February 09, 2011
Psychologists tell us that a sense of control is a key characteristic of a mentally healthy, well-adjusted adult. Whether we actually possess free will can be left to the neuroscientists who study brain processes. The current consensus seems to be: No, we don’t have free will, but we do have free won’t. (Compare Schopenhauer: “You can do what you want, but you can’t want what you want.”) Personal happiness and satisfaction arise from a belief, however misguided, that one is in control of one’s life.
If the same thing applies to nations, there must be some very miserable nations around. Consider Britain. Last Saturday British Prime Minister David Cameron made a speech in Munich declaring that multiculturalism, in respect to Muslims in Britain, had been a bust.
Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.
Fifty years ago a much wiser British Prime Minister told his countrymen that if they wanted moral guidance, they should seek it from their bishops, not their politicians. No such diffidence from Cameron. He’s going to give Britons a vision.
We must build stronger societies and identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism.
Muscular liberalism! Did I mention that David Cameron belongs to the Conservative Party? Could any notion be more contrary to the classic Tory ideal than “muscular liberalism”?
A passively tolerant society says to its citizens: As long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.
Was there ever such a society? Yes there was, within living memory (just barely).
It stands neutral between different values. A genuinely liberal country does much more. It believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens: This is what defines us as a society. To belong here is to believe in these things.
So Britain is no longer the home of the British”the people Winston Churchill, in that shamefully reactionary way of his, called “The Island Race.” It is just another “proposition nation””only a place, really.
There would be no need for David Cameron to threaten his voters with “muscular liberalism” (it sounds even bossier and more arrogant than regular liberalism) nor to tell them that they can only “belong here” if they sign up to a list of poli-sci propositions. (If a native of Madagascar assents to those propositions, does he thereby become British? If a Briton declines to assent to them, will he lose his citizenship?) There would be no need for any of this vapid blather if Cameron and his predecessors had not opened up their country to millions of aliens from radically different cultures.