Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Timothy Garton Ash Reminds Us Who We Are

And what we are.

In the Nov. 22, 2012, issue of The New York Review of Books, Timothy Garton Ash tackles the challenge that he says Western states are failing: How to adapt to increasingly multicultural populations without giving up the liberal ideals on which modern states are founded.

(He's not referring to our American political breakdown of "liberal" and "conservative" when he writes that, but rather to the classic and enduring ideals of liberal Western societies. You know, the ideals that made these countries the richest and most free and powerful nations in the world's history.)

He spends a fair amount of time dealing with how countries are doing exactly the wrong thing in dealing with disparate groups in society. Instead of teaching and enforcing the important overarching ideals (education, tolerance, human dignity), they are selling out those virtues and instead embedding in society the most illiberal aspects of some of these groups (such as "honor" killings and the suppression of free speech). Ash turns that on its head, and in so doing, returns to eternal liberal values that should inform our efforts to incorporate polycultural societies.

Read the article while it's still in front of the NYBooks paywall. Maybe you'll see why Timothy Garton Ash is one of my favorite writers and why The New York Review of Books is one of my favorite publications.

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