Jonah: Yep. But you know, the tendency of human thought is always to fly to extremes. This is even true of classical liberalism. The “multicultural” fad of the past 30 years or so is, I think, an illustration of this–a hypertrophied version of classical liberal thinking about human nature. We’re all the same! There are no differences that are not mere “social constructs”! Let’s shuck off all this old nonsense about tribe, race, sex, nation, and celebrate our one-ness!
I think that’s all nonsense. Not only is it not going to happen, it can’t happen. And the attempt to make it happen by brute force (mainly, in our civilized society, legislative & administrative force) does much harm & creates many absurdities, some of them chronicled on this very website. Many of our most heated current topics–”racial profiling,” for instance, or Title IX issues in college sports–revolve around these very issues.
Two data points.
(1) In between our last two posts I went to Drudge to see what was happening in the world. The lead story was about a ship disaster in the Red Sea. From the headline picture, it looked like a cruise ship. I therefore assumed that some people very much like the Americans I went cruising with last year were the victims. I went to the news story. A couple of sentences in, I learned that the ship was in fact a ferry, the victims all Egyptians. I lost interest at once, and stopped reading. I don’t care about Egyptians.
(2) In a minor dust-up on the Corner a few weeks ago, I wondered aloud why neocons like Irving Kristol & his wife were saying nice things about Intelligent Design. I backed out of the Corner discussion when it seemed to be heading for rancor, but I picked up the topic at a dinner party a few days later. Why, I asked again, were the Kristols so keen to cozy up to the I.D. cranks? An elderly Jewish gentleman–a professional academic, brilliant and worldly–said: “Because it’s good for the Jews.” (He went on to elaborate the theory that Jewish-Americans appreciate evangelical-Christian support for Israel & want to return the favor.)
As Rich says, a sane and orderly society has customs, institutions & laws to restrain our baser natures, and a strong affirmation of equality of rights. The promise of the “highest” form of classical liberalism, though — the promise that tribalism, nationalism, etc. will melt away in the sun of Reason, the promise that inspired early 20C socialists and one-worlders like Shaw and Wells — is an empty promise. To the degree that Reason can be identified with scientific method, in fact (discuss among yourselves), the windsocks are all pointing the other way.