YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

February 11, 2011

“Undoing” multiculturalism

Houdon's Condorcet, 1785

In my last blog, I summarized those who benefited from the institutionalization of “multiculturalism” (http://clarespark.com/2011/02/10/multiculturalism-cui-bono/).  By referring to the Freudian conception of “undoing”, I do not substitute one form of magical thinking with another. Symbolic gestures designed to change behavior are no substitute for a complete renovation of our conception of democracy and its reparable flaws.

I begin by reviewing my own history of the subject. As program director of Pacifica radio station KPFK in Los Angeles, I was told to implement “multiculturalism.” In my naïveté, I thought that meant that the history of minority groups, women, and labor would be integrated into all of our programming. This was no impulsive gesture: I had already heard and seen the rise of cultural nationalism and its feeble opposition in the academy.  Although the other program directors of the five Pacifica stations ratified my resolution to use the integrationist approach throughout the network, I was immediately red-baited by David Salniker, then the Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation.  I am convinced that my ongoing insistence on scientific thinking over myth-making was the major cause of my firing in the summer of 1982, eighteen months after my hiring.

In graduate school at UCLA, I was appointed to represent all the students of the University of California system in the Committee on Affirmative Action Hiring and Programs. I introduced a similar resolution there: in those appropriate subjects, all professors would be expected to integrate into their classes the recent discoveries regarding the history of women and minorities, rather than shunting off these new or updated histories to separate departments and leaving the current curricula untouched.  To be unaware of such new scholarship, I argued, would be tantamount to hiring a biologist who hadn’t yet learned about DNA. This resolution was unanimously passed, but I later learned that it was derided by the UC Academic Senates as an impingement on academic freedom and refused.

I had thought that my resolutions at Pacifica and the University of California were innocent and intellectually sound enough, but I had entirely underestimated the power of an ideology and its internalization by conforming academic administrators and their analogs in the liberal foundations. So I systematically went about tracing the history of the concept, and the scales fell from my eyes. The results are found throughout this website, with quotes from the sources of those responsible for perpetuating this social policy, now being disavowed by key European heads of state.

The magnitude of our endeavor can be only briefly sketched here. Here is a preliminary list; the points are all interrelated.

1. We must recover the conception of the autonomous individual, trained in all the skills of citizenship, which in turn suggests the study of the history of individual psychology versus “social psychology.” It is the latter “discipline” that reflected and perpetuated the statist and collectivist notion of “community” and cast the “rugged individualist” as the Indian-killer/enslaver of blacks par excellence. If “white” people have individuality, so does everyone else (potentially), but tribalism and/or premodern economies stunt the growth of individuality, and multiculturalism is tribalism writ large. We need to draw a hard line between ourselves and our ancestors. Their achievements and atrocities are not ours, whatever the reparations/social legislation crowd that controls the teaching of “interdisciplinary” history and “cultural studies” may argue. (For more on this last point, see http://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/. )

2. We must end “liberal guilt” and the social democratic (foggy) conception of “social justice.” The past is past, and although many atrocities are part of our history– atrocities that have the capacity to traumatize the descendants– the conditions and laws that made the atrocities possible have mostly been removed, and yet some prominent academics have made a career dwelling on the past as if it lingered in the present, with no countervailing structures and/or diminishing prejudice, hence “whiteness studies.”  There is no such thing as American identity or “national character” apart from our laws. Such counter-Enlightenment/anti-science notions as the folly of “the search for truth” emanating from postmodernists and their sympathizers must be countered with a renewed insistence on the clear definition of political rhetoric and the history of its usage in propaganda.

3. We can’t solve our gigantic problems with original sin smoking up our minds. Nor can we acquiesce in the religious notion of an uncluttered “free will.” Each of us has had a personal history since infancy, and some of that history has been either traumatic or has created inhibitions that make problem-solving difficult if not impossible.  We must stop thinking of mental health services as a Jewish invention useful primarily to New York Jews. Effects have causes, even if there are many causes that influence the present, and even though it is hard, if not impossible, to disentangle them. Victimhood exists, but so does survival and resilience, with help from our friends.

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.

[Illustrated: the martyred Marquis de Condorcet, avatar of progress, science, anti-slavery, feminism, and enlightenment.]

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8 Comments »

  1. [...] And (see point 4): [...]

    Pingback by Multiculturalism explained — questions answered « Churchmouse Campanologist — November 9, 2011 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

  2. Clare,

    I re-read your blog and I am finding subtleties that are provocative.

    1) On Original Sin

    “We can’t solve our gigantic problems with original sin smoking up our minds.” I never thought of “original sin” as a issue with me, but if I translate this as “fundamental guilt,” then I find the phrase resonates with me deeply. Although I have lived my live honestly and ethically, I feel guilt on many levels for crimes both real and imagined, but mostly imagined.

    Ayn Rand takes up you point. She said of original sin in 1964,

    “It is the concept of original sin that my heroine [Dagny Taggart], or I, or any Objectivist, is incapable of accepting or of ever experiencing emotionally. It is the concept of original sin that negates morality. If man is guilty by nature, he has no choice about it. If he has no choice, the issue does not belong in the field of morality. Morality pertains only to the sphere of man’s free will — only to those actions which are open to his choice. To consider man guilty by nature is a contradiction in terms. My heroine would be capable of experiencing guilt about a specific action. Only, being a woman of high moral stature and self-esteem, she would see to it that she never earned any guilt by her actions. She would act in a totally moral manner and, therefore, would not accept an unearned guilt.”

    Refusing to accept group guilt and guilt by association with ones ancestors is an important step in breaking away from multiculturalism.

    2) Multiculturalism, Racism, Slavery, and the Democrat Party

    OK, you didn’t address this in the blog above, but your tag “anti-slavery” caused me to seek out your comment’s on Ismael’s “Who ain’t a slave?” remark.

    I’ve been reading “Slavery Defended: the Views of The Old South” and find most of the essays are bitterly critical of the industrialized North for calling for the abolition of chattel slavery which is “superior” to the “wage slavery” of capitalism. You made the same observation about the Southern position.

    Your analysis linking the left’s anti-industrial, anti-capitalist sentiments with the Old South’s romantic attachment to agrarian ideals answers a major question I’ve had about the Democrat Party which, until the late 1960s, was the political party dominated by racists, moderate labor unionists, and liberal corporatists. It now makes sense why leftists and progressives would be attracted to the old Democrat Party. The Old South’s detestation of individualism neatly meshes with the left’s. The multiculturalism of the modern era feels like racism because it is the intellectual heir to the segregation philosophy of the Post-Reconstruction South. Both philosophies seek to elevate the rights of the group over the individual and pit groups against each other for political gain. They both refuse to judge people as individuals free from original sin. Moreover, they aim to destroy the expression of “chaotic” individual “free” enterprise and create classes that are dependent on the privileged.

    I am both devastated and heartened by these revelations. Devastated that the truth of this is not more widely recognized, and heartened that the truth will out.

    Comment by Scott Lloyd — September 21, 2011 @ 3:56 am | Reply

  3. Hi, Clare.

    I appreciate your very honest blog post. In fact, I will use some of your succinct views in future arguments. Thanks!

    A bit of criticism, though, in that I worry when reading your last two points that you stay conscious of the fact that human beings will often bounce back from a victimizing situation with no help from anyone. And many human beings will willfully choose to take the wrong lessons away from others.

    To me, these things are basic human nature. In a free society, we must allow people to make those mistakes, but work hard to keep them from imposing their imperfect understandings upon the rest of us. Sometimes, I think many are trapped by the Progressive thinking that says that people want to do the “right thing”, or that when they learn, they will learn the “best way” of doing something. This simply isn’t the case most of the time.

    Individuals will often take away the wrong lessons from life, because life isn’t always intuitive. What’s common sense for one person, is nonsense for another, and the individual perceptions of each make them both right within their own little worlds. The assumption that everyone is striving to live better or be better is just another assumption. It’s also elitist. It’s also no one’s damned business.

    That’s freedom, and freedom must be the default mode of operation for most Americans, or we will descend into a Progressive Hel…Utopia.

    Comment by Jaycen — September 20, 2011 @ 8:59 pm | Reply

  4. [...] On overcoming multiculturalism. See http://clarespark.com/2011/02/11/undoing-multiculturalism/. But there is another one that lays out the precursors to today’s institutionalized MC: [...]

    Pingback by Questions for education reformers « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — May 16, 2011 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  5. Excellent blog, Clare.

    I like the anecdote about UCLA college professors refusing to incorporate new research and discoveries about minority studies into their curricula. I think they all knew that this would force them to drop the narrative that all white men are racists and patronizing to women. It is difficult enough for those professors to admit that, until 1965, the Democrat party was dominated by real racists — and that all real civil rights reform came from the Republican party — but what would their mush-headed students conclude if they learned that some free black men in America owned slaves, and that not all slaves were black? Or that General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army, considered slavery a political and moral evil? Or that women don’t really earn 75 cents for every dollar a man earns? Or that there are measurable intellectual and personality differences between men and women? One might conclude that historical and scientific truth is more complex and surprising than dogma.

    Your four points are very apt, and I agree entirely. Far from being uniting, the philosophy of multi-culturalism divides us, sets us against each other, and makes us puppets of leaders who attempt to manipulate our tribalist fears for their own benefit. The resurrection of the educated, self-motivated citizen and the abolishment of the notions of liberal guilt and social justice are essential for a stable and prosperous nation.

    Comment by Scott Lloyd — March 28, 2011 @ 2:56 am | Reply


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