Sunday, February 13, 2011

Multiculturalism and Moral Relativism

European leaders (Merkel, Cameron, Sarkozy) are finally beginning to say out loud what everybody has known for years but were afraid to say in public: the Western idea of multiculturalism has failed. It promised peace and harmony; it has produced hate and suspicion. It promised enlightened interaction between equals; it has produced ghettos. It promised respect for the other; it has produced racism.

Western culture suffered a horrendous blow to its self-confidence and its convictions in the debacle that was the 40 years war in Europe (1914-1945). The supposedly scientific, advanced nations of Western Europe fell upon each other with a barbarism, ferocity and nihilistic bloodlust that convinced much of the European intellectual elite that its own civilization - its religion, its moral ideals, its political institutions and its philosophical foundations - were all a thin veneer of superficial window-dressing covering up rapacity, greed, racism and the will to power, which were the fundamental realities of life.

There was a certain undeniable plausibility to this cynicism because the philosophical, religious, moral and cultural foundations of Europe had been rotting for centuries. Since the 14th century and the rise of nominalism, the worldview of Christian Europe had been declining. From the rise of Cartesian philosophy with its attempt to find new foundations in the autonomous self to the rise of a mechanistic technology that eschews the search for wisdom in its haste to obtain power over nature to the hubris of the Enlightenment with its call to set aside the wisdom of the past and trust man's unaided Reason, (always with a capital R), Europe attempted to rebuild its civilization on a humanistic and materialistic foundation.

So when the postmodern philosophers criticize the Enlightenment worship of Reason, they are right. But because they believed that the Enlightenment was somehow a legitimate or even inevitable development of the Greco-Roman and Christian civilizations which preceded it, the entirely of Western civilization, including Christianity, was implicated along with the Enlightenment.

A multude of diverse voices have warned that a wrong turn was taken at the dawn of the modern age and that the rejection of Christian worldview of the Medieval world must lead to disaster. They included Lewis and Tolkien, Dawson and Butterfield, von Balthasar and Milbank, Elliot and Kirk, Chesterton and Belloc, Newman and MacIntyre, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. They have been largely ignored by the elites of our society.

Europe is dying of old age because she has cut herself off from her Medieval Christian roots. The failure of modernity is not the failure of Western civilization; it is the failure of the Modern rebellion against the Christian West.

Relativism is the standpoint of all civilizations in their dotage. It is not new, nor is it unique to the West. It is the standard default position of any civilization which has cut itself off from its roots from which alone can come renewal. Moral and cultural relativism lies behind the failed policy of multiculturalism and behind that lies moral and cultural rot.

Since the 1960s cultural Marxism has marched through the institutions of the West trumpeting moral relativism, multiculturalism and a self-loathing that is difficult to watch and painful to endure. This is marketed as the sophisticated views of a self-confident culture but the object of the confidence of these confidence men is as ephemeral and unreal as the snake oil they would have hawked in earlier times.

The equivalent of the ancient Sophists hated by Socrates have taken over our universities and taught our young people the slogans and political correctness needed to rise in this kind of decaying society. They exist because those who lead us intellectually have failed us. Modernity is dead as an idea even though the institutions it created live on for a time until the bills come due and fiddler demands his pay.

Multiculturalism is the rotten fruit. Moral relativism is the disease. The tree is Western civilization. How long before the axe is taken to a tree that no longer bears good fruit?

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