For the past several decades, the leading opinion-makers in the media, the universities and the churches have promulgated the view that notions of Western political and economic dominance are the residue of Western exploitation of, and aggression towards, other cultures. Underlying this view—and the corresponding notion that these other cultures are “morally equal” if not superior to the West--is an overwhelmingly negative critique of Western civilization itself.
According to this ideology, instead of attempting to globalize its values, the West should stay in its own cultural backyard. Values like universal human rights, individualism and liberalism are regarded merely as ethnocentric products of Western history. The scientific knowledge that the West has produced is simply one of many "ways of knowing." In place of Western universalism, this critique of the West offers the relativism of multiculturalism, a concept that regards the West not as the pinnacle of human achievement to date, but as simply one of many equally valid cultural systems.
Although originally designed to foster tolerance and respect for other cultures, these sentiments were subsequently captured by the radical left and used for its political ends. Thus the history of Western culture is regarded as little more than a crime against the rest of humanity. The West, say the critics, cannot judge other cultures but must condemn its own.
Though commonly known as multiculturalism, this position is defined by its supporters with a series of post prefixes: postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism. However, it is best understood as an "anti" phenomenon because it defines itself not by what it is for, but by what it is against. It is entirely a negation of Western culture and values: whatever the West supports, this anti-West rejects.
With the demise of Marxism in the late 1980s, multiculturalism emerged as its major ideological successor. What follows is an overview of some of the creed's major precepts:
Western culture was founded on aggression towards others. The whole of Western culture since the ancient Greeks is something to be disowned.
Western literature and arts endorse imperialism. Rather than reflecting “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome,” the Western literary heritage is politically contaminated. This charge is reinforced by a critical apparatus based on gender, race and class. Othello is branded as ethnocentric; Paradise Lost as misogynistic; Hemingway as pathologically heterosexual.
The Western economic system exploits the rest of the world. Globalization is a euphemism for American imperialism. The poverty of the Third World is guaranteed by debts from the International Monetary Fund and the free-market policies of the World Trade Organization.
Victimhood should prevail over individualism. Individualism is both the cause and effect of capitalism, which in its turn produced the imperialism that now oppresses the wretched of the earth. The idea of individual human rights deriving from the Enlightenment is the one great barrier to a collectivist solution for humankind.
In its pursuit of these ideas, the multicultural left has worked hard to deconstruct the traditional history curriculum of American schools. Western history is no longer to be judged by the record of its achievements. Instead, it is to become a story of the struggle of its victims against oppression and discrimination, and of how they have risen to challenge their exploiters. Consequently, the purpose of teaching history becomes an effort to "empower" victims rather than to tell the truth about the past.