During one of my trips through the Internet the other day, I found Clare Spark’s blog, which links multiculturalism to the

racialist discourse of multiculturalism and its origins in German Romanticism.

Her About page describes her journey (much more to read at the link):

Clare Spark is a historian, with degrees from Cornell University (B.S. ‘58), Harvard Graduate School of Education (M.A.T. in Science Teaching ‘59), and UCLA (Ph.D.’93). From 1969 through 1998 she produced hundreds of radio programs on the politics of the art world for Los Angeles Pacifica station KPFK, and was Program Director of the station from 2-81 through July 1982 …

Frustrated by the limitations of journalism, she took took a degree in intellectual history starting in 1983. Her expanded doctoral dissertation was published by Kent State University Press in hardback in 2001 and in a paperback revised edition in 2006 as Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival. (By psychological warfare, she means the many techniques that elites use to damage morale in autodidacts who might, in a democracy, challenge established authority.)

This post will be hard-hitting, covering a number of subjects we dare not speak about today.  Please be warned! No children or those of a sensitive disposition, please.

Questions below are mine to act as sub-headers.

Why don’t feminists oppose wrongdoing to women from other cultures?

I was first inspired to read more by this comment, which explains why Western feminists do not defend atrocities against women from other cultures (emphases mine throughout):

Multiculturalism is not the same as cultural pluralism as it was once understood, but an entire epistemology that claims we cannot understand another race or “culture” unless we belong to that other group, hence there are no universal facts, just group facts. Thus, even an American feminist could argue, if she or he is a multiculturalist, that the West has no right to object to clitoroidectomy in non-Western countries.

That answers a question which has plagued me for nearly two decades.  Over the past two decades, we have quite a lot of these procedures going on under the radar here in Europe, including the UK, and I rarely hear or read a peep.  They are traumatic and painful.  The pain lasts a lifetime from the moment a young girl is seized by ‘aunties’ and Mum at some point during her preteen years through to the last act of sexual intercourse in what should be a happy and loving marriage. Childbirth becomes an agonising nightmare. Female circumcision replaces all sexual pleasure with pain. It is an attempt to prevent unfounded female promiscuity — a routine cultural barbarity carried out with dull knives, in very basic conditions (e.g. kitchen table) and with no anasthaesia.  Mum and the ‘aunties’ hold the girl down and forcibly mutilate her genitalia.  There is no aftercare. Despite what leftists tell you, this is NOT a Christian or a Western practice.

But this tells us that we are placed in our own cultural boxes, as it were.  We’re self-contained groups and that’s it.  What right do we have to complain about primitive barbarism going on by other ethnic groups in our own countries?  It seems that feminists figure, ‘Let them get on with it — nothing to do with us.’

As Spark elaborates here on the subject:

… just to be clear, I think every country’s culture is its own business, and that each nation decides for itself what is acceptable within its own social norms — except when those practices become so dangerous to human life that they must be stopped (like, say, genocide or ritual female mutilation). I just happen to think that *Western* nations have the same rights.”

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Why the modern beef about Christianity and traditional Judaism?  What about the revisionism and reappropriation of American patriots?  What about the individual and libertarianism?

Spark unpacks the journey from the Enlightenment in the 18th century to the mid-20th century.  Here, we find out more about ‘tolerance’ — what it is and is not:

A particularist definition of tolerance was central to corporatist liberalism in the early twentieth century. Progressive social psychologists disseminating national programs of “civilian morale” in 1940-41 posited group diversity and advised the inclusion of minorities in government planning processes: Working toward common goals, while utilizing the special qualities of _different_ ethnicities, would serve social harmony. Such tolerance removed the threat of “rupture” by excluding the intellectual engagement of diverse belief systems with each other, a “moderate” strategy advanced by the Tory historian David Hume in the mid-eighteenth century as he contemplated unbalanced extremists: repressive Catholics and fanatical puritans, the latter seduced by the Old Testament and its “eastern poetic” or “eastern prophetic style”: Crusading puritans were all-too-given to the dictates of individual conscience, primary source research [reading the [Tyndale] Bible], and unbounded curiosity [Hume, Vol.3]; while Catholic censorship was similarly disruptive as it created martyrs. Hume’s middle way, the promotion of rooted cosmopolitanism, is usually associated with the voelkisch thinker J.G. von Herder, and persists today as multiculturalism/ethnopluralism.

Following the tenets of romantic nationalism, all members of the same “ethnic” or “racial” group share inherited group character and economic interests– a corporatist formulation that compels dissenting individuals to submit to “the community” as defined by its natural leader(s) [Robinson]. But there is also a Left critique of cultural nationalism, asserting the socially constructed character of ethnicity, seen as a post-Enlightenment phenomenon [Sollors, 1989]. Other antiracist critics, following Elias and Foucault, attribute nationalism and genocide to the Enlightenment or “modernity” [Bauman]: “bourgeois liberals” fortified by science and panopticons, they say, emerged to assume the command posts of culture, and in the “civilizing process” [Elias] ruptured the bonds of traditional communities, erasing folk knowledges and proclaiming all non-adherents to their middle-class notions of technological rationality as “deviant.” Moreover, while complaining that nationalism mystifies class antagonisms, postcolonialists have collapsed the analytic category of “class” into “race”;  “whiteness studies” confer a corporatist unity upon all white people or “the [imperialist] West.” While apparently rejecting “imagined communities,” these scholars deploy a communitarian discourse, embracing cultural pluralism, now corrected and updated as “dynamically emerging group identit[ies]” [Sollors, 1986, 279]. In practice, progressive cultural historians and literary scholars support identity politics.

The liberal component of the corporatist liberal ideology, then, consists in the tolerance of “diverse” groups with their unassailable “points of view.” The hyphenated Americans co-exist under the rubric of American nationality, as long as each group eschews the triumphalism Hume and his admirers ascribed to moralizing puritans or Catholics. Functionalist comparisons of Hebraic puritans with nazis served the objective of social “equilibrium” by removing the rationalist presence from the ethnopluralist “mosaic” or “symphony.” The multiculturalists were necessarily antisemitic, insofar as Jews, like radical puritans, interpreted “We the People” as an entity that resisted irrationalist methods of social control in their search for “a more perfect union.” This is a key point, for the social scientists and philosophers I am criticizing were irrationalists, rewriting American history to serve the higher goal of social cohesion in a pluralist society [Lynd, Allport, Murray, Murphy], reinterpreting the legacies of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson as precursors to the activist New Deal state [Becker, Clark], and similarly “integrating” potential bomb-throwers while relegating scientific method to a bounded sphere of influence distant from, and lower than, the humanities [Broughton], or, in cultural studies of science, going so far as to relativize scientific facts themselves as produced solely by institutional context in order to maintain a power elite [Biagioli].

The efforts of the corporatist liberals resulted in the erasure or marginalizing of some key figures in American history, who, notwithstanding diverse political goals, all shared the same, now often proscribed, Hebraic i.e. libertarian opinions and empiricist methods of analysis: that society was a collection of _individuals_; that the liberal state protected the human rights of every _individual_ by guaranteeing equal treatment and opportunity; that public education of high quality was indispensable for the attainment of popular sovereignty and the informed conscience; that the marketplace of ideas must not be bounded; and that American nationality consisted in the ongoing emancipation from illegitimate authority through appeals to reason. Such emancipation was unthinkable without scientific method (empiricism), institutional transparency and accountability, and ethical universalism. The Yankee Doodle Society/Clare Spark website, then, has been devoted to libertarian figures whose motives and achievements have been denigrated either as causes of avoidable and catastrophic civil conflict (Hutchinson, Sumner), or as conniving elitists, arrayed against “the People” (Lippmann, Bunche) in postwar corporatist liberal accounts of their careers.

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How does this affect social class and educational aspirations?

Spark explains how James Bryant Conant, President of Harvard University, viewed these two aspects of American society in 1940. Here we find a mixed message:

In his article of 1940, “Education for a Classless Society,” James Bryant Conant, President of Harvard University, looked back with apprehension upon the old Jeffersonian constituency of small farmers and artisans:

“We see throughout the country the development of a hereditary aristocracy of wealth. The coming of modern industrialism and the passing of the frontier with cheap lands mark the change. Ruthless and greedy exploitation of both natural and human resources by a small privileged class founded on recently acquired ownership of property has hardened the social strata and threatens to provide explosive material underneath (46)” …

Notwithstanding New Deal reformism, the minimalist Jeffersonian State was still here and would not absurdly impose higher education upon the poor boy with different and unequal mental capacities.

The grand mixed-message of progressive ideology stands revealed again: on the one hand, class mobility should remain fluid; the lower orders must not be repressed and made desperate by exploitative, inflexible capitalists. On the other hand, Conant was aware that higher education in the twentieth century entailed instruction in science and technology, and materialist tools tended to vitiate the authority of conservative religion that progressives believed had hitherto kept the lid on upsurges from below, i.e., “extreme” demands for structural adjustments in institutions self-evidently pitting class against class. As Conant reasoned (turning Jefferson on his head), the State would hamper the development of the less able future citizen by asking that he acquire more than “the rudiments of education”; for Conant the contrast between the “poor boy of ability” and the less generously endowed of his class would be as rooted in biology as the truly self-evident difference between crops of “tobacco, potatoes, rye, corn or what not.” The stage was set for the postwar triumph of ethnopluralism and this ideology’s valorization of group identity and precapitalist traditional culture over common sense and the search for truth. Lest liberal nationalists worry about fragmentation, hostile “ethnic” competition, and the demise of popular sovereignty, the progressive could argue: as a rooted cosmopolitan each hyphenated American would be tolerant of the Others’ (biologically determined) differences.[iv] Dewily refreshed and spiritualized by sleeping minds, races and ethnicities would peacefully co-exist in a setting of inequality and continued upper-class management: the poor would tolerate the rich, while the progressive educator would honor the individuality of groups, having overcome belligerently individualistic mechanical materialists–troublesome gobbet-girls and other leftovers from the eighteenth century teaching the masses how to read the institutions that controlled their lives. American society would remain classless because race or ethnicity or IQ, not class power in the service of individuality, mastery, and the pursuit of happiness, would fertilize the poor boy’s sense of self and his possibilities for creative development.

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What about race relations?

In ‘The white elite enabling of Black Power’, Spark explains (highlights in the original):

From Black Studies in the University: A Symposium, edited by Armstead Robinson et al (Yale U.P., 1969), a transcript of papers presented at a conference organized by the Black Student Alliance at Yale, late spring 1968, and featuring among its speakers Harold Cruse and Ron Karenga, two prominent spokesmen for cultural nationalism (an irrationalist ideology); they and other speakers hold up urban and campus violence as a warning, noting that time is running out for the advancement of social peace.

Now to excerpts of what was said at the conference (emphases mine):

Ron Karenga explains his separatist educational philosophy  (Q&A, 44-45)]: I feel that black people should communicate black things. Why? We teach that methodology is very important in instruction, but unless one understands that education is more than just the communication of ideas for political effect, we’ll never see that education is basically two things: the provision of inspiration and the provision of information.  Now, we put inspiration first, because black people are an emotional people and our first commitment is an emotional one. Quite a few times myself I have been extremely rational, and blacks have no counter to it, but they disagree–either out of a false sense of Socratic tradition, which says that it is intelligent to disagree even if someone is right, or because he has been emotionally estranged from me.  We teach that the first commitment is an emotional one.  I cannot become emotionally committed to a white person, no matter what he says: I can laugh at what he does if it’s ridiculous enough, but I cannot become emotionally committed to him. I must have an image to identify with and that image must be personified in the man who’s communicating that thing to me or the image he projects. I’m saying that education is basically an inspirational thing and that methodology should take into consideration inspiration before information….

[Gerald A. McWorter introduces a theme that others amplify: there is very little scholarship available on “the black experience” or “the black community” so Yale and the other preserves of white financial power will have to develop curricula and scholars almost de novo. (Karenga offers his services as a consultant during the question period.) …

Then (emphases mine for the most part):

[Kenneth Clark (President of the Metropolitan Applied Research Center, Inc. Member of the New York State Board of Regents, and Professor of Psychology at City College of New York):]…I don’t see how we can avoid coming to the conclusion that teachers, who are supposed to be professionals with confidence in the potential of human  beings, are deficient in areas in which higher education is supposed to provide knowledge.  In some research among teachers selected by their principals to discuss teaching with us, the common denominator, interestingly enough true of Negro teachers as well as white teachers, was a profound illiteracy on what you would consider critical areas of knowledge.  I mean the attitudes, well not just the attitudes, but the knowledge of cultural anthropology or modern and contemporary knowledge about race and racial differences and racial potentialities or social psychology...They were really illiterate…in areas of social science that were relevant to their jobs (52).

[Christopher Edley (Program Officer in charge of the Government and Law Program at the Ford Foundation):]…I’m convinced that the way you eliminate prejudice and racism in America is not by talking and education and explanation.  I think you have to start with a simple cliché‚ like God, motherhood, or country.  You have to have something that has a noble ring.  And it seems to me that what this country needs is a movement, and I don’t know that this is the appropriate group to sponsor it.  This country needs a movement.  The way to eliminate prejudice is to smother it.  If we could bring about a climate in this country where no one could express a prejuducial viewpoint without being challenged, we would begin to drive prejudice underground.  And I submit to you that prejudice unexpressed and unacted upon dies–it doesn’t fester and grow–it dies.  Now this is high sounding, and I don’t expect people to agree with such a simplistic solution.  But I really believe that you can stamp it out.  And if you look at our national figures today, there are certain people who cannot make a prejudicial remark.  Many of our Governors, the President, many responsible Senators are precluded in their public lives from ever making a prejudiced public statement, and if they make a statement that sounds like it’s prejudicial, they’re called on it and the next day, as General de Gaulle found, it was necessary to recant.  So we don’t allow them to get away with anything.  But at the lower levels, over the dinner table…[ellipsis in original, Edley is an African-American now teaching at Harvard Law School.] …

Later on in the conference (emphases mine), a discussion about reparations:

 [Kenneth Boulding:] Suppose we do something like this: We go to a voucher plan.  You give every child $500 to $1000 a year, and he can spend it any way he wants.  And give every Negro child $1500.

[Jerome Wiesner:] But that’s racism.

[Kenneth Boulding:] But I mean I am in favor of racism.  I think racism is important.  Well, they call it discrimination–not the same thing as racism at all.  These are two quite different subjects.  If you want to introduce some kind of counterweight to discrimination, this is where the federal government comes in.  We may see the federal government, the whole taxing-and-subsidizing business, as a total picture weighted toward correcting some of these ills of society.  This seems to me to be its major function (32)

So, a ‘major function’ of one’s taxes it that they go towards redressing perceived and/or continuing societal imbalances, many of which are not the fault of the taxpayer. I have read that this is being done with other ethnic groups in the United States today.

I’m not sure what to think, but this has certainly been an eye-opener, for which I thank Clare Spark.

I imagine many of these ideas are alive and well elsewhere in the West.

So, what do we do? Whither the individual?

Spark compares the Constitution to what Americans see today, as devised in the 1930s:

The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal rights to every individual citizen. The new social psychology was sanely designed to wrest the concept of individuality from individual persons to groups: races, ethnicities and business corporations.[ii] There might be no commitment to civil liberties in the practice of corporatist intellectuals had not the bloody repression of oppositional political speech during the first two decades of the twentieth century apparently propelled workers and their allies toward socialism, forcing moderate conservatives to forestall revolution in the disillusioned lower orders after the Great War by incorporating libertarian ideals and subversive writers. But the inspiring enlightenment rationalism of John Locke, Condorcet, and the Founding Fathers [iii] was vitiated by the racialist Progressive discourse derived from German idealism and the ideas of J. G. von Herder, the hyphenated Americanism promoted after 1916 that advocated antiracist social and educational policies persisting today as “multiculturalism.” [iv]

And (see point 4):

4. We must restore the useful idea of the melting pot. Culture is syncretic: we learn from each other and borrow that which is enriching and bonds us as individuals with other individuals. We may admire, but not hero-worship.  Such idealization inevitably leads to disillusion, apathy, intolerable stress, and depression. A learned helplessness that erases the very notion of a democratic polity. We are all Americans who live under our Constitution and defend it from its enemies. That implies the erasure of the hyphenated American, but not before its depoliticizing, divisive, antidemocratic, and anti-intellectual bases are widely understood.

Agreed.  Unfortunately, we in the West — not just in the US — have seen an entire sector devoted to special-interest lobbies grow over the past 20 years.  Sexual and minority ‘rights’ groups and so-called charities have put paid to the ‘melting pot’ idea.

Can the United States recover the ‘melting pot’?  Can other Western countries recapture their harmonious shared values and peaceful co-existence?  Unfortunately, it would probably take generations to undo the damage already done.  Yet, we would do well to start now — at home with our families and online where we can share resources.

Almost every group today has a complaint against another.  If this is successful multiculturalism or whatever it’s called this week, then count me out.  Treat people as individuals, not as some sort of special group.

A possible related topic is ‘The Cult of the Child‘.