Monday, January 5, 2015

Universal Human Rights versus The Multicultural Ideal

Michael L.

{Originally published at the Elder of Ziyon.}

dueling swords in the ems sector imageThere is an unspoken contradiction at the heart of western-left ideology that is eroding liberal values, rocking solidarity among the larger coalition, and undermining the integrity of the movement, as a whole.

Those of you familiar with my material know that I tend to focus on the progressive-left betrayal of its Jewish constituency along with the failure of its own central ideals.

A big part of that betrayal and failure is around the acceptance of political Islam as a rational player on the world stage.  If it holds, this will be a significant Obama administration legacy.  It is not that the Obama administration is the first American administration to sit down, on some level, with Islamists.  This is obviously not the case.  Rather, what distinguishes the Obama administration from the previous administrations is the enthusiasm and commitment brought to normalizing political Islam for world diplomacy and world consumption.

The Obama administration publicly supported the Muslim Brotherhood.  The progressive movement supported the Obama administration.  And the Jewish Left supported the progressive movement  In this way, even many on the Jewish Left end up supporting an American president who gave billions of dollars, as well as F-16 fighter jets and Abrams tanks, to a political organization, within a larger movement, that swears to overrun Jerusalem and murder the Jews.

Some will argue that the Obama administration opposes political Islam because it opposes the Islamic State (IS), but the Obama administration also supported the Muslim Brotherhood which is the father organization of Hamas and al-Qaeda.

So, the question that I am asking myself is, how is it that so much of the Left could end up supporting repressive, homophobic, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, authoritarian regimes while turning their backs on the only country in the region where women have equality of opportunity and where Gay people can live without fear of persecution?  I am hardly the first person to raise this question, but it is a good question and one that liberals need brought to their attention if they wish to have anything resembling integrity in terms of their foreign policies.

There are any number of ways to approach this topic, but I want to speak to it from the perspective of ideology.

The twin pillars of progressive-left ideology today are those of universal human rights and the multicultural ideal.  Universal human rights means that our objective should be to advance social justice throughout the planet.  We want people to live in freedom with governments devoted to democracy and to the well-being of their own people, everywhere.  That is the broad meaning of universal human rights and it is, in fact, a noble goal.

Western progressives also believe in the multicultural ideal.

People from different cultures should be able to live cheek-by-jowl throughout the world in harmony and peace.  Such a live-and-let-live arrangement would enrich all cultures through harmonious interaction and the sharing of cultural products.  This is not an old-timey "melting pot" notion, but a popular contemporary outlook grounded in mutual respect for cultural distinctions.

While all of this sounds very nice, it simply has not worked out very well, unfortunately.

This is true mainly because Muslim communities, via the Islamist influence, particularly in Europe, are having none of it.  European Islamists, if not the majority of Muslim immigrants into Europe, despise European culture and values and, make no mistake, universal human rights is unquestionable a western value.

Furthermore, European Islamists do not want to live under European sovereignty.  What they want is cultural and legal independence from their countries of residence and these factors are beginning to rend European society as Islamists attack non-Muslims, and particularly Jews, throughout western Europe.

Those who lean toward the multicultural ideal generally find it better to let other cultures simply be what they are, but they do so with an uneasy conscience - if they have a conscience - and to the detriment of their twin ideal, that of universal human rights.

Thus the entire western Left ideological edifice struggles with itself and the multicultural ideal has won out in this more-or-less unacknowledged contest taking place just beneath the political surface.

Part of the problem is that the multicultural ideal is bolstered by people's experiences in the real world while universal human rights, as applied to people half a world away, is something of an abstraction.  That is, as more and more of us are living in multi-ethnic communities the need for a live-and-let live attitude toward those communities is direct and immediate.  However, the need to send in troops to save the Yazidi from the savages of the Islamic State (IS) or to insist upon women's rights in the Middle East, for two quick examples, is not immediate and is not usually of local community concern.

Whatever the reasons for the fact that the multicultural ideal has won out in its contest for the hearts and minds of progressives over universal human rights, however, no one should doubt that it has happened.

Let me give you a few examples.

Feminism, for one, is dead or dying and multiculturalism killed it or helped kill it.

Just ask Professor Phyllis Chesler.  She'll tell you.

Feminism, as a political movement, gave up not only on universal human rights, but even on the rights of women outside of the white liberal west, almost entirely.  In the 1990s feminists were perfectly comfortable speaking out against the Taliban and encouraging governments to take necessary action to ease the plight of abused women in the Middle East.

Those days are largely gone.  Now we have prominent feminists like Naomi Wolf telling us that the burka actually represents sexual freedom for Muslim women.  She wrote in a 2008 piece:
It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling - toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home.
I see.

So feminists have been telling one another that Islam is not oppressive of women in part because Islam's most privileged women tell naive and well-meaning westerners like Naomi Wolf that Islam is just terrific for women.  Besides, who are these white, western, wealthy, women to tell women of color how they should feel about their own cultures?  By what arrogant non-existent imperative do the daughters of the imperialist west have any right to tell non-white people what to do or think?

That is a very good question.

But, you can easily see how multicultural sympathies erode the will to stand up for universal human rights, in this case the rights of women throughout the Muslim world.

A similar argument can be made for the GBLT movement and its abandonment of Gay people throughout that part of the world, even as it castigates Israel, the only country throughout the region that is friendly toward people such as themselves.

Finally, the triumph of the multicultural ideal over that of universal human rights has had a terrible effect on the relationship between Jewish liberals and the western-left.  At least partially due to the multicultural ethos many western liberals fear criticizing Arab societies - and fear being called "racist" if they do so - and this has opened space for anti-Semitic anti-Zionists to join the ranks of the progressives in exceedingly vocal ways thereby driving the conversation of the Arab-Israel conflict within left-wing venues.

There are only two groups of people free from the protection of multiculturalism within the western-left, white people and Jewish people.  I, of course, happen to be both.

If the western-left wishes to remain true to its alleged values and if it wishes to maintain the loyalty and support of its various constituencies than it will need to find a way to balance the multicultural ideal with its alleged support for universal human rights.

Speaking strictly for myself, I do not see it happening, and am thus more than happy to distance myself from a political movement that supports political Islam - the single most violently racist political movement on the planet today - even as it hypocritically preaches to the rest us about anti-racism.

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