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TinotopiaLog → Underdogism (30 Dec 2003)
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Tuesday 30 December 2003


Via Joanne Jacobs, here’s a doozy. It makes clear, in one horrid sentence, what’s wrong with the concept of ‘multiculturalism’.

The topic of the article is that schoolchildren today apparently do not sing classic children’s songs like “My Darling Clementine”, “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, “Hokey Pokey”, and so on. My guess is that the largest cause of this is that the media Machine focusses on the tots now; when I was that age, all that was aimed at us was a quarter-page in the newspaper and about twelve weekly hours of television. Kids aren’t singing “Clementine” because they are singing the vastly superior Spongebob Squarepants theme song.

But one of the music teachers quoted in the article made it clear why he or she didn’t teach these songs:

“Our curriculum is multicultural. We do not teach songs of the American culture.”

And there’s the whole problem right there: the idea that ‘multicultural’ does not include ‘the American culture’; that you can be ‘multicultural’ while entirely and deliberately ignoring the culture of the world’s third most-populous country; while ignoring the culture of one of the very few places on Earth where your inclusion in the nation and the local culture isn’t dependent on your ethnicity.

This leads me to suspect that multiculturalism, as the term is usually used, really means anti-American-culturalism (I mean anti-(American culuturalism), not (anti-American) culturalism, though sometimes I wonder). You can argue that kids in America don’t need to be taught about American culture, as they are surrounded by it. But this is a weak argument, and it’s weakened further by the fact that the multiculturalists feel that it’s vital to teach kids who live in insular black neighborhoods, or in monolingual barrios about black or Hispanic culture. So it’s got nothing to do with any sense that the kids will soak up American culture — other than that part that consists of television and movies — on their own.

And this is what’s truly mystifying. Like many Americans, I would be hard-pressed to give you an accurate description of my actual ethnic origin. That I know of, I have ancestors from Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, and England. If you insisted, I might say that I’m of German extraction, but that really is just a reflection of the main cultural identity of the grandparent I knew best. American culture is inherently multi-cultural. The multiculturalists either don’t or won’t notice this, though, because they prefer their multiple cultures under individual bell jars, each ‘unpolluted’ by other ideas.

So this ‘multiculturalism’ involves picking and choosing certain approved cultures for inclusion — much as the mainstream, not-explicitly-multi culture does. There are just two different sets of revered cultures:

The Mainstream Culture
The Multi Culture
EuropeSub-Saharan Africa
North AmericaCentral America
Ancient GreeceNative Americans
The RichThe Homeless

These are only a few examples, of course; there are many more. It will be noted that all of the cultures revered by the mainstream are cultures that have been broadly successful, while all of the cultures revered by the multiculturalists are ones that have not been successful. As you run down an imaginary list of cultures that the multiculturalists hold to be holy, you’ll soon realize that every one of them is what you might call a loser culture.

The multiculturalists will complain that this isn’t fair, that Africa, for example, is in the shape it’s in through no fault of its own. European countries raped and pillaged the continent, destroying the social fabric and leaving a metaphorical smoking hole behind. This is true, but it’s also true that lots of other places have managed to crawl out of the crater of colonialism; and it’s undeniably true that postcolonial self-rule in most of sub-Saharan Africa has been a disaster. African culture, in modern times, seems to provide for subsistence and little more. A culture that doesn’t provide for subsistence quickly disappears as its adherents starve to death. Most modern African cultures are on the brink of extinction in a kind of social evolution, and many of them continue to exist at all only by virtue of foreign aid. (See Paul Theroux’s excellent Dark Star Safari for a long explanation of this by someone with great respect for African cultures and people. Theroux suggests that the aid itself may be part of the problem.)

I want to make it perfectly clear: the problem with Africa isn’t Africans. They’re no better or worse than anyone else in the world. The problem is African culture, which, simple observation will show, by and large just doesn’t work. Past European colonialism and current trade globalization are part of our universe; hating them or wishing they hadn’t happened is not going to change the fact that in this universe, the African cultures aren’t working.

Central and South America are a particularly interesting case. ‘American’ culture isn’t ‘multicultural’ — but this uses ‘American’ to mean ‘United Statesian’. Central and South American cultures are certainly ‘multicultural’, despite the fact that these cultures are the result of European conquest, slavery, and everything else that the multiculturalists hate about the history of the United States.

The distinction between the United States and Central and South America is that the United States is fabulously wealthy and powerful, while Central and South American countries, despite having had many of the same natural advantages of the United States, are, to put it mildly, not.

So what is this ‘multiculturalism’ really about? I think it’s part of a larger phenomenon that I have, for a while now, been calling underdogism. Underdogism is the current guiding philosophy of the Left.

Much of the Left quite clearly and directly states that it believes that wealth is not created but stolen, and that people are not fairly employed but exploited. This can be neatly, if somewhat inaccurately, summed up as property is theft.

Now, the Left doesn’t believe that all property is theft, and they don’t believe that all people with property are thieves. But there is a general belief that very wealthy individuals and very successful corporations came by their wealth and power by unfair means, to be best. If you believe that property is theft — or, more accurately, if you believe that the accumulation of wealth is achieved only by the unreasonable exploitation of others, unfair trading, and coercion — then it should follow that you believe that someone’s wealth is a somewhat accurate measure, by proxy, of the blackness of that person’s heart.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, though, the hard Left has been faced with a dilemma: if the communitarian approach is so much better, why is it that everywhere on Earth that it’s been tried has quickly turned into a hell-hole? And why is it that the inhabitants of Eastern Europe appear to be happier now in the midst of their odd chaotic proto-capitalism than they were under perfectly, benevolently planned state socialism? It’s more comfortable to believe, apparently, that true success is evinced by privation: the Poles and Czechs may be eating more, sure, and going more places in their new cars, but at the cost of their immortal souls etc.

This leads to a belief in a sort of reverse-meritocracy. If the accumulation of wealth is a measure of unscrupulous behavior, then the lack of wealth — and power, because wealth and power are equivalent from the Left’s point of view — is a sign that you are virtuous.So groups that don’t have power or wealth — or who don’t have as much power and wealth as some other group — are as a whole more trustworthy, more ‘authentic’, etc., etc.

It will be noticed that almost any group of people can have less power and wealth than other groups; and the true beauty of it is that it’s all relative.

Saddam Hussein was, until recently, a fabulously wealthy and powerful man by any measure: but he was not as wealthy or as powerful as the President of the United States. So Saddam Hussein was the underdog, and should be supported against the wealthy and powerful (and thus Bad) George Bush.

This leads to some incredible idiocy: the Left purports to be about freedom of conscience, individual liberty, and all that. Yet it’s willing to support (to varying degrees) Robert Mugabe, Kim Il Sung, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, and any number of other hideous dictators, as long as they are in opposition to the United States in particular, ‘the West’ generally, and free-market economics most importantly. Domestically, they’ll support violent black separatists, Hispanic racists, Muslim bigots, and anyone else opposed to the majority culture — calling it ‘multiculturalism’, they’ll support people who explicitly advocate cultural apartheid. Or, to put it another way, they carry the principle of Tolerance so far as to tolerate Intolerance — if the Intolerance is of the right thing.

The real problem, of course, is that most of the world’s underdogs are underdogs because they’re doing it wrong. They’re not ambitious, they don’t educate their young, they don’t take risks, they don’t make good investments, and they don’t make life predictable through application of the rule of law. (Or — remember, it’s all relative — they aren’t as ambitious, as well-educated, etc. as someone else.) Revering these people — patronizing them, really — is not going to help them, or anyone else; it’s merely encouraging — ‘enabling’ — them to continue to do the same self-destructive things that have put them in this position in the first place. The adherents to a broken culture are still going to starve to death if they can’t feed themselves, no matter how Good and Right the American Left believes them to be.

Posted by tino at 12:08 30.12.03
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You’ve articulated here a number of things that have been vaguely bothering me for a while — particularly the “underdogism” concept and “loser culture”. Some cultures are better than others, period. Now if we could just somehow separate culture from race in people’s minds, I wonder if it might be easier to get that point across to more people.

I’ll be checking out that book — sounds very interesting.

Posted by: Evelynne at January 9, 2004 11:26 AM