Good vs. bad multiculturalism

My views upon multiculturalism are rooted in my belief in individual autonomy and in my agreement with Nietzsche that life is an experiment (ein Versuch). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a culture that I thought was all good, and it is probable that there are no cultures that are (or have been) all bad.

In general, I think that each person should appropriate the parts of each culture which that person happens to enjoy. That, to my mind, is the good form of multiculturalism. My Italian-German-Ukrainian wife loves Irish music, and in the good kind of multiculturalism, she can enjoy it and learn to play it. An Australian might enjoy traditional Indian music; they can listen to it and enjoy playing it. A Japanese person living in Canada might enjoy dressing in fashions from France. An Englishman might like wearing his hair in dreadlocks like the ancient Spartans or like some Africans. A black man can become a virtuoso of European violin (Chevalier de Saint-Georges), or a white woman might become a rapper.

But the line must be drawn when a cultural choice ceases to be a personal choice and begins to affect the choices of others – and this, again, is a consequence of individual autonomy. A good example of this is the import of Arabic rape culture, in which women who are dressed in modern European fashion are considered ‘slutty’ and ‘deserve to be raped.’ Even those who defend the rapists among the Islamic migrants to Europe tend to admit that they commit these rapes because of their culture (except these defenders, rather than admitting that this means we have here an aspect of Arabic culture that is bollocks, try to instead use it as some kind of an excuse). Another example would be forced marriages. In some cultures, these are traditional, but they are not personal choices; they are forced upon children by their parents. Forcing women (but not men) to wear hijabs or cover their nipples are other examples of negative aspects of culture that interfere with personal choices.

Of course, not every aspect of Arabic culture is bad (and needless to say, there are many Islamic migrants who have not committed rape in Europe). For example, I personally feel like merely using toilet paper after relieving oneself does seem a tad inadequate. Ideally, a mix of first wiping with toilet paper, then using soap and water to get rid of any invisible remaining residue, would be ideal. Also admittedly, that is the only aspect of Arabic culture that strikes me as desirable, and only in combination with toilet paper. However, if someone else feels there is an aspect of Arabic culture that is desirable, then by all means, they should live that way – provided that their choice is a personal one, not one which they impose on others.

In the good kind of multiculturalism, a person can choose aspects of many different cultures and use them in their personal life, but nobody else around them has to conform to these choices. The bad kind of multiculturalism, and the kind promoted by the many regressive leftists, is the kind where everyone else is expected to conform to [insert any non-European culture here]. To put it succinctly, I should not have to conform to society, but neither should anyone else have to conform to me.

This is because I believe in multiculturalism as a result of individual autonomy and not because of ‘cultural relativity.’ We should be free to choose to enjoy any cultural tradition we want because we should be free to choose for ourselves in general. But by the same token, no culture has the right to impose itself upon any individual in their personal lives. Individual autonomy trumps culture, regardless of where or which culture we are considering. This results in multiculturalism, but it is the antithesis of cultural relativism. Individual autonomy leads to the positive form of multiculturalism, while cultural relativism leads to the bad form of it. Unfortunately, the left has slid from the former, positive form, to the latter, negative, regressive, form, particularly in recent years.

In particular, I accept that societies function according to their own, potentially different, social mores as a sociological explanation for various human phenomena, but – and this is the key point – I utterly reject cultural relativism as an ethical ideal, nor will I consider all sets of social mores as being of equal value. As an analogy, I accept that humans evolved as omnivores as an explanation for our history, but I am a vegan out of ethical ideals. A factual explanation should not be necessarily translated into a moral imperative.

In addition to simply being a consequence of individual autonomy, there is a great practical benefit to this positive kind of multiculturalism, in that it allows people to experiment with many different lifestyles and see which ones work best for themselves. We can thus continue to refine our personal lives in ways that we might not have thought of by ourselves (for example, I recently took, from the Germans, the idea of male armpit-shaving, and it is brilliant).

The other odd thing to note is that these ‘multiculturalists’ frequently simultaneously condemn real multiculturalism, by calling it ‘cultural appropriation’ (and saying this is a bad thing) whenever a white person chooses to enjoy any aspect of a non-European culture. That is ridiculous and I would not even call that multiculturalism.


PS Thank you to Zena O’Brien, @ZenaMOBrien on twitter, for pointing out I had originally erred in my use of the term ‘cultural relativism.’


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