CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Identity Politics, Multiculturalism, and Social Disintegration

Jul 27, 2020

Multiculturalism and identity politics are destroying societies, not helping them:

Identity politics is killing us – literally. Consider just two very recent and very tragic cases of people losing their lives because they fell afoul of various groups pushing radical identity politics. A 24-year-old Indiana nurse who told Black Lives Matter protestors that all lives matter was shot and killed moments later: www.thesun.co.uk/news/12109716/family-jessica-doty-whitaker-black-lives-matter-indiana/

Also in America we have this horrific story:

Black Trump supporter Bernell Trammell was murdered on Thursday afternoon in broad daylight in Milwaukee, Wisconsin just hours after giving an interview in which he urged his fellow African Americans to vote for President Donald Trump in the November election. Hours later Trammell, who was known in his community as a respected and peaceful man with no enemies, was gunned down “execution style” in front of his store. The shooting occurred in front of Trammell’s business, which is called Express Publications and is covered in signs, including most prominently signs saying “Vote Donald Trump 2020,” and “Re-Elect Trump 2020.” newspunch.com/black-community-elder-shot-to-death-execution-style-hours-after-pro-trump-interview/

It seems clear that these are both hate crimes – cases of politically motivated murder. Yet the mainstream media refuses to call this out. It seems things are only newsworthy when a white kills a black, or when someone from some other identity politics group is targeted, such as a homosexual.

We of course have many examples of identity politics spinning out of control, and of the related issue of failed multiculturalism. Recounting such sad examples could fill this and many more articles. But I want to look at a few voices of sanity on this.

Many have been warning us about where all this is heading. Mark Steyn for example said that multiculturalism “is a cult of tolerance in which you demonstrate your sensitivity to other cultures by being almost totally insensitive to your own.” Or as Thomas Sowell put it, “What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.”

But here I want to highlight one important thinker who we must all be aware of. British Rabbi and moral philosopher Jonathan Sacks has long been speaking out on these matters. Back in 2007 for example he penned the vital book, The Home We Build Together: Recreating Society. A few years later I quoted from an article based on the book:

Multiculturalism has run its course, and it is time to move on. It was a fine, even noble idea in its time. It was designed to make ethnic and religious minorities feel more at home, more appreciated and respected, and therefore better able to mesh with the larger society. It affirmed their culture. It gave dignity to difference. And in many ways it achieved its aims. Britain is a more open, diverse, energising, cosmopolitan environment than it was when I was growing up.

But there has been a price to pay, and it grows year by year. Multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation. It has allowed groups to live separately, with no incentive to integrate and every incentive not to. It was intended to promote tolerance. Instead the result has been, in countries where it has been tried, societies are more abrasive, fractured and intolerant than they once were.

Liberal democracy is in danger. Britain is becoming a place where free speech is at risk, non-political institutions are becoming politicised, and a combination of political correctness and ethnic-religious separatism is eroding the graciousness of civil society.

billmuehlenberg.com/2010/01/25/whither-multiculturalism/

In a 2011 article he discussed how “Having pride in Britain protects all cultures.” The piece began: “David Cameron was right to say that multiculturalism has failed, echoing similar statements by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel. It was undertaken for the highest of motives. It was intended to create a more tolerant society, one in which everyone, regardless of colour, creed or culture, felt at home. Its effect has been precisely the opposite.”

Image of Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times
Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times by Array Amazon logo

And in an important speech delivered that year he said this:

Multiculturalism is part of the wider European phenomenon of moral relativism, a doctrine that became influential as a response to the Holocaust. It was argued that taking a stand on moral issues was a sign of an ‘authoritarian personality’. Moral judgment was seen as the first step down the road to fanaticism. But moral relativism is the deathknell of a civilization. In a relativist culture, there is no moral consensus, only a clash of conflicting views in which the loudest voice wins.

That is where we are today. The extremists command attention and capture the headlines, and they become the role models for the young. Since there is no national identity to claim their allegiance, there is no contest. Hence the phenomenon, widespread throughout Europe today but rare in the past, that the children of immigrants are more hostile to the host society than their parents were, and feel themselves more alien to its values. billmuehlenberg.com/2011/02/13/the-death-of-multiculturalism/

In his brand-new book, Morality (Hodder & Stoughton, 2020), he continues this theme. In Chapter 9 on “Identity Politics” he speaks further to the matter of multiculturalism. Let me close out this article by speaking to what is found there. He says this:

“Identity was not a key word in the public conversation until the 1950s, when the work of psychologist Erik Erikson brought it into prominence. The phrase ‘identity politics’ is more recent still, dating back no earlier than the 1980s. Yet it has come to be seen as one of the key dimensions of contemporary politics in the West.”

He notes how religion was for most of human history the “deepest and most tenacious” form of identity. But the Enlightenment project changed all that, and three secular substitutes for religion arose: nation, race and class. He then says this:

While this was happening at an intellectual level, another development was taking place at a political level in Europe and the United States: multiculturalism. This was a response on the part of governments to the demographic changes in Europe and America brought about by a rise in levels of immigration. I have written elsewhere about why I believe that multiculturalism, embarked on for the highest of motives, was a disastrous policy, misconceived and profoundly damaging to the social fabric of every society into which it was introduced. Intended to promote the integration of minority ethnic and religious groups into the wider society, instead it led to segregation. Meant to promote tolerance, it has given rise to new and dire forms of intolerance. It turned society from a home into a hotel, in which each group has its room but where there is little if any sense of collective belonging.

He continues:

Identity politics deepens the fragmentation caused by multiculturalism, adding to it not just culture and ethnicity but also other forms of identity based on gender and sexual orientation. There is a real danger here of the splitting of society into self-segregating, non-communicating ghettoes. One of its axioms is that ‘Only a member of my group can understand my pain.’ This is the very opposite of Terence’s dictum ‘I think nothing human alien to me.’ Over three hundred years the West has, with some success, developed an ethic of tolerance and respect for difference, and in a liberal society the prejudice and discrimination that undoubtedly still exist are to be fought wherever they occur. But that is precisely incompatible with an identity politics that builds walls around minorities, allowing no one else to enter, and at the same time insists on recognition from the wider society.

He closes the chapter with these words: “Identity politics is a symptom of the breakdown of national identities and the institutions of civil society. Lose the moral basis of society and you will then have what Hobbes described as ‘the general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire of power after power, that ceaseth only in death’. That is no place for the collective grace of a free society.”

If you are interested in learning about how Sacks proposes that we deal with this and other problems discussed in this incisive volume, you are advised to grab a copy of it and read it for yourself. But I can offer the very last words of the book to give you some indication of his thoughts:

There is nothing inevitable about the division, fragmentation, extremism, isolation, the economics of inequality or the politics of anger that have been the mood of Britain and America in recent years. They have been the legacy of the misplaced belief that societies can function without a moral bond. They cannot, or at least not for long. That is why we are where we are.

But we can change. Societies have moved from ‘I’ to ‘We’ in the past. They did so in the nineteenth century. They did so in the twentieth century. They can do so in the future.

And it begins with us.

(Australians can find the book here: www.koorong.com/product/morality-why-we-need-it-and-how-to-find-it-jonathan-sacks_9781529342635 )

[1492 words]

7 Responses to Identity Politics, Multiculturalism, and Social Disintegration

  • Bill,
    You may value the following by John MacArthur
    https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B200723

  • Thanks Bob. Yes I am glad he is speaking out here. In a sense he is coming around. 20 years ago he was telling Christians to basically stay clear of politics and the culture wars. Now it is almost too late! https://billmuehlenberg.com/2001/11/28/a-review-of-why-government-can%e2%80%99t-save-you-by-john-macarthur/

  • I am afraid that Bob Lillyman has inadvertently put the spot light on one of the worst peddlers of identity politics. In any civilised age, he would at the least be put in prison for many years. I refer to governor of the state of California in which John MacArthur, Jack Hibbs and other pastors have their churches. I speak of Gavin Newson. No words can describe the character of this total degenerate and hater of God:-
    https://americansfortruth.com/2008/08/26/san-francisco-mayor-gavin-newsom-puts-friendly-welcome-letter-in-super-raunchy-folsom-street-fair-program/
    https://sacbrie.com/2017/08/06/top-4-reasons-to-vote-for-gavin-newsom/

    Lord come quickly
    David Skinner UK

  • I would like to comment on Jonathan Sacks’ statement how the Enlightenment changed the way people identified themselves away from religion to identifying themselves by nation, race and class. It might be the way we are graded to today in that the Equality and Human Rights Commissions divide us according to race, disability, age, belief, gender, sexual orientation, being transgendered, married (including same sex married) and pregnant (including transsexual man) – known as the nine protected characteristics. But I think it was the worship of nature and freedom from the constraints of civilised codes of behaviour that supplanted institutional religion, especially Roman Catholicism and courtly etiquette of the 18th century. This was the period of Jean Jacques Rousseau and the noble savage, or Romanticism and the search for other cultures “untainted” by the artificial formalities of the court and upper classes. It developed into man searching within himself for meaning. This resulted in Sigmund Freud, Surrealism and the rejection of anything stopping someone from being their true self. In other words any group that can identify itself as victims of oppressive, Judeo-Christian, patriarchal and white values and morality can claim special protection over that of other groups – especially those of the unborn child that threatens a mother’s ability to self- fulfilment, or of men whom we all know, are decidedly the greatest threat to woman and homosexuals.
    Jonathan sacks was decidedly flaky on same sex marriage and gay rights in general. Rather than tell LGBTs the unvarnished truth he could offer them only empathy and sympathy – soft soap. As for evolution and the book of Genesis, it seems that he believes God created matter and energy out of nothing but that it was evolution which then carried on the process of creation. He even gives credit to Darwin and no doubt Richard Dawkins in the area of altruism.
    Rejecting our nation’s Christian foundations and heritage, we have become a demoralised people who no longer know who we are. We have become alienated from one another. We no longer know our right from our left hand, for without any fixed, Biblical point of reference, like a ship without a compass, we have become a prey to fears, delusions, rumours and deception to every wind of change and we run from shadows. We have allowed ourselves to drift and change our attitudes and values according to the political climate – the average consensus at any particular moment controlled by the secularists, humanists – and the BBC.

    David Skinner UK

  • Thanks David. Yes I am aware of some of the shortcomings of Sacks in those areas and in others. Indeed, being a conservative Jew, I like a lot of what he says, but obviously I wish and pray that he recognises Jesus as the Messiah. But as I have said so very often now, just because I quote from someone does NOT mean I happen to agree with everything they have ever said on every topic under the sun. See here for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/11/06/on-quoting-others/

    I know full well that those I quote from are often rather off on some other issues. As to Sacks, I do not agree with all that he says in this book, and elsewhere. But if I only ran with folks I agreed with 100% of the time, guess what? There would likely be no one being quoted from on this site, including you! And I don’t always agree with myself all the time! So unless folks want to see completely empty pages appearing here every day, they really need to get used to this reality!

    Indeed, just the other day in a piece featuring C. S. Lewis I said this: “It goes without saying that one can never get enough of C. S. Lewis. Of course one not need agree with him on everything – I certainly don’t. But for the most part the words of wisdom found in his many writings are always worth coming back to.”

    So when folks say a lot of good stuff even if only in certain areas, I usually am going to share that. In a fallen world no one – not me, not you, not Sacks – has all the truth. Could Lewis have been better in some areas? Yes. Could Sacks? Yes. Could you? Yes. Could I? Yes. If I wait until I quote from those who get it 100% right 100% of the time, I will wait until the Lord returns. In which case, I might as well take down this website!

    In sum, to feature some sensible and truthful remarks from Sacks – or anyone else for that matter – does not imply that I think they speak 100% gospel truth on every other issue. I may wish that they – and I – did, but as long as we live in a fallen world, that ain’t gonna happen! But thanks again, and keep up your good work.

  • Thanks Bill for being gracious and posting my comment. Iron sharpens iron! And as you say we are in a constant battle, with ourselves, the world and Satan, the great liar. Clearly we must put no one on pedestal above the word of God and this is going get us into trouble . I could name a whole list of people to whom the vast majority of Christians defer and who seem to have become untouchable – above contradiction. Why, even Paul and Peter were in sharp dispute, on at least on one occasion. And what about Wesley and George Whitfield? I suppose at the end of the day, the most important thing is that we remain in relationship with those we most violently disagree with. There is always a temptation to cut ourselves off from those with whom we disagree, especially homosexuals and Muslims and even members of our own families. If we do that there are not many people left in the room and we find ourselves totally isolated. This does not mean that for a season maybe a relationship is cut, but there must always be a door left open for re-connection, reconciliation and even forgiveness – if that is required.
    It goes without saying that our age is one of deception, delusion, denial and defiance and I value highly the way for over a decade and half you have had the courage to bring to the surface topics that no one else dare mention, or even have the wit or energy to tackle. So using a phrase from another historical character who has recently come under attack from Antifa and the BLM, (and whom we are both undoubtedly guilty of having put on a pedestal) Sir Winston Churchill, “KBO” or “Keep xxxxxxxxx on!”

    David Skinner UK

  • Great article Bill; thanks. To flesh out the dangers a bit further, based on the historical evidence, it appears another aspect the architects of the western multicultural experiment overlooked, was the real possibility that one or more of the introduced minority cultures could be quite alien to our western way of life, averse to societal integration and, indeed have supremacist ambitions, even be willing to exploit our freedoms and principles in order to gain influence.

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