The question of whether America should be a melting pot or a fruit salad has long been debated, The former would entail a myriad cultures assimilating into a homogenous society, while the latter model would result in a country where culturally diverse people live together, retaining their uniqueness simultaneously. In the face of globalization, this question is now asked of the world. Is globalization a threat to regional and cultural diversity? And if it is, is it necessarily a bad thing? In last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Kwame Anthony Appiah argued against cultural preservation, and for the benefits of cross cultural interaction and globalization, in an article entitled, “The Case for Contamination.” In the article he presents the case that cosmopolitanism of capitalistic work promotes cross cultural education from which we can learn how to best improve our society. There is some truth to these claims, however, Mr. Appiah takes his argument too far and many of his assertions reflect the ways in which our progressive society has taken political correctness to an unnecessary and dangerous extreme. It is true that societies are fluid by nature and that preserving and sometimes limiting people to stereotypes is unfair and contrary to the spread of freedom. But Appiah stretches too far with his claim that religious fundamentalists are more a threat to cultural diversity than globalization. His reasoning: because they promote only one ‘right’ ideal in many cases instead of tolerating and accepting different ones. Mr. Appiah’s own argument can be turned around to serve the argument that globalization does threaten cultural diversity. He claims that, as in mathematics, we don’t understand cultural and moral norms, we just get use to them. And when we get use to them we accept them as normal. Therefore, because the world has constant exposure to western/American values, through the media, commercial products, etc., they are adjusting to our value system. And once they are use to it, they will accept, and surely bring us one step closer to world homogeneity, and away from cultural diversity. This homogenization, whether it is considered good or bad, will happen nonetheless. Globalization is a far greater threat to cultural diversity than fundamentalism. Many religious fundamentalists reject modern cosmopolitanism in order to preserve an older, more traditional, and “purer” culture. Even if these fundamentalists believe there is only one right path for the world, when presented with their strong “thesis,” other people are likely to respond by reassessing their own values and countering with an “antithesis” of their own. We tend to confront fundamentalism with head on diversity and present differences clearer and brighter, instead of moving towards a world where we shy away what makes us different and talk about the common fact that we all drink coke, etc. Cosmopolitanism isn’t as bad of a thing, but it must be kept within limits, and we must keep a prism with which to look through life. The attitude that we just have to get use to moral norms before we accept them undermines the whole idea of morality, and provides a recipe for a potentially chaotic society. The cosmopolitan political correctness, in the name of tolerance, threatens cultural diversity, most of all by stifling discussion and making it impossible to speak out against things that collide with your value system. This is the world that I see Andover promoting. Though we honor, encourage, and recruit diversity, we take this diversity, mush it together, and demand political correctness. It is a practical way to get along for four years, but a dangerous way for the world to progress for long periods of time. Let us confront our differences and criticize what we don’t agree with, and perhaps we will see results we didn’t expect. Let us not be afraid to reconsider our own views, but also not afraid to call on others to reconsider their “theses” as well. This is the true meaning of diversity and the fruit salad. Keeping political correctness at a minimum will be the greatest defense against a homogenous and bland world that cosmopolitanism threatens to create. Doing so will help us build the most diverse, open and interesting world we can.
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