"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

"The petty economies of the rich are just as amazing as the silly extravagances of the poor." - William Feather

***

"The paradox is that the power of culture is utterly contrary to the most fervently held beliefs and values of the advocates of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is a movement of the left, emerging from the counterculture of the 196os. But culture is powerfully conservative. Culture is what enforces obedience to authority, the authority of parents, of history, of custom, of superstition. Deep attachment to culture is one of the things that prevents different people from understanding one another. It is what pushes groups into compliance with practices that can be good or bad, depending on one’s point of view...

The point is that while multiculturalism is in some instances what it sounds like it should be, a fuller realization of American pluralism, it is for the most part a code word for something that, again, is not multi, or cultural, or even an ism. It Is a code word for a political ambition, a yearning for more power, combined with a genuine, earnest, zealous, self-righteous craving for social improvement that is characteristic of the mentality of the post-196os era in American life. The 196os were the rebellion years. A new consciousness emerged, involving irreverence for standard beliefs and a sudden illumination of how our traditions were not the results of some irrefutable logic but rather servants of the holders of power, how our unexamined habits of mind perpetuated an unjust status quo. Out of the burning wish for betterment grew what has now become a kind of bureaucracy of the good, fighting battles that have already been won, demanding ever greater commitments of virtue from a recalcitrant population. This bureaucracy, made up of people who, like Rohespierre, are convinced that they are waging the good fight on behalf of virtue, is the instrument of ideological multiculturalism whose effectiveness lies precisely in its ability to appear to be the opposite of what it actually is. It is an ardently advocated, veritably messianic political program, and, like most political programs that have succumbed to the utopian temptation, it does not take kindly to true difference.

Multiculturalism, in short, cannot be taken at face value, and that is what makes it so tricky. Nobody wants to appear to be against multiculturalism. Hence, the irresistible temptation of the post 1960s, radical-left inhabitants of a political dreamland to use the term "multiculturalism" as a defense against exposure or criticism and to bring into service a vocabulary to which multiculturalism has an almost salacious attraction, words like “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic.” To put matters bluntly: the multiculturalist rhetoric has the rest of us on the run, unable to respond for fear of being branded unicultural, or racist, or (to get into the trendy academic lingo) complicit in the structures of hegemony imposed by the Eurocentric patriarchy and its strategies of domination.

In such a way does multiculturalism limit discussion; it makes people afraid to say what they think and feel; it presents dubious and cranky interpretations and analyses as self-evident, indisputable truths. It often operates, not through the usual means of civil discourse and persuasion, but via intimidation and intellectual decree. It rewrites history. It sanctions a cultivation of aggrievement, a constant claim of victimization, an excessive, fussy, self-pitying sort of wariness that induces others to spout pieties. And that, in turn, covers the public discussion of crucial issues with a layer of fear, so that we can no longer speak forthrightly and honestly about such matters as crime, race, poverty, AIDS, the failure of schools, single-parenthood, affirmative action, racial preferences, welfare, college admissions, merit, the breakup of the family, and the disintegration of urban life.

Multiculturalism, in short, has reached the point of dérapage. It is a universe of ambitious good intentions that has veered off the high road of respect for difference and plunged into a foggy chasm of dogmatic assertions, wishful thinking, and pseudoscientific pro nouncements about race and sex, At its worst, it is what my title suggests. It draws on the old Puritan notion of America as the city on the hill, a new moral universe, to impose a certain vision of rectitude. And, in this, the idealistic and good-hearted movement of inclusion and greater justice veers toward a dictatorship of virtue...

My own belief is that the multiculturalist rhetoric has the effect of defining down many other forms of bad behavior. Teenage pregnancy is transformed from a cause of shame into one of many “diverse forms of the family.” Violence in schools is not an offense but the teachers’ ignorance of the “cultures” of a “diverse student population.” Their pupils fail to learn, not because they do not study hard enough but because they have “different ways of knowing” or because they do not see themselves “reflected” in the curriculum. Anti-male, anti-white, and anti-Semitic bigotry at institutions of higher learning is coddled in the belief that it is the natural expression of the rage of the culturally dispossessed...

The plain and inescapable fact is that the derived Western European culture of American life produced the highest degree of prosperity in the conditions of the greatest freedom ever known on planet Earth. The rich and the advantaged of our society will survive even are taught to believe something different. But to teach the poor and the the disadvantaged that they can ignore the standards and modes behavior that have always made for success in American life is more than mere silliness. It is a lie."


[On the Philadelphia Inquirer pointing out that was a lot of black children, mostly born to single mothers] "“No one should be compelled to use Norplant,” the editorial said, also pointing out that the device can be taken out at any time if a woman who uses it decides she wants to have a baby. Meanwhile, the paper asked, addressing here one of the pressing social problems of our time, “What if welfare mothers were offered an increased benefit for agreeing to use this new, safe, long-term contraception?”

“All right, the subject makes us uncomfortable, too,” the editorial concluded. “But we’re made even more uncomfortable by the impoverishment of black America and its effect on the nation’s future. Think about it.”

The editorial caused an eruption of anger, not especially among readers of the Inquirer, who did not seem to take umbrage in significant numbers, but among the staff. Black reporters circulated a petition calling for the dismissal of David Boldt, the editor of the editorial page. The newspaper published a letter by one of its own reporters, Vanessa Williams, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, assailing the editorial’s suggestion as a “tacit endorsement of slow genocide.”...

King, who presided at the meetings, told me that something bothered him about the confrontations, unprecedented at the Inquirer. It was not so much the charges of racism and white-male bias directed against Kimelman and Boldt, which, while certainly untrue, needed to be answered, King said. What disturbed him was something else.

"There were times when the tone and texture of the meetings became so combative that it felt to me that there was something potentially destructive there,” he said. Specifically, there were the calls for the resignations of Boldt and Kimelman. “What was in the air that somehow the answer would be to silence these people,” King said. “That bothered me.” The healthy aspect of the incident, he said, which was the candid exchange of views and the resulting greater awareness of differing racial perspectives, mingled “with some unhealthy aspects to it,” namely what King called “intellectual intimidation”... An important discussion of inner-city poverty had, in effect, been deformed into a separate and in this case largely irrelevant argument about racial sensitivity, an examination of the thought of those who were making the arguments. The need to be sensitive had, it seemed, taken priority over the need to discuss our social problems freely and openly."


"In one case Sulton handled a lawsuit on behalf of Cheryl Robinson, a black woman who lost her five children in a fire at home. “The police chief made statements to the press saying that they thought she wasn't home at the time of the fire, the implication being that she therefore responsible for the death of her children,” Sulton said. The policeman's claim prompted demonstrations led by local black clergymen against what was called “gross insensitivity.” In addition, said Sulton, “We filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that they had defamed her and caused injury. The case was settled about three or weeks before trial, and the police agreed to pay six thousand dollars in costs, to change the training procedures for police and fire officers, to redouble affirmative action efforts, to hire more people of color, to change the citizen complaint process, and to issue a public apology to my client.” All this was done because of one allegedly insensitive remark by a police officer...

In what way was the police chief's statement discriminatory? “We alleged that if Cheryl Robinson had been a rich white woman he would never have made those statements to the press,” Sulton said.

She did not refer to numerous newspaper reports appearing at the time in which Robinson’s whereabouts in the period before the fire were hotly contested. There were some who said she was at home when the fire broke out and left to seek help. But the local Capital Times newspaper reported on police-radio recordings that indicated Robinson could not be found until an hour or so after the alarm on the early morning fire was sounded and that a witness told police he saw her at a local cafe at midnight, two hours before the fire...

Even the United States Navy has adopted the sensitivity-training route. In 1992, five career officers were demoted after a party at which Congresswoman Pat Schroeder was cruelly parodied, even though then President Bush and Vice-president Quayle were also the objects of satire at the same party. The lesson here was that a sensitivity seen as obligatory for women like Schroeder is not so obligatory when it comes to a man, even if the man is the commander in chief."


"Diversity training is the corporatist counterpart to that obsession in university education summed up by the boilerplate phrase “race, class, and gender,” whereby, for example, the study of literature is deprived of such considerations as the struggle for meaning, or character as tragedy, or mystery and ambiguity, and instead is cogitated over endlessly by literary 'theorists' demonstrating through 'texts' how attitudes toward race and sex are 'socially constructed'.

To be sure, no reeducation-camp atmosphere reigns in the mild diversity-training program of a David Tulin, who, as I have said, is an entirely reasonable man. Still, the underlying ideology that emerges, oh so gently, from a Tulin workshop incriminates whites, portraying them as the bearers of the chief defects of thought, while exculpating others from corresponding defects. It reifies (to use a popular New Age academic term) victim status. It erodes individualism, in that it presents people primarily as products of their racial and sexual identity, rather than as free, self-fashioning members of a democratic society who assume responsibility for themselves."


"In fact, for me at any rate, the biggest objection to diversity training is not even its content, but the fact that it exists at all, adding yet another coating of mandatory sanctimony to a society that alread has trouble talking about things frankly and honestly. It is, quite simply, an attack on freedom and autonomy for people to be pressured, or required, to attend chapel and told what it is proper think, to feel, and to believe. The whole point of the liberal revolutiut that gave rise to the 1960s was to free us from somebody else’s dogmas but now the very same people who fought for personal liberation a generation ago are striving to impose on others a secularized religion involving a set of values and codes that they believe in, disguising behind innocuous labels like “diversity training” and “respect for difference.”"


[On the American Historical Association] "When I studied China in graduate school, I had before me a subject far removed from me personally. At the AHA now everybody seemed to be studying what was closest to themselves, a fact that
provided an early clue to the true nature of multiculturalism - it is not an interest in the other so much as an insistence that the other be interested in me. The organization was subdivided into a host of special interests. There was the women’s interest section, the African-American section, the gay and lesbian section, the Marxist history section, and various others. Gone were what I thought of as the Grand Themes, the declines and falls of empires, the waxing and waning of civilizations, the struggles of competing armies, the achievements of Great Men and Women. The panels had titles like "Women’s Definitions of Love Throughout Western History,", "Sex, Gender and the Constitution,” “Black Women in the Work Force,” “Sodomy and Pederasty Among 19th-Century Seafarers.”

Again, there was much in this that enlarged the mind, and much that seemed a cloying, guilt-ridden effort to make group affiliation the ultimate principle, race and sex the prisms through which the data from the past would be filtered. There should be no nostalgia for the good old days of the AHA, which, up to the mid-196os or so, truly was a male and WASP club. But what the 1987 AHA meeting showed was that each group now had created its own closed club in which the advancement of its political program replaced even the ideal of disinterestedness.

The panels took place in an atmosphere of in-group complicity rather than scholarly debate. The unvarying underlying themes were the repressiveness inherent in American life and the sufferings of the groups claiming to be victims of that repressiveness. We lived in a vale of tears. The history of the United States was the history of suffering for all but the white establishment. For many historians, history had become advocacy, and this was justified because, they said, it had always been that way. The only difference was that in the past, white males, the patriarchy, the “heterosexy,” had used their control of history to ensure their domination, espousing the ideal disinterestedness to make their power seem to derive from a human universal. My own feeling was that the old white-male club, whid was, after all, dominated by a group known as the progressive historians, who furthered the liberal ideal, was more open to challenge and to dissent than the various splinter groups that seen to dominate the proceedings today."


"The New York Times in June 1991 carried an op-ed piece by a high school junior named David Reich who had just taken the Scholastic Aptitude Test. His article, checked by the Times with the Educational Testing Service, which produces the SAT, noted the disproportionate number of questions that referred to blacks, other minority group members, and women, as though the ETS, guilty of having “silenced” these voices for so long, was now silencing others, giving the previously excluded so much of a compensatory presence that a new imbalance had been created. Albert Einstein and Saul Bellow were absent from the test, but Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Jackie Robinson, Maya Angelou, August Wilson, Ralph Ellison, and Zora Neale Hurston were present.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, helped by the film by Spike Lee, Malcolm X came to compete with Martin Luther King Jr., as the most important iconographic black figure, the chief African-American place of memory. Malcolm, who spent his life in a group very marginal to black American life, the Nation of Islam of Elijah Muhammed, and who for years contended that the solution to the race problem was for the American government to pay for the transportation of blacks back to Africa, emerged as a transcendent figure whose “X” suddenly became the most fashionable image on the streets of black neighborhoods, in schools and on university campuses. The contrast between King and Malcom is striking. For most of their lives (indeed, until just shortly before Malcolm was assassinated by members of the Nation, with which he had broken), Malcolm and King represented the two poles of black political opinion. King, who refused to appear on the same platform as Malcolm X, stood for interracial brotherhood, integration, and pacifism. Malcolm X represented racial separation, antagonism toward whites, and the threat of violence as the means to obtain racial justice.

Columbus and Malcolm X are telling images of the move from pluralism to multiculturalism. The spirit of the age has made one the personification of the White Oppressor and the other the Oppressed Person of Color; one has become discredited, Eurocentric uniculturalism, the other a validation of the rebellion against prevailing norms. In both instances, historical truth has given way to political and cultural need, involving an antimyth about one and a myth about the other. One is the occasion for the jettisoning of a place of memory; the other the occasion for the creation of one.

In the case of Malcolm X, the iniquities of white society are exaggerated, and so are Malcolm’s virtues. Lee’s movie, for example, shows Malcom's father’s house being burned down by the Ku Klux Klan. The historical evidence is that Malcolm’s father burned the house down himself in order to collect the insurance.

In the case of Columbus, the motives of the new iconography are reversed: Columbus's iniquity is exaggerated; his virtues disappear. In the case of Malcolm X there was almost no journalistic zeal to the truth about the man; there was an unspoken agreement in the press to allow the new myth to go unchallenged. In the case of Columbus, there was a similar acquiesence as the antimyth took hold and became the new historical truth...

Genocide and slavery was the real legacy of Columbus,” wrote Manning Marble, a professor of political science and history at the University of Colorado. It is certainly true that the decimation of the Indian population and slavery were part of the Columbian legacy. That fact has not been disputed, even by Columbus’s admirers, like Morison. My argument is not that there were no evil consequences to the Columbian arrival, but that between 1892 and 1992 the country swung from a mood that was not critical enough to one that was so critical that another part of the Columbian legacy seems to have been almost forgotten: the eventual building of the biggest and most propserous democracy in world history...

These elements in the picture are and should be invoked by historians and in school curricula. History is often a tragic process. It has countless times involved cruel fates for some, corresponding to the triumphs of others. What was unacknowledged during the collective breast-beating of the quincentennial was that Indian history, too, before the arrival of the white man, was replete with warfare and slaughter, scalp taking and torture. The Taino, who occupied the Caribbean islands that Columbus landed on in 1492, were at the time already under attack from the Carib peoples, who were cannibalistic. The Aztecs had just completed the consolidation of their empire via conquest, plunder tribute and large human sacrifice.

The point is that the eradication of the Columbian place of memory seems to have been motivated by a moralistic need to portray the Europeans, not as one cruel, blood-lusting people among others, but as the embodiment of a special iniquity, that iniquity continuing to stain the American identity. It is in this sense typical that the historian and environmentalist Kirkpatrick Sale entitled his influential and critically acclaimed biography of Columbus, which appeared in 1990, Conquest of Paradise. Pre-Columbian America, he said in an interview with the Washington Post, was a place where “singing, dancing, laughing and sex” were the “regular components.” Europe, he said in a television interview, was “a miserable, unhappy, unsettled place.” The Indians he continued, were “people who lived in as happy a state as we can imagine with as much abundance and fertility as we can imagine,” while we ourselves descend from a “desperately sick and inwardly miserable society” that was then and is still today “founded on a set of ideas that are fundamentally pernicious, and they have to do with rationalism and humanism and materialism and science and progress.”

There seems to be a good deal of guilt, something akin to self-flagellation in statements like these and many others made around the same time, such as that of Yale professor emeritus Benjamin Keen. He said that the Columbian era “brought about the greatest genocide in the history of the world.” history of the world.” The Amsterdam News, a black newspaper in New York, published a kind of FBI poster for “Columbus the Thug.” “Wanted,” it said, “Christopher Columbus for Genocide, Exploitation,
Theft and Slavery.” It was as though the country, rather than celebrate a foundational myth in 1992, decided instead to seek absolution, the yearning for absolution, ironically, being part of the very Western heritage held responsible for the sinful acts for which absolution was being sought. It is as if the questioning and self-doubt, the belief in an inherent moral flaw in ourselves that emerged in the 1960s in America, particularly during the Vietnam War, were being led backward in time, and the causes of that moral flaw were found in the very first minutes of European-American history. The Taino, the Aztecs, the Incas, are analogous in this respect to the Vietnamese, the Laotians, the Cambodians. In our current retrospective look, Columbus becomes the combined Lyndon Johnson and William Westmoreland of the fifteenth century."


"This obsession with the themes of cultural domination and oppression justifies one of the most important departures from the principal and essential goal of the civil rights movement, equality of opportunity. Multiculturalism insists on equality of results. “I dream of a day when my four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., crystallizing in one sentence the essential ideal of liberalism. The multiculturalist phrase, by contrast, is: “Judge me by the color of my skin for therein lies my identity and my place in the world.”"


--- Dictatorship of virtue : how the battle over multiculturalism is reshaping our schools, our country, and our lives / Richard Bernstein (1995)

This book is a little dated (luckily because a lot of the madness described has ebbed), but many parts of it are still good, and some bits can apply to other PC agendas and/or other types of identity politics.

At first I was worried this was going to be a right-wing rant, but his documentation is meticulous, he is very balanced and doesn't start bashing phantoms shrilly (though he doesn't make explicit the fact that PC madness [luckily] overtook only some parts of the country, and luckily not all).
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