[This piece is actually the expansion of ‘Discussing Norway and Breivik’ which invited a reasoned conversation about the recent terror massacre. In there I included 25 notions related to that atrocity, and to the growing public debate on multi-culturalism and Islam that is ongoing in Europe and starting in America. Here is my contribution to the first on this list of 25 that invites other views.]
OK, let me take a stab at #1 - The right of a culture to endure and thrive in its homeland.
To give some structure to what follows, I accept that a society is “a system of human organizations generating distinctive cultural patterns and institutions and usually providing protection, security, continuity, and a national identity for its members.” In short, a society is unified by a government that is sovereign over a territory and has a population that views itself as members of one or more cultures.
A culture is a set of attributes that are expressed, maintained, and valued by groups of people that may belong to one or more societies. The minimal set of such attributes are language, religion (or worldview), ehtnicity, traditions, values, mores. The strength of a culture depends on how many such attributes are acknowledged, shared, and enforced. Most of such attributes are not codified and pass from generation to generation through families and interaction in intimate mono-cultural communities. Therefore, a culture is what its adherents say it is, and the survival of the cultural meme requires the maintenance of one or more critical masses of such subscribing populations.
I covered the basic arguments for the modern status of culture in ‘Liberty’s Twilight’ and ‘Multikulti and ‘people like me’’. And since we are here talking about rights, another slippery concept, I point you to the piece on Rights and Privileges that was included in the university course on critical thinking that I taught to journalists and media producers. With this background, let me dive in.
The short answer is that a culture, as a group of people, has no intrinsic rights. Only the members of a culture – the people as individuals - have rights. Therefore, if a culture can be maintained by individuals acting in concert while exercising their individual rights, the culture survives so long as its members wish. Cultures die through dilution of its critical masses, dilution that is caused by people leaving and/or by extra-cultural people arriving to forcefully comingle.
What is usually omitted in such considerations is the right of people to gather exclusively, and to discriminate who belongs and who doesn’t – in sum, the right to exclude whom they wish by legal redress or simply through shunning. And since these rights exist only to the extent that they are maintained by force, a supportive government is required. But to repeat, governments do not directly guarantee cultures (since they are not codified), but only provide a society’s legitimate guns to guarantee individual liberties that may be used to maintain a culture.
So the bottom line is that a culture has no intrinsic ‘right’ to endure, let alone thrive, in its homeland or anyplace else. A culture survives only to the extent that it is actively practiced and protected by individuals coming together in a manner which to them provides value and enhances their quality of life.