Following on from my previous piece on Harmony Day and the benefits of cultural diversity, it was a bit sad, and faintly pathetic, to see The Australian choose that very day to run a rather lame opinion piece trying to do a hatchet job on multiculturalism.
The article was by Queensland University law Professor James Allen and consisted of the tired old trick of putting up two definitions of multiculturalism, one purporting to be an old definition, which happens to be excessively narrow and benign:
the phenomenon of restaurants serving foods from across the world: food that was, on the whole, far better than the then bog standard Anglo-Saxon fare.
novel dances, different music, unusual art, and so on.
and the other definition so extreme and broad that it is nothing but a caricature:
the spoken or unspoken proposition that no culture’s beliefs, practices or achievements are any better (or worse) than any other’s,
the feeling or sense (for it is rarely openly defended) that tolerance is always good, that there is no limit to what one should be tolerant of and prepared to defer to.
Prof Allen then sets about attacking the caricature, as though it had some connection to the real world.
We should strive to be tolerant of much in life. But not everything. It is not a good thing but a bad thing to tolerate the neo-Nazi thug, the child-murdering suicide bomber, the serial rapist, the fanatic who professes to have a pipeline to God and aims to kill those who disagree.
Of course the new multiculturalism never makes such absolutist support of tolerance explicit. To do so would reveal how absurd such a thorough-going refusal to pass judgment ultimately is. But that absolutism is nevertheless there, lurking quietly in the dark corners of this modern-day catechism.
So there you have it. No one ever says multiculturalism involves an absolutist notion of tolerance (apart from those who are verballing it as a means of attacking it), but despite the fact that its harshest critics accept that no one has ever said this, apparently it is none the less true, a belief “lurking quietly in the dark corners.”
And despite the fact that Professor Allen himself says no one ever says that multiculturalism involves an absolutist notion of tolerance, none the less “our schools treat some of this dogma as near gospel, to be force-fed to our children.” Those teachers must be very clever, teaching (let alone ‘force-feeding’) something to children without ever actually expressing it.
I hope Professor Allen requires better standards of proof than this when he is teaching law to his University students.