In my last article for The Epoch Times, I proposed an essential distinction between a deep culture, such as manifested in political systems, theology, language, art, literature, and common moral beliefs, and a skin-deep culture, such as we experience everywhere in the West these days, in things such as the enjoyment of Japanese sushi, French perfumes, German cars, Italian shoes, and American digital gadgetry.
Skin-deep cultures are a matter of consumption, and are enjoyed as such. We purchase bits of them, enjoy them, try new ones, switch tastes, and move on. But deep cultures are profoundly different. We live in them, and they in us, for life.
It’s almost impossible to get rid of your deep culture, because it’s not like a T-shirt, changeable at will. The special customs, laws, traditional beliefs, and ways of life of all deep cultures form an indelible, and indelibly particular, identity for those raised in their grip, producing in every citizen what D.H. Lawrence described as an indelible “spirit of place” that lasts for life.
You can take the trunk and branches of your deep culture elsewhere, but the roots remain where they grew. Even for those who have left their deep culture to assimilate another, this goes very deep. Psycholinguistic studies of seniors who have learned and lived in a second language all their adult lives but are losing memory, show that the last thing to go—and sometimes the last words they will ever speak—are spoken in their first language.
Skin-deep culture is something we enjoy but can live without. Deep culture is something we will die defending, if we must.
However, despite the crossover things they may share, many deep cultures of the world are profoundly incompatible. They have incompatible notions of God, of family, of law, of political systems, and of correct moral behavior.
Because of this particularity—which the international system of nation-states was created to protect with national borders, rights, international law, and treaties—the political and moral principles of many deep cultures do not sit well with those of another. In this sense, diversity divides.
With the globalist weakening of the modern nation-state ideal, we are seeing more of what political scientist Samuel Huntington described as the “clash of civilizations.” The traumatic sight of people jumping to their death from the Twin Towers was and remains a terrifying symbol of this fact.
The Rising and Declining of Civilizations
Civilizations are never stable. They’re always either “rising” or “declining.” Rising civilizations defend and celebrate themselves, while declining ones are mostly self-critical, laying down their cultural arms to ignore, demean, or even shame their own history. At this point, the public square is dominated by people the late philosopher Roger Scruton aptly described as oikophobes (people who hate their own national home).
But civilizations that strip themselves of their own deep culture to embrace a skin-deep one do so at precisely the point when dying for their own deep culture becomes unthinkable. Then they are vulnerable to a bully culture in their midst raising itself to dominance.
This laying down of cultural arms in the West is most easily seen in our ubiquitous “multicultural” policy, something invented by globalizing progressives in a desperate ploy to raise up what they themselves have been lowering.
It rests on the unexamined belief that conflict within and between the nations of the world can be eradicated by persuading citizens to switch loyalty to an international skin-deep culture in which all can share, but which belongs to no one. The ideological linchpin sustaining this belief is the demonstrably false assumption that all cultures of the world are of equal value, and therefore, that a skin-deep mixture—a kind of sampling menu of the week—will do as loyalty-bait.
The weakness of that belief is that it renders declining cultures more defenseless when faced with rising ones, because if all cultures are officially deemed equal, a bully-culture is not easily challenged. And of course, lowering one’s culture (to make it equal to all other cultures) amounts to surrendering the idea that it was ever something unique, moving, formative, and worth celebrating, preserving, dying for, and therefore (oh, the shame of it!), privileging over other cultures.
In short, the transition from a deep to a skin-deep affiliation with one’s own civilization is also the moment of the loss of privileging, and so of the will to die for it.
Canada was first in this peculiarly Western race to the bottom in 1988, with a blaring, if logically self-contradictory, national campaign advertising “the world’s first Multicultural Act.” It was a policy created in response to looming problems common to most democracies then, and now.
With the advent of the pill, and of abortion as a form of contraception, they almost overnight became contraceptive nations, failing to replace themselves naturally. But the very first sign of a declining civilization is when fornication replaces procreation as the dominant sexual interest of a people.
Accordingly, all the Western democracies were soon faced with aging workers, a shrinking tax harvest from fewer young, and higher health care costs for a burgeoning cohort of seniors. To survive and thrive, if they were not simply to plunder each other for new citizens, they would need massive immigration from … non-traditional sources.
But as a direct consequence of importing so many culturally alien immigrants, they began struggling with extreme dislocations (such as foreign gangs, terrorist bombings, and the growth in their midst of urban “no-go” zones), on top of the considerable added costs of cultural, moral, language, and religious adaptations in hospitals, schools, and public spaces. These are clashes between civilizations within nations states, rather than between them.
Multiculturalism was supposed to end that. Canonize the concept, and pass off this new, tolerant, but embarrassingly skin-deep mixture as a universal replacement culture. Give up, to join up, was the plan. But it was a cover-up. I was going to say that no one was fooled. But in fact, most were. Because no one was asking: What might be the downside of citizens abandoning a lifelong love of their own deep culture for a frivolous attachment to a global, skin-deep one?
Here’s just one: Multicultural policy has consigned to forgetting and oblivion, nay, has all but shamed, the unifying deep culture that made Western civilization—Christendom, as it used to be called—so remarkably open and tolerant in the first place. Which is to say, with some irony, tolerant enough to make possible the multicultural policy that is presently undermining the West by trivializing our deepest motives for living together.
But a people that neglects to be vigilant, to remember, privilege, and teach the deepest sources of its own tradition and history, will soon be vulnerable to bullying by those who have made no such mistake. One example will do.
There is a famous, centuries-old cry that gave root to modern democracy: Vox Populi, Vox Dei (“The voice of the people is the voice of God”). It’s rooted in the Christian belief that as we are all made in the image of God, truth will eventually emerge from the authentically expressed voice of the people.
But radical Islamists, drawing strength from their own deep culture, believe there is no such thing, nor should there be. “Islam” means submission—to the truth. But only Allah knows the truth, and it was handed down to Muhammad who wrote it up in the Quran. This is a rigidly explicit, written truth without possibility of nuance or change. So forget your Charters and Bills of Rights. Only God has rights. Humans have duties. That’s why, for committed Islamists, the democratic ideal is an outrageous blasphemy, and they have been, and remain quite willing, to die, if they must, to end it.
Democracy? When they are more numerous than us (wait for it), they will only need “one man, one vote … once,” to end democracy and govern by Islamic law.
France, which has had an obligation to take in millions of Arabs loyal to it since the disaster of the Algerian war, has an especially acute problem. The wearing of face-coverings in public has been prohibited in France since 2011. But Valérie Pécresse, head of the multicultural Île-de-France region surrounding Paris (which is now a no-go zone for French police, ambulances, and government officials—and where you are unlikely to see a Muslim woman except in traditional garb), says that Islamism “does not just have separatism as its objective,” as French President Macron has said. “It has an objective of taking power.”
The long-term strategy? They simply continue to have more babies than us, and to convert thousands of our churches into mosques. Diversity? Only for multicultural suckers.
For the fundamentalist Muslims wandering around Paris, Toronto, or New York—so distinct from the ordinary nominal Muslims, content, even proud, to westernize or assimilate—conversion out of Islam for another faith is a capital offense. Death for the infidel. No pluralism there. These folks are not fooling around. I am not picking on Muslims. The fundamentalist Islamist variant just happens to be the deep culture in our midst doing the most aggressive rising.
How do we think all this gels with our patsy multiculturalism? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the West has been busy dumping its own deep culture for the accommodating liberal pleasantries of its happy-face multicultural ideal. But some of the deep cultures now sharing our space—some of those more than 250 “visible minority communities” the government tells us are now rooted in Canada—are not necessarily following suit.
The Islamic enclave of 260 homes in Vaughan, Ontario, for example, built exclusively for Ahmadi Muslims, is of interest. Ahmadis happen to believe in a post-Muhammad prophet named Ahmad, whom they worship. I happen to know a few Ahmadi who came to Canada from Pakistan where, like Christians and other “infidels,” they were persecuted and many killed for blasphemy. I’m happy we have given them refuge. But the much larger question is this: After coming here, why have they banded together to take refuge from us in a Muslims-only home away from home on Canadian soil?
Historian David McCullough warned, “A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia.” And passive forgetting is bad enough. But active rejection? The lowering of one’s own deep culture? That’s another matter altogether, and I submit, a shameful one.
Just so, on Oct. 8, 1977, it was a distressing shock for patriotic Canadians to hear Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declare to our House of Commons: “There are no official cultures in Canada.” Well, the apple does not fall far from the tree. His son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told The New York Times magazine in October 2015 that “there is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada,” because “diversity is our strength.” But what about our unity? Oh well, Canada, he announced excitedly, is the world’s “first postnational state.” What?
Everyone knows that a state is a nation, and a nation is a state, don’t they? So how can there be a “postnational” state? Then, I realized what he was saying. He was saying that you can ignore all the deep cultures on Earth, let them die a slow death, and live instead in what amounts to an “administrative state” with all the trappings of global bureaucracy (run by sweet folks like me).
A “postnational” state, he believes, does not need a particular “people,” a “nation,” or a “culture,” to define it. It will be administratively defined as a multicultural, skin-deep holding-tank for … whoever wants to live there. It won’t matter whoever. There will be no who any longer.
So in one sentence, Canada’s self-satisfied, cheeky prime minister breezily dismissed two or three centuries of Canadian culture and history. Yet both father and son held forth knowing they have been direct personal and political beneficiaries of the West’s deep culture as expressed and protected in their own … nation-state.
Beneficiaries, that is, of Canada’s long struggle to create responsible democratic government, of our English Common Law and Parliamentary tradition, of the habeas corpus right, of an independent judicial system, of our long-cherished and defended system of private property rights, of ordered free-enterprise, and of the right to free speech (where even a PM can say things in public that are not true), and of so many more traditions of our uniquely Western way of life. Indeed, there has never been any other system that has reliably produced such things. Nothing like it at all, nor, despite its faults, as good. Ever.
But Trudeau the Elder’s statement was an archly clever move. He was determined to weaken the thrust of French separatism in Canada and the dominance of English culture at the same time by throwing both of them under the multicultural bus. Multicultural immigration would stabilize Quebec’s falling population, weaken its French culture, dilute the separatist cause, and make the concept of “nation” meaningless. Eventually, who would care? He was confident that, eventually, all Canadians would be unified as skin-deepers to whom it would mean very little, to whom culture would soon be but a bauble or a trinket.
But there was immediate blowback. Pur Laine (pure wool) Québecers despised Trudeau’s attack on their nationalist ambitions, and so have never promoted multiculturalism. Instead, Québec promotes “inter-culturalism,” which is to say, “diversity” is tolerated there, but only as subservient to a dominant French nationalist framework defended by language and culture police who control the unquestioned supremacy of French and the unique deep culture of Quebec with draconian laws made necessary to fight off the threat of English cultural domination.
“To live in Quebec, is to live in French,” is their motto.
So in effect, Canada officially dismisses its Anglophone deep culture to appease Quebec, while Quebec celebrates and defends its Francophone deep culture to dismiss Canada. Quebec is a proud bully culture fighting the Anglo multicultural diversity machine by standing its cultural ground. Anglos ought to do the same.
As mentioned, it was precisely because the various deep cultures of the world are so obviously not the same, and because many are legally, morally, and theologically incompatible, that the concept of self-defending nation-states was invented in the first place. So we can’t go on pretending that blending them in a skin-deep mixture amounts to a real culture, for it doesn’t, and it won’t ever.
As I say, that clever but deeply false notion was invented by globalists to subdue patriotic national feeling in the West. And it has worked on the sleepy pretty well, producing deep-culture forgetting on a massive scale (ask any history teacher). But is it the best thing for Western civilization? I don’t think so.
The antidote to forgetting is reminding. So leaving aside the easy litany of weaknesses and historical missteps, what will follow in my next article will be one man’s unabashed effort to revive a deep culture awareness of at least a few of the glories of Western civilization. Maybe not the best deep culture possible—whatever that might mean. But on balance, one of the best the world has ever seen, and in many respects getting better all the time—which is why most of the immigrant traffic of the modern world is heading West, not East.
William Gairdner is an author who lives near Toronto. His latest book is “The Great Divide: Why Liberals and Conservatives Will Never, Ever Agree” (2015). His website is WilliamGairdner.ca
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.