multiculturalism in the canadian state

James M. Blaut 70671.2032 at
Mon Nov 22 18:44:43 MST 1999

Jim Craven and list: on "multicultural":

I take it some of you haven't followed the recent postings in which the
term "multiculturalism" came up in a very specific context. I criticized
Joao Monteiro for describing the people of East Timor with disrespectful,
chauvinist  language and, when I objected, he attacked me for my
"politically correct" "multi-culturalism.":

On Fri, 19 Nov 1999, James M. Blaut wrote:


First, I don't find you answering my question about the cultural judgements
you make concerning Timorese:

>I find it disturbing that you talk about Timorese with phrases like
> --Guzmao "a romantic and sentimental character,"
> --Beloved "to the point of worship,"
> --"The east-timorese are very sensitive to this kind of nobility
> and distinguish it with blind loyalty and ritual submission."
> --"They are kind of monarchic."
> --" these are cultural traits very difficult to eradicate."

You reply: "I still have problems understanding what's so disturbing about
these statements..."

What is disturbing in this language is a hint of POSSIBLE unintentional
ethnocentrism of the sort we, in the US, are familiar with in judgements
about Native Americans, Africans, and others. A Portuguese Marxist would
presumably -- and I hope this is true of you -- be ultra-sensitive to
cultural judgements made about a former Portuguese colony."

      Joao replied, using the word "multi-culturalism":

"What I'm beginning to be ultra-sensitive about these days is of the shitty
"multi-culturalist" political correctness that implies it is allright to
sexually mutilate young girls or for the timorese to sit on the floor with
their hands posed before their king. The capital sin would be the
eurocentric arrogance of condemning this, or even mention it exists."

I answered:

> Joao:
> You don't like "multi-culturalism." I hope that the meaning of this
term is> different in Portugal than  it is in the US, becvase NO
progressives here are opposed to multiculturalism, and for very good

...adding, in a second post

"MacD: I said "in the US," where the term "multiculturalism" is used as aan
opposition to and defense against racism, against the attack on bilingual
education, etc. I don't know about Canadaian uses of the temr. If the
liberals are *claiming* that multiculturalism *prevails* in Canada when
obviously it does not, that is a very different issue. In the US no
progressive that I have every met or heard of is opposed to

Now, it is clear that reactionaries use the term "multiculturalism" as a
cover for policies that claim, falsely, to be culturally "fair" to
minorities. Just like they use the terms "reform" and "progressive." They
also use "multicultural" to disguise forced assimilation. It is also
clear,as MacDonald and others have pointed out, that Canada has enshrined
the word officially in a "MulticulturaLism Act" which is hypocritical.

But progressives in the US are busy fighting the racism in schools and
communities, most notably the efforts to impose "English only" laws and to
eliminate equal opportunity, bilingual-bicultural education, Black Studies
programs in universities, affirmative action, oppression by La Migra,
forced assimilation, and the rest of that shit. This is generally called
today, in 1999, a defense of multiculturalism. In the context of the
political strtgle against racism in the US, everyone on the left is in
favor of multiculturalism -- as opposed to Anglo MONO-culturalism.
Conservatives try to coopt the term, as they have done with "progressive,"
"reform," "democratic," and so on. That is something altogether different.

It seems as though Joao either uses the term in a different way or he wants
to defend the language he uses to decribe Timorese: "blind loyality and
ritual submission," etc. When I object, he shouts "politicvaly correct
multi-culturalism" (see above).

Jim Blaut

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