Over the last thirty years, liberalism, or shall we say neoliberalism, increasingly distinguished itself from the right primarily by its support for a kind of watered-down, nonthreatening multiculturalism, since it has succumbed to the right’s economic convictions, except for marginal differences. So when we critique multiculturalism, we are addressing the distinguishing substance of American liberalism itself. Here we see holes in the wall so gaping that fascism can stride right through–as indeed it has. Even among those who consider themselves leftists and not liberals, many have accepted unquestioningly the vacuous affirmations of multiculturalism, without really asking if this commitment involves sacrificing the radical alternative to capitalism.
It can be argued that in the sixties there was need for historically oppressed groups to realize that there was nothing inherently inferior about them that relegated them to second-class status compared to the privileged white male. But thirty years later this valid assertion has become emptied of meaning, since it is not backed up and broadened by a range of ideas to give it content beyond the silly, self-referential declaration of identity. Today, it is the brainless cult of self-esteem which reigns supreme (even if it has to be accomplished via medication), at the cost of intellectual claims for recognition.
The therapy fad bears uncanny resemblance to the lexicon of popular elitism described by Umberto Eco as one of the characteristics of ur-fascism: everyone has something worth being proud of, even if it is only one’s identity.
Pushed underground, unpopular ideas might assume a momentum of their own, unseen, unscrutinized, but deadly and shockingly relevant when they do make an appearance. The best remedy for reactionism is to let it be exposed to the light of day, and trust in the ordinary person’s intelligence to make the distinction between truth and falsehood. This presumes that the media or the academy will be balanced enough to present both sides of the argument, rather than weigh the discussion toward the desired outcome. But leaving that aside, the fact that fascist ideology has so quickly caught on with so many in the last few years means that legitimate frustrations were being pushed underground. It simply was not possible to articulate certain things in certain ways, and that’s always bad.
But even this level of acceptance is only superficial. Among the younger generation, multiculturalism is supposed to have made such deep inroads that racism is a thing of the past: young white Americans have no hang-ups interacting with blacks or Hispanics or Asians. Does this tolerance extend to diversity of views, or does it only hold as far as young Americans having no difficulty accepting the other as long as he looks and acts and talks and works like anybody else?
Good to hear this from a liberal voice: diversity is monoculture that revenges itself upon any culture that hasn’t been made into cosmopolitan monoculture already.