Multiculturalism an Excuse

Posted on 02 Jun 2007 08:28 am
Multiculturalism and Racism

There are basically two ideas about the levels at which immigrants are integrated into this country. One is the idea that all cultures should be subverted to the dominant American schema, or "the melting pot". The other is the concept that each culture retains elements of uniqueness, which together comprise the larger culture ("the salad bowl"). For the past two decades, the multicultural view has been dominant in public policy. As a student of many cultures, I have agreed with the basic premise, because it supports my foundational concepts of civil liberties: the right to worship, believe and practice as one wishes.

But today's open characterizations of people based on race, culture and sex have made me wonder whether the multicultural approach, emphasizing as it does the differences among people, is such a good idea. I touched on this issue in my previous post on feminism, but it is larger than that.

Anti-Jewish graffiti
in Massachusetts

It is interesting, for example, to examine the anti-semitism that is increasing throughout the world: recent hate crimes against Jews seem to rise in proportion to public support for the Palestinian cause against Israel. At the same time, an Institute for Jewish and Community Research survey on college professors noted sympathetic views about Jews, Buddhists and others at the expense of evangelical Christians and Mormons. The Washington Post reported that the survey was originally conducted to determine levels of anti-semitism, but instead found bias against evangelicals, a point which the National Review and other right-wing publications were quick to publicize.

In these discussions, religion and culture are not considered to be elements that an individual carries, but a group identity that is immutable. All evangelical Christians, all Jews, all Mormons, do not necessarily hold with their group's assumed views. There is much individual variety in belief and practice. And yet we feel comfortable tagging individuals, more and more, as members of an identifiable cultural group, and judging them accordingly.

In gender relations, saying "it's a guy thing" is common, and it implies a judgement of all men based on cultural conceptions about men. Multiculturalism gives us permission to say things about people which perpetuate stereotypes (positive and negative), and to continue dividing the human race along political, ethnic and cultural lines. In the guise of accepting everyone's cultural differences, we have instead frozen them in some kind of conceptual cement. Is anti-semitism really on the rise, or is it just OK now to say you don't like someone because s/he's Jewish?

It is much easier to ignore larger social problems when you can blame them on cultural differences, and much easier to divide society when you start with a mindset that divides them already. The acceptance of the open expression of people's biases against others is not a victory for multiculturalism, but a disgraceful excuse for further prejudice and the prevention of equality.

Author: llane
Category: Current Events

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-today)

Posted on 11 Apr 2007 10:54 pm
Kurt is up in heaven now (I have to write that, since he was a humanist and wanted it said when he died as a joke). This reminder that human contact is more important than technology comes from a 1995 interview with Inc. Technology's editor David H. Freedman, about living in a computerized world. I think it's funny to put it in an electronic blog -- I hope he would have appreciated the irony.

I work at home, and if I wanted to, I could have a computer right by my bed, and I'd never have to leave it. But I use a typewriter, and afterwards I mark up the pages with a pencil. Then I call up this woman named Carol out in Woodstock and say, "Are you still doing typing?" Sure she is, and her husband is trying to track bluebirds out there and not having much luck, and so we chitchat back and forth, and I say, "OK, I'll send you the pages."

Then I'm going down the steps, and my wife calls up, "Where are you going?" I say, "Well, I'm going to go buy an envelope." And she says, "You're not a poor man. Why don't you buy a thousand envelopes? They'll deliver them, and you can put them in a closet." And I say, "Hush." So I go down the steps here, and I go out to this newsstand across the street where they sell magazines and lottery tickets and stationery. I have to get in line because there are people buying candy and all that sort of thing, and I talk to them. The woman behind the counter has a jewel between her eyes, and when it's my turn, I ask her if there have been any big winners lately. I get my envelope and seal it up and go to the postal convenience center down the block at the corner of 47th Street and 2nd Avenue, where I'm secretly in love with the woman behind the counter. I keep absolutely poker-faced; I never let her know how I feel about her. One time I had my pocket picked in there and got to meet a cop and tell him about it. Anyway, I address the envelope to Carol in Woodstock. I stamp the envelope and mail it in a mailbox in front of the post office, and I go home. And I've had a hell of a good time. And I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different.

Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We're dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go do something. [Gets up and dances a jig.]
Author: llane
Category: Current Events

I love the Onion

Posted on 06 Apr 2007 09:04 am
Nations Snowmen March Against Global Warming

The Onion

Nation's Snowmen March Against Global Warming

WASHINGTON, DC-Millions of scarfless snowmen gathered in Washington to protest global warming, which has caused many of them to melt before their time.

Author: llane
Category: Current Events

Arguing about a tomb for Jesus

Posted on 08 Mar 2007 04:17 pm
No, I'm not an archaeologist. But the Discovery Channel's new documentary "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" just gets my goat. And not just because a BBC documentary and the Sunday Times already did this a decade ago, or that the 1980 findings of archaeologist Amos Kloner (who says the tomb proves nothing) provide the basis for most of the claims. Not just because blogging itself is influencing the issue this time.

Big questions are being asked everywhere from tabloids to...well...tabloid television.

Could the tomb found in Talpiot, Israel really be the tomb of Jesus and his family? Did Jesus have a wife and son? Was the wife Mary Magdelene? (Go read the Da Vinci Code in any of its 44 language translations.) Are these Jesus' bones? If they are, does that mean he is buried there?

If he is, does that mean the Resurrection is a sham? or does it increase faith in Jesus because it provides material proof of his existence?

We're so missing the point here. The divinity of Jesus, and his resurrection, are beliefs that millions of people hold. The historical facts of Jesus are not the foundation of that belief. Christianity itself is the fact at the foundation, and the element that influences both faith and the course of history.

If the tomb can be proven somehow (and I seriously doubt it) to actually be that of Jesus and assorted other bodies, it shouldn't make any difference to the faith. Material evidence is, by definition, not required for faith.

I'm all in favor of scrambling around in archaeology. Archaeology is cool. But don't fool yourself for one minute that science can be used to prove anything but scientific fact (and in this case likely not even that). If science had the power to truly undermine faith, we would not have the ongoing argument of Western Civilization between faith and reason (current iteration: Darwinism vs Creationism). In this case, as Amos Kloner himself noted, it's just about profit, not truth.

Author: llane
Category: Current Events

Molly Ivins

Posted on 11 Feb 2007 09:45 am
Molly Ivins, one of my all-time favorite columnists, died recently at the age of 62 (NY Times article). That sucks.

Ivins rarely stinted words, and often had her early works edited by people who couldn't handle her forthright style. Her column ran in hundreds of papers.

Here's her last column, on exiting Iraq. Also see tributes in The Nation.

Author: llane
Category: Current Events


Posted on 10 Feb 2007 08:01 pm
An assistant dean had to remove his website about Mormon polygamy from the Brigham Young University server, but he relocated it quickly. So much for a university keeping true to its name by exploring the broadest possible range of topics using critical thinking and intellectual fervor.

In the 1870s, Emmeline Wells, suffragist and activist, was able to publish her own magazine with other like-minded people in Utah, and discuss subjects like polygamy. A wife in a plural marriage, Wells believed that the institution allowed the wives more time to explore their own interests, without being tied to a single household and children if that wasn't her inclination. It made the man less a center of the women's lives. The movement against polygamy in the U.S. became so strong that the some of the first female voters in this country were deprived of that right in an effort to force the eradication of plural marriage in Utah.

In recent years, however, polygamy scandals and the perverted authority of polygamous husbands like Warren Jeffs have put the whole issue in an even worse light, and made it difficult for students to understand why anyone would have defended plural marriage. How unfortunate. I wonder if this is just a case of the victors writing the history, or whether the "Survivor" reality-TV inanity is creeping into our perception of the historical past.
Author: llane
Category: Current Events

Gender Gossip

Posted on 30 Jan 2007 10:22 pm
Western Civ has plenty of examples of the battle between the sexes, and the perception of gender roles.

Two tidbits from today's headlines:

Christie Brinkley's divorce custody settlement had to insist that her husband not take the kids on a commercial airline during a red terror alert.

A pregnant women being driven to the hospital by her husband had her baby in the back seat, and didn't let him know because she thought it would make him drive badly.

You men are not our protectors... If you were, who would there be to protect us from?
-- Mary Edwards Walker, Civil War doctor

Author: llane
Category: Current Events
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