Monday, April 17, 2006

How Gay Human Accomplishment is in tension with *Multicultural* Ideals:

A brilliant post by The Gay Species, aka D. Stephen Heersink, left in the comments section of my earlier post on Gays and Human Accomplishment.

My previous digression (supra.) didn't address your keen observations, which I think are very important.

First, without stating it this way, you've addressed the distinction between "multiculturalism" and "pluralism" and "dogmatism." Multiculturalism regards all cultures as essentially worthy and esteemible in their own context, and more, in "our" own context. Bull-pucky! Totalitarianism is not on par with democracy, any more than historical Christianity is on par with fundamentalist Christianity, any more than socialism is on par with capitalism. Humans have this wonderful capacity to distinguish between "better" and "worse," and the multiculturalists' objective is to deny us this capacity.

Dogmatists, on the other hand, have an apriori conception of what the ideal "should" be, and anything less is not only unacceptable, but intolerable. That intolerance is itself intolerable.

When two or more ideas, concepts, expressions, principles, etc. are set in juxtaposition, some are clearly superior to others. Call me an Elightenment snob, but medieval Europe is not on par with Industrialist Europe, much less on par with Moorish Spain versus contemporary Spain. Ovid, the Latin poet, may be similar to Shakespeare, but Lawrence Ferlinghetti is by no means Shakespeare. Gertrude Stein may have her merits, but compared to her contemporary Faulkner, there is no comparison. Humans are a "discriminating" animal, and Matthew Arnold, that great English literary critic, clearly demonstrated that different cultures may have important contributions to make, but that does not grant them parity.

Pluralism understands this fundamental distinction. It grants that not all cultures are equal, nor all religions meritorious, nor all economics the same. Perhaps each and all have something to contribute to our appreciation, understanding, evaluation, and distinctions, but human nature allows for differences of accommodation, and grants idiots the same space as intellectuals, but it does not confuse one for the other, much less consider one equal to the other. Until academia twisted our inheritance, pluralism was our noble inheritance, multiculturalism and dogmatism our perverse antogonists.

Enter homosexuals. Their cultural contributions to our social melieu are clearly disporportionate to their number, and many a homosexual (e.g., Plato, Keynes, Wittgenstein, Shakespeare, Michaelangelo, et alia) have made extraordinary contributions to our culture by anyone's measure. That recognition is simply a pluralist's persepctive, one without dogmatism or multiculturalism attached. Why so many homosexuals have offered culture so many appreciable values, I cannot possibly say, other than to hypothesize that marginalization, in some instances, has found creative outlets in others (hardly a novel theory). But to claim from such observations that therefore homosexuality is obviously equal to, or superior to, heterosexuality would be preposterous. In modern parlance, it would be a categorical mistake.

Multiculturalists deny this fundamental observation, and conflate all cultural contributions as more or less equal. They are equally notrorious for making categorical mistakes, such as insisting all categories are equally tenable. Here's one homosexual who is delighted that homosexuality is not the dominant paradigm (as say in ancient Athens and Sparta), for some relatively ostensible reasons, of which survival of the species probably trumps them all. But unlike the dogmatist (the extreme opposite of the multiculturalist), I don't deny homosexuals' contribution to our better and nobler instincts are any less esteemible because homosexuals made them. Indeed, I wouldn't want to argue that we should make homosexuals' lives any more difficult or compromised so that society could benefit from their creative expressions diverted from their sexual preference.

At some point, we must still aspire to our Founders' aspirations to create and sustain a pluralistic liberal democracy, which necessarily entails variety and difference. That, in the homosexual's case, is neither to grant special accommodation, nor to deny equal access, but to grant the pursuit of happiness to everyone. Homosexuality, for example, fits me just fine, but I therefore don't want to claim that it must be the dominant paradigm or that it should be eschewed for religious reasons. I'm sure homosexuals can find contentment in their universe and religious wingnuts contentment in theirs and pluralists in theirs without trying to equalize or epitomize either.

Pluralism vs. multiculturalism and dogmatism is certainly to be favored, not because of any intrinsic merit of pluralism, but because it claims no intrinsic merit for anyone. Provided no harm comes to anyone, each must stake out an existence than suits his or her uniqueness, without anyone compromising the differences, nor anyone trying equalize their uniqueness. That's the difference between pluralism, dogmatism, and multiculturalism. The last two ideologies deny our fundamental human nature, only pluralism extols it. And however that nature is expressed, with the criterion of "harm" as its measure, so long as no one is harmed, then all differences should be able to express themselves or harmonize themselves, as each sees fit, but no one should try to equalize, conflate, monopolize, or abrogate one's indivdual contentment in order to diminish its uniqueness nor fit someone else's agenda.

So two forces are working, hopefully, in synergy: (1) pluralism and (2) human excellence. The antagonists are (3) multiculturalism and (4) dogmatism. One of the Englightenment's most noble concepts is that each person is free to set his or her own valuations, and that such valuations obviously matter, if only to the one making them. While we have the freedom to advocate our particular values, so does our opponent, but neither is free to impose his or her values on the other. That is pluralism in a liberal democracy's promise, and many of us are still awaiting its fulfillment.

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