Spectator: the Left’s multiculturalism morality play

Spectator blogs

Germany is on its feet again, ja, so what can go wrong? This week Good Germans have been taking to the streets to counter-protest the PEGIDA (the Bad Germans) and their ‘anti-Islamisation’ rallies that began in Dresden; Europe’s media is horrified, if also slightly fascinated, with the clear subtext being ‘if the rest of Europe can’t go in for flag-waving there’s no way you lot can’.

Not that media hostility will make much difference, I imagine; across western Europe the anti-politics movement is also anti-journalism. Large numbers of people feel that the broadcast and broadsheet media gives an inherently distorted account of multiculturalism, which its journalists view as a tenet of their faith, a faith most Europeans don’t share. Large numbers of people feel that way because it is broadly true.

Perhaps it is that multiculturalism to the Left has always been a morality play in which the protagonist (the white liberal) rescued the stranger/underdog from the hostile prejudices of the conservative. It’s To Kill A Mockingbird, over and over in their heads, or 12 Years a Slave or maybe Paddington. That’s why it never occurred to anyone that these new Europeans may have agency and would bring their own prejudices with them; they were supposed to be ciphers for Europeans trying to feel good about themselves in an age where the near eradication of poverty made self-actualisation a major concern. (Minorities are scripted as victims. That is why an attack, say, on a mosque in Sweden will get far more media coverage than a Muslim gang attacking some Swedes, even though the actual crime statistics do not match the column inches; ditto for England, France or the Netherlands.)

Coverage of the Dresden protests follows this basic pattern, with good Germans proclaiming that they wish to ‘make space’ for the world, while bad Germans show their fear and prejudice.

People often cite the war guilt of Germans as driving their hostility to xenophobia, but it is far deeper than that. Europe’s establishment is overwhelmingly universalist, in that it believes that not only are all humans equal in dignity and rights but that we as people have no moral right to discriminate between in-groups and out-groups. This is a secular heresy of Christianity, and it is why diversity has become a sort of religion in countries populated by Europeans, especially for those who have lost their actual faith; outside of European-populated lands such an idea remains mostly alien, and totally impractical, especially in the countries from which Germany now attracts many of its migrants.

In particular such a post-Christian idea is incompatible with Islam, a religion in which the division of humanity into believer v non-believer is strong (and with most Islamic societies being clannish), and will not be disintegrated by Europe’s lukewarm melting pot. So far Islamic immigration to Europe has failed to produce the post-racial paradise that was hoped for, and to many this hope is starting to resemble previous utopian political schemes attempted on the continent. I seem to remember the last one collapsed with protests in Saxony, too.

If it were just Good Germans v Bad Germans then these protests would soon disappear because most people are decent and fair-minded. But the Left is in denial of the fact that many of the people drawn into their morality play now insist on speaking parts; that they did not come here to celebrate diversity, and find liberal, universalist ideals hollow and repulsive. A liberal immigration policy that entails importing lots of illiberal people will necessarily mean the end of liberalism, a political philosophy that is almost exclusively European.

We see these problems in Britain, the latest being the totally surprising and in no way foreseeable revelation that Islamic faith schools encourage segregation.

It is noble and admirable for the Germans to wish to ‘make space’ for the rest of humanity, but a universalist society welcoming large numbers of particularists from the rest of the world is not sustainable for very long. It will not end as a Christian morality play, as was intended, but as an old-fashioned Greek tragedy, even if it is a tragedy without villains.


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