Hell hath no fury like an intellectual whose orthodoxy is challenged, especially when the orthodoxy rests — as it usually does — on unexamined and perhaps unexaminable premises. So when Prime Minister David Cameron said, by no means stridently, that multiculturalism had not served Western countries, and particularly Britain, very well, it was only to be expected that he should have provoked what newspapers described as “fury,” though perhaps petulance would have been a better word.
It is true that the place and timing of his speech exacerbated its irritant effect. Luton is an unlovely town in Bedfordshire, regarded as a bad joke in England (as Belgium is in France). Thoroughly despised by natives, it has long been a magnet for immigrants. Nine of its 25 Labour town councilors are Muslims; there is only one Muslim councilor belonging to the other parties. Fat may or may not be a feminist issue, but (in Britain) multiculturalism is definitely a party-political issue.
Mr. Cameron spoke on the day on which 3,000 members of the English Defence League, the soccer-hooligan wing of British politics, marched through the town shouting anti-Islamic slogans. Mr. Cameron’s speech had been scheduled long in advance, but the temporal juxtaposition was a fortunate one for those who didn’t like what he said. He was accused of giving succor to some of the most unattractive members of our unattractive society.
Of course, a large part of the problem is that patriotism in Britain has been left to the brutes: the kind of ignorant savages who tattoo a bulldog on their biceps and “Made in England” round their nipples, and who in equal measure revolt and terrorize the cheaper resorts of the Mediterranean. The intellectual’s equation of patriotism with xenophobia, and pride in past achievement with an arrogant superiority complex, has left a population demoralized and without any belief in its own nation. George Orwell saw this happening a long time ago; it has created a vacuum for the English Defence League to fill. Multiculturalism is the other side of the English Defence League coin.
Whether Mr. Cameron’s characterization of the problem is wholly accurate is another question. For example, many of our homebred terrorists are not the culturally isolated and alienated figures whom Mr. Cameron imagines, cut off from mainstream British life by ghettos and the multicultural nonsense that leaves then unable to speak English. Nor do they derive their suicidal-utopian fantasies from an unalloyed Islamic tradition. Their utopianism is at least as much secular as it is religious, though unfortunately their religion is one that lends itself particularly well to political violence. They are not, in short, the pathetic types that Mr. Cameron depicts, quite the reverse. Many of them are educated, if attendance at a modern British university counts as an education; they also have jobs and prospects.
No, they have seen British values and culture close up, or at least what British values and culture have become, and they don’t like them. They are quite right not to do so; the fact that their response is grotesquely disproportionate and even more stupid than the culture that they despise does not alter the correctness of their apprehension. Better a live slut than a dead pedestrian, say I; that does not make me pro-slut. It means only that I detest terrorism and its works as among the worst of all evils. But in reacting as terrorists, the young Muslims are following Bakunin and the Baader-Meinhof gang as much as the Koran. It is not for nothing that they go to Western universities.
But just because multiculturalism is not a major direct contributor to home-grown terrorism does not make it right. On the contrary: It is a sentimental and harmful doctrine that turns the mind to mush, is evidence of an underlying indifference to the real lives of people, and is a provider of pseudo-work for lots of people such as community organizers.
Multiculturalists are seldom really interested in the culture of others. Very few of them read books in foreign languages, for example, let alone immerse themselves in the Pali scriptures or the writings of the Sufi. I don’t blame them for this: It is the work of a lifetime to be able to do so, and we each have only one lifetime, to say nothing of limitations of ability and inclination. But let us at least not pretend that our interest in other cultures extends much beyond their cuisine.
Multiculturalists generally rejoice at mass, and indiscriminate, immigration, not because they are admirers of, say, Somali political philosophy, but because they want the culture of their own country to be diluted as much as possible: for only by rejecting what they have inherited do they think they can show their independence of mind and generosity of spirit. Let the heavens fall, so long as I am thought (by my peers) to be a free-thinker.
The extreme sentimentality of the multiculturalist mindset was well illustrated by an article in The Observer, the Sunday newspaper of the British intelligentsia (including me), the week after Mr. Cameron’s speech. In the correspondence column there were the usual, and expected, snide and adolescent remarks that pass in certain circles for thought, for example that Mr. Cameron, having gone to Eton and Oxford, was himself a member of a tiny (and much hated) cultural minority. But there was also a long feature article about a woman of Bangladeshi origin who, supposedly thanks to Mr. Cameron’s retrenchment of public services and rejection of multiculturalism, would now not be able to integrate herself into British society.
The woman was called Shalina Parveen: “Shalina Parveen is a model Muslim in David Cameron’s Britain. She left Bangladesh a decade ago, settled in Rochdale, and is now learning English 16 hours a week at college.”
The incuriosity of the writer — and, presumably, of the editor — is startling. It illustrates what the author thinks is required to be a model Muslim, namely not to be a terrorist, for no one could possibly imagine the pleasant-looking woman as such. But it is surely a very reduced requirement of being a good British Muslim, or indeed anyone else, that he or she should not blow himself or herself up in a public place.
The question that would surely strike anyone whose brain had not been addled by doctrinal sentimentalism is “Why did it take Shalina Parveen” — who now has two young children — “ten years to decide to learn English?” If she can do so now, presumably she could have done so then. Human circumstances being so various, it is possible, though not very likely, that there is an excellent explanation; but surely anyone with minimal alertness would at least ask the question. The multicultural mindset — or emotion-set — seems to destroy the critical faculties, if not the brain itself.
Then we learn that Shalina Parveen, who is in receipt of state benefits, and who is not looking for work, will no longer qualify for her free English lessons: from which she concludes that she will not be able to learn English and integrate by, for example, going to the doctor — this is her example.
I hope I shall not be thought a neo-Nazi when I ask why a woman who did not speak English, was not fleeing from political persecution, and had no skills that made her easily employable was allowed to immigrate into England. I wish her no harm; but from the standpoint of national interest, what has she brought to the country, other than self-imposed obligations? (This is another question not raised by The Observer.) But almost by definition, multiculturalists are not interested in the national interest: The world is their oyster, and they demand that we all swallow it.
It is, of course, possible that her children will turn out to be great assets to the nation. So might the child of Shalina’s friend, Parveen Akhtar, who — according to the article — will now also not be able to learn English because of Mr. Cameron. “Parveen Akhtar [is] a single mother who came to the country from Pakistan.”
Now that is what I call cultural integration. Who needs language?
– Mr. Daniels is the author of Utopias Elsewhere and other books.