In the Empire Boys' Annuals of my own British childhood, the human world was a diverse place indeed, populated by head-hunters, cannibals, Polynesian bungee-jumpers, ferocious Gurkhas, exquisitely polite Japanese, reed dwellers, cave dwellers, tree dwellers, suttees, thuggees, fellows who inserted four-inch wooden disks into their lower lips and women who elongated their necks by adding a metal ring every year. Now youngsters are assured that though people who live in foreign parts may sometimes look a bit odd, they are really just middle-class Americans in thin disguise. Little Masai boys like to play soccer, says the "Social Science" textbook issued to my fourth-grader. In China they prefer volleyball. Uh-huh.
What happened between Derbyshire's childhood and the educational regime to which children are subjected today? The answer of course is "multiculturalism," the idea that all cultures are equally good -- or at least equally un-bad.
Right now this is a very influential idea. Why? I think the main reason is that a lot of people think that it is the only alternative to chauvinism -- the idea that all cultures that are different from one's own are inferior to it.
Isn't it a little obvious that multiculturalism is not the only alternative to chauvinism? In my opinion, they are actually two forms of the very same mistake: the moralistic fallacy of deciding what the value of something is without sufficient regard for the facts. Multiculturalists edit out facts that are unfavorable to others. Chauvinists edit out facts that are embarrassing to themselves. Both are behaving irrationally.
There is an obvious alternative to both: the modern, scientific world view that has dominated Western thinking for the last century or so(at least until recently). According to this view, whatever your moral evaluation of the world might be, it should be based on the facts. If you find another culture that you can learn from, admit it. If you encounter one that, on reflection, you think is wrong, then admit that too. In neither case should you say "Eeek!" and cover your eyes.
I, too, "celebrate diversity," but I hold that the diverse individuals, corportate bodies, and peoples of the earth are related to one another by varying degrees of contrariety, opposition, and competition. This world that we live in, with its lavish variety of types, is an arena of competition, and not a giant group-hug. In such a world, the only way to think that diverse ways of life are all equally good would be to deny that they are really all that diverse. And this of course is Derbyshire's point.