There are different ways of seeing things. Different cultures read in different ways, as any propagandist worth his salt can tell you. Worldwide public opinion is currently divided over whether the recent war in Iraq should be read as a classic example of liberation – or as the latest expression of Western imperial adventure in the Middle East.
One organisation that is well accustomed to mediating between such arguments is the United Nations. The recent Iraq crisis exposed the UN to a barrage of criticisms from almost every political angle, including George W. Bush’s notorious threat that the organisation would be rendered irrelevant if it failed to enforce its own resolutions on Iraq in a manner approved of by George’s administration.
Now that the war is over and the UN was neither able to endorse it nor prevent it, the question of the UN’s utility is even more pertinent. We open this, the Liberation Issue of the LIP, by allowing Edward Mortimer, Director of Communications in the office of the UN Secretary-General, to put his case forward for the relevancy of his employers.
However fractured and imperfect the United Nations may be, its spirit of cross-cultural dialogue should surely be commended by all those who claim to be supporters of multiculturalism. The LIP rejects the idea that absolutism – epitomised in the coarse nature of wartime propaganda – provides a healthy model for interaction on any level.
In Britain, one of our most respected living philosophers takes a different view. Roger Scruton is a self-confessed opponent of both multiculturalism and globalisation. In a challenging interview with Tim Glencross, he outlines his suspicion of the UN and his opposition to its multilateral ideals.
By contrast, Ziauddin Sardar, co-author of Why Do People Hate America? provides us with a strong defence for multiculturalism on the basis that it is ‘all about subverting the power of Western civilisation.’ For Ziauddin, the process of encouraging multiculturalism is primarily a way of resisting Western domination on an international scale, and transforming our precepts internally.
Despite the uncertainties of our current historical moment, Ziauddin is hopeful that we can work to create a future based on a dialogue, rather than a clash, of civilisations. Learning to accept that no-one has a monopoly on the truth – that we all see things differently – is surely the first step.