Diversity Within Unity

Following Scotts recent post in the mailbox we have Amitai Etzioni drawing our attention to a piece he wrote on the same topic in the International Herald Tribune. His key point seems to be that it is important to “utterly reject the multicultural notion that we should abolish societal identities to accommodate the sensibilities of the newcomers”.

I appreciate the thrust of what Amitai is saying here, but I still think he is mistaken. Identities are not static, but fluid: they are processes. Our identities as much as the cells which compose our bodies are changing everyday. We do not need to abolish anything, but we do need to accept both the fact of and the need for change. To do otherwise would seem not to be living in Europe, but rather to be living in Denial. So in this context I would prefer to go down another road, that opened up by the French Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas: one of the measures of our degree of civilisation as a community is our open-ness to the other. This would be my main point of departure from the US notion of diversity, which for all its sophistocation and its appeal, is still feel IMHO far too structured by a US, non-US dichotomy: one that we here in Europe are in danger of assimilating. The limitations of such a failure to grasp the radical difference presented by ‘otherness’ can be found, for example, in the attitude to Japan (why can’t these Japanese just set up a normal capitalist system like everyone else does), in China (why don’t the Chinese simply rebel against all this centralised communist dictatorship stuff), or – dare I say it – in Iraq (why the hell don’t these guys just accept democracy).

What Levinas suggests is that we are setting up the problem in the wrong way. The other is just ‘other’. Our challenge is to accept this. To take the marriage (or co-habitation) model: love is not consuming the partner and turning them into a figment of your own desire. Love is accepting your partner as they are, warts and all, and loving them for what they are.

Ok this is strange stuff for an economist I know, but there it is. I have pasted an extract from Amitai’s piece below. There are lots of other arguments worthy of consideration, about schools about common language, about you name it. This discussion is important, say what you feel like saying, maybe he will join in.

The recent fuss about headscarves that pupils may not wear (in France), and that teachers (in Germany) and court clerks (in Holland) – after years of deliberations – may finally wear, reminds me of a tale divorce lawyers are fond of repeating. Often, when a couple has reached an agreement after long and painful negotiations, all hell breaks loose over who will get some item of limited importance, like a tea kettle. It becomes the vessel in which all the festering resentment is invested. Similarly, headscarves are chiefly the vessel of a profound struggle over the future character of Europe, as well as similar struggles in many other societies, from Japan to Canada.

What is revealed in the conflict over the headscarves is the feeling among Europeans that the essence of their identity, moral culture and tradition is assailed by immigrants.

A group of academics, public officials and others from across Europe, in discussions where I served as chairman, formulated a new approach to this problem. We called it diversity within unity. It is best illustrated by the image of a mosaic, which has pieces of different shapes and colors but also a shared framework that may itself be reordered. There are some basics that should be viewed as sacrosanct, but other cultural and social differences should be not just tolerated but welcomed as enriching.

The nervousness of European majorities is not hard to understand. When several families from a faraway land move in next door, they give the neighbors pause. There is no sense in denying that many immigrants treat women and children, the law, and much else in ways we find troubling. Some of that conduct is not just different, but wrong.

Under the framework of diversity within unity, immigrants who wish to become members of European national communities (or the European Union, for that matter) must accept certain basics. They must be willing to respect human rights, the democratic form of government and the law; learn the prevailing languages; and accept both the glory and the burdens of existing national histories.

But assimilation in its pure form, demanding that immigrants become indistinguishable from the rest of society, is unnecessarily homogenizing. If immigrants buy into the basics, there is no reason to protest if they eat and dance differently or pray to different gods. In reality, as anybody benefiting from the much improved cuisine in London over the last generation will tell you, these differences can make for improvement.

At the same time, we supporters of diversity within unity utterly reject the multicultural notion that we should abolish societal identities to accommodate the sensibilities of the newcomers.

No society can flourish unless it has some shared values; nor is there any reason to hold that the human rights that we insist must be respected by people all over the world could be ignored in our inner cities, or that the democratic way of life could be treated as one option among many.

Ideally, all children should attend public schools, to ensure that they all will be introduced to the same core of shared values and that children of different backgrounds will mingle. At the same time, children should be allowed electives – amounting to, say, 15 percent of the curriculum – in which they could learn more about their cultures of origin, the languages of their parents and even their religion, as long as the teachers are fully qualified and chosen by educational authorities, not by fundamentalists.

However, since in several countries there are many private schools, as well as Catholic and Jewish schools (to which Muslim schools have now been added), a second-best approach must be considered. This requires that children of such schools regularly participate in activities with children of other schools, for instance, in sporting events or community service. And, above all, the state must maintain close supervision of curricula to verify that shared values are taught and that such schools are not turned into seedbeds of hatred against society.

Immigrants should not be given citizenship automatically, but should be expected to complete tests that determine whether they have acquired a reasonable command of the host society’s language or languages, knowledge of its core culture and familiarity with its institutions………….

Ah, I almost forgot about the headscarves. Unity within schools could be easily provided if all children wore uniforms with a small national – or European Union – emblem, in addition to any article of religious symbolism, if the children choose one. The notion that such token expressions would offend others will exist only as long as the underlying issues remain unresolved.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

12 thoughts on “Diversity Within Unity

  1. I must say, sir, that I find the ultimate basis for your argument repugnant. You state:

    “The other is just ‘other’. Our challenge is to accept this. To take the marriage (or co-habitation) model: love is not consuming the partner and turning them into a figment of your own desire. Love is accepting your partner as they are, warts and all, and loving them for what they are.”

    This assumes, however, that my partner was simply some random selection, a rag-bag of attributes which I was forced to accept willy-nilly when we were thrown together by chance. The reality is that I _do_ love her “warts and all”, but the warts were mostly visible before any commitment and were far outweighed by the good. A choice was made on my part, which had been made in the opposite direction with regards to other potential partners in the past.

    Likewise, I see no need to embrace diversity when I find the net balance of the differences to be unpleasant or even downright dangerous to my own world-view. I may embrace mint-tea, Al-Hambra, Morrocan cuisine or folks fasting for Ramadan. I see no need and have no desire to embrace or accept a devalued role for women in society, Islamic-fascism, Koran-based obscurantism or the Arab street’s views on the state of Israel, etc, etc.

    Acceptance is a choice based on a threshold which not all individuals or concepts manage to cross. Discrimination is a _good_ thing. If Europe means unthinking acceptance of the out-group at all costs, then I’m glad I’m in New York.

    Bernard Guerrero

  2. You are in New York and you think that??? Then you haven’t learned that great city’s lesson yet:
    http://www.stefangeens.com/000119.html (Scroll to Giuliani’s farewell speech. I still get chills down the spine every time I read it.) Europe needs to become more like New York and London, fast, or die a slow economic death.

    The author is not asking you to approve. He is asking you tolerate expressions of belief and speech you do not agree with, and it is your duty as a liberal democrat to do so. (Bear in mind, immigrants, like others, are already required to obey existing laws, so nobody is asking you to approve of honor killings or female circumcision).

  3. Just wondered how Amitai Etzioni could discuss the unity-diversity thing and Muslim identity without throwing in as much as a token reference to Indonesia and its famous motto.

  4. I have to agree entirely with Bernard. Diversity within unity is important, but so are minimal standards.

  5. I guess this is one of those moments when someone like me feels like he’s hopelessly out of step with his times, and hopes that that means he’s ahead of his time instead of behind it.

    I disagree with Etzioni, but in the very opposite direction of the other commentors. If there are minimum standards, they really do need to be universal ones, at least in the minds of the people who hold them to be standards. If immigrants treat their wives and daughters badly, our condemnation shouldn’t be that they are failing to adopt our values, it should be that it’s wrong to mistreat women wherever you are.

    Imagine the shoe on the other foot. You accept a job in Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Nigeria. Should the locals be allowed to upbraid you because you don’t beat your wife?

    I don’t wish to abolish societal identities to accomodate immigrants. I don’t want to abolish societal identities at all. I do want people to recognise that their identities do not entail a right to segregation. Just because your neighbours don’t share your identity doesn’t mean they can’t live next door.

    It seems to me that Etzioni wants immigrants to remain different only in ways that have no significance for society. It matters little if you go to church on Sunday, temple on Saturday or evening prayers on Friday. No one cares if you prefer kongpao chicken to fish and chips. To reduce the differences we tolerate to such insignifica is little better than demanding seamless integration.

    Diversity can contribute to a society by being a repository of genuinely different practices. Today’s LA Times, for instance, has an article on how the Ontario Amish eat a high-fat, high-sugar diet and have virtually no obesity. It seems that it’s because they do 40 hours a week of physical labour, instead of 40 hours of sitting in front of a computer and a few hours at the gym. Their lifestyle can tell us something useful and can inform solutions to real problems, in this case that it makes little sense to “go to great lengths to remove activity from our daily lives, and then we go to great lengths to put it back in.” This lesson is import to the mainstream, and it would be harder to make had the Amish chosen to follow Etzioni’s advice.

    The policy recommendations are not, by themselves, awful, but public education simply does not have the functions most people attribute to it. The values children are taught are not acquired from the curriculum, they are acquired from other children. To allow the schools to teach immigrants about their own communities is a fine thing, but wouldn’t it be even finer if they taught the native-born about the immigrants’ culture too? To deny immigrants citizenship on the grounds that they don’t know the language and can’t pass a civics test makes little sense when the native-born may be illiterate and may know nothing of their national institutions. And we grant extraordinary lassitude to the native born to reject their national institutions and even their national language. What makes it fair that we grant those rights to the native born and refuse them to immigrants?

    Besides, nearly every nation in Europe – and especially France – requires exactly those things to become a naturalised citizen. France’s problems have little to do with immigrants refusing to learn the language, and the women who were on the streets in Paris last Sunday demanding their right to wear the hijab understand their human rights much better than those who wish to ban it. This is not the root of the problem.

    This notion that people only have the right to meaningless differences is exactly what I most criticise in American immigration policy, and one of the things I most like about Europe is that it generally doesn’t work that way here. This superficial notion of diversity extends far beyond immigration in the US. America’s model of racial integration remains one where abolishing racism means everyone becomes just like white people. A few Americans have caught on to the notion that integrating Indians and other aboriginals may not be a just solution, but a lot haven’t. Worse still, in America everyone is encouraged to be individual and different, but only in ways that can be readily marketed. If you’re concerned about the environment, you can buy your food from the organic aile at the grocery store; but if you protest against factory farms then you’re a Luddite freak. In America, it’s perfectly okay to convert to Islam, but if that leads you to reject interest-bearing loans then America has no place for you. If you want to get back to nature, the LL Bean catalog has just what you’re looking for. Che Guevara is fashionable on T-shirts, but marching to protest US foreign policy is not.

    In Europe, in contrast, a German can stay German, even if he lives in France. People may not go hugely out of their way to help someone who doesn’t speak French, but they don’t refuse to serve someone who has to point to what they want to buy or complain about them afterwards. Few people anymore question that native minorities – people like the Sorbians, the Friesians, the Welsh, and nowadays even France’s minorities like the Corsians and the Bretons – should speak their languages and teach them to their children. And, although far less true than in the past, in Europe people still make their politics known by taking to the streets.

    It would be a shame if this willingness to live with differences and to accept their expression was replaced by some lukewarm Europeanism modelled after America’s conception of itself. It’s bad enough that European tolerance still seems to stop at the Mediteranean.

    I want to preserve, and even encourage, substantial diversity rather than the kind of superficial multiculturalism that measures diversity by counting the number of different ethnic restaurants in London. People should be able to do more than eat different kinds of food, they should be able to live different kinds of lives. Their unity should come from recognising that their fate is bound up with all those other people who aren’t like them, not through the imposition of a set of basic values that they won’t all agree to even if there was no immigration.

  6. “I see no need and have no desire to embrace or accept”

    I am sorry Bernard that you find my views repugnant. Maybe that is the difference between you and me. I don’t agree with you, I don’t even embrace your ideas, but I do accept that this is how you think, and I try to build my world round that reality.

    Just banging my fist on the table and saying, d’you know what this guy is saying…….this won’t get me anywhere. So there is an important difference between embracing and accepting.

    Incidentally I don’t think the partners we find are randomly selected, but I do think that the moment we find them is pretty random, as is this moment when we are thinking and saying this. If this had been twenty or two hundred years ago what would you have been saying, what would I?

    And those people, who are the real ones you find repugnant, what will they be saying and thinking in twenty or two hundred years time? It is the instant that is random, yet we pivot everything around it. I mean poor Scott, as he says, he doesn’t know if he’s ahead of, or behind his times. It makes you think.

    But the good news is that, like it or not, we are in this together. Your existence just changed mine, and my existence is changing yours, and this way we will get on just fine.

    We are talking. That’s the point.

  7. Edward:

    Your position assumes that there aren’t some core values which deserve being defended, at home and abroad. Women’s equality is one such core value, and I’m sure we can come up with quite a few more if we brainstorm.

    No one here, I believe, is opposed to sincere manifestations of belief. What people are opposed to are areas which religious belief is being used to attack others. The hijab–besides being of doubtful Quranic provence–seems to be one of those areas.

    For instance, in Iraq the hijab is being used to exclude women from public life. As an essayist in the Christian Science Monitor observed:

    Throughout the Islamic world the hijab is often something girls and women wear because they’re forced to – a symbol of restriction and intimidation, not freedom. Millions of women worldwide are daily threatened – and substantial numbers even assaulted, maimed, or killed – for refusing to wear whatever the local male authorities decide they should be wearing.

    In countries such as Saudi Arabia, special religious patrols beat, insult, and arrest women who aren’t covered according to their stringent specifications. In Pakistan, Kashmir, and Afghanistan, hundreds of women have been blinded or maimed when acid was thrown on their unveiled faces by male fanatics who considered them improperly dressed. In post-Taliban Afghanistan, women have been raped for daring to think they could now go without theburqa.

    This also seems to be the case in France, as this article suggests:

    In some urban ghettos, meanwhile, young Muslim women are forced to cover up and lower their eyes before men; otherwise ”they are stigmatized as ‘whores,'” the report said. It added that preteen girls are sometimes forced to wear head scarves and that some fathers or husbands have refused to let male doctors treat their wives or daughters in hospitals.

    ”Basic rights of women are today scorned on a daily basis in our country. Such a situation is unacceptable,” the report said.

    President Jacques Chirac, who has previously made clear his opposition to head scarves in schools, is expected to announce Wednesday his stance on a law based on the panel’s recommendations.

    Not all Muslims oppose banning head scarves. Some say a law would protect young girls from male relatives who force them to cover up.

    Action against the hijab, given these circumstances, seems justified, particularly when you’re talking about minors who lack the capacity to decide. The state shouldn’t support misogyny, or any other sort of bigotry, within its halls.

  8. Randy, you commit a couple of elementary logical fallacies in your arguments. Just because Hijab is forced on women in some places does not justify forcibly preventing women from wearing it somewhere else. Women are not stupid. They most often do a great job thinking for themselves. The correct response to their freedoms being curtailed elsehere is to give them freedoms here, even if what they do with the freedom is not to your liking. To do otherwise is to descend to the level of the mysogynists.

    The response in the west should be to enforce laws that prevent the coercion of women, not making laws that dubiously “solve” the problem at the cost of denying half of your population the ability to express whatever religious feeling they might have.

    Scott, I find it strange that you think America’s tolerance of ethnic diversity is superficial while Europe’s is more honest – except that it doesn’t exist…? I was with you all the way until you said that abolishing racism means everybody has to be white. The US is a mixture, not a compound. It is a mosaic, not a pastel. There are thousands of ethnic enclaves, and yet they can all be American because the meaning of that word is built upon an idea, not a myth of ethnic common provenance.

  9. Stefan:

    Just because Hijab is forced on women in some places does not justify forcibly preventing women from wearing it somewhere else. Women are not stupid. They most often do a great job thinking for themselves. The correct response to their freedoms being curtailed elsehere is to give them freedoms here, even if what they do with the freedom is not to your liking. To do otherwise is to descend to the level of the mysogynists.

    Yes, I recognize this problem, particularly for people above the age of minority.

    For people below the age of minority, though–children, in short–things are different. My concern on this subject is for minor children, as distinct from adults who are capable of making decisions of their own on this subject. People living in slums where they risk being attacked for not wearing the hijab have/are a more difficult situation.

    What, exactly, would it feel like for a girl to be told that in order to be a good person she has to cover her body entirely (unlike her brothers, or her father)?

    The assumption behind the necessity of the veil seems to be that the female body is uniquely dangerous, whether because of what it exposed does to others, or because of what it exposes females themselves to. The sin of Eve carried onto all of her daughters, and so on.

    I am not at all willing to support any public school system that gives credence, whether actively or passively, to that kind of poisonous assumption. If their parents want to, they can send their children to (competent, regulated) private school systems which allow that. The state, though, should stay far away from condoning that.

    It’s an imperfect approach, but in this particular situation it might be the best one.

  10. Scott, I profoundly agree with what you say. But I don’t understand what you’re saying to be departing dramatically from what Etzioni is saying. Heavens knows Etzioni can be criticized, but I don’t see how you’re doing it. Maybe I’m just missing your point.

    You write: “I want to preserve, and even encourage, substantial diversity rather than the kind of superficial multiculturalism that measures diversity by counting the number of different ethnic restaurants in London. People should be able to do more than eat different kinds of food, they should be able to live different kinds of lives.” This is the sort of “deep diversity” that Charles Taylor and others have argued for; the idea that a society can find common ground despite not only superficial differences in what they DO on that ground, but in how they actually REACH that ground. It valuable and important moral argument. Clearly, Etzioni’s silly comment about how “diversity” has led to better food in London doesn’t do much to support such an argument; but then, do you suppose he really intended that comment to carry so much weight?

    He writes: “assimilation in its pure form, demanding that immigrants become indistinguishable from the rest of society, is unnecessarily homogenizing”; you write: “I don’t wish to abolish societal identities to accomodate immigrants. I don’t want to abolish societal identities at all.” Thus far, you seem to agree. He writes: “No society can flourish unless it has some shared values; nor is there any reason to hold that the human rights that we insist must be respected by people all over the world could be ignored in our inner cities, or that the democratic way of life could be treated as one option among many”; you write: “If there are minimum standards, they really do need to be universal ones, at least in the minds of the people who hold them to be standards. If immigrants treat their wives and daughters badly, our condemnation shouldn’t be that they are failing to adopt our values, it should be that it’s wrong to mistreat women wherever you are.” Again, you seem to be on the same page.

    If you do have any real disagreement, it appears to be when he writes that “immigrants who wish to become members of European national communities…must accept certain basics. They must be willing to respect human rights, the democratic form of government and the law; learn the prevailing languages; and accept both the glory and the burdens of existing national histories.” I don’t suppose you would challenge the first couple of those, but you do criticize “deny[ing] immigrants citizenship on the grounds that they don’t know the language and can’t pass a civics test”; and you do write that “unity should…not [come] through the imposition of a set of basic values that [members of society] won’t all agree to even if there was no immigration.” So perhaps the idea of requiring (or at least officially promulgating) a common language or a common historical narrative is what most fundamentally bothers you. I can sympathize: as you implicitly observe, such expectations can essentially homogenize disparate groups, set them on the same “market base” as everyone else (i.e., the majority group). Yet do you really believe that the “universals” you want to see instituted across borders can be made manifest aside from the whole matter of the specific linguistic and/or historical contexts by which they are known? In other words, if not language, or history, or something else, whence comes the “unity” you say you want? Taylor’s talk about deep diversity never denies that there has to be some sort of common ground: without it, all you have left is either seccession and Balkanization, or perhaps the sort of superficial cosmopolitanism–really disguised majoritarianism–that you perceive (perhaps correctly; that’s a separate debate) in the U.S. Do you think the bare unity Europe’s future will require can be simply imposed by fiat by the European Court of Justice? But even that court has it’s own historical and (multiple) linguistic background, and it’s not–or at least not yet–an Islamic one. You say you want substantive diversity, and as I read him Etzioni does too; but he appears to acknowledge that to hope for such means that the enduring substances of extant national ways of life have to be addressed. Do you?

    Again, I don’t disagree with a thing you’re saying, at least insofar as I understand it. But if you don’t mean what Etzioni means when you write that you don’t have a problem with “societal identities,” then what do you mean? A deeply diverse Europe, with really diverse ways of life, would also have to be one with really deep roots in disparate histories and languages; how could such things not make demands upon, or at least impact, how challenges to those substances–which Islam most certainly is, at least in Western Europe–are to be addressed?

    I’m not suggesting the European national identities be refied and kept static; as Edward said back at the beginning, identities are fluid, and will change. But if change exists outside the context of continuity, then there’s no substantive point, or weight, to the change at all. A ground has to be recognized. You’re far too well read in philosophy and politics not to acknowledge this problem of recognition, and it seems to me that Etzioni acknowledges it too. So, do you really want to go a different direction from him–or did you just not like the way he said it, and the policies he proposed in regards to it? If the latter, than your disagreement with him may not be all the great after all.

  11. Russell, it’s possible that I am being too harsh on Etzioni and reading more into him than I should. On rereading, I can see your point. Some of it is probably reaction to other comments in the thread.

    I have a problem with a rhetoric that can be read as “you’re free to do what you like as long as it doesn’t offend our sensibilities.” That may not be what Etzioni intends, but the idea that diversity should only encompass those areas that a culture finds easy to set aside bothers me. Part of American “melting pot” rhetoric is to point to the diversity of cuisine available all over America while ignoring the lack of diversity of ideas. It’s something of a touchy spot for me, both as a devoted foodie and an advocate of ideas often held to be anti-social.

    Part of what I find so objectionable to integrationist rhetoric is the idea that a country – a piece of land, really – belongs to an ethnic group or community the way a house belongs to the holder of its title. The implication is that the established have the right to set the conditions for entry arbitrarily, as if it was a home. I don’t want a debate over minimum standards for entry, I want a debate over minimum standards for humanity. I certainly do recognise that not everyone in the world will recognise the same standards. But, I don’t want people to think of the world beyond their borders as a kind of Coventry where those who fail to accept the minimum social compact must suffer for their failure to recognise a particular standard.

    People must sometimes be isolated from society for their acts, but not for their ideas. If an immigrant community challenges the ideas of their host country, the hosts need to take those challenges seriously enough to ask themselves if they are not the ones who ought to change. I see a debate over minimum standards linked to freedom of movement as a challenge to this notion. Yes, arriving in a new community makes demands on the beliefs and cultures of immigrants – as well it should. It should also make demands on the hosts, and neither should be able to prescribe in advance what changes both will have to make in order to co-exist.

    A part of what I am reacting to is the idea of a common citizenship built atop something other than a common humanity. I really do find this notion genuinely troubling. The notion of a national language (or more frequently languages) doesn’t bother me so much because I see no prospect of avoiding it. The notion that the national language is at once fixed for all time, however, does bother me. A national narrative is not the end of the world either, but compelling its adoption and blocking a critical analysis of it is.

    Citizenship is usually described in terms of adherence to an identity. But citizens often have vastly divergent identities, even in the most uniform nations. Instead, I see citizenship as a recognition of jurisdiction by a government – as the legal aknowledgement that the citizen has a stake in the regime and ought to have a say in it. As such, I’m not sure that any ideological requirement is grounds for the denial of citizenship, even of the standards I might claim as universal and fundamental and whose breach leads me to demand someone spend time in prison. A process of cultural dialogue of some sort should lead to the interdiction of some acts, because some acts have to be forbidden in order for the world to function. However, admitting people who dispute the justice of those interdictions into that dialogue is absolutely necessary, and I don’t see why place of birth or parentage should play a role in deciding which dissidents ought to participate.

    I don’t think I’ve answered all your points. I’m going to have to give the matter some more thought. I do think you’re probably right that I am reading more into Etzioni than is there.

    I’m horribly poorly read in philosophy considering the kinds of positions I take, but flattery will get you everywhere. :^) Russell, you always manage to make me think about whether I really wanted to say what I said, and as much as that annoys me, please don’t stop doing it.

  12. My pleasure. You should post some of what you’ve written in this comment thread on your own blog; it’s smart, thought-provoking stuff. (I especially like your comment that “admitting people who dispute the justice of [social] interdictions into [the cultural] dialogue is absolutely necessary, and I don’t see why place of birth or parentage should play a role in deciding which dissidents ought to participate.” It’s easy to forget (as I certainly have on occasion) the place that dissent plays in the process of identity formation and (continual) reformation, and it’s good to be reminded of it.)

    In the end, to invoke Charles Taylor again, there are issues of ontology, and issues of advocacy. Even if we disagree ontologically (my understanding of “humanity” is rather Herderian; yours probably isn’t), we can probably mostly agree on what policies should be advocated, and a headscarf ban isn’t one of them.