The policing of tolerance had no inbuilt limits and no obvious logic. Why was â€?â€?ethnic prideâ€™â€™ a virtue and â€?â€?nationalismâ€™â€™ a sickness? Why had it suddenly become criminal to ask questions today that it was considered a citizenâ€™s duty to ask ten years ago? Erudite philosophers of tolerance such as J??rgen Habermas might have been able to untangle such questions and draw the proper distinctions. Political elites could resolve them by ?¬?at. But they left the person of average intellect and social status feeling confused and disempowered. A democracy cannot long tolerate a system that makes an advanced degree in sociology or a high government position a prerequisite for expressing the slightest worry about the way oneâ€™s country is going.
The virtues of the multicultural era were elite virtues. The British sociologist Geoff Dench suspected, with good reason, that favouring elites was a large part of the point of multiculturalism. Con?¬‚icts in a striving meritocracy, he noted â€?can probably be managed more easily where there are groups whose membership of the nation is ambiguous, who are very dependent on elite sponsorship, and whose presence ?¬‚ushes out ethnocentric responses among the masses which can then be held against them. A society tied to the notion of meritocracy may therefore have a particular need for minorities.â€?