Sunday, November 9, 2008

Complexities of American Democracy

So previously I wrote about how the genius of the American political system and its recent comeback could be a catalyst for the singularity.

But let's examine a difficult issue in the African American experience.

- Civil Rights and Multiculturalism

So the election of Barack Obama was a great step forward for African Americans. But on November 4, in one of the most liberal states in the country, voters decided to ban gay marriage.

Now personally, I think the issue is just so far down on the list of important issues (given our current problems w/ the economy, partisanship, terrorism, Russia, immigration, education, etc) of the day.

But apparently African Americans believed that while they greatly expanded civil rights in one dimension, they want to drastically retract it for another group, homosexuals. 70% of African Americans voted for the ban on gay marriage in 4 states.

This is a disturbing development, and points to the fragility of coalitions that attempt to address social change. Christian Lander, of stuff white people like always makes fun of white people for being multicultural and tolerant. However, these liberals are often dangerously oblivious to the human rights abuses that are present in these minority societies.

Wikipedia's article on Multiculturalism addresses this point:

Skeptics of the ideology often debate whether the multicultural ideal of benignly co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, and yet remain distinct, is sustainable, paradoxical or even desirable when housed by a single nation — one that, in the case of some European nations, would previously have been synonymous with a distinctive cultural identity of its own.

The liberal-feminist critique is related to the liberal and libertarian critique, since it is concerned with what happens inside the cultural groups. In her 1999 essay, later expanded into an anthology, "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?" the feminist and political theorist Susan Okin argues that a concern for the preservation of cultural diversity should not overshadow the discriminatory nature of gender roles in many traditional minority cultures, that, at the very least, "culture" should not be used as an excuse for rolling back the women's rights movement.


In the Netherlands, the haven of weed and prostitution, the Dutch are alarmed at the specter of Islamic influence threatening their freedoms.

In 1999, the legal philosopher Paul Cliteur attacked multiculturalism in his book The Philosophy of Human Rights.[86] Cliteur rejects all political correctness on the issue: Western culture, the Rechtsstaat (rule of law), and human rights are superior to non-Western culture and values. They are the product of the Enlightenment. Cliteur sees non-Western cultures not as merely different but as anachronistic. He sees multiculturalism primarily as an unacceptable ideology of cultural relativism, which would lead to acceptance of barbaric practices, including those brought to the Western World by immigrants. Cliteur lists infanticide, torture, slavery, oppression of women, homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, gangs, female genital cutting, discrimination by immigrants, suttee, and the death penalty. Cliteur compares multiculturalism to the moral acceptance of Auschwitz, Stalin, Pol Pot and the Ku Klux Klan.
The most prominent figure in the post-Fortuyn debate of the issue was Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her first criticisms of multiculturalism paralleled those of the early liberal-feminist critics in the United States — the emphasis on group identity and group rights diminished individual liberty for those within the minorities, and especially for women. As time went on, her criticism was increasingly directed at Islam itself, and its incompatibility with democracy and Western culture. By 2004 she was the most prominent critic of Islam in Europe. When she scripted a short film on Islamic oppression of women, featuring texts from the Quran on the naked bodies of women, its director Theo van Gogh was assassinated by an Islamist. Threatened with death and heavily guarded, she spent most of her time in the United States, and moved to Washington in 2006 to work for the American Enterprise Institute. In 2006 she also expressed support for the Eurabia thesis — that Europe is being fully Islamised —, and that its non-Muslim inhabitants will be reduced to dhimmitude.[92] In a speech for CORE in January 2007, she declared that Western culture was overwhelmingly superior:

... my dream is that those lucky enough to be born into a culture of "ladies first" will let go of the myth that all cultures are equal. Human beings are equal; cultures are not.[93]

So yeah. Not all cultures have equal respect for human rights, and the most fascinating thing is that supposedly "oppressed" cultures have done as much oppressing of their own.

It's not too hard to look at animal rights abuses in Latin America, genocide in Africa, oppression of women in South Asia, and the abuse of religious minorities in the Islamic world, smackdown of Tibet and Falun Gong in China, and the trafficking of women in southeast Asia before we see the hollowness of the rhetoric that the United States is hindering human rights efforts.

And that is why many conservatives are skeptical of international institutions such as the UN, where the human rights committee was run by Sudan. They recognize that there is something wonderful about American political culture that shouldn't be diluted by submitting our sovereignty to the whims of nations that don't have the same level of rights tolerance as us.

This undermines the charge that white oppression is responsible for the lower state of minorities, women, and other oppressed groups.

Instead, it lends credence to the idea that groups themselves are responsible for their sorry state, not the white man or the west.

So back to the election. It proved two things:

1) The most powerful nation on earth, often blamed for the ills of the third world, happens to be the most moral, just, and free nation in the world. The narrative of the United States as an oppressive imperial power dampening the hopes of minorities everywhere has been thoroughly undermined. Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, take a hike.

2) The advancement of minority interests does NOT necessarily advance the interests of other oppressed groups. Often, we will see that a larger amount of black, Hispanic, or Islamic influence in a culture will actually harm homosexual interests.

Watch out.

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