Richard Rodriguez once gave a talk in which he described his visit to a Los Angeles high school where the lunch tables were voluntarily segregated by ethnicity. Even the Chicanos and Mexican-Americans sat at separate tables. Like Berger, Rodriguez thinks an important part of education is broadening one’s comfort zone. So he described the situation as one in which the United States had been infected with the Canadian virus of multiculturalism.
I obtained a video of the talk and showed it to my introductory sociology class. One of my students went to the department head and complained that she was uncomfortable hearing multiculturalism criticized. It was too late for her to drop my class and take his, so he proposed that we accommodate her by having her attend his classes and take his tests, and he would tell me what grade to assign her at the end of the semester. I refused on the grounds that it might do her some good to hear multiculturalism criticized by a gay Hispanic. If I had wronged the student, I should go, not her. And, of course, if the situation were reversed and an ethnocentric student wanted out because talk of multiculturalism made him sick, the policy of accommodating the needs of all our student consumers would come to a screeching halt. “But that’s why you go to college– to learn you’re a racist!”
I suspect the department head felt quite virtuous for accommodating ME. “You see– even though you’re teaching the wrong stuff, my respect for academic freedom knows no limits. Your student clearly needs to be rescued, but I’ll take no action against you!” (The text I used– like all sociology texts– was, of course, making the case for multiculturalism.) Double standards and political correctness account for much of the increasing awareness that colleges today offer, as Berger puts it, “an increasingly costly and dubiously useful product.”
The pecuniary motivations of the ACLU and FRRF should not be overlooked in understanding their actions. Opposing the establishment of Newman clubs in universities eliminates the competition. And opposing Newman or Evangelical Christian clubs is a main marketing galvanizer for donations. Atheists, like gays, are attempting to institutionalize their social movements much as religious sects have historically turned into churches. Atheists want government sinecures for professorships, military and hospital chaplaincies, free use of government facilities, and exclusion of competitor’s symbols. Atheism is big business just as are gay weddings and gay divorce lawyers are. The Kemalist secularists want to delegitimate religion in the public sphere in part for their own gain.
But what will happen to a society where government has no legitimation by the religious body politic? Berger alludes to this question at the beginning of his web post when he states: “federal judges…may soon have to find constitutional means to prevent the collaboration between the Congress and the White House to destroy the American economy.” The marginalized evangelical-based Tea Party has withdrawn its legitimacy for Obamacare and at least parts of the welfare state. Before the U.S. Civil War, the mostly evangelical abolitionists withdrew legitimacy for slavery. The consequences were enormous.
Philosopher Erica Benner in her superb book “Machiavelli’s Ethics” (yes, he had an ethical system) points out that even the so-called unscrupulous Niccolo Machiavelli found there was a limit to founding society only on human reasoning (Marx tried the same thing with ruinous consequences). Machiavelli made a distinction between “ordinary” and “extraordinary” social orders that is perhaps helpful to the discussion. Quoting Benner:
“’Ordinary’ actions and conditions always have or confer the quality of order on relationships among individuals, parties, peoples or cities. Whenever Machiavelli describes a mode of action as ‘extraordinary’, one stands outside and in tension with them…Actions taken ‘ordinarily’ are unregulated by good ‘ordini ‘ and tend to uphold them. Actions taken ‘extraordinarily’ are unregulated by ethical or civil orders, and tend to undermine them.” This is reminiscent of Berger’s ‘nomizing’ and “anomizing’ concepts.
Here Machiavelli sounds somewhat like sociologist Berger’s penchant for social order and recognition of the ‘taken for grantededness’ of society. Societies are held together by legitimations. Ordinary social order is legitimated; extraordinary is not. How can a pluralistic society legitimate its authority if one so-called tiny elite group wants to become the supreme delegitimizer? Mimicking Juvenal, who legitimates the delegitimators who don’t want to legitimate anything but themselves?
Machiavelli asks how can corrupt cities be reformed without moral legitimacy? While rational utilitarian ethics may work in ‘ordinary’ times they often won’t work during ‘extraordinary’ times. Will the body politic follow modern day sagacious nymphs or irreligious freethinking atheists during ‘extraordinary’ times? Will corrupt city leaders reform based on an appeal to reason without legitimate force? How can Machiavelli’s and Max Weber’s “ethic of responsibility” (and possibly compromise and non-self interest of a leader) about the consequences of actions work if a religious citizenry is marginalized to the point their only option is extremism? In Berger’s classic “Invitation of Sociology” he wrote: “all worldviews are the result of conspiracies.” This could be also said about the open conspiracy of the secular Kemalists. Machiavelli wrote in his Discourses: “of all the dangers that can come after the execution of a conspiracy, there is none more certain nor more to be feared than when the people is the friend of the prince that you have killed.”
You write, “the patently absurd assertion that, say, a Republican club must be open to Democrats”. But this is not difficult to achieve. At MIT (my alma mater) there is a requirement that all recognized student activities must be open to all students. This really means that clubs are associations of people interested in a particular topic, rather than filtrations of people based on their personal characteristics. (E.g., the MIT International Students’ Association defined the United States as a foreign country for purposes of membership.)
I have always assumed that Kemal Ataturk’s attitudes towards Islam, and simply the fact that he even came to power, had a great deal to do
with the murder of a million armenian christians by islamists and their explusion of a huge number of christians from turkey. I believe between those killed and those expelled it was about 20% of the Turkish population.
I dismayed that it is apparently taboo to mention this; and that the fact that this even happened is
being erased from our collective memory.
I also dislike the likening of Ataturk to the ACLU and Freedom from Religion Foundation, and do not feel that the motivations of the latter two groups are at all the same as Ataturk’s.