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To Hell With Culture

"The corruption of man," Emerson wrote, "is followed by the corruption of language." The reverse is true, and a century later Georges Bernanos had it right: "The worst, the most corrupting lies are problems wrongly stated." How pertinent this is about so many matters present, including the use of the word culture. My conservative friends now say that with the monstrous perils of communism gone, the main problems of this country are cultural. They mean multiculturalism, and other allied matters, too: the counterculture, rap culture, pop culture, media culture, the cultural elite, the culture of violence, etc., etc. They mean well (at least some of them do), but their language is wrong and, consequently, so is their thinking. When people speak of "multiculturalism," what they really mean is multi-civilization, whose proponents want the coexistence of altogether different civilizations within the same country. Only: What kind of coexistence? The same goes for the other terms, which are even more meaningless. Think, for instance, of that current cliché: "the culture of violence." It is not violence that threatens us; it is the prevalence of savagery. It is not the state of culture that we should lament; it is the breakdown of civilization. This is not a semantic argument. Can one speak of a civilization of violence (or of savagery)? No, because the opposite...

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