The meaning of Wilders’s reply to me

A reader informs us that fifty-five minutes of Geert Wilders’s talk at a Manhattan apartment Tuesday night is on You Tube, and that my comment begins at 35:46 of the video. I haven’t seen it yet, but my exchange with Wilders is worth commenting on, because his reply helps us understand a key difference between Europe and America vis a vis the problem of Islamization.

What I said was essentially this: “Mr. Wilders, you say that the reason the West is allowing Islamization to occur is the belief in multiculturalism, cultural relativism, and political correctness. In fact, virtually all American conservatives oppose those things, yet most of them would totally reject the idea of stopping Muslim immigration, because they think that discrimination is wrong. So it’s the belief in non-discrimination, not the belief in cultural relativism and political correctness, that is leading the West to allow Islamization.”

His reply to me was essentially this: “In Europe it is different. Sixty percent of the Dutch are saying that Muslim immigration was a mistake and want it to stop.”

Here’s what Wilders’s remark made me realize (or, rather, reminded me of).

America has never, at least not formally at the national level, adopted the multicultural idea that all cultures are equal. In America we let people in because we think that discrimination is wrong. We think that all people are basically alike, and so we (“we” being conservatives and centrist liberals) expect all people to assimilate, not to assert their different cultures. But in Europe it is different. Europe does not have America’s right-liberal belief in one universal humanity in which everyone is really an American and believes in democracy. Rather, Europe skipped past American-style, “all-individuals-are-basically-the-same” right-liberalism, and went straight to European-style, corporatist, “all-cultures-are-equal” left-liberalism. Europe thought Islam in Europe should be equal to the traditional European majority cultures. This was the ruling belief, at least among the elite of Europe. And since there is no American style conservatism in Europe, there was nothing opposing this elite belief.

So, in Europe, if people come to reject the idea that all cultures are equal, as apparently (according to Wilders) they are doing in the Netherlands, that alone could be enough to lead them to stop immigration.

But in America it is different. Even if all Americans rejected the leftist, multiculturalist, and relativist idea that all cultures are equal as cultures, they would still believe that all individuals are equal as members of universal humanity subscribing to a single universal truth, and therefore the most wicked thing is to exclude or discriminate against people because of their group/religion/race. And so Americans would continue allowing mass Muslim immigration. And, as I said to Wilders, this is already the case with American conservatives, who uniformly disagree with (or at least ritualisticall say they disagree with) multiculturalism, but who also uniformly support, or refuse to question, mass Third-World immigration including Muslim immigration, because to stop any group from immigrating is discriminatory, it denies the fundamental sameness of all people, and is therefore the most wicked thing anyone can do.

In Europe, the fundamental problem is left-liberalism. In America, the fundamental problem is right-liberalism. If Europe rejected multiculturalism, that would be enough for it to stop Islamization. If America rejected multiculturalism, that would not be enough for America to save itself, because there would still be right-liberalism with its sacred principle of non-discrimination which leads society to open itself to unlimited numbers of unassimilable people on the basis of the belief that all people are the same or are readily assimilable.

- end of initial entry -

John D. writes:

You said:

“And let us remember that the essence of the message of the Koran and hadiths as regards non-Muslims is incitement to violence, as Griffin points out.”

Given the truth of this statement, couldn’t it then be said that anything that is said against Muslims by non-Muslims is an incitement to Muslim violence, such as the Mohammed cartoons, therefore subjecting all such negative speech by non-Muslims to the hate-speech laws?

LA replies:

I would go further and say that the very existence of any people who are non-Muslim or who are not subjugated to the power of Islam is an incitement to Muslim violence. Therefore we should all be punished under the anti-incitement-to-violence laws simply for not being Muslim.

Terry Morris writes:

What you’re saying essentially is that you had, prior to hearing and contemplating Wilders’s response to you and what it means, an America-centric view of European liberalism by which you were judging Wilders’s perception of the problem of multiculturalism and PCism in Europe to be wrong?

LA replies:

Not exactly. I’ve said for years that Europe seemed to have skipped past the transitional phase of American-style, natural-rights liberalism, a.k.a. right-liberalism, in which all people are assumed to be the same based on their subscription to certain universal truths, and had jumped directly to openness liberalism or left-liberalism, uncritical acceptance and embrace of the Other, no matter how alien and dangerous the Other may be. Or, as I would put it, pure, undisgused national suicide. (Here’s a thread where I discuss the difference between the two liberalisms.)

Now, when I was listening to Wilders’s point about cultural relativism and multiculturalism being the cause of the West’s allowing Islamization to occur (a point he had made more emphatically in his Monday talk at the Four Seasons restaurant), I think I was thinking more in terms of America. I knew that what he said did not accurately describe the American situation. I wasn’t distinguishing America from Europe in my mind at that point. But as soon as he answered me and pointed out that the Dutch are largely against Islamization, that reminded me of the difference between American-style and European-style liberalism. And, of course, it made me realize that in his talk, he was speaking of Europe, not of America.

However, leaving Wilders aside, since he has probably not focused on America’s problem as distinct from Europe’s, it remains the case that the vast majority of American conservatives say they oppose multiculturalism and PC, and believe that the spread of Islam is empowered by the left, when in reality it is being empowered by mainstream, right-liberal universalism, which says we can’t exclude anyone because all individuals are the same and it’s wrong to judge people by what group they belong to.

Alan Roebuck writes:

You characterize Wilders as saying, presumably referring to opinion polls, “In Europe it is different. Sixty percent of the Dutch are saying that Muslim immigration was a mistake and want it to stop.”

Wilders thus made the mistake you have discussed, of thinking that the inchoate, privately felt beliefs of individuals, as registered in opinion polls, are important for the form of society. The ordering of society, its laws, rules, customs, etc, are formed by the explicitly taught and explicitly codified worldview. And this is especially true in contemporary liberal society, in which custom and tradition must always bow to the rationally articulated ideas of the ruling elite.

In other words, Hans Q. Public’s views don’t matter, as long as those who control society disagree. And Europe has never had the idea of popular sovereignty that America has. In Europe, it appears to me, it has always been that the elites decide how things should be done, and the ordinary people have to go along with it, or else rebel against the system.

LA replies:

Good point. The fact that 60 percent of the Dutch tell opinion polls that Islamic immigration was a mistake does not mean that they will take steps to oppose it, or demand that their government oppose it. So let me modify my point and say this: If Wilders’s suggestion is correct that a strong majority of the Dutch publicly oppose Muslim immigration (not just oppose it passively, when asked in an poll) then that would suggest that the Dutch are not under the same ideological grip as the Americans.

Which could be interpreted as follows: The Dutch let in the Muslims on the cultural relativist assumption that all cultures are equal, that all cultures could be incorporated, as cultures, into the Netherlands. Now they see that this is not true, at least in the case of Muslims, and therefore the Dutch are saying outright that Muslim immigration was a mistake, in a way that the Americans do not say. They’re not hung up, as Americans are, by the idea that it’s wrong to say that any group cannot fit into and doesn’t belong your country.

Again, I don’t know that my hopeful characterization of Dutch thinking is true. It’s based on accepting Wilders’s view that there is broad opposition among the Dutch to Muslim immigration, and on accepting his idea that openness to Muslim immigration in Europe has been driven by the belief in cultural relativism and multiculturalism.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 26, 2009 09:59 AM | Send

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