Saturday, September 17, 2016

Quick Thought

As this touches on a hundred subjects, let me just put forth this premise and we will develop it.

Multiculturalism and Nationalism are competing methods for preserving smaller, less-powerful cultures.


jaed said...

Hmm. It occurs to me that they may or may not be competing methods, but they definitely are looking at the matter from different standpoints:

• Nationalism: my culture/people/nation is deserving of respect and must continue to exist.
• Multiculturalism: their cultures/peoples/nations are deserving of respect and must continue to exist.
(The plural is significant.)

The multiculturalist speaks from the perspective of the securely dominant culture, and the nationalist from the perspective of an embattled one fighting for its identity.

This also may explain the hostility of Blue Tribe multiculturalists to Red Tribe nationalists: the nationalists experience their culture as embattled, while the multiculturalists believe theirs is overweening. I think the disconnect here is a symptom of a divided nation, because neither of them is wrong. The only thing they're both wrong about is in thinking they're members of the same culture.

Christopher B said...

I have to disagree with the premise that these are equivalent. The key point in jaed's comment is 'single dominant culture'. Multiculturalism, like 'diversity', is about preserving the apperance that humans have a multitude of cultures while carefully curating what gets displayed in the human zoo. They go ballistic over 'appropriation' since it means the wrong things might be retsinef

Christopher B said...


james said...

Maybe we need a new category.

Nationalism says if we allow you in you should take our culture and identity. Multiculturalism says you can keep what remains of your culture and ethnic identity, provided you accept the premises of our culture. Hyper-multiculturalism says you can bring your whole culture and identity along with you, provided you don't annoy the elites.

jaed said...

We may need one more level: you must bring your whole culture and identify with you, and may not assimilate, and must keep that identity foremost, so that you will remain a cohesive group that can be wielded as a political and social weapon by the people who brought you here.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

How was it fifty years ago? People preserved some of their culture here, yet adopted this one. I wonder how much of it stems from having a culture one can refer back to?

jaed said...

(We might need to go back farther than 50 years. The 1965 Immigration Act seems to have seen the beginning of multiculturalism, not necessarily by that name, but "salad bowl" was current back... oh, by the early 70s I think it was commonplace, and "salad bowl" is an explicitly multicultural metaphor.)

I think the critical part was that people became Americans, with some subsidiary identity added on, rather than vice versa. They knew their heritage was Italian or whatever, and they ate the food and had Italian names and had a special affinity for other Italian-Americans, but at root they were Americans. That was their loyalty and primary identity, and they'd identify with Polish-Americans more than with Italy. Some immigrants were very loyal to America and some less so, but American identity seems to have been cemented in the second generation.

That's changed. I think it might be said best by what an acquaintance said to me once: he referred to himself as "US-born Asian". That is, Asian first and foremost, who just happened to have been born in this country. (The irony of the fact that "Asian" identity in that sense is pretty much restricted to the US is noted.) Eliding the idea of a base American identity that applies to everyone is implicit in the multicultural ideal, I think.

(I realize I'm being very America-centric here. In Europe, the question is different because European nations tend to be ethnic, ancestry-based. My impression is that there, when they started having immigrants in large numbers from other ethnicities, the attachment of those immigrants to their new nation was weak to start with, and the progression has been to make the attachment of the original population to the nation weaker as well, over time. The process has been different than it's been here because of differing initial conditions and national mythos.)

Sam L. said...

The idea of America is that almost anyone can come here from anywhere and BECOME an American. I will also note that Sarah Hoyt( says that she knew she was an American before she left Portugal to come here as an exchange student.