I embrace all cultures. If the Irish want to drink green beer and have a St. Patrick’s Day parade — let them. Likewise, I support Cinco de Mayo festivals, and have no problem with the Scots’ Tartan Day (April 6). I have no more problem with Muslims fasting during Ramadan than I have with Christians giving up meat for Lent. Moreover, I feel no more threatened by a group of Arab men sitting in a Brooklyn café smoking their hookah pipes than I do by a group of Italian men playing bocce ball in a Brooklyn park.
People who choose to live in America should be welcome to keep many of the attributes of the culture they or their ancestors left behind. It adds to the color and vibrancy that make America a wonderful and interesting place in which to live. By all means, bring your culture — your art, your songs, your literature, your food. America will take it all and integrate it into a greater and ever more distinctively American culture.
But leave your civilization behind.
Although the terms culture and civilization are often used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference. Within Western Europe, for instance, there are dozens of distinct cultures (Italian, French, Irish, etc.), but all of them reside within a single Western civilization. Similarly, the vast American melting pot is home to hundreds of intermingled cultures. What allows these myriad cultures to coexist on generally peaceful terms is that most of their adherents accept the basic tenets of Western civilization. When this is lost, everything else goes.
Foremost among these tenets is respect for the rights, freedoms, and property of all individuals. Although last week’s riots in Britain were not blamed on any one cultural group, they did represent a general fraying of civilization’s social compact. I am not going to try to explain what caused Britain’s riots. There are thousands of sociologists only too eager to offer explanations for the indefensible behavior of thousands of British youths. What is obvious, however, is that the spread of multiculturalism has weakened the governing classes’ ability to cope with attacks on the very underpinnings of our civilization. Convinced that no culture is superior to another, they are equally convinced that no civilization is better than any other. It is but a short step from this point to seeing nothing worth defending in the civilization that has nourished us to greatness.
The British rioters were not possessed of any noble goals. Rather, their fixed purpose was to destroy or take the property of others. And they were prepared to use violence, up to and including murder, to accomplish that. But what is truly troubling is the fact that Britain’s political leaders allowed them to get away with it for five full days. Worse, many commentators, while condemning the violence, told us in the very next sentence that, given the socioeconomic conditions of the rioters, their anger was understandable. No, it was not. And even if their anger were understandable, their actions would still be wrong.
In any viable civilization the state has one function that supersedes all others: to protect the rights, property, and lives of its citizens. If it cannot accomplish that task, it has no reason to exist. The British government, which spends about half of the nation’s entire GDP, appears ready to undertake every task except the one for which it was created. It now does so much of the trivial that it is incapable of accomplishing the most basic task of any government: to defend its citizens. In some regards we in America are not far behind. Our government is willing to regulate the minutest details of our daily lives, but is incapable of producing a budget that will not bankrupt the nation.
In a just society the state is supposed to have a monopoly on violence. Although Americans are generally permitted to arm themselves for self-defense, the assumption is that the need to use their weapons will remain rare. Of course, if the U.S. government abdicates its raison d’être, the average American is much better prepared to defend his life and property than the average Briton. For the most part, though, Americans count on the state to protect them from violence, even if it has to meet violence with violence.