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Salim Mansur and the Conservative (Anti-European) Critique of Multiculturalism

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney courting “ethnic” (= non-white) votes

Salim Mansur, an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario in the department of political science, is a prominent public intellectual in Canada, a frequent commentator on radio and television, a regular writer for Toronto Sun, and occasional columnist for FrontPage Magazine, National Review Online and PajamasMedia. His book, Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism (2011), synthesizes arguments he has made over the last decade about the threat Islamic fundamentalism poses for liberal democratic societies captivated by the notion that all cultures deserve equal respect. The thesis of this book is well articulated in his essay The Muddle of Multiculturalism which I will use as part of my effort to assess the conservative perspective on Canada’s immigration policies.

Mansur says that his critique of multiculturalism is “from a small-l liberal perspective distinct from the animating spirit of the contemporary Liberalism with a big-L of the Liberal Party in Canada.” The cardinal principle to which Mansur adheres is that of the “freedom of the individual from any untoward coercion by the collective in society”. For him all forms of collective identity — religious, ethnic, and sexual (including the pursuit of economic equality by the collective authority of the government) — impede the liberty of the individuals to achieve their potential as human beings. As a small-l liberal, Mansur prefers the policies of the Conservative Party of Canada, and is thus known as a conservative. I will classify him as a right wing cultural Marxist. I may be stretching the term “cultural Marxist”, but it seems to me that any position uncritical of the current policy of mass immigration in Canada, and European countries generally, must be so designated since it amounts to the denial that European peoples should have a homeland of their own in a world of naturally competing ethnic groups.

I also designated Bissoondath as a right wing assimilationist (notwithstanding his leftist economic views), but Mansur may be said to be further to the right in his keener focus on the “uniquely Western” values of the Enlightenment, his inattentiveness to his own ethnic identity and the supposed “richness” of mixed identities, which Bissoondath enjoys writing about. Will Kymlicka (and Charles Taylor) are also against the acceptance of Islamic fundamentalists with illiberal values, although they favor, in varying degrees, multiculturalism or group rights for minorities. The difference with Mansur is that he not only opposes multiculturalism, like Bissoondath, but focuses directly on the dangers of Islamic culture to Canada and calls for a strong patriotic endorsement of Canadian values against “enemies” who want to destroy the freedoms of the West.

Still, Mansur is operating within the principles of our current system of immigration and diversity promotion; his strongly-worded objections to Islamic radicalism, to the opportunism of politicians who play up the immigrant vote, all fall within the acceptable cultural Marxist discourse of multiracialism inside all European nations: all these intellectuals I have been writing about agree that liberal democratic societies should not accommodate illiberal values, and by illiberal values they mean not only Islamic fundamentalism but ethno-nationalist European ideas.

Three years ago I was satisfied with Mansur’s line of reasoning. But having come to the realization that European ethnicity is an intrinsic foundational component of Western civilization, I now see an irreconcilable difference between our views. I disagree that his position is consistent with classical liberalism, but believe instead that my emphasis on ethnic identity is consistent with classical liberalism. The freedom of the individual can only be sustained and actualized if this freedom is part of a larger community, and there can be no communitarian fellow-feeling without families, traditional marriages, and without ethnic cohesion. The bureaucratic communitarianism advocated by Kymlicka and Taylor can never be a substitute for the age-old historical ancestries and evolutionary-driven associations of ethnic groups. All modern liberal states were created by ethnically unified Europeans. The liberal-democratic nation of Canada (where all Canadians gradually came to enjoy individual rights regardless of ethnicity) was created under racially discriminatory immigration policies. This is not a paradox; it is a reflection of the way liberal cultures came to terms with long existing minorities. The deception comes when liberals extrapolate this recognition of native minorities with an endorsement of mass immigration.

I have met Mansur a few times; he is a decent human being, sincere in his personal attachment to Canada and his loyalty to Canada’s values and institutions, as he defines them. He arrived in Toronto in 1974 from the “ethnically driven politics”, the “terror and savage killings” of Pakistan/Bangladesh. In Canada he saw a Western society based on the Kantian idea that “man as a free agent and a rational creature is an end in himself and must never be treated as a means” trapped within the ends of collective groups and identities. He criticizes both the left and the traditional right for their emphasis on group identity over the right of the individuals. He attributes Canada’s peacefulness and prosperity to its individual freedom and thinks that group identities create divisions that sooner or later will result in violence and societal breakdown.

On the question of the individual’s relation to society, I have more in common with multicultural communitarians than with assimilationists who view humans as atomized creatures. Wikipedia neatly summarizes the views of communitarians such as Charles Taylor and Kymlicka, among others:

They argued that contemporary liberalism and libertarianism presuppose an incoherent notion of the individual as existing outside and apart from society, rather than embedded within it. To the contrary, they argued, there are no generic individuals but rather only Germans or Russians, Berliners or Muscovites — or members of some other particularistic community. Because individual identity is partly constructed by culture and social relations, there is no coherent way of formulating individual rights or interests in abstraction from social contexts.

But I disagree with the “academic communitarianism” of multiculturalists in that they recognize the group rights of minorities but not the group rights of majorities, in relation to which they emphasize the principle of individual rights, and view any communitarian politics associated with majorities as illiberal and discriminatory in nature. Again, Wikipedia sums up well the misgivings academic communitarians have with “early” or traditional communitarianism:

Early communitarians were charged with being, in effect, social conservatives. However, many contemporary communitarians, especially those who define themselves as responsive [leftist] communitarians, fully realize and often stress that they do not seek to return to traditional communities, with their authoritarian power structure, rigid stratification, and discriminatory practices against minorities and women. Responsive communitarians seek to build communities based on open participation, dialogue, and truly shared values.

I endorse a form of communitarianism that may be labelled as Traditionalist, Darwinian and Western simultaneously. The term “academic communitarianism” used by Wikipedia is quite appropriate in pointing to the artificial character of leftist communitarianism: it is, on the one hand, radically individualist in seeking to dismantle all traditional associations including the family, and, on the other, extremely statist in seeking to create new associations by administrative fiat, by a nanny state using manipulative child-rearing practices and “educational” brainwashing means against the natural ends of humans. I will try to convey what I mean by a “traditionalist-evolutionary-Western” communitarianism by citing key passages from Mansur and then offering brief counter-arguments. Rather than indenting cited passages, I will organize this as a brief dialogue using our names.

Dialogue between Mansur and RD

Salim Mansur: [T]he West represents the idea of a civilization nurtured by the values of the Enlightenment that Kant famously defined as “dare to know”, its genealogy traced back to ancient Greece, its faith tradition anchored in Judeo-Christian ethics, its politics shaped by the democratic impulse of revolutions against hereditary rule, its philosophy influenced by the development of the scientific method of controlled experiments and tests, its culture open and embracing of new ideas. The sum total of these values uniquely defines the West in terms of liberal democracy…My own journey from the East to the West has been an education that encourages putting aside those ideas and values that confine an individual to the requirements of collective identity and group solidarity.

RD: I agree with Hegel’s communitarian argument that Kant’s “dare to know” was a product of a particular modern European culture; the willingness to employ one’s reason against the political dogmas of the eighteenth century was nurtured after a long struggle inside Europe prepared by the Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution. Kant’s principle of moral self-legislation is purely formal and subjective in its presupposition that the determination of what is right and good is a pure act of cognitive willing by an abstract agent rather than the achievement of a concrete European culture. The self-legislating individual is not natural but constructed out of a historically specific community, a European community that includes certain ethnic traits, religious background, and historical memories.

Salim Mansur: [T]he collectivist demands of jihad are pushing hard against the values of liberalism. This is the return of the primitive and the denial of the view that progress in history results from the daring of the few to question the consensus of the many; it is bending to the wishes of the crowd and its unwillingness to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority; it is the jihad of the tribe, of the class-based or ethnic-based or religiously-organized party against the ultimate minority, the solitary individual, standing alone against the weight of the many.

RD: Aside from the fact that no individual has ever existed outside a community, and that Western individualism is “Western” because it was produced only by Western communities, why do cultural Marxists always identify any form of collectivity with coercion, tyranny, and violence? The United States, Australia, and Canada were all liberal democratic societies with strong communitarian identities before the policies restricting immigration were dismantled. The opening of European borders was imposed from above without democratic consent, and today there is no freedom of criticism of immigration policies from an ethnic position. In other words, the more traditional community of Canada was more open to critical reflection.

Salim Mansur: Multiculturalism promotes the notion of cultural relativism, which states that since each culture is by definition unique, any independent standard to distinguish among cultures would itself represent cultural bias nullifying the objectivity of any test applied.

RD: Mansur is saying that Western culture should be seen as the standard by which to judge every other culture. He does not explain but implies that the Western idea of the rational individual can be used as an objective test to judge other cultures. But if most cultures in the world, as Mansur observes, are still tribal, collectivist, ethnocentric, and authoritarian, how can one argue that one particular culture, the West, can serve as a neutral test for every other culture? In what ways are the values of the West universally true for humanity if these values were not nurtured by most of humanity?

Salim Mansur: Allan Bloom discusses this paradox as follows: “Men cannot remain content with what is given them by their culture if they are to be fully human…Nature should be the standard by which we judge our own lives and the lives of people. This is why philosophy, not history or anthropology, is the most important human science…What is most characteristic of the West is science, particularly understood as the quest to know nature and the consequent denigration of convention — i.e., culture or the West understood as a culture — in favour of what is accessible to all men as men through their common and distinctive faculty, reason.”

RD: Allan Bloom is a Straussian. Mansur does not explain, but Straussians believe that the West can be identified with Nature as the standard by which to judge all other cultures on the grounds that this was the first culture to employ human reason and, in so doing, transcend the biases and distorting lenses of its culture and thereby apprehend the highest ends of Nature. Westerners were able to see what is best for men as men by apprehending, through the employment of reason, what is most admirable about human nature. Westerners were the first to “liberate” themselves “from culture” and see what is universally best for all human beings. Multiculturalism brings back the blind lenses of cultural perspectivism rather than allowing immigrants to free themselves from their cultural background. But why is Mansur (or Bloom) assuming (dogmatically) that if we employ our reason in an open manner without authoritarian restrictions we will come to the conclusion that humans can rise above their cultural prejudices, overcome their emotional attachments to their culture, and develop a universal concept of the “we” freed of any ethnocentric longings?

Assuming that the Enlightenment was the end of history, Mansur ignores major intellectual developments after the eighteenth century emphasizing the importance of human emotions, irrational impulses, and diverse of ways of life and thinking around the world. Even in Kant’s own time, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) questioned the notion of a cosmopolitan world based on generic human values. He saw in the world the greatest possible variety of historical humans in different regions of the earth, in time and space. He believed it was illusory to postulate a universal philosophy for humanity in which the national character of peoples would disappear and each human on earth would “love each other and every one…being all equally polite, well-mannered and even-tempered…all philanthropic citizens of the world”.1 Herder proposed a different universalism based on the actual variety and unique historical experiences and trajectories of each people (Volk). Every people had their own particular language, religion, songs, gestures, legends and customs. There was no common humanity but a division of peoples into language and ethnic groups. This is the diversity we should cherished.

In fact, Enlightenment philosophers themselves, including Kant, argued “in text after text…in the works of Hume, Diderot, Montesquieu, Kant, and many lesser lights” that men “are not uniform but are divided up into sexes, races, national characters…and many other categories.” This is the argument Aaron Garrett makes in a chapter titled “Human Nature” in The Cambridge History of Eighteenth-Century Philosophy (2006). But because we have been approaching the study of races under the tutelage of our current belief that race is “a social construct” and that any division of mankind into races is based on malevolent “presumptions unsupported by available evidence“, we have failed to appreciate that this subject was part and parcel of what the philosophes meant by “enlightenment”. Contrary to the philosophical gibberish of the Straussians, the study of Nature is showing that there are significant varieties in the mental state of races, and that ethnocentrism, rather than Western liberalism, is a universal feature of human nature. Western people are different only in being less ethnocentric due to their individualistic temperament and their unique historical genealogy.

Salim Mansur: Since the immigration tap, once opened, creates its own pressures that will not allow for it to be closed easily, making the West more multi-ethnic and multi-faith likely will remain irreversible. This fact should not necessarily be a cause for alarm, except for the reality of the post-9/11 situation.

RD: This passage contains the essence of the “conservative” critique of immigration. The National Post, Sun News, The Conservative Party of Canada are all in complete support of mass immigration and the need to diversify Canada. They do raise alarms about radical Muslims, which has given citizens worried about the changing ethnic composition of Canada the misguided illusion that the Conservatives care about them. As Jason Kenney, the Conservative MP in charge of immigration, said a few years ago:

“[T]he Mulroney government ran the most, quote, ‘progressive‘ immigration policy in Canadian history.” Over his nine years in office, Mulroney tripled immigration levels from 85,000 in 1983 to more than 260,000. “He brought in the Multiculturalism Act. He brought in more generous family reunification policies, which are the most popular element of immigration policy. Entire communities were founded under Brian Mulroney, like the Hong Kong immigrants pre-’97 who came in through a special investor program.”

This past Spring, Kenney “lashed out angrily” after being accused of anti-immigration bias:

We’ve increased immigration to record levels, the highest per capita level in the developed world.

He is right: under his mandate, the admission of immigrants into Canada reached its highest levels ever. In 2011, Canada had a foreign-born population of about 6,775,800 people, which represented 20.6% of the total population, the highest proportion among the G8 countries.

Salim Mansur: [I]mmigrants were neither expected nor asked to make the passage from their traditional cultures and embrace modernity with its liberal values.

RD: Conservative critics are so taken with superficial tit for tat exchanges with leftists that they don’t even know what’s going on inside the minds of the politicians they identify as defenders of Canada’s “core values”. Mansur criticizes the political opportunism of liberal politicians who pander to ethnic groups without realizing that a prime motivation behind the Conservative Party’s decision to increase immigration in the early 1990s to 250,000 per year was acquiring the ethnic vote. But even more revealing (in direct contradistinction to Mansur’s regular use of high flown words about how multiculturalism has weakened the “confidence of the West in its cultural inheritance”), it is now a tacit strategy of the Conservative Party to bring immigrants from traditional cultures under the supposition that they will bring “conservative” values to Canada and help create a new electorate that will keep them in power! This is a topic I will elaborate in a future posting, suffice it to cite here what Kenney said to Vancouver Korean community leaders.

You’re a community with famously conservative values. Incredibly hard-working. Entrepreneurial, devotion to family, intolerant to criminality. These sound like our values. Conservative values. Why…weren’t Korean Canadians already turning to the Conservatives?

Salim Mansur: Will we still have a country that is fair, compassionate, just, integrated and socially cohesive, bound by fundamental core values?

RD: Well, yes, except Conservative politicians would rather rely on the traditional values of immigrant ethnic collective cultures.

Salim Mansur: [Quotes Pascal Bruckner’s words about those who weaken the “self-confidence” of the West]: “Europe against itself: anti-Occidentalism, as we know is a European tradition that stretches from Montaigne to Sartre and instills relativism and doubt.”

RD: All we need is confidence in the universal truth of Strauss’s interpretation; meanwhile Pascal Bruckner is very pleased that France, the country of his birth, is no longer ethnically Gallic. In his book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism (2010), which Mansur cites, he sprays countless words about how multiculturalism weakens our resolved to fight radical Islam, while defending a thoroughly multiracial Western universalism against those who were “hostile to the diversity of physiognomies and the plurality of ways of life…the great mixtures of [Western] cities.” Muslims and Africans need not fear the West, Bruckner enlightens us: “monochrome Europe, which was mostly white, is gone.”2 Indeed.

Conservative critics of multiculturalism are not the friends of European Canadians.

[1] Cited in Gurutz Jáuregui Bereciartu, Decline of the Nation State, 1986: 26
[2] Pascal Bruckner, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, 2010: 154
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