Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Europe less than thrilled with the outcome of its experiments in multiculturalism

The opening paragraph pretty much establishes the author's bias in the following report, but what follows is fairly unbiased and certainly thought-provoking:

"Imagine a former American president publicly grumbling that it was a mistake for a certain group to have been allowed to immigrate to the United States - the Irish, say, or Jews, or Pakistanis. The outrage would be justifiably loud. But a former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, now 85, recently declared that Germany should never have invited in all those Turkish guest workers in the 1950's and 60's, because, he suggested, multiculturalism can work only in an authoritarian society."
The article details the Germans' concerns about an alien, and often hostile, culture block in their midst, and notes that the Germans do not want to get rid of them, but simply want them to assimilate. And therein lies the flaw in the writer's assumption, as set out in the first paragraph. That is, the author, Richard Bernstein, assumes that America was always a multicultural paradise -- but it wasn't. First, there were enormous tensions with each new wave of immigrants. Second, and more significantly, America resolved these tensions by forcing assimilation (both by carrot and stick) on the new immigrants. Through education and enticement, it made the immigrants into Americans, with American values. This was possible because those who lived here, and those who wanted to live here, imagined that the best possible thing was a dominant cultural paradigm. You wouldn't be "Italian-American," you'd be "American (of Italian descent)." The emphasis was entirely different. However, the multiculturalism of the 60s said that immigrants had to be left alone to "practice" their culture and that, indeed, the dominant culture had to bend over backwards to accommodate these practices. It sounds great in theory, but then you end up with interesting things like honor killings, female genital mutilations, and ghettoized groups that, denied of partaking in the dominant culture's wealth, is hostile to that culture and wishes to destroy it. And by the way, the fact that the immigrant population is denied access to the dominant culture is less a result of prejudice and more a result of multiculturalism itself. That is, by not forcing immigrants into the dominant culture, by not forcing them to speak the language, by not forcing them to dress the same, you keep from them educational and economic benefits inherent in the dominant culture. (I could say that same about that benighted experiment here, bilingual education, but I'll leave that for another post.)