Mark Steyn once described multiculturalism as a “cult of ignorance”—because you don’t have to know anything about other cultures, you just have to “feel warm and fuzzy” about them.That's consistent with immigration-sanity hero and former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo's frequent reference to the "cult of multiculturalism."
But I think the most thorough, yet still brief, take on multiculturalism comes from the prologue of Richard Bernstein's 1992 book Dictatorship of Virtue: How the Battle Over Multiculturalism Is Reshaping Our Schools, Our Country, Our Lives. Here's a passage from pages 5 and 6.
There are clues [about what’s really going on] among the self-proclaimed multiculturalists themselves. They rarely, at least as I have gotten to know them, know much about culture at all and even more rarely about somebody else’s culture. There are interesting and worthy and certainly very well-intentioned people within the ranks of what I will call the ideological multiculturalists. And yet their lack of curiosity about the real cultural richness of the world, or their reduction of that richness to a few rhapsodic clichés, seems to confirm that culture is not really what is at issue in multiculturalism.So who — beyond what's revealed in that passage — is Richard Bernstein? Well, he was a New York Times writer from 1982 until his recent retirement. Given today's loony-left New York Times, that seems astonishing, but even as late as 2000, the Times hadn't gone off the deep end — at least not fully — when it came to the National Question. (See, for example, their February 22, 2000 editorial, A Hasty Call For Amnesty, which straightforwardly makes a number of the basic arguments against amnesty that still pertain today.)
At best, the ideological multiculturalists reiterate a few obsessively sincere phrases about the holistic spirit of Native American cultures or about how things are done in what they call the Asian culture or in the African-American culture.
The Asian culture, it happens, is something I know a bit about, having spent five years at Harvard striving for a Ph.D. in a joint program called History and East Asian Languages and, after that, living either as a student (for one year) or a journalist (for six years) in China and Southeast Asia. At least I know enough to know that there is no such thing as the “Asian culture.” There are dozens of cultures that exist in that vast geographical domain called Asia. When the multiculturalists speak, tremulous with respect, of the “Asian culture,” it is out of goodness of heart, but not much actual knowledge.
My experience leads me to believe that insofar as culture is involved in multiculturalism, it is not so much for me to be required to learn about other cultures as for me to be able to celebrate myself and for you to be required to celebrate me, and, along the way, to support my demand for more respect, more pride of place, more jobs, more foundation support, more money, more programs, more books, more prizes, more people like me in high places, a higher degree of attention.
[Two paragraph breaks inserted to improve readability. — PN]
So a Timesman writing, back in 1992, a book that's basically a defense of those defending Western civilization from those pushing what Theodore Dalrymple has termed "resentment studies" wasn't necessarily anomalous.
And Bernstein's book (which also goes by the title Dictatorship of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America’s Future) is a gem. It weaves together what amount to case studies of strife, in high schools and colleges around the country, spurred by the left's attempts to denigrate the history and civilization of the West. It's as timely today as when Bernstein finished writing it.