Dave Scotese — Reading a recent post on Digital Journal and then searching for more on the topic, I discovered Johann Hari’s 2008 article on abandoning multiculturalism. Here the writer says, “There is a better way for the state to understand and regulate human differences, beyond the old oppositions of A and B”, where A is a single set of coercive rules and B is different sets of coercive rules for different sets of people. The better way, he explains, is called “liberalism”.
Etymologically, the term “multicultural” suggests tolerance, but the way Hari is using it is inverted to suggest rather intolerance. This is because he makes it all about the state, which is hell-bent on controlling people. Should we control them all the same way, or should we have different ways of controlling different “cultures”? It’s essentially a stupid question, and Hari has the right answer: allow an individual to do whatever he or she wants, provided it doesn’t harm other people.
A noteworthy question in Hari’s article is whether a rational approach to solve some problems with a particular religion, like Islam in this case, is to ban cultural diversity through political authority. Would this be throwing out the baby with the bathwater? This is not an apt analogy, for political authority is anything but cleansing. Rather, it pollutes and distorts the natural course of human relations, which is “You scratch my back, I scratch yours.” Political authority introduces coercion and relies on slavery (called “taxation”) to render that coercion against those who fail to conform. Thus, Hari’s point about liberalism emerges as the better solution.
Perhaps it would be better to wonder if we’d be throwing out the baby with the bathwater if we banned all political authority, regardless of the culture from which is springs. To that question, the answer is: Certainly Not! Political authority is the root cause of the worst problems in the world today: war, poverty, the destruction of the middle class, etc.
For some, the abolishment of political authority would remove a key piece of the foundation of peace, so allow me to replace it: Peace among human beings does not flow from government. It flows from mutual awareness. Courts can function perfectly well without governments to support them. Individuals who are found to be harming others would find themselves ostracized and essentially forced to make amends, rather than protected from society by some institutionalized law, as are abusive husbands under Sharia.
Speaking of Sharia, or Islamic law, which the Muslim minority wants to live by in United Kingdom instead of the state or country law, we are brought face to face with the concept of justice. Those who feel that the concept of justice is at stake here (because Hari compares two alternative ways of controlling people), have been brainwashed into believing that justice is served by controlling people. The opposite is more accurate: Justice is served through liberalism – not the steal-from-everyone-to-support-the-poor kind of bastardized liberalism that has emerged in recent decades, but the let-people-do-what-they-want kind that Hari mentions in his article. Justice is at stake, but not because Johann Hari and the UK are wrestling with whether to control people with monolithic cultural law or diverse multicultural law. No, justice is at stake because people don’t see that justice dies as legislation grows, regardless of its source.
So should we have improvement in law enforcement in the country as the real concern instead of trying to ban all or some cultures? If I were paid (enough) to do an article on Rowan Williams’ suggestion that Muslims be permitted to skip the state courts and use Islamic courts instead, I would quickly introduce the theory of juries. “The primary function of an independent juror is not, as many people thing, to dispense punishment to fellow citizens accused of breaking various laws, but rather to protect fellow citizens from tyrannical abuses of power by the government.” In fact, every individual is a government to those with whom he interacts inasmuch as he requires them to follow certain laws and backs them up with violence if necessary (try spitting on a man at a ball game, see what he does).
So a jury requires one party to produce the law allegedly broken so that it may determine whether or not that law is just. If it determines that it is just, then the jury demands the facts of the case to determine whether or not the other party has unjustly broken that law. The state courts and the Islamic courts in question generally assume this role of jury for themselves, and this is the fundamental problem. That is what the author’s real concern should have been.
What will be the biggest advantage if we ban all cultures? Will it bolster harmony and bring down social problems? In my opinion, every ban introduces violence by requiring that the ban be enforced. Violence never bolsters harmony, though it can postpone and magnify the disharmony it attempts to eliminate. The biggest advantage of any ban is the demonstration of this fact. America’s War on Drugs is a fine example. Thus, the worst effect of such a ban is also the best effect, and this is because human beings learn. Let us hope that our readers do so well.