The term culture is derived from the same Latin root as the verb cultivate, which refers to the act of plowing a field so as to prepare it for being sown. We use the word culture to refer to that which metaphorically “cultivates” the mind and character. This is especially true when we use the word culture in a limited sense to refer to literature, philosophy, the fine arts, and serious music. These things are “culture” because they are supposed to develop the intellect. We also speak of the traditions and habits which characterize an entire community – its language, its religion, its particular ways of doing things – as its culture. These too “cultivate” the mind and character. A community’s language is the means by which its members communicate with each other. Its customs are its prescribed ways of behaving in certain situations which facilitate social interaction. It is by learning these things that a person becomes capable of living as a full member of his community.
Culture, therefore, is vitally important to both a community or society and to its individual members. For the community it is necessary both as an adhesive which holds its individual members together and gives them a sense of unity and as a lubricant which eases social interaction so as to minimize friction and make it possible for its members to live together in community. Culture also enables the individual to identify with a group larger than himself and provides him with what he needs to get along as a member of the group.
A community is by definition monocultural, i.e., possessing a single culture shared by all its members. A community is not just a neighborhood, a place where people live in propinquity to each other regardless of whether or how they interact. To be a community, people living together in one location, must also interact in such a way as to form a social unity. The very term community points to a group of people sharing something in common, and one way of defining culture is as that which a community shares, which binds them together as a community. Therefore a community is monocultural.
This does not mean that every member of a community is absolutely identical to each of the others, having all the same mannerisms, all the same habits, attending all the same events, etc.
It does mean, at the very least, that a community has one language in common which is used for communication within the community, regardless of what other tongues individual members of the community might also speak.
What is true of a community is not necessarily true of a society or a polity. Societies and polities are usually large units which include more than one community. A polity is a group of people, living in a particular territory, under the sovereign authority of one law administered and enforced by one government. In ancient Greece cities were sovereign polities (the words polity and political come from the Greek word polis meaning city). Today most polities tend to be countries, i.e., large territories governed from a capital city. A society is what we see when we look at the group of people that make up a polity from a different angle, one which encompasses all forms of social organization and not just political sovereignty.
Sometimes polities and societies are, like communities, monocultural. Greek city-states and the European nation-states which evolved during the Late Medieval – Early Modern period are examples of these. In other instances, polities can be culturally pluralistic. There are different ways in which a polity can be culturally pluralistic.
An empire is one form of a culturally pluralistic polity. The Roman Empire, for example, consisted of all the different people groups of the Mediterranean world who had many different languages, religions, and cultures. Their cultural plurality was tolerated by Rome so long as they submitted to the authority of Roman Law, the Senate and the Caesars. In an empire, many cultures co-exist, but one culture is dominant.
Another way in which different cultural communities can co-exist within the same polity or society, is in a decentralized confederation, with a strong degree of local self-rule. The Swiss Republic is an example of this.
Another form of cultural pluralism, is the kind which has existed in my country Canada, since its confederation in 1867. When Canada came together as a country, there were three major ethnic groups within Canada. These were French Canadians, English Canadians, and native Canadians. French Canada had been won from France by Britain during the Seven Years' War. The king had guaranteed the Canadiens their language, religion (Roman Catholic) and culture in return for their loyalty and allegiances. This angered the leaders of several of Britain’s colonies in North America, particularly the ones which had been formed by the virulently anti-Catholic Puritans. They rebelled against their king, declared their secession from the British Empire, and having won their independence formed the American Republic. Not all members of the 13 colonies agreed with the treasonous actions of their leaders. Those who remained loyal to the king and to Britain, fled north after the American Revolution. These United Empire Loyalists, and the inhabitants of British colonies such as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick which had not joined in the American rebellion, became the English Canadians. Native Canadians were members of tribes which had made treaties with the British Crown.
The common factor that made it possible to unite these groups into one country, was allegiance to the Crown. It was out of loyalty to the Crown that the English Canadians had not joined with the Americans in their revolution, it was the Crown which had guaranteed the culture of French Canadians in return for their allegiance, and the Crown with which native Canadians had signed their treaties. The Fathers of Confederation established the country, as a confederation of provinces and territories, with a parliamentary government under the Crown.
So there are a number of different ways in which a polity can be culturally pluralistic in contrast with a community which is by definition monocultural.
There is another form of cultural pluralism that we hear a lot about today. That is multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism is not just a synonym for cultural pluralism. Whereas other forms of cultural pluralism often “just happen” in the sense that they arise as a consequence of history, multiculturalism is a doctrine with true believers, and an official policy enforced by the state. There is one other major difference between multiculturalism and the kinds of pluralism we looked at above.
The cultural pluralism of the Roman Empire, the Swiss Republic, and the Dominion of Canada was not a threat to the cultural homogeneity of communities within these historical polities. The same cannot be said for multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is an attack upon the cultural homogeneity of these communities.
Multiculturalism is the political doctrine that declares that while political, legal and economic unity are good, cultural unity is bad, and a country should have no cultural unity other than a commitment to plurality, and that all cultures are equal.. It is also the official policy of encouraging large scale immigration from as many different cultures as possible while also encouraging immigrants to keep their original cultures rather than assimilate into the communities to which they are immigrating.
Multiculturalism is a doctrine which contradicts itself in many ways. While it declares all cultures are equal, it does not treat all cultures equally. It encourages immigrant groups to stick together and form culturally homogeneous enclaves, while breaking up the cultural homogeneity of the communities into which the immigrants are moving. People who live in a community which was formerly homogeneous but into which large numbers of immigrants have moved, find that it is more difficult to order meals in the restaurant down the street or buy groceries in the local grocery store because the servers and cashiers have trouble speaking the language of the community. Then they find that their tax bills have gone through the roof because the government is offering these same immigrants government services and education in their own language. If they complain about all of this, they find themselves denounced as “racists”.
In Canada, Pierre Eliot Trudeau declared the country to be “officially multicultural” in 1971. This was not just a government acknowledgement of the historical cultural pluralism mentioned above which has existed in the country since Confederation. When Trudeau had become prime minister he began an aggressive immigration recruitment campaign with the purpose of changing the demographics of the country. This and the new policy of multiculturalism to discourage assimilation, was an attack upon the cultural homogeneity of communities within English and French Canada.
It was also during the premierships of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau that the symbol of unity between the different cultural communities within Canada came under attack. They removed “Royal” from the title of as many government institutions as they could get away with and did everything they could to portray our ongoing attachment to the monarchy as something archaic, belonging to the trappings of our “colonial past” which we needed to move beyond in order to fully mature as a country.
This year is the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the first monarch to open a session of Canadian parliament in person. She has visited our country several times, the latest visit being two years ago. Last year, Prince William and his new bride Kate, visited Canada after their wedding. Later that year, Prime Minister Harper, restored the “Royal” to the titles of two branches of our Armed Forces and ordered all of our consulates to hang the Queen’s picture in a laudable effort to emphasize our country’s royal heritage and ongoing ties to the Crown.
In the commentary surrounding these events, leftists whined and cried about how this was an insult to all the new Canadians who came from outside the British Isles. It did not seem to occur to them that if honouring our royal family and our Queen is an insult to new immigrants then their petulant, left-wing attack upon the monarchy is an insult to all Canadians who were born and grew up as subjects to the Queen. Or if it did occur to them it did not matter. Although all cultures are equal under multiculturalism, some, to borrow a phrase from George Orwell, are more equal than others.
Of course it makes no sense to say that to honour Canada’s traditional monarchy, our Queen and our royal family, the symbols, as we have seen, of unity between the different cultural communities which formed our country, is an insult to new Canadians. These immigrants, after all, left countries over which the Queen did not reign to move to a country over which she does reign. Surely if anyone is insulting the new Canadians it is the leftists themselves, who arrogantly profess to speak for them, by attacking the tradition they chose to move into.
Multiculturalism, then, while professing to be a belief in the equality of all cultures, attacks the cultures of the countries which adopt it and promotes the cultures of new immigrants instead. There is an interesting consequence of this which Western countries which have adopted multiculturalism have had to face in recent years. Sometimes, the culture of the new immigrants is less compatible with pluralism than the culture which is being undermined by multiculturalism.
One of the fundamental elements of culture is religion, and multiculturalism has been adopted in Western countries whose historical, traditional, religion is Christianity. Indeed, multiculturalism could not have arisen anywhere else. This is because multiculturalism is a progressive and liberal doctrine and progressivism and liberalism are secular, Christian, heresies, i.e., Christian teachings which have been twisted and distorted and then secularized. One Christian doctrine is that of the future Kingdom of God on earth. One version of this doctrine is post-millennialism, which teaches that the mission of the Church is to establish this Kingdom prior to the Second Coming of Christ. Progressivism, the idea that through reason, science, and government policy man can gradually eliminate evil and suffering from the earth, is basically a secularized post-millennialism. Another Christian doctrine is that each person is created in the image of God and has worth in the eyes of God. It is because of this doctrine that the Western and especially the English system of rights and freedoms protecting the person from the abuse of power developed. Liberalism, which provides an alternative explanation for these rights and freedoms by positing a hypothetical individualistic state of nature out of which society arose through voluntary contract, is another form of a secular Christian heresy.
Progressivism and liberalism could not have evolved outside of a culture heavily influenced by Christianity. This does not mean that Christians should embrace progressivism and liberalism as manifestations of Christ’s teachings, as some misguided clergy teach, or that we should blame Christianity for the ruin of Western civilization wrought by progressivism and liberalism, as some misguided rightists teach. For the other side of the coin is that while progressivism and liberalism could not have evolved outside of a culture heavily influenced by Christianity, neither could they have evolved within a culture in which the Church had maintained its authority and orthodox Christian faith had not begun to decline. They are not orthodox Christian doctrine but secular Christian heresies.
Just as progressivism and liberalism could not have evolved outside of a Christian culture in which Christianity had gone into decline, neither could multiculturalism have come into existence apart from progressivism and liberalism. Multiculturalism is progressive in that its advocates believe that by declaring all cultures to be equal and societies to have no core culture apart from a commitment to pluralism that the evil of oppression of one cultural group by another can be eliminated (1). It is liberal in that it separates culture from its social and communitarian role and makes it a matter of individual preference.
Multiculturalism is also, far more hostile to Christianity than to any other religion. It demonizes Christians who are brave enough to stand up for orthodox Christian doctrine and morality. It does not so demonize Islam, and in recent years left-wing multiculturalists have been outspoken opponents of what they call “Islamophobia” despite overwhelming evidence that Islam is far more incompatible with their ideas of tolerance and diversity than Christianity.
Herein can be seen one of many dangers multiculturalism poses to the societies which adopt it. When the official doctrine is that all cultures are to be considered equal it is difficult if not impossible to screen out cultural incompatibility in the immigration process. Under multiculturalism, it is the person who points out that somebody from Culture X is more likely to declare a holy war and start blowing up buildings than somebody from Culture Y, who is penalized for being a “bigot”.
The biggest threat to a society which multiculturalism poses, however, is that it undermines communities. “Diversity is our strength” the multiculturalists scream, and in some cases this is true. It is not true of all kinds of diversity however.
A community is a stronger community if it contains teachers, doctors, farmers, policemen, grocers, builders, and people of many other professions, than if it consists only of people from one profession or if everybody tries to do everything for himself. This kind of diversity strengthens the community. It is the kind of diversity St. Paul spoke about when he compared the Church to the body of Christ in the 12th chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, and said that just as the body is one but is made up of many organs, so the Church is one but is made up of people with different roles and gifts given by the Holy Spirit. This diversity is a diversity within unity, and it is unity that St. Paul stresses in this chapter.
A community would not be a stronger community if the people in one house spoke German, in the next Lithuanian, in the next spoke Mandarin, and in the next spoke Swahili, and there was no language in common. Nor would it be a stronger community if everybody in the community followed a different calendar than everybody else. Problems would arise if what one person understood to be a friendly gesture, his neighbor understood to be an insult to his mother and a challenge to a duel to the death. This kind of diversity is not a strength and it is fatal to a sense of community. It too is illustrated in the Bible – in what happened at the Tower of Babel when God confused the tongues of the builders.
It is beneficial for a country to have strong communities. There is less crime and a greater sense of trust between neighbors in a small, largely homogeneous, village than in a large, very heterogeneous, city. In the former, people can leave their homes and cars unlocked, never in the latter. The less a country has to rely upon its laws, the police, courts and prisons, the better.
Multiculturalism, by making culture a matter of individual preference, and embracing diversity at the expense of unity, prevents culture from serving its social function, of uniting and strengthening communities. It is truly a menace.
(1) In reality, multiculturalism is more likely to generate hostility between different cultural groups.
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