Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The failure of multiculturalism

That's what it's being called: the failure of multiculturalism.

The continuing violence around Sydney's south west is nothing of the sort. However it could be considered an example of the instability inherent in multiculturalism.

By this I mean that in any multicultural society, or any society that allows or encourages a range of beliefs, opinions, cultures or subcultures or identities, will likely inevitably suffer some internal conflict as a result. This is compounded by the inevitable generalisations we in terms of culture and behaviours based on perceived race.

This is part of the argument by individuals who claim that multiculturalism is a untenable system, and is the root cause of many of society's ills.

However, this is not the case. In fact, multicultural societies are more likely to be peaceful, prosperous, less corrupt and with less crime. This is because the basis of multiculturalism is the fundamental ideology of liberalism and tolerance, which together make for a more robust society as a whole.

You only have to look at multicultural societies worldwide, such as Australia, Britain, Singapore and the United States to see that they are often leaders in their region in terms of stability, economic prosperity and standard of living.

I would never for a moment suggest that these societies are not without their problems, nor that some of these problems are not caused by multiculturalism.

What I am saying is the alternative, of monoculturism, is an inferior alternative to multiculturalism.

Furthermore, in the globalization, post colonial, world, monoculturism can only be artificially enforced. There will always be pressure from cultures nearby and around the world to influence any nation. The alternatives are to implement artificially, top-down, barriers to prevent cultural influence (called 'pollution' by anti-multiculturalists), such as restricted immigration, restricted media or more insidious means, such as violence or genocide. The other alternative is to accept multiculturalism to varying degrees, and suffer from the inherent issues in the system.

Australia is an excellent example of a modern multicultural society, and one that is for the most part a remarkable success, despite its obvious problems.

Ultimately, there can be no perfectly harmonious society, mono- or multicultural. However, the principles of tolerance, acceptance, and appreciation of the values held by other cultures, makes for a more peaceful world overall.

Now, I would never suggest we be entirely culturally or morally relativistic - I still believe that there are a broad range of fundamental human rights, many of which are summed up by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I also believe that all cultures are open to comment and criticism based on these fundamental human rights. Outside of the rights that all humans, irrespective of race or culture, possess, then cultural relativism is appropriate, as it mandates only the arbitrary elements of society and behaviour.

Those who look upon the present violence and tension in Sydney's south west, and claim that multiculturalism have failed, are letting the tail wag the dog. Those who propose that it's time to forego tolerance have already done so by abandoning multiculturalism, and it is those very attitudes that have lead to the violence.

We should not use individuals who are ignorant, violent and subscribe to an insular tribal culture, as examples of the failure of multiculturalism.

And I'm not only talking about Anglo-Celtic Australians who pursue an agenda of 'white' cultural supremacy - I'm talking about Australians from any cultural descent who forgo the grander precedence of multiculturalism. All Australians, whether they be of Anglo descent, Lebanese, Vietnamese, or any other, should consider themselves Australian first, and should subscribe to, and contribute, to the broader Australian culture.

There is clearly a dominant Anglo-Celtic culture in Australia, and that needs to be respected as a sub-culture in the same way as those who subscribe to that culture should consider it to be one of many, and not immutable.

None of this is easy. We all strive for identity, and cultural links are a primary way to do that. Few of us want to be culture-less. However, through a combination of tolerance and respect for other cultures, and an intolerance for any behaviour that is unlawful or contradicts our fundamental human rights, we can improve harmony. It'll never be perfect, but it can be a robust, peaceful and rich society.


At 8:20 pm , Anonymous Mr T said...

A lot of ordinary, good Australians will tell you privately that immigration is causing a lot of problems such as crime; will tell only privately for fear of being labelled a racist. Where is the tolerance for free speech in that?

I don't think those that are steering this country have ever properly consulted the Australian people about the way our country will look in fifty years. Some cultures don't mix well with Western society, Islam is a prime example.

As for multicultural societies being the most peaceful. How on earth can that be. Without going into detail: has anyone ever heard of Rwanda? Many more examples can be sited.


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