Posted September 16, 2007 in Life • Tags:

The Derb has a curious article up lamenting the passing of a time when it was acceptable to laugh at foreigners.

It starts with an insightful observation that people are “done” at the age of twenty: their views are fully-formed and will not change. From there, it veers into a discussion of various times and places where it was just peachy to perpetuate vicious slurs against “the other”, including, most notably, an unbelievably unfunny piece in the National Lampoon by none other than P.J. O’Rourke that with a straight face provides a categorical listing of every vile stereotype that was current in white American culture at the time. “Niggers”, “kikes” and “chinks” are well-represented. I suppose O’Rourke’s piece was meant to be humorous in some way, but from the hindsight afforded by 2007, I am hard-pressed to imagine that it was anything other than scandalous even as long ago as 1977, when it was written. Derbyshire provides the answer to why this sort of thing isn’t “funny” any more:

Why aren’t foreigners funny any more? The answer is of course: Multiculturalism. When there is a foreign family living in the house next door, and four of the ten people in the office where you work are foreign, it’s hard to crack jokes about foreigners without causing offense. It’s especially hard in a milieu where the ability to take offense instantly and promiscuously, even when plainly no offense was intended, is regarded as a mark of fine and delicate sensibilities, indeed of moral purity.

So the culprit is one of the biggest bugaboos of the right: the dreaded multiculturalism. Those damn foreigners living next door; I knew it was their fault. As if today’s admittedly lamentable penchant to take offense at anything and everything is at all related to the fact that I have “chinks” living on one side of me and “camel jockeys” on the other. Derb then more-or-less approvingly notes China and Japan, two very homogeneous and racist societies, and offers as proof that they haven’t lost their “humor” the fact that they are still comfortable making fun of the White Devil and wearing blackface or whiteface. Funny!

Derb laments the loss of humor that accompanies the rise of multiculturalism, totally oblivious to the fact that “making fun of foreigners” was never particularly funny to begin with. He is a big fan of tribalism: the understanding that “we” are better than “they”. And he has a point. The United States is without any doubt a better place to live than many others around the world. I fail to see, however, why it’s important to reinforce that fact with unfunny stereotypes of people you don’t even know.

You can argue about whether multiculturalism has made us better or worse, but I don’t see how you can deny that it has made us shallower. Are patriotism and multiculturalism even compatible? Having chosen the second over the first, have we not lost a dimension?

Derb doesn’t get that it’s possible to love one’s country without adhering to blind, destructive “patriotism”. In his tribal worldview, that was undoubtedly formed sometime in the middle of the last century per his thesis at the beginning of the article, it’s “us” against “them”. It’s that view that lacks any depth.

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