I believe that the world might be spared a good deal of trouble if cultural pluralism could be applied to groups of equal power within the same national-level culture. If one looks at, for example, the conflict between the Left and the Right on gay marriage, one sees that on the one hand, the Right often sees gay marriage as an imposition forced upon them by the Left, and the Left can usually offer no response beyond the invocation of individual rights (along with a usually correct accusation of bigotry). It should also be clear that if the Left and the Right of America were segmented from each other, the Left would have already succeeded in having gay marriage. Yet few on the mainstream of either party, and non-one on the fringe of the Left, seems to consider that accepting pluralism of sub-society might ease both their own problems and those of their opponents.
How Foreign the Native?
Modern society is divided by many borders. Learned men and women most often discuss those such as social class, race, gendersystem, religion, language, and prior nationality. These are indeed important, and it is along these lines that some of the most recondite bigotry and brazen hatred have been wreaked by the more fortunate upon the less so. I have listened to the tales of horror of the woman, the queer, the Muslim, and the African when I returned to this earth in conquest. Many of them wept to tell them. I would have wept to listen, had I not a mighty army at my back with which to right the wrongs.
And yet these are not the only borderlines. The privileged classes have their own segmentation of society, segmentations often scarcely noticed. Along these lines, hostility oft flows in only one direction. And unfortunately, among those who control politics and those who control culture, there is neither awareness of the boundaries nor acceptance of them. From time to time, one sees an attitude of conquest and presumed cultural superiority — not the claim of a utilitarian that she can do better, but the disdain of the entitled — that in former times would have seemed more appropriate to the British lord of India than an American scholar rebuking another American.
FEMEN Among The Infidels
If there is one truly universal flaw in the human mind, it is surely the failure to see how different another culture may be. Men and women seem to jump from a point of essential similarity to seeing each other as utter aliens, from a point of sameness and clarity to a point where there will never be sameness or clarity. These errors can be the doom of empires and the bane of charities, and bring with them a certain attending level of insult and microagression. Neither myopic universalism nor alienating “othering” should survive before the eyes of Europe.
As an example, consider the young women of FEMEN. These are proper young lades of Europe (though not the Europe that I know), who were confused by the way that so many Muslim women do not chafe at the requirement of the veil, and why even those who do refuse to throw it off. They lacked the wisdom to notice when they were confused, so instead they themselves attacked Islam with condescension — and their own bare bodies. There was never any understanding in them; if they gave any heed to the criticisms of the cultural relativist they saw it only as an attempt to play one liberation against another. They assumed that because they themselves were no part of any Western army, nobody would care about the slight of the terrible West.
Yet what is the nude bohemian before the feminist who sees no conflict between her feminism and the veiling of such parts of the body as are haram? Someone who willingly opens herself to the depredations of men even as she seeks to destroy their dominion; someone who has never lived an a world where sexuality and marriage was serious business and thus takes liberty and the libertine’s life for granted! (Was not Jane Austen a game theorist and an expert in intrigue before she was an inspiration for a million penny romances?) It is absurd to the Muslim that the FEMENist draws power and pride from her naked body and no less absurd to that lady of Europe that the Muslim takes it from her veil and long dress. Yet who is wrong? I claim that nobody is. Both have their lesser cousins who do not use bigotry to destroy those who cope differently and then take the different for fools.
When it is the FEMENist of some nation of that glorious, warlike, and scientific race who accosts the yet incompletely liberated subaltern out of some misguided sense of freedom and protection from control, the arrogance is clearly seen by all, and one discovers such things as the Oppressed Brown Girls tumblr (They are feeling more oppressed by the existence of that trope than by their men) and people who construe every benevolent act, even every recognition of every benevolent act, by the West as a covert condescension to follow after the last century’s overt imperialism.
Cultural Pluralism for One Nation
The problem of culturally unaware activism is by no means limited to post-colonialism’s sordid little war. I have seen highly educated people from the (visibly) multicultural and multiracial coasts of America treat ‘middle’ (physically and geographically) America like some quaint backwater that refuses to follow the Future. It does not occur to them that they follow a different Future. It does not occur to them that they have entered a different land, where the etiquette and understanding that let scholars and entrepreneurs of all races coexist will do nothing for the cosmopolitan among lily-white millworkers and farmers. One of these people was confused merely by the persistence of diverse European festivals and foods. (European enclaves are common in the areas he traveled). He would have thought nothing of an American city with a whole street consisting entirely of shops with Indian names and largely of stores selling sarees. The people of the West apply pluralism to distant nations, but it does not occur to them that they might do so to their neighbors.
The mainstream right-wing is no better at this. Rather, they are much worse. They frequently make the most absurd strawmen, aiming at the most desperate struggles of the weak and accusing them of imperious machinations. They typically seem not to question their own morality, and often see no boundary between individual dislike, their own groups norms, and the ideal public and universal morality. Yet something can be seen in their confused disbelief and horror, at their sincere arguments against impositions that from the leftists’s perspective seem entirely specious.
The Method and the Meaning
It is very common for people to focus on the method of some work, and not upon the meaning. Purposes become lost in the process. Nowhere is this more common than when success is judged more by social recognition of effort than by pragmatic achievement. As a result, people go through the motions of a process, doing only as much as they are accustomed, and do not actually do the work. I claim that many cultural relativists make this error. Other parts of their own country are similar to them, and may not register in the mind as having different cultures, but different they are; and the same pluralism, the same avoidance of blind application of ones ideas and deferred judgement, that serve them when travelling in foreign lands and among the oppressed might serve them among their own countrymen. There are many methods of discourse and ideas conceived among activists intended solely for the defense of the oppressed that would serve even better if applied universally.
The Culture Wars
In modern times, the Left has seen its struggles as having universal applicability. Probably they are right. But they fail to see that their enemies might not agree, and so the confused and uninterested are treated as villains along with the hateful and the destructive. Often the Left and the Right talk entirely past each other, as is (fairly unimpressively) portrayed here.
Reactionaries often see the Left as almost defined by its universalism. By them, totalitarianism has sometimes been defined more by the desire to have universal control than the desire to have absolute control (for example, by Evola) especially when that control is imposed by an outside power or one that lacks an organic link or continuity with those controlled. And the Left is capable of winning. It keeps doing so, to our fortune and misfortune.
The Left is capable of winning, and if it wins for the greater good, there will, eventually, be a better life for everyone who in earlier days lived below the baseline. If it wins for ill, there will be either a new Stalinist Russia, some transhumanist nightmare, or a bizzare abandonment of hope, a self-destruction of a society where the smart and the strong slay themselves and the weak can find no patronage by which to rise in glory. But let us suppose, as is most likely, that it wins in the most boring of the possible beneficial ways. It will be the victory of some groups and the vanquishment of others.
Certainly the poor and the ethnic minorities of the West can be said to win. The right-wing members of the working classes may not find the improvement in their fortunes enough to compensate for the destruction of their hopes. The Silicon Valley Set will be overjoyed until the tax-man comes, and perhaps even after. But there are many who will grieve the fall of their religion, the destruction that the Left terms creation, the passing of their culture. Some of them will be ethnic minorities whose culture is not in line with contemporary leftism, and there will be cultural relativists to justify their sins and defend their survival. But the Left cannot see an unmarked subaltern, nor recognize the pain of the once-powerful except in mockery.
So without pluralism, those who oppose the left know that it will fight to impose its law on all of society, including themselves, and as a result they must flail reactionary against all society. They fight a war of survival. This makes the Left’s war harder, slows down what would be fairly nonpolitical reforms, allows the reactionary peoples to be co-opted by conservatives who exploit them in diverse ways, and allows the fifty-one percent who oppose gay marriage to hamper the fifty-one who support it. The Left would do well to abandon its absurd idealism and take up the language of conquest. But all good and stable empires survived because they allowed a considerable degree of freedom for their subjects, and provided for some level of cultural autonomy. The modern Left does not even know what it would mean to attempt to do this.
- The aforementioned gay marriage. Currently, its legalization is by state in the US. There are significant factional differences by class, race, urbanity, and other factors within each state.
- Gender. The more radical (not extreme) type of feminist can sometimes be extremely threatening to those who desire the continued existence of gender and gender roles, even those who are very dedicated to reform and the strengthening of women. Typically, they do not realize what they are doing and simply take pleasure in the threat. If the differences between subcultures were clearer, then women who chafed at being raised in more gendered systems could leave them easily, and nobody would have to be told how to raise their children.
- Mass Immigration and demographic change. Nobody who lives in a democratic society wants to see their faction displaced to a minority merely by population growth in another. If the West was non-democratic, or had a form of democracy that encouraged pluralism more, then mass immigration would not constitute a nonviolent, nearly un-defendable threat against the original inhabitants. In addition, the immigrants would also be better protected.
- National-level cultural icons. I have seen far too many articles crying for the deposement, or in one case, even the regicide, of the British royal family, a move which would be more for the glory of demotism than for the rather modest financial benefits. Yet many would weep for them. What if they were stripped of governmental rights and privileges, but delivered unto the society of British loyalists? If this sordid work were to continue, they might then be saved for those who care for them.
- Offensive language, culture, memes, etc. Normally, factions are somewhat isolated from each other, and won’t be affected by each other’s private little hatreds. A universalistic society forces everybody to always be respectful to each other. Modern media (both mass media and contemporary Internet social media) allow anyone to be offended by anyone else on the other side of the world, and sometimes encourage people to try to be aware of entirely nonstrategic anger. This cuts both ways across privilege gradients, and also helps prolong the existence of safespace asymmetry.