Thursday, February 14, 2008

Culturist Asylum

In U.S. law, in order to qualify as a refugee and apply for asylum, an alien must be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality because he or she has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or "membership in a particular social group." This quoted portion of our law has been used to argue that women who fear female genital mutilation should all be granted asylum. Laws such as this show no appreciation for the existence or impact of international cultural diversity. We need to replace internationally-oriented, culturally-neutral laws with laws informed by culturist understandings.

Some of our asylum criteria make more sense than others. Race is not a reasonable basis for discrimination. But does persecution for political opinion automatically make you a great candidate for residence in the West? Perhaps the person in question is one of the rebels disrupting elections in Kenya. There might be reason for the government to try to stop your murderous destabilization of the country. Not discriminating on the basis of religion makes us vulnerable to penetration by those from bizarre cults. In Egypt or Turkey your "religious persecution” might actually be for trying to overthrow the separation of church and state and impose Islamic law. Not all “persecution" is irrational. We have a right to ask if illiterate, violent, nomadic, disrupters of government from an entirely different culture will make great Western citizens and improve our sustainability before admitting them.

The cultural neutrality of our government stems from supposedly universal and multiculturalist presuppositions. The United Nation's Universal Declaration of Human Rights posits a world law based on universal truths. These rights erase sovereignty and override cultural particulars. But we are the only ones who buy into this universal vision. China and Iran do not even domestically provide the rights the U.N. let alone accept refugees based on violations of them. The fact that few nations buy into this scheme shows that the U.N.’s declared rights are not "universal." Multiculturalism also bolsters Western acceptance of such policies as it tells us we have no core culture to protect; Islamic precepts and African tribalism are just as Western as anything else. Culturism recognizes that Western values are not universal - diversity exists.

Western cultures believe in rights, freedom of speech, lots of separation of church and state, female equality, ignoring race, applying reason to the problems of the world and democracy. Other nations do not. Diversity exists. Iran bars Christian refugees because they are not Islamic. China bans them if they are not racially Chinese. These countries, and the civilizations they represent, have different views of the world and want those views to predominate. They protect and prioritize their own cultures to that end. We must do the same. If Western cultural attributes do not survive in the West, they will not exist in some metaphysical space outside of a U.N. document. If we cherish and want to protect Western values, we must be willing to prioritize the survival of Western cultures.

Culturism holds that nations have a right to define, protect and promote their culture. Culturism does not judge by international standards. Islamic nations do not let their women choose their clothes. That is fine for them. It is not our place to judge them. China is racist and does not have presidential elections. Their culture may actually be more sustainable than ours. Mexico is a great country with its own culture. But their high birthrate and low educational attainment - measurable cultural attributes - do not create first-world economies. Each of these cultural examples being different implies different culturist concerns and policies. Rather than the multiculturalists blanket motto of "celebrate diversity" we need to have nuanced and rational culturist discussions. We have unique values to teach and protect domestically. Non-Western nations define protect and promote their vision. Culturism holds that Western nations also have a right to do so.

Culturism puts individualism in context. First of all, many people like "female circumcision." It is hard for international rights advocates to accept that cultural diversity actually exists, but it does. Women circumcise their daughters in these cultures and think it is right. We should not judge them or invade their countries to change them. What if one woman does not like circumcision? First of all it is not our business to tell other nations what their cultures should look like. Secondly, if we say the individual woman who objects has the right to come here, we have to accept all that do. Individualism often makes a bad basis of policy. Lastly, we cannot be so weak that we let the pain of one person - who in this case is rejecting something her fellows think normal and right - override our national sovereignty. We are the civilization that most respects individualism. If we want individual rights to exist, we must consider the viability of Western nations when considering individual’s requests.

Our current policy assumes that all people are just as Western as all the others. But, those who have broken our laws to get here, those who favor Islamic law, those who have tried to disrupt their home country's elections, illiterates who live in the bush and have never paid taxes, polygamists, those who do not think it wrong to impregnate thirteen year olds and Chinese nationalists may not automatically adopt Western cultural habits, values and goals. The West has a core culture. Many cultures are antagonistic to and hold values that are different from those of Western culture. Diversity exists. That is why, like every other nation, we cannot continue to be neutral to the long list of attributes listed at the start of this blog. We have a right and a duty to consider our cultural sustainability and foreigners' cultural compatibility when deciding who enters Western nations. Because diversity exists, we must be culturist.
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