City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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By Theodore Dalrymple

The New Vichy Syndrome: Why European Intellectuals Surrender to Barbarism.

Eye on the News

Theodore Dalrymple
The Multi-Culti Menu
Multiculturalism doesn’t discriminate—between right and wrong, true and false, or anything else.
6 May 2003

Multiculturalism means lots of different restaurants: I have long thought that this is what people have in mind when they use the word—a belief confirmed recently when I went to my city’s central library to look something up.

The first thing one notices in the library is propaganda of almost Soviet intensity in favor of moral relativism and multiculturalism. It is as if exhortation has become the queen of the sciences. For example, a poster at the entrance featured the slogan, DON’T DISCRIMINATE: HIV DOESN’T. The imprecision of the thought behind this slogan is typical of the empirical and moral evasions of contemporary liberalism, which substitutes a penumbra of good feeling—about oneself—for the necessity to make hard choices based upon facts and real values.

Insofar as we can say that a virus discriminates, HIV does discriminate: in favor (outside of Africa anyway) of male homosexuals and intravenous drug abusers. Indeed, the empirical evidence could hardly be clearer, so the poster simply lies. And although Cicero said a long time ago that there is nothing so absurd but that some philosopher has not said it, this must surely be the first time in the history of moral philosophy that anyone has suggested that man should base his morality upon imitation of the conduct of a virus, and a deadly one at that.

This kind of undisciplined thought, or rather feeling, that mistakes a wish for a fact and leads to foolish policy decisions corrodes the soul of modern man. The library has a corner where people may post their poetry, and the verse is mostly full of oceanic feeling, as if true virtue consisted of uttering the right sentiment. Here is the last stanza (if that is not to dignify it beyond its merits) of a poem about Nature, which makes a quasi-political point:

In nature all colors blend
In harmony with each other
Let’s learn to live like nature
We are sister and brother.


The utter refusal to reflect deeply upon the reality of nature and human nature, to recognize the difficulty of life, together with the banality of the moral sentiment seems to indicate that the propaganda is working its poison.

On the escalator, I passed yet another poster in favor of the glories of multiculturalism. It showed a West Indian gutting a fish. The accompanying slogan says: MR BARNES’S RED SNAPPER IS A BIG FAVORITE. A further slogan states that our city “is the most culturally mixed in the UK.” Finally, in bright colors, is the following exhortation: PASS THE MENU.

So it’s Jain vegan today, Aztec cannibal tomorrow. Today we speak English, tomorrow Igbo, and the next day Gujurati. Today it’s equality for women, tomorrow it’s time for forced marriages. Life is a menu: I think I’ll start with the freedom of expression soup, to be followed by a nice theocratic salad.

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