PDF version of this essay: InDefenseOfRegionalCultures
Conservatives generally oppose large-scale mixing between cultures. People often find this hard to understand. Do we regard other cultures as inferior? Do we actually hate them? Multiculturalists think so. They claim that cultural loyalties are actually constituted by their hatred of a posited “other”. They use their control of the schools and media to discourage attachment to one’s own people—which they call “racism”—and piety towards one’s fatherland—which they call “nationalism”. In the western world, school history lessons consist almost entirely of the demonization of our own ancestors.
In fact, this suspicion of natural loyalties is quite unfounded; my love for my own country is no more based on hatred of other countries than my love for my own wife is based on antipathy towards other women. Nor is patriotism based on an idea that one’s country is “superior” in some way to others, any more than my piety towards my parents is based on a belief that they are superior to other people by some objective standard. So, if other cultures are just as good as ours, why doesn’t a conservative want to “enrich” his society by filling it with many different cultures? The short answer is that that’s not how culture works. If you mix two cultures, you don’t get twice as much culture; you destroy both of them.
A culture consists of a people’s shared customs, memories, stories, and beliefs. It is not a thing possessed only by the elite—normal and easy interaction between two people is impossible without some shared culture. With a person of my own culture, I know what greetings and compliments are appropriate, what sensitive topics should be avoided, what requests are acceptable, what words and actions are offensive. When I encounter an alien, on the other hand, I become apprehensive; I no longer know the rules of the game. This apprehension doesn’t mean that I hate the alien, even unconsciously. Common culture simply makes possible a level of comfort which is not possible in its absence. The discomfort of not knowing what to expect from others is so intolerable that a common culture will form automatically if a people live together long enough. This benevolent process can be thwarted in only two ways. The first is a continual movement of population, so that people never settle long enough to form communities. The second is a coercive act of the government to prevent the formation of an established culture, generally in the name of “multiculturalism” or “making outsiders feel welcome”. (The only way for the outsider to feel as welcome as everyone else is to make everyone else feel as alienated as the outsider.) Unfortunately, both of these things are prevalent in today’s world.