Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Death of Mindless Multiculturalism in Europe

Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine, points to two articles, one each from a British and Dutch writer, which discusses the possibility that mindless multiculturalism might be coming to an end in Britain. First, here is Dutch novelist Leon de Winter, from the New York Times. Hat tip, the Anchoress:

For centuries the Netherlands has been considered the most tolerant and liberal nation in the world. This attitude is a byproduct of a disciplined civic society, confident enough to provide space for those with different ideas. It produced the country in which Descartes found refuge, a center of freedom of thought and of a free press in Europe.

That Netherlands no longer exists.

The murder last year of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose killer was convicted this week, and the assassination of the politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 marked the end of the Holland of Erasmus and Spinoza.

No, the Dutch suddenly did not become intolerant and insular. But these killings showed the cumulative effect of two forces that have shaken the foundations of Dutch civic society over the last 40 years: the cultural and sexual revolution of the 1960's and 70's and the influx of Muslim workers during those years of prosperity....

When they came to the country, often under long-term government work visas, they were faced with a highly educated but apparently decadent society in the grip of a cultural revolution. Many were astonished: was this country some sort of freak show?

No, it certainly wasn't. Under the effusive "anything goes" exterior, the majority of Dutch people held on to their disciplined Calvinist values. To the immigrants, however, this core was all but invisible....

And thus the delicate mechanism of Holland's traditional tolerant society gradually lost its balance. The news media, politicians and artists gnawed away at the traditional values of Calvinistic civic society, while in the bleak Muslim suburbs resentment grew among the Moroccans' Dutch-born children, who found the promise of an affluent life unfulfillable.

Meanwhile, the news media and politicians maintained an unofficial ban on any discussion of the problems of immigration: after all, in progressive Holland only socioeconomic problems were admissible. It was simply not acceptable to discuss problems relating to religion and culture.

Then, there's this, from Michael Portillo, writing in the Sunday Times of London:

Tolerance was clearly never meant to mean that Britain should allow those with roots outside the country to flout human rights and the laws of the land on the pretext that things were done differently where they came from. The Ayn Rand Institute is right to say that it is dangerous nonsense to pretend that all cultures are morally equivalent. Such sloppy thinking corrodes our ability to distinguish good from evil.

It is tempting in a tolerant society to want to see other people’s point of view. If Islam has thrown up its extremists, we can recall the excesses committed over centuries in the name of Christianity. We can understand that a devout Muslim might find western society licentious and irreligious. But the time for sophistry has passed. Our citizens and our society are under threat from those who believe that difference is a justification for terror and murder. Our country has the right to assert its values and require from everyone living here compliance with our laws and respect for our standards.

Britain’s woolly thinking about multiculturalism has helped to make us vulnerable.