Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.



This is an interesting perspective, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. The postmodern/multicultural metaphor that I heard way back was that instead of a melting pot we should try to think of ourselves as a tossed salad--each ingredient keeping its distinctiveness while still contributing to a greater whole than the individual parts. That works for me, as does the intent behind a lot of multiculturalism. Of course, there was a lot of stuff also done under the label multiculturalism that missed the mark, too. So I don't mind a shift in emphasis and definitely try to live the idea of shared sacrifices for the common good, I would just hate to completely forget what the movement had to teach us.

Over the past few years, multiculturalism has faded away. A different sort of liberalism is taking over the Democratic Party.

Multiculturalism is in decline for a number of reasons. First, the identity groups have ossified. The feminist organizations were hypocritical during the Clinton impeachment scandal, and both fevered and weak during the Roberts and Alito hearings. Meanwhile, the civil rights groups have become stale and uninteresting.

Second, the Democrats have come to understand that they need to pay less attention to minorities and more to the white working class if they ever want to become the majority party again. Third, the intellectual energy on the left is now with the economists. People who write about inequality are more vibrant than people who write about discrimination.

Fourth and most important, 9/11 happened. The attacks aroused feelings of national solidarity, or a longing for national solidarity, that discredited the multiculturalists' tribalism.

Tomasky is now back with an essay in The American Prospect in which he argues that it is time Democrats cohered around a big idea -- not diversity, and not individual rights, but the idea of the common good. The Democrats' central themes, Tomasky advises, should be that we're all in this together; we are all part of a larger national project; we all need to make some shared sacrifices and look beyond our narrow self-interest. Tomasky is hoping for a candidate who will ignore the demands of the single-issue groups and argue that all Americans have a stake in reducing economic fragmentation and social division.

Unfortunately, this is one of those editorials that the New York Times charges for online, so I had to find it with a library database and you will too:

Brooks, David. "The Death of Multiculturalism.(Editorial Desk)." The New York Times (April 27, 2006): A27(L).


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