Is There a Right to Forget? 527
identities. In Part VI, I defend a political argument for apologizing and substan- tive forward-looking forms of reparations. I conclude by suggesting that Barkan’s morality of restitution and Hill’s moderate cosmopolitanism might co-exist in creative tension as we enter the 21st century.
II. Assessing the Right to Forget
In recent years, liberal theorists of multiculturalism have argued that individuals have a right to leave a culture, particularly if that culture is illiberal in nature. These theorists also grudgingly tolerate the existence of those cultures whose members choose to remain embedded in them, since to not tolerate such cultures would violate liberal norms of toleration and anti-paternalism.8 Some liberal multiculturalist theorists also defend a liberal version of cosmopolitanism, arguing that individuals, even those who leave their cultures, can combine their original identities with new identities that transcend groups and national boundaries—using cultural practices and identities as a toolkit of options from which to choose. 9
Hill’s twist is that he declares an individual’s right to forget where they came from. Forgetting is a stronger, starker, and more permanent option. Leaving and rejecting allow individuals to carry with them memories of the group(s) they left, and even allow the possibility of returning. Forgetting is a one-time, non-reversible choice. For Hill, this is necessary if individuals want to “wean” themselves from backward-looking and restrictive ethnic, racial, or national identities that are pernicious forms of tribalism (a general category that includes racism, sexism, heterosexism, sectarianism, etc.). Tribalism is a form of “psychic infantilism” that represents “a sublimated process of transferring the infantile need for parental protection on to the ethnos, the nation, the Volk. The entire weaning process—which is a precondition for maturity—is prolonged and then sublimated; hence our psychic immaturity, which plays itself out in tribal squabbles.”10 Echoing the liberal critique of communitarianism, Hill argues that individuals must be “capable of cultivating identities separate and apart from the ones they inherit from their parents and/or their immediate socialization spheres.”11
8 See Joseph Raz, “Multiculturalism: A Liberal Perspective,” Dissent (1994), pp. 67–79; K. Anthony Appiah, “Identity, Authenticity, Survival: Multicultural Societies and Social Reproduction,” in Amy Gutmann (ed.), Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 149–163. 9 See Appiah, 1994, op. cit.; Appiah, “Cosmopolitan Patriots,” in Amy Guttmann (ed.), For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), pp. 21–29; David Hollinger, Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (New York: Basic Books, 1995); and Jeremy Waldron, “Minority Cultures and the Cosmopolitan Alternative,” in Will Kymlicka (ed.), The Rights of Minority Cultures (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 93–119. For critics of liberal multiculturalism, see other essays in Kymlicka, The Rights of Minority Cultures.
10 Hill, op. cit., p. 109. Hill’s criticism of tribalism echoes the arguments made against multiculturalism by Arthur Schlesinger, in The Disuniting of America (New York: Norton, 1992).
11 Ibid., p. 108. For a critique of communitarianism, one that Hill relies on in making his argument, see Derek Phillips, Looking Backward: A Critical Appraisal of Communitarian Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).