Polemicscat's Weblog

Examining settled and unsettling questions.

Archive for the ‘critical thinking’ Category

Cameron’s Multicultural Wake-Up Call

leave a comment »

The following article from the Wall Street Journal has a hopeful message: sanity may be reappearing in leaders of the western world.  Ordinary people have seen for quite a long time that multiculturalism is suicide when coupled with a political correctness that denigrates western values.  Will the elites finally admit their error?

The growth of Islamist extremism in the West is something even the politically correct can no longer ignore.



‘Multiculturalism has failed,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron last weekend in Munich. If anybody thought they had read those words before, it is because they have. Many times. Last October German Chancellor Angela Merkel (sitting onstage with Mr. Cameron when he gave his speech on Saturday) said the same. Finally, Europe’s mainstream party leaders seem to be realizing what others have long noticed: Multiculturalism has been the most pernicious and divisive policy pursued by Western governments since World War II.

Multiculturalism is a deeply misunderstood idea. That was one of the reasons for its political success. People were led to believe that “multiculturalism” meant multiracialism, or pluralism. It did not. Nevertheless, for years anybody who criticized multiculturalism was immediately decried as a “racist.”

But the true character and effects of the policy could not be permanently hidden. State-sponsored multiculturalism treated European countries like hostelries. It judged that the state should not “impose” rules and values on newcomers. Rather, it should bend over backwards to accommodate the demands of immigrants. The resultant policy was that states treated and judged people by the criteria of whatever “community” they found themselves born into.

In Britain, for instance, this meant that if you were a white English girl born into a white English family and your family decided to marry you against your will to a randy old pervert, the state would intervene. But if you had the misfortune to be born into an “Asian-background” family and the same happened, then the state would look the other way.

In 1984, a British school principal named Ray Honeyford politely suggested in an article in the Salisbury Review that it might be a good idea if students at his state-funded school were able to speak English and did not disappear to Pakistan for months at a time. The result was a siren of accusations of “racism,” which willfully ignored his arguments and precipitated the end of his career.

The multicultural model may have continued a lot longer if it hadn’t been for radical Islam. The terrorist assaults and plots across Britain and Europe—often from home-grown extremists—provided a breaking point that few sentient people could ignore. The question now is what can be done.

In his speech in Munich, Mr. Cameron rightly focused on the problem of home-grown Islamic extremism. He stressed several preliminary steps—among them that groups whose values are opposed to those of the state will no longer be bestowed with taxpayer money. It is a symptom of how low we have sunk that ceasing to fund our societies’ opponents would constitute an improvement.

But this is a first, not a final, policy. The fact is that Britain, Germany, Holland and many other European countries have nurtured more than one generation of citizens who seem to feel no loyalty toward their country and who, on the contrary, often seem to despise it.

The first step forward is that from school-age upward our societies must reassert a shared national narrative—including a common national culture. Some years ago the German Muslim writer Bassam Tibi coined the term “Leitkultur”—core culture—to describe this. It is the most decent and properly liberal antidote to multiculturalism. It concedes that in societies that have had high immigration there are all sorts of different cultures—which will only work together if they are united by a common theme.

The Muslim communities that Mr. Cameron focused on will not reform themselves. So the British government will have to shut down and prosecute terrorist and extremist organizations, including some “charities.” There are groups that are banned in the U.S. but can and do still operate with charitable status in the U.K. Clerics and other individuals who come from abroad to preach hate and division should be deported.

Will Mr. Cameron manage to do any of this? There is reason to be skeptical. In the wake of the 2005 subway and bus bombings in London—attacks carried out by British-born Muslims—Tony Blair announced that “the rules of the game are changing.” They then stayed the same.

It is possible that Mr. Cameron will show more political courage. If he does, he will undoubtedly be lambasted by the defenders of multiculturalism. He will also become a leader of significance. If he doesn’t, then future generations may well associate him with Munich. But it will not be for Saturday’s speech. It will be with a previous prime minister who also went to that city and who returned with an honor that proved deeply temporary.

Mr. Murray is director of the Center for Social Cohesion in London.

Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only.


Written by polemicscat

February 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

What People Need to Know about the Tea Party Movement

leave a comment »


The Tea Party movement is NOT a political party. Rather, it is a grassroots movement of millions of like-minded Americans from all backgrounds, political parties, and ethnic groups who share similar core principles.  These advocates of better government  come from a dozen or so loosely affiliated groups whose members identify with Tea Party objectives.   These people are not looking to form a third political party.  By their own inclination they support candidates of any party who believe in those core principles and who will sincerely take the oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

Those in the Tea Party movement support the original US Constitution as the founders intended it: a document that establishes a federal government with limited and enumerated powers and that  leaves other non-enumerated powers to the States and to the people themselves.  They believe that the Constitution preserves personal liberty and encourages personal responsibility and a free-market economy.

The only way to depart legally from the provisions of the existing Constitution is through the process of amendment, a process the founders wisely included in the document.  So the argument that the passage of time makes the document outdated is false. Tea Party principles transcend arguments for or against any particular legislative or policy initiative.  Honest disagreements on proposed laws and policies can always be expected, and, because the founders knew that, they provided a framework of government in which differences of opinion can be openly discussed and reconciled in a civil fashion.

All this is unsettling to the politician who would rather campaign on a party label than to discuss an issue on its merits. In the last few weeks I have heard politicians complaining that too much is being made of the Constitution.  Perhaps they prefer not to be bound by its provisions. The oath required of office holders is simply to support that Constitution and laws not inconsistent with it.  That oath is required of members of any political party.

It is likely that those who wish  to circumvent the Constitution know that they cannot make a persuasive argument to the people for its amendment.  Such a politician is usually one of the elite who pretends to know better than the people what they want and need and who is unwilling to allow the people to express themselves on the matter. Tea Partiers believe that such a politician should be quickly voted out of office.

The people who fear or oppose the Tea Party movement either don’t know what it is, or they are entrenched advocates of a huge federal government with the power to ignore the Constitution and the power to control citizens’ lives in ways not permitted by the Constitution.  Politicians who want to evade the responsibilities of the oath of office try to smear the reputation of the Tea Party movement because, in truth, it is their enemy.

Written by polemicscat

January 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm

The Measure of Human Achievement

with one comment


As a year ends, news organizations often make a list of superlatives: the most important news story of the year; the best book of the year; the man or woman of the year. Pundits frequently err in choosing the year’s most important news story. At the end of the year in which the Soviet Union collapsed, Bryant Gumbel said that the state of the economy was the news story of the year. But who remembers anything about the economy that year?

At the end of the twentieth century there was discussion of what person in the century had made the greatest impact on human history. It was an interesting question. But it was difficult to answer because we tend to see our own times as more important than the past or the future. We are preoccupied with the present.

Our heroes are show-business people who enjoy fifteen minutes of fame and then are replaced by others of the same kind. Our political leaders lack a vision of what life should be, or they lack the will to pursue that vision because they serve constituents who are not interested.

Against this tendency in us, the truth is that duration is the best test of human achievement. The wise have often observed that accomplishments of a particular political leader cannot be assessed fairly by contemporaries. Time tends to strip away the extraneous–the personal passions and prejudices. Most political thought fades in a generation because it is tied to self-serving or silly notions of the day. Even dramatic political acts rarely outlive the people who perform them, except as historical curiosities.

On the other hand, great ideas continue to be meaningful to society long after their creators are dead. Once ideas become operative, they are not wedded to their creators but permeate the whole of human thought. They are great ideas precisely because they affect many generations of people who may not even remember who created those ideas. That’s why, among twentieth-century people, Einstein will have a more lasting effect on history than Hitler.

That is why Socrates is more important to us than the Athenians who condemned him to death; why Aristotle is more important to us than Alexander the Great, his pupil; Shakespeare than Elizabeth I; and Darwin than queen Victoria.

The political figures paired above with Socrates, Aristotle, Shakespeare, and Darwin are museum pieces because the issues they were passionate about were transitory. Most politicians believe ardently in their own importance, but they may truly say with Shelley’s Ozymandias, “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” Still, at any given moment, politicians attract all the attention. It’s not surprising, then, that the most valuable human achievements typically go unappreciated by contemporaries. Somewhere today great things are being thought and done, but they don’t usually make the headlines.

The Margrave of Brandenburg, as far as we can determine, never had his musicians perform the six concerti sent to him by Johann Sebastian Bach. Undoubtedly, he was too busy and thought that what he was doing and saying was of overwhelming importance. But the only thing history remembers about this prince of Brandenburg is that he neglected Bach’s concerti.

Written by polemicscat

September 7, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Worried About WMD?

leave a comment »

A nuclear exchange would be a worldwide disaster.
Practically all nations with nuclear weapons have leaders
who know that and will work to avoid it—with one exception.

Jihadists love death and have said so. Their main
tactic against infidels IS suicide. The only reason
that a jihadist would not use a nuclear weapon is if
it were perceived as not being helpful to jihad.

But it’s very likely that islamic leaders will never directly
confront the rest of the world with a military force. They don’t
have to. They are growing in numbers and influence daily.
They have a foothold in every corner of the globe.

Their greatest obstacle is a belief contrary to their own,
but belief in the west is dying. Look at cathedrals in Europe,
which have become museums for artifacts of a dying culture.

In the United States we have, so far, failed to recognize who our
real enemy is. More than that, in the U. S., a
Christian is condemned more quickly than the member of
any other religious group. And not for murder or any other
illegal activity, but for just expressing a belief.

Multiculturalism and political correctness are the manure that
has caused a flourishing of islam in the west. Multiculturalism
and PC are not belief—they are the absence of belief.
That’s all that jihad needs. It won’t be sudden like a war,
but one day our descendants (anywhere in the world) will
be living with an islamic majority calling all the shots.

After attacking Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto was asked by
a fellow officer, “What have we achieved by the attack?”
The admiral answered, “I think we have only succeeded in waking
a sleeping giant and filling him with a terrible resolve.”

I can’t imagine any event that could fill our nation with resolve
today because resolve is predicated on belief.  On the other hand,
the islamic world has both.

Written by polemicscat

August 24, 2008 at 10:53 am

What Is Women’s Literature?

with 3 comments

When I retired more than a decade ago, courses like “Modern Literature by Women” were common in college curricula. At a glance, the addition of such courses seems harmless enough. One may think that they somehow compensate for past injustices against women. “Why not?” one may ask, “Don’t women deserve it like equal pay for equal work?” But when considered more carefully, this kind of division of literature into categories based on the sex of the author has troubling aspects.   Does it have a pedagogic purpose or just a socio-political intent? 

It seems that the two possible reasons for having courses dedicated to the study of literature exclusively by women are (1) to somehow “get even” for past injustices or (2) to deny the possibility of empathy between men and women.

In his essay “What is Art?” Tolstoy explains the reason for creating art: “To evoke in oneself a feeling one has experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colors, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling–this is the activity of art.”

The study of art, such as a college course on literature, is a means to help the artist transmit that feeling. In short, we study literature to gain insight into the lives of people whose outward and inward experiences are different from our own.

On the face of it, the motive of “getting even” does nothing to promote that purpose. I heard on public radio a recorded musical performance by a group calling itself the “Gay Men’s Chorus,” and I wondered how the sound of a gay men’s chorus could differ from the sound of an ordinary men’s chorus. Of course, there was no difference. The reason for giving the chorus that name had little to do with music; its purpose was to promote a social-political agenda. In the same way, a course in literature by women writers for the purpose of “getting even” exists primarily to make a political point, not to improve understanding.

The other possible justification is more disturbing because it postulates a hormone-induced gulf that forever denies significant communication between men and women. If that kind of barrier does exist, communication through art of the kind Tolstoy describes is impossible. But those who believe in that barrier between men and women, typically express it this way: “How could you possibly understand since you are not a woman?” If the theory is correct, women cannot understand men either.

One consequence of the theory of the gulf is that it suggests that men are better suited for certain roles in society and women are better suited for others–an idea that has become repugnant to many people in recent years. There is a contradiction in arguing that women should be allowed to hold what were traditionally men’s jobs (like soldiering) and, at the same time, arguing that women writers and men writers are fundamentally different in their sensibilities.  

Do we really want to exaggerate and celebrate all the real and imagined differences between men and women?  Another troubling consequence of the theory of the gulf arises in a consideration of the teaching of the literature itself. If women’s literature is essentially different in this way, (1) a male teacher cannot adequately teach poetry by Emily Dickinson. Nor can a female instructor teach Shakespeare. In such a case, (2) a male student cannot hope to grasp the full significance of a text written by a female author, and his taking the course is an act of futility. In such a case, (3) a male author’s creation of a female character in his fiction is necessarily a distortion, and so is a female author’s creation of a male character.

It is important to remember that fiction and poetry and drama always include elements that are not directly experienced by the author. On the face of it, the idea that authors must have direct knowledge of the things they write about is false. If it were true, Dostoevsky could not have written Crime and Punishment without being himself a murderer since the story is narrated by a murderer. And nobody but a Moor who had married a Caucasian woman and who had killed her under the influence of jealousy could have written Othello.

Clearly, if literature is worthy of study as a college course, the creators of that art must be assumed to have empathy that allows them to provide insights that are not strictly personal. If literature has value, it is the universal meaning which is accessible to readers who are not merely clones of the author. In acknowledging that women were historically deprived of opportunities to participate in the development of all facets of our culture, why should we now compound past error by putting women–as writers–in a league of their own?

Written by polemicscat

August 18, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Hate-crime Laws and the Principle of Equality

leave a comment »

From time to time, some member of Congress pushes to have a certain crime labeled a “hate crime” and to make the offense punishable by more rigorous penalties. At first, that may seem like a good idea.

On the other hand, prosecutors have always had leeway when indicting perpetrators of personal assault. That’s what the distinctions of first degree murder, second degree murder, and manslaughter are all about. And, based on the circumstances of a particular case, a judge is able to adjust the penalty (within the limits of law) when sentencing a criminal. So one would think that laws already on the books could be used to deal with any crime of personal assault. Not so, according to the advocates for new hate- crime laws.

Hate-crime legislation is difficult concept to put into rational language.   The application of hate-crime law depends on courts being able to say that an assault occurred because of a particular state of mind of the perpetrator, a much more difficult thing to assess than the outward, verifiable facts of the case.  One might expect that hate crimes are those committed with the greatest cruelty and malevolence.

No, not necessarily—and here is where the concept of hate crime gets into serious trouble—it depends on who the victim is. If the victim is a member of a certain group named in the law, it might be.  It might be a hate crime if the murderer is not also a member of the group protected by the hate-crime law. And it might be a hate crime if we can be sure the motive for the murder is somehow related to the fact that the victim is a member of one of the privileged groups named in the law.

In Anglo-American legal tradition, equality before the law is a fundamental principle of justice. That’s why a satirical passage in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm is so effective. In this fable, the animals revolt and take the farm away from the human owners. Next, the animals establish Seven Commandments of equality. But then the pigs take power from the other animals and reduce the Seven Commandments to one: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Below the frieze on the facade of the United States Supreme Court Building are engraved the words, Equal Justice Under Law. And on many courthouses around the nation, justice is personified in the statue of a woman wearing a blindfold and holding the scales of equality. The blindfold symbolizes the fact that, if justice is to be equal, it must be blind to the particularities that make one citizen different from another.

The making of hate-crime laws, written exclusively for the benefit of a special group of citizens, violates the impartiality suggested by the blindfold. Instead of looking solely at WHAT offense has been committed in order to determine the appropriate punishment, such laws look first at WHO is offended in order to determine the appropriate punishment.

Laws to protect privileged groups are already on the books. With the passage of hate-crime laws, the United States is well on its way toward making certain citizens more equal than others.

Written by polemicscat

August 14, 2008 at 11:20 am

Defend Western Civilization—-Anyone?

with 2 comments

Was Osama bin Laden justified in making the Pentagon a target for his terrorists?  That’s not a question that should concern American journalists according to David Westin, president of ABC News.   After the 9/11 attack, Westin told an audience at Columbia’s School of Journalism that it was not his place as a journalist to condemn the attack. “I can say that the Pentagon got hit . . . but for me to take a position that this was right or wrong . . . as a journalist I feel strongly that’s something that I should not be taking a position on.”  And he said he wanted all his reporters to think that way.

Journalists take stands on every other issue in the news, no matter how insignificant.  One wonders how a journalist could justify taking a stand on relatively trivial issues like budget controversies while remaining indifferent to threats to the nation’s survival. Mr. Westin apologized later for his statement when he was criticized for it.  But was the apology sincere or a retraction calculated to keep ABC from losing viewers to other networks?

It’s getting harder to find anyone willing to defend Western civilization.  The  intellectual leaders in American colleges and universities have undermined  belief in it, according to Dr. Allan Bloom. In his book,  The Closing of the American Mind, Bloom says our students have been taught that the highest virtue is an openness.

“There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything.”  All other cultures are represented to American students as equal to our own culture, no matter how incompatible their cultural practices are with our constitution, laws, and customs.  As a result, a generation of students has been rendered incapable of valuing and defending Western culture.

“The point is to force students to recognize that there are other ways of thinking and that Western ways are not better.”  But what students are not told is  that “every one of these [non-Western] cultures is ethnocentric.  All of them think that their way is the best way, and [that] all others are inferior.”

Ignored in the university courses are human rights abuses and atrocities being committed in other cultures.  And in some countries it’s  much worse than just depriving people of the right to vote. Slavery is still practiced in third-world countries: young girls are sold by their families. In some societies girls are castrated so that they will not be tempted to be unfaithful to their husbands.

American students are typically very idealistic but haven’t learned enough about the real world to direct that idealism effectively.  Dr. Bloom, who taught philosophy,  tells of putting this question to students to get them to think: “If you had been a British administrator in India, would you have let the natives under your governance burn the widow at the funeral of a man who had died?”  The answer he got from his students was either silence or the reply, “the British should never have been there in the first place.”

A culture’s survival doesn’t depend on whether it has superior ideas or institutions.   No, survival depends on self confidence.   The future belongs to the culture that believes in itself.  Rome was overrun by relatively primitive tribes of Huns and Goths because Rome had lost its energy and belief in itself.

What are some of the signs of a self-doubting culture?   (1) Welcoming into one’s country multiple cultures —some of which are fundamentally at odds with one’s own culture.   (2) Making no distinction between legal immigrants and illegal immigrants coming  into one’s own country and being indifferent as to whether the newcomers become assimilated citizens. (3) Encouraging the rise of a second language by publishing official documents in that language.

Historian Arthur Schlesinger in The Disuniting of America writes:  “What happens when people of different ethnic origins, speaking different languages and professing different religions, settle in the same geographical locality and live under the same political sovereignty?  Unless a common purpose binds them together, tribal antagonisms will drive them apart.  In the century darkly ahead, civilization faces a critical question: What is it that holds a nation together?”

Written by polemicscat

July 31, 2008 at 8:55 pm