Multiculturalism

Clay Shirky clay@shirky.com
Sun, 21 Oct 2001 23:32:14 -0400 (EDT)


> > The very idea of voting is corrosive of cultural norms, since it
> > assumes they are not set in stone, and should be changed when people
> > change their minds.
> 
> Funny, I thought voting was the centerpiece of American culture. Where the
> taxes were collected for public purposes and the buses were to be used.

But the issue here is not American culture, because the group asking
for protection here is not national, its a particular religious
culture. You are willing to see that community's religious beliefs
tested in ways that have nothing to do with their culture, and you are
content to see them lose. Me too.

And it gets worse. One of the Achilles' heels of any democracy is the
threat of mob rule, where the majority votes in policies inimical to
the minority, so working democracies put in place policies that
temper mob rule, preventing, for example, the rights of classes of
persons to be taken away by a vote.

So in NY State, the Legislature voted 3 times to give Kiryas Joel its
own school district, and the 3 times court struck it down as
unconstitutional. In cases like this, it seems to me that either you
have to get on the 'cultural relativism' tip and let Kiryas Joel
segregate, or you have to be content to see culture corroded by
contact with secular democracy.

And putting it to a vote won't solve the problem for several reasons:
the culture you are corroding doesn't recognize voting as a legitimate
method for settling this kind of issue, they don't recognize goyim as
legitimate participants in the debate, and if the community were
narrow enough to win a majority, meta-legal norms about the freedom of
the individual would _still_ constrain them from acting on their
beliefs.

-clay