Multiculturalism

Clay Shirky clay@shirky.com
Fri, 19 Oct 2001 16:03:52 -0400 (EDT)


> What if each time you mixed your peas into your potatoes, your next meal's
> potatoes tasted kind of like peas, and the peas like potatoes? You might
> start keeping them apart.

So this is the issue, and its essentially theological: Is culture
like paint on canvas -- muddy when over-mixed -- or like beads on a
string -- more diversity when mixed?

> I think that's the point the multiculturalists are making. 

Yes. This is the point they are making, and like so much theorizing on
the left, it assumes that the role of the individual should be
subsumed to the group. I am not willing to buy into central cultural
planning any more than I am willing to buy into central economic
planning.

Culture is just the result of countless atomized behaviors, as is the
market. To whom do we give the right to interfere in those decisions?

> Culture can get diluted to the point where it's no longer a culture,
> or at least no longer the culture it was.

Yep. So?

> If you buy that, then the question is whether we care.

No, because caring won't do anything. The question is whether we're
willing to force other people to adhere to our notion of how they
should deal with the cultural choices presented to them. I am not.
Lots of other people are.

> Another west-coast analogy, for you east-coasters: The parks around here are
> big into native plants. They pick out and remove anything foreign, in case
> it'll take over and remove the native flora. Now *what* is the point of
> that?

This is the same impulse as preventing aboriginal cultures from
embracing modern technologies. I am not comfortable assuming that we
should be gardening people.

-clay