Monday, October 19, 2009

Shrill trumpets

Returning home after a long tedious day of work at the library. Meanwhile the blogosphere is boiling with activity after the Swedish xenophobic party Sverigedemokraterna was given a prime media outlet in the form of an opinion piece in Aftonbladet. Traditionally, the leading media has chosen to ignore rather than to engage in debate with these ominous undercurrents in the Swedish society.

So, what do they say when they are given the chance? In a surprisingly academic yet shrill tone, their party leader Jimmie Åkesson trumpets that Sweden is faced with its greatest threat since the Second World War and that that threat is spelled ISLAM. While most of it can be dismissed out of hand (as the prospects of “sharia law” replacing Swedish law any time soon), Åkesson’s article offers an interesting panorama of his strange universe of ideas. Borrowing the terminology of the British neo-reactionary Roger Scruton and his notion of “oikophobia” (as in an unhealthy rejection of one’s own culture), Åkesson writes:

“One of the many inherent paradoxes of multiculturalism is that, despite its universalistic aspirations, it remains a mono-cultural phenomenon that only has found fertile ground in the post-modern oikophobic West. By basing its views solely on Western experiences it sees the West as having attained a higher stage of development that the rest of the world has yet to reach. This is also the reason why the power elites of today are so totally blind for the dangers of Islam and Islamization. [...] one seems to think that Muslims want nothing more than adjusting to a Western way of life [...] this is also why [the multiculturalists] think that they will be able to tame Islam in the same they way that they were able to tame the European Christianity and confine it to the private sphere” (my translation)

Though only an excerpt it is difficult to know where to begin disentangling this conceptual confusion. But to start somewhere it is interesting to note that Åkesson seems to view multiculturalism as having “universalistic aspirations”, something I think most multiculturalists would strongly object to. Also, most defenders of multiculturalism are not at all convinced that Islam or any other religion will cease existing as a public force, this is rather the reason why they argue the value of sustaining co-existing, yet distinct, cultures.

Beyond these easy first misconceptions it is not difficult to recognize that part of the confusion Åkesson experiences is indeed due to the ambiguous relationship to the modern project that multiculturalist thinkers tend to exhibit. By doubting the emancipatoric force of the Enlightenment, and with it the cosmopolitan vision of humanity one day being able to constitute itself as “humanity”, room is given to precisely these kinds of murky views. At the same time, too often has the “human” been nothing but the pseudo-universalism of the privileged few and over-generalizations of Western experiences. That observation however does not invalidate the prospects of, in the future, being able to raise the contingent rationality of a Eurocentric Enlightenment into a new, truly global Enlightenment. And if we believe in that bright future we have to ask ourselves how we can heal the wounds that give rise to people like Åkesson, how we can transcend the deep class divisions that now leave the difficult task of integrating immigrants to those already marginalized while the upper classes are busy exoticizing ethnic food and sending their kids off to “free schools”? Only be reaffirming our allegiance to the founding values of the Enlightenment can we counter these trends and start building a truly universal civilization of mankind.

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2 Comments:

Blogger sarah said...

which is however still nothing compared to the BNP going live on the BBC "Question Time" on thur. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/18/catherine-bennett-nick-griffin
in the name of some strange principle of equlity ad absurdum the world is going crazy and giving airspace to something which is by far worse than the Sverigedemokraterna.

10:03 am  
Blogger meditations71 said...

Jag surfade runt litet i bloggosfären och hittade följande, relaterade blogginlägg: http://is.gd/4sbrc

Nu är min syn på SDs intentioner nog litet mer dyster än den Bloggare Bengt verkar acceptera. Men vad gäller den generella och accepterade hetsen mot kristendom (speciellt då katolicismen) som poliker som Cecilia Wikström och präster (ett begrepp vi har tänjt ordentligt genom tidevarven!) som Anna Borg slänger sig med så tycker jag inlägget träffar mitt i prick.

11:26 am  

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