The question of multiculturalism is a central one in political debates in contemporary Europe. Is thus multiculturalism conceivable, realistic, realizable or even possible?
While left-wing participants in public discussion typically present multiculturalism as a dogma beyond reasonable discussion do right-wing participants in public discussion typically present multiculturalism as nefarious dystopia as entirely detached from so called “reality”.
Let us begin with pointing out that there are numerous more or less successfully multicultural human societies with structural shortcomings in varying respects. Some will point out that ethnic coexistence is inevitable and thus constitutes political destiny. They are right in the sense of ethnic groups already living side by side and they are wrong in the sense that we need understand that the success of ethnic coexistence must not ever be taken for granted.
Coexistence relies on a common frame and in the relative absence of or dispute about such a common frame is there likely significant intercommunal strife. A common frame does not necessarily produce successful coexistence and so not just any common frame will do the job.
Christian-Muslim coexistence is typically based on semiotic imperialism whereby either civilization’s cosmological/metaphysical imperialism is imposed on the other community. This means that Christian-Muslim coexistence worldwide is fraught with strife and based on one community semiotically dominating the ostensibly but not actually common frame. In fact is structural oppression the by far most common form of coexistence whereby one category of persons structurally dominates the other.
The question of physionomism (anti-body ideology) specifically and DOLP (discrimination, oppression, lies and prejudice) generally is thus absolutely central to the question of successful coexistence which can succeed either by either a frame of genuinely reciprocal respect or by means of intrinsically oppressive structural subordination of one socially constructed category of persons under yet another socially constructed category of persons.
Democratic coexistence thus needs be based on democratic values or it is not democratic at all. Debates on multiculturalism in Europe became effectively hijackjacked by right-wing populism on the one hand and collaborators with the Muslim Brotherhood political agenda of ‘soft Islamization’ on the other. In neither case is the assumption that coexistence should be based on democratic values but these parties to public discussion are rather vehicles of semiotic imperialism of structural subordination in ethnocratic cultural hegemony.
What then is the meaning of democratic existence and can it even be defined at all but should it not rather be open to diverse democratic interpretation in open society? The answer is that democratic values delimit both society and discourse in ways that remain open to negotiation by public debate. At the same time needs any renegotiation of those limits on democratic coexistence precisely be based on democratic values indeed. There is no democracy and no open society without the essential guardianship of democratic values.
This opens the question as to who is a legitimate participant in public discussion in democratic open society? Do expression of certain yet not other forms of structural oppression disqualify from participation in public discussion? Are opponents of freedom, emancipation and representative governance legitimate participants in public discourse in democratic open society?
These are interesting and surely essential questions that need be carefully considered and profoundly responded to in some theoretical depth. We all hold prejudice and we all participate in structural oppression and often unwittingly so. This means that holding prejudice and being an agent of structural oppression are not intrinsically disqualifying criteria for participation in public debate in democratic open society. However, we may self-disqualify ourselves from particular debates by ourselves turning those debates into pure structural oppression whereby we seek to “win” debates by means of performing structural oppression and thus turning ourselves into democratically essentially non-legitimate participants in that particular discourse.
What then about opponents of freedom, emancipation and representative governance? Well, support for freedom, emancipation and representative governance is generally democratically conceptualized as a matter of degree and that very relative degree is essentially what public discussion in democratic open society is precisely devoted to performing. Being an existential enemy of open society such as being an agent of totalitarianism is however certainly a most disqualifying criterion for participation in public discussion in democratic open society.
Democratic multiculturalism is certainly not only possible and realistic but is furthermore absolutely necessary and essential indeed to the future of democratic open society. Yet we need be fully cognizant of the fact that the main obstacle to democratic multiculturalism is physionomism specifically and DOLP generally and not just so in majority culture. Performing democratic multiculturalism needs hence be based on social engineering in scientifically verified, effective and ethical methods of societal transformation in phasing out physionomism and DOLP; yet this entire permanent process needs necessarily be delimited by democratic values in precisely safeguarding democratic open society.
What then about the notion of cultural relativism and is it relevant at all to this debate? Cultural relativism is a research methodology in field anthropology whereby one endeavors to avoid projecting one’s own cultural perceptions onto yet other cultures. Although neither realizable nor even remotely possible considering that we are all culturally, subculturally and socially situated is cultural relativism in fact a most laudable ambition in field anthropology.
Yet is cultural relativism as laudable in participation in public discussion in democratic open society? On the one hand is it true that projecting structural prejudice of one’s own culture is surely something most deplorable and negative indeed. On the other hand it is no less true that expressing and semiotically projecting the democratic virtues of one’s own culture is conversely very much laudable indeed.
What then is virtue and is not virtue culturally relative? It is true that virtue is variously culturally expressed much like music is variously culturally expressed, yet virtue is transcultural in the sense that virtue is that very property that allows for intercultural communication. This is not to imply that particular Western conceptions of virtues are intrinsically/necessarily/actually superior to those of yet other particular cultures although they may well be but rather that virtue is the very essence of structurally non-oppressive coexistence.
Democratic multiculturalism is thus precisely about intercultural/intersubcultural sharing of variously socially constructed democratic virtues in interpersonal interaction in discourse of society. There is no democratic multiculturalism without democratic values and there are certainly no democratic values without democratic virtues.
The Eurolect – Politics of the Para-Christian documentation project