Culture as an assault against freedom

The notion of culture as the distinctive attribute of one’s society, race, gender, is routinely brandied about. Anything that is seen as threatening to the ambient culture is seen as a foreign body which must be eliminated.

In some countries, language is controlled. In most countries, the freedom to establish anything (such as an organization, a school, or any important contribution to one’s way of life) steeped in a foreign language, religion, or tradition, is severely limited.

In that sense, culture is used as a tool of exclusion and discrimination. The key word being brandied about to justify this is “integration”. We need to “integrate” people to our distinctive way of life. What this means is to interfere with the natural process of social evolution, and enforce what one designates as the “culture”.

To understand this, we must understand what “culture” means in reality, instead of maintaining abstractions. It is important to come back to the basic premise that, whatever collectivist concept we may use to simplify our thoughts, society is nothing else than a group of individuals.

As such, when we say that something is part of “our culture”, we mean that most people possess that attribute. If in Quebec we say that the culture includes “the french language”, what that means is that most native people speak french.

It’s a statistical average, nothing more than a descriptive term, and must be treated as such. As long as one is reminded of that fact, the word “culture” is not necessarily irrational. However, people often use the concept as a normative term – a principle which must be followed, a tool of social exclusion and persecution.

This is how most people see culture. And thus someone from Quebec sees the french language as a normative term, and people see no problem in passing laws against non-french advertising.

Their motto is basically “that is our culture, and if you disagree, leave” and the promotion of “integration” (i.e. coercive cultural cleansing). The standard is whatever culture native people have adopted. Thus culture is used, as I mentioned, as a tool of social exclusion. But rationally speaking, this is nothing more than a rule of the majority against freedom of movement.

Man has an inalienable right to go wherever he wants. Asking people to leave if they disagree is never an option, and even less here since movement is precisely at the core of the problem.

One may argue that owning property gives natives the right to restrict immigration, but that is an invalid argument given that the roads are publicly owned. The population is indeed free to protest immigration and shun immigrants, refusing to provide them services (this would be illegal according to our current laws, but perfectly compatible with property rights). However, they do not have the right to stop people from traveling.

As such, what we have is little more than another case of a natural process of social and commercial acceptance, trampled upon by state-motivated coercion. The culture is not a monopoly of political acceptance : it is a fact of life which changes with trends and demographics. Culture changes by natural processes, according to supply and demand, just like any other element of social life. The only thing the state can do is impose arbitrary standards on this natural process and disrupt its optimality.

When you get down to it, the question statists are likely to retreat to is : “what if immigrants steal our culture ?”. But this rhetoric is as meaningless as “stealing jobs”. No one can coerce you to change your language or wardrobe – you decide to do so because of your own standards. No one can steal someone else’s job at gunpoint – employers decide to give jobs to those most deserving. Such terms are veiled racism at best.

Tribalism is still alive even in today’s civilized urban world. “My country right or wrong”, “protecting culture”, “cultural identity”, “immigration policy”, “stealing jobs”, “trade deficit”, all these expressions are our very own tribe-speak in the 21st century.

Worldwide immigration is part of the solution to many world problems. We should welcome such an event. If poorly-developed dictatorships would be emptied in favour of civilised countries, world politics would be changed in incredible ways, not to mention alleviating the suffering of innumerable people. But like any other statist policy, the racism of immigration policies is based on public opinion and fear, not reality. Only libertarianism can provide the solution.