Multiculturalism in Europe
©Copyright "Una voce grida…!", February 1998
[Notes are at the end of the paper]
In his seminal work on the emerging world order, Professor Samuel P. Huntington correctly points to the coalescing of cultures across national borders as the result of the freeing of the nations that had been reduced to "ethnic groups", under the harness of the Soviet Union.
Curiously, however, while four of the eight cultures he singles out are religious (Islamic, Hindu, Orthodox and Buddhist), he never refers to a Judeo-Christian culture, but rather lops all of Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia into one non-denominational "Western" category, without even an opposite "Eastern" category to distinguish and define itself by.
Yet, as Professor Hintington points out, "we know who we are when we know who we are not", and Germans are definitely not French, Italians are definitely not English, the Spanish are definitely not Belgian etc. etc. The people of Europe do not speak the same language and they do not eat the same food. What they have had in common with each other and with the American founders as opposed to other cultures, now that capitalism and blue jeans hold global sway, is a Judeo-Christian code of thinking. And one might also divide the Atlantic pact by culture rather than by geography, which would further split up Europe by placing Britain on the American side of the divide, on the basis of a common literature, language and the Protestant work ethic.
Now, the long awaited Treaty of Maastricht establishes not only economic parameters but also the policies of cultural homogeneity which are meant to give rise to the insofar elusive "European identity", a common ground that can only be brought into existence at the "lowest" level, i.e. that of minimum common denominators. Predictably, this will move us towards a revision of the "memory" of the Continent, where any separate or even conflicting national processes will begin to be viewed as different aspects of one and the same globalized issue.
The key to the cultural strategy that is coming to a head would seem to lie in Italy, ever the first and foremost supporter of European unity. Italy has been racked for decades by a divisive culture that denies the very concept of nation and sets the word "tradition" in irreconciliable contrast with "innovation". Instances of this strategy today are everywhere to be found. Take, for example, the recent attempt to grant the right to vote to its residents instead of reserving it to Italian citizens, an innovative variation on the theme of affirmative action. Take, if you will, "A Paideia for the Third Millenium", an official document sent out to the schools by the Italian Secretary of Education. Take the moves to regionalize the study of history, eliminate Dante and Manzoni, and their Christian world view, from the programs of a few courses ("only as an experiment") and compress the study of Greece, Rome and the Middle Ages into as little time as possible while at the same time expanding the study of the twentieth century with its all-encompassing cultural relativism. Add to these the constant blows to Italian self-esteem struck by the political chronicles of the last few decades, never construed in ethical terms but always with a view to material success, and you will see a picture of cultural chaos that neatly illustrates a maxim of Mao Tsetung’s: "There is great confusion under the sky, therefore the situation is excellent".
Italy doesn’t doubt in the least that "getting into" Europe is a good idea. Other countries have debated the question, and right wing and left have taken positions ranging from the pragmatic to the adamant. In Italy, where hardly any issue is too trivial for parties to split hairs over it, nothing is so certain to make politicians click their heels and pull themselves together like the mere mention of "entering" Europe.
Yet, Europe is not to be only a monetary union, it is also meant to be a cultural union. The "peoples" below the great cultural umbrella of Europe are to merge together as much as possible, in a fusion which can only be brought about by a progressive "folklorization", a fragmentation of the sense of having a single nationality or statehood. The European vantage point is designed to diminish national perspectives and with them all possibility of drawing comparisons that can counter the belief that we are, today, in the best of all possible worlds, an era of continuing progress. If Antonio Gramsci, the founder of the Italian Communist Party, were alive today, he would be delighted to see that everything is going exactly the way he recommended.
In other words, the confusion that we have been witnessing with incredulity and growing discouragement as it spread into every nook and field of Italy’s political and civil life is not all an inborn trait of our hopeless national personality. It is also subservient to a widespread, covert and highly tenacious cultural strategy.
The challenge of "globalization", which will cause countries and systems to merge into one whole does not regard only governments, agencies, corporations, trade unions and various different official bodies. It also regards the conscience of individuals. And it must be confronted not only with an economic mindset, but also by keeping one’s thought patterns well in place and the information channels free from limitations and manipulation.
In order to do this we must come to understand the macro-processes that escape our notice but actually come to bear on each of our lives.
The totalitarian regimes of yesterday and today have always been careful to keep the levers of information under their thumbs. But today’s information superhighway would spell misery for a Goebbels or a Molotov. Who on earth can keep tabs on all the exchanges of messages on the Internet? Who can ever snuff out a world network that is due to exist as long as there are computers and phone lines? Who can control all televisions and radios now that impulses simply bounce off satellites? Who can dam up the mountains of books and printed matter that are published and conveyed by the millions all over the world, every day?
Nobody. Only God could.
Yet man has not relinquished the idea of becoming like God. With human cloning on the way (with the "placet" of the U.S. Congress), "futurologists" like Yorick Blumenfeld and Roberto Vacca calmly write self-complacent books on how to govern the course of the world by planning its "complexity".
In order to rule the world today one does not deploy tanks but books, movies, interviews, lessons, the media. And the more we hear our government officials insist that their aim is to make people think, the more they seem to be striving to cast doubt on every single rule or assumption that was once normally accepted on the basis of sheer common sense.
In order to foster a "healthy" scepticism, a "benevolent" simplification of the knowledge and information imparted in schools. Simplifying the information that supplies the links and reasoning between separate facts and ideas can not but leave us an open prey to the opinions conveyed by the media.
The future is geared to rewarding not good work but the ineffable category of "creativity", while the only widely determinable goal the individual is left with is that of obtaining more time off for the cultivation of hobbies and sports. This translates into cultural indifference, which aims at substituting individual responsibility, towards God and one’s neighbor, with collective accountability, in which one can not called be upon to answer to anybody nor to oversee anything except under the anonymous and impersonal cover of a group, a committee, a commission or a team.
In the fifty years since the second World War we have witnessed a progressive waning of the distinctions between the ideals of the left and of the right, the atheist and the believer. The turning point was the fall of the Berlin wall, which was both an actual historical fact and a symbol of the fall of ideological barriers. But what pulled the wall down was the Western world’s economic success, not its ideas and way of life, which come from a Christian blueprint.
The ideology of the Left did not die out in 1989, it merely took over whatever elements of Western civilization (such as materialism and multiculturalism) might serve its purpose, discarding the rest. The "West", on the other hand, has progressively distanced itself from its faith in a clear distinction between good and evil, thereby combining the highest achievements of human reason - modern technology - with the highest forms of the irrational - suicide cults, superstition and the sincretism of the "New Age". Thus the new-found common ground, economic realism, leaves the cultural motor of the left intact (rooted as it is in the twentieth century and determined to harness the economy with collectivism and bureaucratic planning) while the ethics of the right are fragmented by cultural relativism and the hedonism that opposes the very idea of self-sacrifice. The results are under the eyes of one and all: the triumph of materialism, nihilism, neutral ethics; together with the derision, persecution and mimickry of Christianity, which alone is neither right wing nor left, but rather the religion of love and charity, against both materialistic selfishness and moral oppression.
Christianity seeks out what people have to share, not what divides them; it seeks respect, not indifference; it seeks brotherly love, not mere tolerance.
Being the reference point for the literature, the politics and the popular culture of the Western world up to the end of the nineteenth century, Christianity resisted valiantly whenever it was confronted with open hostility (a recent vivid example is that of Cuba, where the regime even went to the length of abolishing Christmas...).
Paganism and athesim have not overcome the Church. But they have never been as elusive as the relativism which impinges without attacking, which silences by creating an uproar, which does not deny the right to speak out but rather mutes the voices of charity by turning up the volume of aggressiveness, which stimulates the physical senses to take precedence over moral sense and common sense, and which encompasses everything in an embrace that levels out the human and mortifies the Divine.
This is why we must beware of cultural homologation and the impoverishment of school syllabuses. If the globalization of culture may be useful on the one hand as a safeguard from the dangers of ethnic intolerance, on the other hand the fragmentation of our common history and the limitation of available information transform our young people, as well as many of those who are no longer so young, in highly specialized experts on only a very few separate issues. Without any models to refer to beyond the here and now, and even then with models that are often manipulated and distorted by the aggressive cultural machine of the left wing, they are deprived of the possibility of achieving a critical, ethical and sociological overview of the world.
Christian ethics are smothered, muffled, confused and withdrawn, while the pensiero debole ("weak thinking") forges ahead, levels out and standardizes, acting as virtually the only possible objective view of the world and all it contains,
Yet relativism represents a very specific point of view - a legitimate one indeed, but a very different one from that of the Catholic Church.
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