Hastings Multi-Culturalism

An extraordinary moment took place before the British Parliament during the 1787 impeachment hearing of Warren Hastings.  In prosecution Edmund Burke defended universal human rights while the eyes of the Queen, and all the nation watched.

Edmund Burke is a founder of modern political conservatism.  A prominent Whig, Burke had previously defended the arguments of the break away American colonists and in a few short years would reach new heights of fame in his condemnation of the French Revolution.  In 1787 he was leveling charges against the General-Governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings.

Hastings and his East India Company were exerting British rule in India.  Mildly put, his regime was oppressive.  India was being harvested for its resources.   Burke charged Hastings with abuses ranging from torture to extortion.  Hastings made what may be an expected defense for the 18th century.  Hastings argued that it was wrong to judge actions in India by the standards of enlightened Europe.

Burke’s language should still be taught in schools.

“This geographical morality we do protest against.

Mr. Hastings shall not screen himself under it; and on this point I hope and trust many words will not be necessary to satisfy your Lordships.  But we think it necessary, in justification of ourselves, to declare that the laws of morality are the same everywhere, and there is no action which would pass for an act of extortion, of peculation, of bribery, and of oppression in England that is not an act of extortion, of peculation, of bribery and oppression in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all the world over.”

There you have it, right is right, and wrong is wrong.  Be the man Christian or Hindu, or anything else, every man is possessed of natural rights provided him by his Creator.

That was 1787, the year of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2012 our enlightened West is overrun with academics and leaders advancing the Hastings principle.  It is multi-culturalism run rampant.

In our America the elites will mock Christians for opposing abortion, but defend female genital mutilation and honor killings among Muslims.  We are told that to condemn honor killings is form of cultural imperialism.  The American Pediatric Association and the American Anthropological Association refuse to use the terms genital mutilation, opting for an olio of euphemisms.

The lesson is that we can not criticize non-Western peoples, even if they do happen to live in the West.

Burke was no multi-culturalist.  He recognized that all cultures were different, and that some were superior than others, but he recognized and defended the universality of human dignity.

The multi-cultural tradition that traces back to Hastings is, put bluntly, bigoted.   It argues that a man can be treated differently dependent on his religion, skin-color, or what-have-you.  It is condescending and ugly.

The modern Hastings multi-culturalists see an Islamic man, and a black man, and a Chinese man where the Burkean conservatives see a man, and a man, and a man.  There is no equality or dignity among those who see and apply different standards based on a man’s adjective.


4 thoughts on “Hastings Multi-Culturalism

  1. No argument with your central point about the universality of human dignity, but you may be arguing against a straw person (and I hope that neologism doesn’t irritate you!) at least here in the U.S. Can’t speak for the Euro-weenies. At least, your assertions in the paragraph beginning “In our America” require references that back up the generality of the claims. While a few — very few — elites may share the positions you attack, that by no means makes these views representative of elite views. Indeed

    * I’d argue that very rarely are Christians mocked by elites for opposing abortion. Maybe the activists and especially the potentially violent ones are feared or loathed by elites, but not mocked. Now I understand that pro-choice arguments offend your own sense of what is right, but they do not amount to mockery. Elite views come down to a seriously differing take on *which* human rights prevail in a clash of rights, and on the role of the state in enforcing this determination. I think it’s precisely the wide acknowledgment (even among elites) of the morally troublesome nature of abortion that makes these interactions very much not about mockery, but about anger and fear.

    * I suppose there may be isolated instances of folks defending genital mutilation or honor killing as practices acceptable in their own cultural contexts, but really truly I believe these are fringe views. I wish women’s groups were more active in opposing both practices in whatever societies they are found — and there’s certainly fair dispute over whether honor killing is primarily an Islamic or primarily a tribal pathology — but what I see from elite groups is passivity, not defense. That doesn’t make passivity acceptable, but it’s not quite the case you are making.

    You might be on safer ground arguing the broader “sharia law” issue, where I think the secular elites arguably *have* mocked Christian and other concern about this, and where the fallout from multi-culti approaches taken in Europe suggests that we should be taking a more sober approach to the debate that recognizes a serious issue at stake. But that’s not what you’ve argued here. You’ve taken much more radical and even insane positions, argued that they characterize the elites’ view, and then posed Burke against the elites.

    In my view, this is actually emerging as a characteristic tone and style of the yawper blog, and you write so well and have such very broad knowledge, that it amounts to an unfortunate detraction from the potential of your essays to actually persuade anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

    More evidence, please!

  2. Thank for your taking the time to seriously respond to my post. Allow me to offer a few retorts.

    “In our America” is a trope from R.W. Emerson. He is my biggest influence and on occasion his style ripples through mine.

    With the exception of my entries on American Exceptionalism, I try to limit myself in these posts. I aim for about 500, yet I still hear from family that I need to be more concise. Naturally this cuts into the amount of evidence presented. I understand your point, but in the balance between writing a research paper and firing out a quick essay I choose the latter. It’s really all that time permits.

    Re-reading the post I realize that my target is unclear. To criticize multi-culturalism and racism are two different things, though there is some overlap. My focusing on the overlap I muddled the issues somewhat.

    As a Christian, and one who spent two years lobbying on behalf of the Catholic Church I can avow that the sneers are very real. Elite opinion very much holds Christian beliefs in contempt. I see this in movies, music, television, academia, and among the urbane. There are loads of sites that chronicle the problem better than I can, so I will leave it to you to do a quick Google search. We can quibble about the extent, but the siege of orthodox Christianity seems self-evident.

    My larger point is about double-standards. Hypocrisy. Whether in passive tolerance, or active defense, the “other”, particularly if it stands against the traditions of the West are glossed over and embraced.

    I am reading and re-reading your comment about Yawper’s “insane positions” and emerging “characteristic tones.” I know your comments are offered with sincerity and seriousness. I’m not sure that I see your point, but I will mull them over in the spirit they were given.

    1. Larger point well taken.

      Also, don’t sweat the “insane” issue. I was saying not that your opinions are insane, but only that you’ve set up opinions that I regard as insane as straw opponents. For example, anyone who defends honor killing as a matter of multicultural tolerance is in fact insane, and not a worthy target of your argument. The tone that I’m referring to is regularly characterizing those who do not share your ideological approach as completely lacking in common sense, good will, or patriotism, and then arguing against that position instead of against what they are actually saying. Now that I recognize the pattern, I will call you on it when the spirit moves me!

      I’m so sorry not to have recognized the Emersonian origin of the phrase. My bad.

      On the sneering question, yes, there’s sneering by some elites against religious belief, no doubt. But that’s not what you said. You said Christians were mocked *for* opposing abortion. I do not think that’s true and may be conflating two very different issues.

      Then again, my views are quirky at best. A secular Jew, I am often in my own family accused of being a “closet Catholic” simply because I’ve said that if I *were* a believer, I would find Catholicism a fairly satisfying belief system and that even from the non-believer, non-adherent perspective, there’s much beauty to it. Ah, well.

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