Friday, April 08, 2005

Prevailing Doctrinal Assumptions, Part V: Multi-Culturalism

I remember my 7th grade class. We were discussing Rome (as our school system deigns to cover all of world history in one year in 7th and 9th grade and US history in 8th and 11th grade, as well as US government in 12th - that alone says about as much as this entire post will), and, since my teacher was sensible enough to recognize America as an empire, decided to give us an assignment: Will America fall (using Rome as a parallel)?

Of course, one of the assumptions was that America is having an influx of new immigrants, much like Rome did. Even as an innocent junior high student, I could see something that smelled pretty rotten was being sold to me.Flash forward to me being a college student. Having to read the stuff I do means that I get to see a lot of people who argue for a monolith culture: one language, one nation, one Fuhrer... oops, let that one slip. They typically argue that the new cultures "we let in" will destroy our illustrious empire.

If only it was so simple. In fact, history not only doesn't support this conclusion, it pretty near refutes it. Rome was at its strongest and most vibrant when it ruled over an incredibly diverse empire with hundreds of religions and ethnicities. Persia was similar. Rome's collapse was concurrent with the adoption of a monolithic Christian ideology. Other conquerors, such as the Aryans, Turks and Mongols, expanded endlessly largely because they assimilated other tribes in their way through conquest or creative alliances (usually cemented by literal marriages of convenience). The strongest empires were exactly multilingual, multicultural, etc. They thrived through a reasonable level of tolerance. They faltered when their tolerance slipped away.Not that the collapse of the American empire would throw me for a loop...

As a brief aside: Here's another good way to juxtapose conservativism, liberalism and the left. Here's IR.

Conservatives/Realists: States are anarchic actors who seek to gain power in the chaotic international system. Security is a primary concern.

Liberals/Idealists: States live in a hierachical structure where cooperation can be net beneficial. Security and wellbeing are primary concern.

Leftists: States are power vehicles for dominant elites. Security is a non-issue, and well-being is only important insofar as well-being can't be attained exclusively for the elite. And, the key distinction: Both realists and idealists assume that the state must exist and that we cannot replace it with structures with vastly different allegiances.


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