Multiculturalism Does Work: A Better World Is Possible

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Woofer123
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18 Mar 2012, 12:14 pm

“Multiculturalism” has become a loaded term over the last several years. Across the Western world, politicians have recently begun to attack the once widely admired concept, as mainstream conservative figures — ranging from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australian ex-Prime Minister John Howard and British Prime Minister David Cameron have all argued that the project of multiculturalism is a failure. It is, of course, difficult to bring people together while respecting their differences. In many countries, the tension between a national identity and individual cultures and beliefs can dangerously invite assimilation on the one hand, constant conflict on the other. But as the new book “Pax Ethnica: Where and How Diversity Succeeds” points out, it is, indeed, possible to make multiculturalism work.

Over two years and across four continents, historian-journalists Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac have traveled the world in search of harmony – for areas in which different religions, ethnicities and races lived together without violence. Their quest for ethnic peace brought them to Flensburg, Germany (the once tumultuous site of the “Schlesing-Holstein Question”), Kerala, India (a state that leads the country in literacy and healthcare, where Muslims, Hindus and Christians cohabit peacefully), the Russian Republic of Tatarstan (which is both Muslim and Orthodox and is rich in faith and culture), Marseilles, France (a diverse port city with the largest Muslim population in Europe) and finally, Queens, N.Y., which is home to 2.3 million people and 138 languages. Along the way, they tried to answer the question: What is essential for peaceful diversity? 

Salon spoke with Meyer and Brysac about American exceptionalism, the geography of peaceful coexistence and why some cities are simply more peaceful than others.

Historically a country of immigrants, how is our conception of diversity, and the cultural conversation surrounding it, different in the U.S. than in other parts of the world? 

Shareen Blair Brysac: We are an immigrant society. Other than the Native Americans, that’s the only way we’ve populated the country. Everyone’s an immigrant one generation back or further. There’s been a real debate in Europe. They’re not immigrant societies. They have the idea of “guest workers,” that [foreigners] come to work but didn’t become a citizen. And there’s been a real debate in France over assimilation. They want you to be French. They don’t have French-African or Martinique-French, they don’t have hyphens. You’re either French, or you’re not.

When people came to America, it was a long ways away and you didn’t think of going back. That’s changed now, but people that came from Poland or Russia in 1906 after pogroms never wanted to go back or even hear of the old country. Now with Skype and the Internet in general, cheap airfare, cheap international phone calls, people have a lot more contact with their relatives in, you know, Mexico, South America. There’s much more connection, and the hyphens are much stronger. People say, I’m Greek-American, this-American or that-American. Most of us do have some sort of hyphenated identity. In some cases you’re so mixed up it’s hard to say what you [identify with], if you’re Irish American, with a Jewish husband, and you have four different grandparents of four different backgrounds.

Karl E. Meyer: I think the U.S. is the best example of the importance of immigration in the economic and social success of a country. Peak years of immigration coincided with peak years of our economic growth and job creation. A cliché that happens to be true is that diversity has been part of the strength of the society. I think you have a symbolic expression of the whole thing with the president of the United States. If you go abroad and ask, could you have a Barack Obama in England, France, Germany and so on, people look at you and just shake their heads and wonder that you would even ask the question.

[edit: article truncated by moderator]


http://www.salon.com/2012/03/17/multicu ... _be_saved/



Declension
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18 Mar 2012, 12:43 pm

"Multiculturalism" is a silly word. What is culture? It seems that as soon as you get into the specifics of what people mean by "culture", you find that it is either trivial or terrible.

A different kind of wedding ceremony? Trivial.
A lack of commitment to liberal values? Terrible.



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18 Mar 2012, 12:45 pm

Multiculturalism can work but only if the most evolved culture is allowed to control the values of the society. What's happening in Europe is rapidly approaching parallel societies within the same country rather than one unified people, because the difference in values is much greater in the case of European multiculturalism than it was in the case of American multiculturalism.

Europe is more or less the "most liberal" continent we have. Free speech and gender equality are the cornerstone of those societies along with freedom of (or in my case from) religion. When the wishes of the "problematic groups" consists of limiting free speech, limiting gender equality and limiting freedom of religion, then my feathers get ruffled.



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18 Mar 2012, 12:53 pm

TM wrote:
What's happening in Europe is rapidly approaching parallel societies within the same country rather than one unified people, because the difference in values is much greater in the case of European multiculturalism than it was in the case of American multiculturalism.


That's pretty much it. Increasingly, cities are living in ethnic/racial/religious ghettoes with competing interests. They rarely mix and there is often an unspoken hostility that occasionally flares into violence.

There is no European 'multiculturalism', unless you like ghettoisation, segregation and all the problems that unlimited mass immigration bring with the new 'communities'. I'm mainly referring to South Asian immigrants here, as other immigrants tend to integrate a little easier although London has very serious problems with black gun/drug crime and all the rest of it.



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18 Mar 2012, 12:56 pm

Canada's "multiculturalism" is probably the premiere example worldwide


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18 Mar 2012, 12:57 pm

Vigilans wrote:
Canada's "multiculturalism" is probably the premiere example worldwide


And America.



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18 Mar 2012, 1:03 pm

Park Slope *is* a trendy place now. It's taken over from Seattle as the it place.

He's right that multiculturalism is nothing new in the US. Most of the cities were carved up into ethnic enclaves 100 years ago. On a granular block by block level. I'd say the only difference today is that there are fewer ethnic enclaves and people are more likely to live mixed in the same neighborhood. But it hasnt always worked well, or at all. Self-segregation became a death sentence for some cities.

I suspect the SW is going to be a problem eventually. Some Mexicans and Latin Americans have a historical resentment of the US, even after they move here. Not as much as the Muslims of Paris but it's there. The SW will be our Quebec eventually.



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18 Mar 2012, 1:56 pm

Joker wrote:
Vigilans wrote:
Canada's "multiculturalism" is probably the premiere example worldwide


And America.


That's pretty funny


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18 Mar 2012, 2:11 pm

Multiculturalism can mean several things. I am not so much against it as I am against Islam and the EU minions who beleive that every civilization should thrive except for those in Europe and Israel. A true universalism would also make room for those who prefer to keep particular customs (without barbaric practices), which are found in all regions of the world. At risk of drawing from personal experience, I think multicultural existence and mutual understanding has been much easier with the Vietnamese or Armenians then with those from backgrounds rooted in religious fanaticism.

Also, listing Marseille as a sucessful melting pot is not accurate. The safety of that city has not really improved since the western european countries created the worst immigration policies. National Geographic recently published an article about Marseille, portraying it as a utopia on the first few pages before honestly analyzing all the problems it faces. This is how flippant intelligent people in western countries have lately become.

Not to incessantly complain about distortions of utopianism to create such disasters, but if so far only the fringe right opposes this, then I will try my best to provide ballanced and informed critiques.



Last edited by petitesouris on 18 Mar 2012, 10:43 pm, edited 9 times in total.

Woofer123
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18 Mar 2012, 2:23 pm

@petitesouris

Please, enlighten us on why Islam and those Moozlims are so big, bad, and evil.

And also inform me of the urgency to defend Israel from those evil Mooslamic Palestinians.



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18 Mar 2012, 2:59 pm

petitesouris wrote:
A true universalism would make room for individuals who also prefer to stick with the customs they were raised with.


How do you do that whilst retaining the primacy of the host country's culture and not alienating the incoming immigrants?



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18 Mar 2012, 3:05 pm

britain is a great example of the failure of multiculturalism


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petitesouris
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18 Mar 2012, 3:07 pm

Tequila wrote:
petitesouris wrote:
A true universalism would make room for individuals who also prefer to stick with the customs they were raised with.


How do you do that whilst retaining the primacy of the host country's culture and not alienating the incoming immigrants?


I also meant that preserving borders is not racism. I suppose I am mostly against the idea that tolerance cannot be acheived without self annihilating into some amorphous mishmash.



Last edited by petitesouris on 19 Mar 2012, 1:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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18 Mar 2012, 3:07 pm

TheDarkMage wrote:
britain is a great example of the failure of multiculturalism


or the people in it


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18 Mar 2012, 3:08 pm

Oodain wrote:
TheDarkMage wrote:
britain is a great example of the failure of multiculturalism


or the people in it


er no


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18 Mar 2012, 3:10 pm

why?


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