. But I respectfully disagree with this sentiment, and to its “multicultural” implications.
First, there is hardly anyone I know as pro-culturalist as me. And deeply so. I feel that there are aspects of culture that go so deep we are never actually fully conscious of them, or of their effects in our personal lives, or of their real-world effects on our evolving history, the nature of our particular civil society, and on our way of thinking as a whole.
The official government “multiculturalism” policy that I oppose, however, is something else entirely. It is a fabrication of governments that are attempting to quell intra-cultural tensions by dissolving all deep cultural affiliation, and appealing instead to a shallow, T-shirt conception of culture as something you can put on, or discard, at will.
In other words, official multiculturalism is a concept that dilutes true culture, which, if it is a real culture, must have real-life philosophical, economic, and political consequences. And it attempts to replace or rather, to dislodge that reality with a kind of sentimental cultural tourism. You know: exotic food and travel, dabbling in foreign languages, admiring all other races as beautiful and fascinating people, etc. But going no deeper. This skimpy notion, however, has little to do with any real, deep culture that has, and as I say, must have, real world consequences. It is just recreational, skin-deep culture.
One effect that government multicultural policy has had in the Western democracies – and a dangerous one, I believe – is a leveling of all deep cultures, as if, in historical, political, or economic terms, all cultures were equally valuable – which is what your slogan suggests. The aim all the modern Western states is to slowly convert all deep cultures into equally ineffectual skin-deep cultures.
That is why I must modify your slogan, above, to read as follows”
“Peace is understanding the Other, and the acceptance of differences that do not threaten or diminish the strength and value of one’s own deep culture.”
Here are just a few reasons why this is a better slogan …