Inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style revisited

Through January I posted a loosely connected series on Being Australian. This post is a footnote/update in the light of recent developments in Europe and the UK. See Cameron right on multiculturalism’s failures by Pallavi Jain and Leaders are right to confront failures of multiculturalism by Gerard Henderson, who featured in a lack-lustre episode of Q&A last night. Henderson has been known to defend Aussie Multi in the past:

I used to be a strong supporter of multiculturalism and, at times, was critical of John Howard’s apparent disdain for the concept. However, on reflection, I am coming to the view that some of Howard’s critique was essentially correct and that Cameron and Merkel are saying what needs to be said in Europe.

The concept of multiculturalism worked well enough, provided it was understood that all groups within Western societies supported the system of democratic government and the rule of law that applied equally to all citizens. For the most part, this was the reality of Australian multiculturalism throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

The problem is that, particularly in western Europe, the rise of radical Islam has led to a situation where a small minority of Islamists reject the West while choosing to live within Western societies, where they enjoy economic, political and religious freedoms along with health and social security benefits…

And there Gerard nails it: the current discussion and reaction is about Islam. Indeed, to quote Gerard, it is really about “a small minority of Islamists .”

Now Gerard also said:

The concept of multiculturalism worked well enough, provided it was understood that all groups within Western societies supported the system of democratic government and the rule of law that applied equally to all citizens. For the most part, this was the reality of Australian multiculturalism throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

I would not stop at the 1990s. I would say it still works and will still work so long as we all understand that multiculturalism in Australia has NEVER been a blank cheque. It has always had the bottom line that ALL Australians have to respect our freedoms and our laws. Just because your granny was a cannibal in the old country you cannot plead cannibal rights in Australia. The same goes with desiring to blow other people up for whatever reason.

I am very wary of the dark forces on the right of the current debate. Go to any advocate against multiculturalism in Australia and you will find applauding neo-nazis in the wings, and often not just in the wings.

What we should be asserting is that a prime western value is the freedom to be who you are, so long as that does not threaten the freedom of others. That includes the freedom to wear hijab of you so choose. We are free to be Australian in a variety of ways, and what we have called “multiculturalism” really is just recognising that there is more than one way to be a good Australian.

Of course there are contested issues. For example, should there be under some circumstances a place for sharia law in a country like Australia? Obviously not if it involves stoning people to death, an ancient Jewish custom now in favour in parts of the Islamic world. But we do have precedents for allowing non-mainstream cultural laws to be practised here. One, to mixed reviews, has involved Aboriginal customary law. Another, less contested because we are either used to it or don’t even know about it, is The Jewish Court of Australia. The latter could be an analogue for a place within Australia for aspects of sharia. Why not?

Moral: let’s all keep calm about this, unlike the Europeans, and look at what we have achieved in the area of migrant settlement with maximum humanity (at our best) with some pride. Perhaps others could even learn from us.

Sadly, I don’t think others have much to teach us.

So, Gerard, perhaps you were right earlier. Think about it.


69 thoughts on “Inclusive multiculturalism Aussie style revisited

  1. Hey, I think Europe is reading your blog, Neil! Do you remember how we discussed how multiculturalism leads to self-imposed segregation of groups who wish to keep the cultures that they fled from alive? How it leads to many diverse people in a land with no real bonds to one another – not even a shared culture?

    Scarcely one week later, the frickin’ pm of Britain spoke almost the very same words! I suspect your blog is more influential than you know. If even Britain gets it, the rest of Europe is sure to come around.

    Thanks, Neil. This is a terribly important issue, and I’m glad that you’ve gotten people talking about it. Perhaps now we can get people to start sharing the same culture as that of the country in which they live, so we can live in peace and harmony. You may say I’m a dreamer… On second thought, no you may not.

    (apologies for bailing on you and leaving our last discussion unfinished. I am having personal problems out the wazoo, and can’t find the thread where I apologized for calling you anti-semitic to finish up. And this climatic ice-age we’ve entered into in the last few years is only exacerbating the problem.)

  2. (I commented on the wrong thread, and it ruined my joke. I was trying to imply that you and I deserve credit for Cameron realizing how horrible and damaging to a nation that multiculturalism is. I know that you support the idea of having people live next to each other without sharing a culture, or anything at all other than location. But the idea is so wrong that even a British PM can see it. That’s why it would have been funny… if I didn’t flub it 😦 )

  3. You have no idea at all what I have been talking about, Kevin. That us crystal clear from your “joke”. My whole point is that here multiculturalism — as we practise it — is not a theory but an established fact. It also works most of the time. It has been under constant scrutiny and tweaking for a generation now.

    The Europeans have a lot to learn.

    Sorry of course about the troubles you are having.

  4. In a country of around 20 million of whom around 5 million were born overseas, and with just about every language and culture on earth here somewhere, to look at Australia now and say its multiculturalism is a failure is the height of (dogmatic) idiocy. Yes, it is, and always will be, a work in progress. But a failure? Come on…

    Here’s a bit of the work in progress as seen on one of our best talk shows, Q&A:

    But then during the recent Queensland floods:

  5. I can’t speak knowledgeably about Australian multiculturalism. Maybe your country is the one country that can pull it off!

    I was speaking about the failed multiculturalism in places like Cyprus, Britain, any country where the muslim culture is practiced by >20% of the population, Holland, the old Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Phillipines. You know, everywhere else where a significant minority lives according to a culture different from the majority.

    In a country of around 20 million of whom around 5 million were born overseas…

    Neil, perhaps we are speaking about different things? Traditional Australia shares its culture with many nations – GB, western Europe, America, some parts of Africa, for example. It doesn’t count as a multiculturalism if millions of people come from those countries. It also doesn’t count as multiculturalism if the immigrants choose to assimilate with the nation they’ve decided to join.

    How many people in Australia practice a culture that the majority of Australians do not share? Like islam, Amish, or the traditional aborigine way of life? Hasidic Jews? That’s the number that determines how multicultural Australia is, as groups like those will never assimilate.

    And you also have to consider how aggressive the other culture is. For example, if 10 million Buddhist monks moved to Australia, I doubt it would cause much trouble :).

    Lastly, I’m glad that even muslims come together with the rest of Australia to help in times of crisis as you’ve shown in your video, but that doesn’t say much. Even I sent a small amount of money (times are rough here in La) to help out, and I’m certainly not part of your community. It’s just something humans do. I don’t think you should read any more into it than that.

  6. Some parts of Africa? You mean South Africa under apartheid perhaps? Actually there is some truth in that, and there you see how assimilation became a dirty word in this country, because it too often connoted assimilation by coercion.

    I really don’t want to go down the whole argument about assimilation, acculturation, integration and citizenship yet again when I have been over that territory so many times, not only in that “Being Australian” series in January but as part of my professional responsibility as a teacher of English as a second language to overseas students, migrants and children of migrants over a twenty year period.

    Australian multiculturalism has two basic points.

    1. All Australians need to respect our institutions, laws and values.

    2. Australians have the freedom to express their identities, practise their religion, raise their families in the way they think best, continue links with their original countries and cultures so long as these do not endanger our way of life, retain and teach their languages so long as English is accepted as the national language, and so on…

    People tend to acclimatise in various ways, some by becoming hybrids, others by staying within circumstances where they can feel relaxed and comfortable, others by turning their backs on their family culture. It’s a constantly shifting, dynamic thing. To take just one element, marriage across racial and cultural divides is more common here than in most western countries.

    Being able to accommodate, tolerate and accept otherness is a sign of a healthy liberal democracy. Obsessive monoculturalism is anal retentiveness writ large, chronic insecurity or rampant nostalgia in those who feel it is necessary, and utterly impractical anyway.

    In Surry Hills I was one minute’s walk from a mosque. Here in Wollongong I see in the distance every time I go shopping the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere.

    It’s all good.

    Why should we let a minority of a minority — that is, Muslims who are in any way a threat to anyone else — freak us out so much that we abandon our own enlightenment values of individual freedom and the right to be different?

  7. Thanks for your generosity during our recent floods.

    Were you similarly moved by the far worse floods in Pakistan? If not, why not?

    Or does “humanity” no longer apply when Muslims are drowning?

    That mosque in Brisbane was simply showing solidarity in a national crisis, thereby proving they are as much part of this country as anyone else.

  8. Kevin, if you ever read my stuff, you will know that I disagree sometimes with Neil’s of words. He uses multicultual as an ism and I refuse to. Worse, each time he does I want to attack.

    If we put words aside, each country is different. Australia is a country of 22 million people. We live next door to Indonesia, the largest muslim country in the world with a projected population of over 300 million people by 2050.

    We live in a regional world where our foreign policy is dominated to a degree by India vs China vs the US. Australia stands or falls by our ability to integrate, to harmonise different peoples. We have to balance all the time.

    I don’t give a damn about old arguments such as South Africa. I care greatly about our survival. I don’t want to live in a Fortress Australia in which we have to devote every element of our national resources just to protect, to surive.

  9. Jim, there is no doubt adding -ISM to anything has an amazing effect. I choose not to avoid the word “multiculturalism” because that is the word people use, often in a negative way.

    I am proud of what the word has represented here and make a determined effort to reclaim it by constantly defining what it has meant to us here in Australia and still means, if we will let it.

    That we are getting something right should be trumpeted from the battlements, surely. I think we have an important contribution to make to what is too often a poisoned discourse, along the lines of “when you hear ‘multiculturalism is divisive, dangerous to babies, etc, you might just be hearing shit…”

    It’s a multicultural world. Find another world if that worries you, but if you learn to live with it at home with some success you might just be giving the world a valuable lesson.

    I deplored Howard’s avoidance of the M word — and the S word — as you know. I saw both as simply a reverse political correctness, no more to be commended than what it sought to replace. We ESL teachers resented being told one day — as we were — that we were not allowed to use the M word any more and that this had ultimately been handed down by the Great John in Canberra. Particularly fatuous too given that our everyday reality was, um, multicultural…

  10. “Some parts of Africa? You mean South Africa under apartheid perhaps?”

    I do not. I mean countries in the southern part of Africa all the way up to Kenya.

    1. All Australians need to respect our institutions, laws and values.

    That’s where multiculturalism fails everywhere it is tried. No need to move on to part two. It fails at part one.

    Why should we let a minority of a minority — that is, Muslims who are in any way a threat to anyone else — freak us out so much that we abandon our own enlightenment values of individual freedom and the right to be different?

    Most of the thousands of reasons that I can offer you involve explosions and death :(. The rest involve misogyny and oppression of non-muslims. (You wrote ‘any way’. Did you mean ‘many ways’? If so, I agree with you!)

    Jim Belshaw, I’m not sure I follow you. I have not heard that Australia will stand or fall based on your ability to integrate. I was under the impression that you were a very stable country with little chance of falling. One of the most stable, in fact. Are you sure that I’m wrong?

    In any event, I am all for integration. It is in fact what I’ve been preaching since this thread began. Neil is not. He wants multiculturalism, which always leads to segregation. Just look to your cities if you doubt this. I am against segregation, even the self-imposed type that multiculturalism creates.

      • No, Neil. Lots of people from other cultures speak English. Lots of people who share our culture don’t. Brazil, Chile, Portugal, Spain, Italy… don’t make me list them all, because I’ll accidentally leave some out and feel bad about it.

      • So Australia should not welcome any migrants who are not Christian?

        No Muslims?

        No non-Christian Chinese, like my friend M who once wanted to put “communist” as his religion in the census, coming from Shanghai as he does?

        Or should such folk be asked to renounce everything in their past when they become citizens?

  11. Kevin, stop telling me what I’m advocating when it clearly is NOT what I am advocating.

    In fact I am rather reporting on what the position is in Australia rather than advocating anything — except perhaps recognition of the degree of tolerance — and even better, ACCEPTANCE — which has been developing here. I remain proud of our achievement.

    So get rid of whatever bees you might have in your bonnet under the word “multiculturalism” and just attend to what I am actually saying.

    It seems you didn’t even notice that most of the people in this morning’s Mercury social page are Muslim and many of the women are wearing the head scarf. I am glad you didn’t notice, because that is my point. The chances of these photos appearing in a European newspaper without comment would be… zero? Here they merit no remark except text relating to the art exhibition they were attending.

    They are relaxed, they are comfortable, they are Muslim and they are Australian. They are quite the opposite of what all your presuppositions about Muslims in Australia — especially Muslim women — seem to be. But there they are in living colour here in Wollongong, and possibly sipping tea somewhere and not plotting terrorist atrocities as I write these words. They show every sign of being as “assimilated” as they need to be.

    In fact Jim and I aren’t so far apart with the idea of integration.

  12. Kevin, just to amplify a little.

    Australia is a stable country. Further, relative to the size and indeed original composition of our population, Australia has had one of if not the largest immigration programs in the world. We have managed this with relatively little social disruption.

    The Australian outcome is unusual in a world marked by ethnic and religious divides; ethnic as much as religious politics has been a dominant world feature since the end of the cold war, most damaging where ethnicity and religion combine. Many of the disputes have long historical roots. In other cases, dominant cultures have struggled with new arrivals.

    Any society has to decide how to accommodate new arrivals. Societies with existing significant minority groups, ethnic or religious, have to work out an accommodation between them and the dominant group. With an aging population in many countries, states from Japan via Russia to EU countries are conflicted over immigration and the need for change.

    Regardless of the words used as wrapping whether assimilation or multicultural, the Australian experience has had three key features: an Australian ability to distinguish between individual and group; a willingness of the dominant group to make adjustments to accommodate minorities; and an expectation that the new arrival will fit in over time. However, that fitting in is based on a small number of things that allows the new arrival plenty of scope to maintain their own traditions.

    I have not seen a proper historical analysis on the last point. For a number of reasons, it gets lost in the way that things are debated in this country at the moment. In essence, new arrivals are expected to observe Australian law, get on with their neighbours and, desirably, learn some English. That’s about it.

    This may seem a long way from the point, but it sets a context.

    Australia is entering a new period of change, one that will see further major changes in the composition of our population. To my mind, we simply can’t afford to get bogged down in certain debates.

    The reason that I chose Indonesia is that it’s a very large Muslim neighbour, if also with a big minority Christian population. At present, the Indonesian proportion of the Australian population is tiny, overwhelmed by Chinese, Indian or British in the migration numbers. However, it’s going to grow. As it does, so will the Muslim proportion of the population.

    Let me put some very rough numbers on this. By 2050, I expect Australians of Indonesian origin plus Indonesians living in Australia to total between 5 and 8% of an Australian population of perhaps 40 million. Taking into account migration from other sources, I expect a Muslim proportion of the Australian population of between 15 and 20%.

    These are big numbers, big changes.

    • Well said, Jim. I won’t disagree with you on what you’ve said in this comment (other than to mention that the US receives more immigrants every decade than the entire population of your great country – per capita though, you are surely correct).

      And if you can integrate your immigrants into your society, then you have achieved the greatest ambition a country can have. But if you cannot, and instead choose to host many different cultures (aka multiculturalism), then you are doomed, much like every other nation that has tried this*.

      I firmly applaud you for seeing the writing on the wall. I just hope you guys ignore Neil’s desire for multiculti and focus on bringing all your people together as one. Otherwise, you won’t be a nation. You’ll just be groups of disparate people living next to each other, which is the ultimate result of multiculturalism. Civil wars soon follow.

      *Sri Lanka, East Timor, Kashmir, just to name a few. I’m trying to keep the places local to aussieland. Many more have tried and failed in the middle east.

      • South Africa is trying it. Let’s hope they don’t degenerate into the monoculturalism Robert Mugabe practises in Zimbabwe instead.

  13. Jim:

    …Regardless of the words used as wrapping whether assimilation or multicultural, the Australian experience has had three key features: an Australian ability to distinguish between individual and group; a willingness of the dominant group to make adjustments to accommodate minorities; and an expectation that the new arrival will fit in over time. However, that fitting in is based on a small number of things that allows the new arrival plenty of scope to maintain their own traditions.

    I have not seen a proper historical analysis on the last point. For a number of reasons, it gets lost in the way that things are debated in this country at the moment. In essence, new arrivals are expected to observe Australian law, get on with their neighbours and, desirably, learn some English. That’s about it…

    Rather a good account of what I still call inclusive or Australian multiculturalism, which is not a doctrinaire affair at all.

    Perhaps, to adapt from Deng Xiaoping: multiculturalism with Australian characteristics.

    Or to adapt Bert from Scrubby Creek: a fair go, mate, for all who sail on her… 😉

  14. Yes, Neil, the horror of multiculturalism is really just a secret plot to promote Christianity. By me, the agnostic. Sheesh. Where do you come up with this stuff?

  15. The comment you reply to here has now moved to the appropriate spot.

    Your being an agnostic is fine, but why don’t you spell out in clear language just what group is so beyond the pale they couldn’t possibly become good Australian citizens?

    Is the answer “Muslims”?

  16. I would say ‘adherents to the tenets of the koran’. As you know, many muslims have not read or do not understand that evil book and simply need to be shown the horrors it contains. They can likely be civilized. But the true adherents cannot. Like the acolytes of the global warming religion, they can’t be turned. Also communists, anarchists, racists. None of these should be allowed into any civilized society.

    Of course it’s difficult to determine who is a true believer in the koran. Until you can tell the difference, the best move would be to not allow muslims at all. IMO only. It’s you’re country to trash as you wish.

    • Thanks for revealing how your obsession has framed your thinking on this topic. Fortunately most Australians will write you off from this point on.

      • You are welcome! I think you are confusing the word ‘obsession’ with ‘fact’ though. Hey, maybe they mean the same thing in your liberal mind!

        My position still stands, and I’m glad you didn’t try to refute it. You seem like a nice guy, and I’d hate to see you make yourself look bad.

  17. Kevin/Neil, I won’t get involved in your joint chat, temptation not withstanding!

    Kevin, it’s not quite true that the US admits more migrants each decade than the entire Oz population, but you are right on the absolute scale issue.

    Factually, I think, the longest running constitutional entities in global history have been multi-ethnic. The equation between nation, nationality and ethnicity is reasonably recent; the nation state in the modern sense is recent. So there are a fair number of models around.

    Religious fundamentalism is not new, nor is the desire to impose the right view on others regardless. I guess its how you try to manage it.

  18. Very wise, Jim, because at this point the discussion always spirals into an endless regression.

    Reminder to Kevin: sidebar

    Before you even think of commenting, read this post.

    I’m just sick of arguing!

  19. France joins in!

    “French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday declared that multiculturalism had failed, joining a growing number of world leaders or ex-leaders who have condemned it.

    “We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,” he said in a television interview in which he declared the concept a “failure.””

    Jim, maybe multi-racial leads to stable democracies, but not multi-ethnic. That’s just another way of saying multicultural, unless I misunderstand your meaning.

  20. France has never been multicultural. It wouldn’t know what the word meant if it rose up and bit it on the bum.

    Next you’ll be telling us that the lovely Berlesconi in Italy has seen the light too.

    Three cheers for monoculturalism! See North Korea, Zimbabwe…

    • Amin Maalouf 2010:

      Identity and Mutual Perceptions – Amin Maalouf

      It is crucial, in my opinion, that everyone should accept the different components of one’s own identity. What seems apparent, however, is that the evolution in the last years has not been going in that direction.

      In a world of neighbouring cultures, the major issue is how to manage the coexistence of cultural diversity. The management of neighbouring cultures requires relentless attention, deep reflections and creative solutions. It might be too premature to talk of a Mediterranean identity, with people continuing to define themselves in terms of their nationality, religion, language and social belonging. Indeed, the Mediterranean identity rests for now; a political vision and an intellectual construction that has so far inadequately been translated at the level of real perception of individuals and groups. In looking towards the future of the Mediterranean area, managing immigration remains a priority area of action. The issue is negatively affecting the intellectual and political atmosphere of riparian countries. Although a healthy management of coexistence is a major benefit, it is through encouraging migrants to accept their ‘double belonging’ and unique capacity to play the role of link between originating and host countries.

      When we look to the reality of mutual perceptions, the problem of trust between people of the North and South of the Mediterranean has been developing and increasing over the last decades. It is connected to the real issues which need to be resolved and to a negative perception of the ‘other’. For a significant improvement to take place over the coming years and decades, we must focus action on resolving the problems through a balanced and sustainable solution for the Middle-East crisis, and work tirelessly to change perceptions and mentalities.

      This is the responsibility of a range of stakeholders including political leaders, the intelligentsia, teachers, and the media. In terms of the latter, we must continue to work through initiatives such as the ‘Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award’ to ensure not only the professional quality of reporting but also the ‘ethical’ quality. The criterion by which we judge such a prize does not seek political correctness in the realm of our daily confrontations, but calls on the use of proper words, images and approaches that may resolve incomprehension, misunderstandings and hatred.

      Concerning the construction and validity of the Union for the Mediterranean, it may, in my perspective, be too early to judge. Nevertheless, a healthy approach is to wage and build on the deep aspirations of people for dignity, well-being, freedom and democracy. One must constantly thrive for essential values, which is the price for trust in solid and sustainable foundations.

      AMIN MAALOUF is a Lebanese novelist and journalist, and has been Chairperson of the International Jury for the Anna Lindh Mediterranean Journalist Award.

      He is one of the clearest thinkers on questions of identity and cultural pluralism in the western world.

      How many times, since I left Lebanon in 1976 to live in France, have people asked me, with the best intentions in the world, whether I felt “more French” or “more Lebanese”? And I always give the same answer: “Both!” I saw that not in the interests of fairness or balance, but because any other answer would be a lie. What makes me myself rather than anyone else is the very fact that I am poised between two countries, two or three languages and several cultural traditions. It is precisely this that defines my identity. Would I exist more authentically if I cut off a part of myself?

      To those who ask the question, I patiently explain that I was born in Lebanon and lived there until I was 27; that Arabic is my mother tongue; that it was in Arabic translation that I first read Dumas and Dickens and Gulliver’s Travels; and that it was in my native village, the village of my ancestors, that I experienced the pleasures of childhood and heard some of the stories that were later to inspire my novels. How could I forget all that? How could I cast it aside? On the other hand, I have lived for 22 years on the soil of France; I drink her water and wine; every day my hands touch her ancient stones; I write my books in her language; never again will she be a foreign country to me.

      So am I half French and half Lebanese? Of course not. Identity can’t be compartmentalised. You can’t divide it up into halves or thirds or any other separate segments. I haven’t got several identities: I’ve got just one, made up of many components combined together in a mixture that is unique to every individual.

      Sometimes, after I’ve been giving a detailed account of exactly why I lay claim to all my affiliations, someone comes and pats me on the shoulder and says “Of course, of course – but what do you really feel, deep down inside?”

      For a long time I found this oft-repeated question amusing, but it no longer makes me smile…

    • “France has never been multicultural.”

      Phew. You haven’t been to France in a while, I’m guessing. If you go, you’ll see burning cars commemorating multiculturalism all over town… at least in the big ones.

      The Christian Amin Maalouf sounds like a nice guy. It’s sad that he can’t embrace the place he chose to live with all of his heart, but there’s little doubt that his kids will be able to. The most lebanese thing you will see from them is perhaps rooting for Lebanon at the world cup. Christians assimilate in Christian or atheist lands. Again, I doubt that if Australia were overrun by hordes of Lebanese Christians, that it would have much effect on your culture. You might get some new words…

  21. Good morning Kevin, I avoid using the word race because I don’t know quite what it means and it acquired so many overlays over the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century.

    Multicultural and multi-ethnic can but need not mean quite the same thing.

    Democracy introduces a new twist because it can lead to oppression of minorities by the majority or to irreconcilable splits between different groups.

  22. Since I lived in Little Lebanon for twenty years where there was a mix of Maronite Christian and Muslim, I already know what it’s like. That’s just one experience of the success of Australian multiculturalism.

    In France very little space has been given to the expression of their culture by migrants. France has even had academies defining what is and is not French — no English-speaking country has ever done this. Their culture — lovely as it is and as the language is — has been remarkably arrogant.

    … burning cars commemorating multiculturalism all over town…

    What a deeply flawed, tendentious interpretation that is, Kevin. There are far more likely explanations.

    The unrest you refer to in France has been no better or worse than what happened in the past in Los Angeles or Chicago.

  23. We learn to live with cultural pluralism in the world at large or we destroy each other. In a clash of civilisations there will be no winners.

    Learning how to cope with cultural pluralism, even to find plenty there to celebrate, is the best hope for our nation states and ultimately for the world at large.

    Again I am very, very, very proud that my country finds itself in the vanguard in this — which is in no way to pretend that contested issues and problems never arise.

    I just see yours as the mentality of the gated community, Kevin, and I find that tragic.

    Compare: Paul Vallely: How monocultural does the Prime Minister want us to be?

    …The shift began after the traumatic terrorist attacks of 9/11. Many of those who like to think of themselves as liberals then began exhibiting a new intolerance, demanding that minorities should assimilate more. Multiculturalism must not be allowed, as the Prime Minister now says, to encourage different cultures to live separate lives, sometimes behaving in ways that run counter to “our” values.

    But he, like so many illiberal liberals, has resorted to caricature to make his case, citing practices like forced marriage as an example, a practice that is, as distinct from arranged marriages, generally condemned as unacceptable in most minority communities.

    Some of Mr Cameron’s practical measures will be uncontroversial among minority groups. Few will object to a requirement that immigrants should learn English or that the school curriculum should celebrate “a common culture”, if it is common. Ethnic communities with unusually high levels of youth unemployment will welcome the National Citizen Service to bring 16-year-olds from different backgrounds to live and work together.

    But they will bridle at the unnecessarily confrontational tone with which he warns that “Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries”. Withdrawing public cash from Muslim organisations which do not subscribe to particular values on “integration or separatism” sends an overly dogmatic message. Will they be required to endorse British foreign policy in Afghanistan or Israel? Or will he, like other right-wing governments in Europe, introduce prohibitions on Islamic dress?

    The truth is that Britain has had too little multiculturalism. And serious multiculturalism requires policies such as the “racial identity nurturing” to be found in schools with large black populations. This shows black kids other options than rap music, boxing, drug-dealing or other crime. It also shows them black physicists, doctors and businessmen as role models who motivate pupils to do much better at school. Lifting ethnic minorities out of poverty is the way forward, not finger-wagging.

    Such kids form relationships that spill over into the wider community. One school in Moss Side in Manchester has 37 nationalities. Black children there do Irish dancing, and white kids play in a Jamaican steel band. There are similar projects in the Asian communities in Oldham and Leicester.

    Multiculturalism is about creating a highest common factor society. David Cameron’s approach will doom us to a lowest common denominator one.

  24. “We learn to live with cultural pluralism in the world at large or we destroy each other. In a clash of civilisations there will be no winners.”

    Good GOD you sound like Neville Chamberlain. You eve misspell civilization like he did. What’s next? Al you mini um?

    FWIW, Here’s the rub. You say, “Multiculturalism is about creating a highest common factor society”, but it is in fact the opposite of that. Multiculturalism is about preserving the most horrible aspects of a society simply because it is part of some foreign culture. Monoculturalism is indeed about taking the best of each culture and agreeing to make it part of the monoculture. I’m bothered that you can’t see that since it’s so obvious. But then I remember that you also believe that CO2 is evil, and realize that it’s not my fault that you can’t comprehend stuff. It must be genetic.

  25. I say “, “Multiculturalism is about creating a highest common factor society”? No, but I think it’s worth thinking about.

    “Monoculturalism is indeed about taking the best of each culture and agreeing to make it part of the monoculture.” That’s original. It’s also very confused. Who decides on what is “the best part”?

    As a matter of fact in Australian multiculturalism there has long been a tendency for the “worst parts” — bigotry, for example, to weaken as people adapt and hybridise — as they do.

    But I am no longer sure you even know what you are talking about, even though you live in one of the world’s most successful multicultural societies.

    You sure understand that “Islam is EEEVILL!!!!” — or think you do, not realising that you are helping the extremists every time you say that. “See,” they may say, “that only proves the West hates Islam! Just look at this Kevin from Louisiana. That’s how much Americans hate you… We rest our case, boys, now come and join the jihad to defend Islam.”

    For the record, I have never ascribed “evil” to CO2. You are so good at substituting a parody of what I said for what I have ever actually said. In fact I would be very cold right now if CO2 wasn’t up there doing its job. Guess it’s just a matter of when there are too many feathers in our CO2 doonas. You know something, Kevin, I have no problem at all in understanding the basic science of climate change. If I ever have a problem all I have to do is look up some reputable scientists. I am not sure you are one of them though.

  26. Multiculturalism is not about hybridizing. Just look everywhere it’s tried. Monoculturalism is, of course, but not multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is about keeping cultures alive, not blending them.

    Did you say that bigotry is a part of monoculturalism? I think you did. That means that this conversation has reached its logical conclusion. Otherwise, next, Hitler will come out in the conversation. I’m sick of that guy.

    • …My parents arrived here during the Second World War, Polish-Jewish refugees from Nazism. Their lives, families, friendships and country were ripped apart. Both my mother’s parents and her brother were murdered by the Nazis; other relatives spent years fighting or being imprisoned by them, and what was left of the family was dispersed. My parents left Poland from necessity, arrived in Australia by accident, and stayed because, after the Communist take-over of Poland, they couldn’t go home. They came to love this country and to participate actively in its affairs, but that was later. I mention these far from exceptional facts not to claim some exotic authority for my views, nor – in accordance with a budding Australian tradition – to launch a prizewinning novel but because they inform the way I think about things, what I think about and – above all – what I think matters. Combined with my birthplace, they have made me what I am: a congenital cultural hybrid, a hybrid from birth. If you prefer, a mongrel. My parents were already hybrids in Poland, since they were culturally both Polish and Jewish. So, their lives were already complicated. They became Australian hybrids differently, however, over time. What they came to learn and expect, and grew to be, in Australia interacted with their already formed personalities and cultural identities. Their hybrid condition was acquired, as is that of most, if not all adult migrants: they become different from what they once were while remaining different from those among whom they now are. Since over 20 per cent of Australians were born overseas, and 40 per cent were either so born or their parents were, there are a lot of us about.

      There is also a third sort of hybrid, and I’m one of them too. I study the societies of post-communist Europe, and their fate matters a lot to me. So I’m also a vocational hybrid: coming from one world, and preoccupied with another. That also has consequences. When I’m there I think of here; when here, of there. That makes comparisons ever-present and unavoidable. All hybrids are affected, some afflicted, by overlapping cultural residues within them. They often discover to their surprise, rather than as a matter of deliberate choice, aspects of their personality – their sense of identity, belonging, sometimes longing – which define them and have moulded them, whether they like it or not…

      Conservative Australian Professor of Law, Martin Krygier. But what would he know? That’s just his actual life he’s talking about in this country after all. Not nearly as convincing as some eccentric defending an idiosyncratic definition of “monoculturalism” after all.

  27. Milosevic was a fine exponent of monoculturalism. No need to go back to when I was born.

    So was Pol Pot.

    They were both opposed to having more than one culture under their regimes.

    You seem to think “melting pot” = “monoculturalism”, instead of “monoculturalism” being “one culture, one folk, one…”


    “Melting pot” in fact was an early response to the reality of having people of many backgrounds in one country. You could say the “salad” metaphor took over from there. Now we have developed so far in our understanding of what constitutes a person’s identity that we’re actually allowing people to be different! Oh wow! Such a revelation!

    And guess what? People can have different religions, cultures, customs, clothing and still be part of the organism called a society.

    That way you even get to accept American Muslims as equal members of your great country.

  28. Touche! Neil, I expected a Hitler reference from you about now to explain your segregationist multicultural position, but you went with Pol Pot. AWESOME! I know it’s silly to bring such an evil person into this discussion, but you did it in a way that suggests that multiculuralists dislike him, and the rest of us support him! Truth be damned, huh?

    I hope you’ll make the effort to understand what Pol Pot was REALLY about, but I suspect you won’t. No matter. The leaders of 3 of the 4 leading European nations have. And they’ve found multiculturalism lacking. My eyes are on Italy. If THEY admit the truth, then you can keep your hippie crap and I won’t care. Idiocy needs a place to thrive. Perhaps Australia is that place (apologies to non-Neil Australians).

    • For readers’ benefit. Kevin has his own definition of “hippie”, as you might expect, but I thought you should know that at no time in my life have I ever remotely resembled a hippie, have never lived on a commune, am quite definitely not an anarchist, and so on. Just so you know.

      For Kevin, “hippie” means, I suspect, anyone who is even slightly out of touch with, say, Ayn Rand, or Fox News. Or who believes in social justice, or that individualism may not always be the highest value.

      Kevin also has it as a matter of faith that the words “climate” and “scientist” cannot go together, so that “climate scientist” is thus a nonsense and “climatology” even less reputable than astrology. These are minority views in the scientific world at large, but may be popular in Louisiana.

  29. For the record, if you keep this silliness up, we’re going to remove your ‘continent’ status and turn you into an island. While I’m not pals with many ‘climatologists’, I’m friends with many REAL scientists. We can do it :).

    Just sayin’.

  30. Monoculturalism – Definition
    Monoculturalism is the practice of actively preserving a culture to the exclusion of external influences. It should not be confused with a homogenous society, which is one with racial uniformity, but some possible exposure to foreign culture. An example of a homogenous society of this sort would be Japan, where American post-war cultural influence has modified the traditional society to some extent. Iceland; North Korea and Spain under Franco are examples of monoculturalism. Usually a monocultural society exists due to undeveloped communications structures; geographic isolation or political isolation (usually under a totalitarian regime).


    Yes, I know what Pol Pot was about — the eradication of all rank and difference by force and the transfer of everyone to the countryside.

    I notice you avoid considering the example of Milosevic.

    And on multiculturalism:

    Descriptive multiculturalism

    Multiculturalism is a term often used to describe societies with a proliferation of different cultures. Around the world wealthy countries have large numbers of immigrants with their own cultures and languages. This multicultural reality has caused problems in some nations, but also has led to cultural exchanges that have benefited both groups. For instance the introduction of the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent to the United Kingdom has revolutionized British eating.

    The term “multicultural” can also be used to refer to localities in cities where people of different cultures co-exist. The actions of planners and those engaged in formulating public housing policy can result in some areas remaining monocultural, often due to pressure groups active in the local political arena. This term is especially current in the UK.

    Official multiculturalism

    Multiculturalism can also be a prescriptive term which describes government policy.

    In dealing with immigrants groups and their cultures, there are essentially three approaches-

    Monoculturalism: In most Old World nations, culture is very closely linked to nationalism, thus government policy is to assimilate immigrants. These countries have policies aiming at the social integration of immigrant groups to the national culture. This is typical of nations that define themselves as one and indivisible and do not recognize the existence of other nations within their midst.

    Melting Pot: In the United States the traditional view has been for a Melting Pot where all the immigrant cultures are mixed and amalgamated without state intervention. However, many states have different language policies within the union.

    Multiculturalism: a view that immigrants, and others, should preserve their cultures and the different cultures should interact peacefully within one nation. Today, this is the official policy of Canada and Australia.

    No country, both in past or present, has fully fallen into one of these categories. For example, France has made efforts to adapt French culture to new immigrant groups, while Canada still has many policies that work to encourage assimilation.

    Others, such as Diane Ravitch, use the term multiculturalism differently, describing both the Melting Pot, and Canada’s cultural mosaic as being multicultural and refers to them as pluralistic and particularist multiculturalism. Pluralistic multiculturalism views each culture or subculture in a society as contributing unique and valuable cultural aspects to the whole culture. Particularist multiculturalism is more concerned with preserving the distinctions between cultures.


    Just to restore sanity to the discussion.

    And for what must be the millionth time lately: this is what Australian multiculturalism is about:

    Multiculturalism in Australia

    What is multiculturalism?

    In its simplest form, multiculturalism can be translated as ‘many cultures’. However, the modern meaning of the term multiculturalism is used to denote cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity. This understanding of multiculturalism originated from Canadian politics, and was adopted by Australian government from the mid 1970s. Presently, multiculturalism is a fundamental aspect of the Australian national identity, with diversity being recognised as a positive force.

    The history of multiculturalism in Australia

    The first inhabitants of Australia were the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Cultural diversity increased with the arrival of European settlers in 1788. The gold rush of the 19th century attracted further immigrants from around the world, including a sizeable Chinese population. Nonetheless, just prior to World War II, most Australians could trace their heritage to British and Irish origins. As such, diversity was viewed within the context of assimilation to European values. However, after the war, there was a significant increase of immigrants from Greece, Italy, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Turkey. This increase, alongside changing attitudes in the 1960s and 1970s towards immigration and multiculturalism, ensured that diversity became increasingly celebrated. In recent decades there has been a growth of immigrants from Asia, creating an international reputation of Australia as being culturally diverse and racially tolerant. Today, some 43% of the Australian population are born overseas, or have at least one parent born overseas. Further, over 200 different languages are spoken in Australia. In short, multiculturalism has become a feature of Australian life.

    A multicultural policy in Australia

    The importance of multiculturalism is recognised and celebrated by the Australian Government, who have developed a cultural diversity policy entitled ‘Multicultural Australia: United in Diversity (2003)’. This policy emphasises the advantages of inclusiveness and diversity from economic, cultural and social perspectives.

    Underpinning the policy are four basic principles:

    o Responsibilities of all – All Australians have civic duties to uphold the basic tenets of Australian society, in turn ensuring that diversity flourishes in society

    o Respect for each other – All Australians have the right to express themselves, subject to the law, and the reciprocal obligation to respect the expression of others.

    o Fairness for each person – All Australians are entitled to equality of treatment and opportunity, free from discrimination

    o Benefits for all – Diversity as a means of securing benefits for all Australians

    Australian multiculturalism, tolerance and terrorism

    Australian multiculturalism is tied in to the country’s civic values of tolerance and equality. This link is becoming increasingly important given fears arising from terrorism and terrorist attacks, particularly in relation to the Australian-Muslim community post September 11. Community harmony and social cohesion, achieved partly through the recognition of multiculturalism, are imperative to combating terrorism and ignorance, and the fear both create.

    That excellent summary is from —

    — which addresses “antisemitic” slurs a while back.

    That is the policy I not only support but celebrate. Kevin seems to think I invented it down on the commune after dropping too much acid.

    Not for me to solve France’s problems, but an approach to migrants a bit more like ours and a bit more justice for them in the housing and workplace stakes could have averted a whole heap of trouble extremists are only too pleased to exploit.

  31. Boy, those definitions need some updating.

    Anyway, I just heard that the beeb is catching flack for trying to say anti-multiculturalists are like pedophiles. I’ll keep you updated :).

    • Those definitions accurately reflect how the word is used in the English language by responsible writers.

      The statement from B’nai B’rith accurately reflects Australian policy in 2011.

      If you want to define multiculturalism as “Islamist commie subversion perpetrated by anti-capitalist leprechauns and jihadis in the pay of the UN and the Church of Global Warming” I can’t stop you, but anyone who takes notice of your thoughts from then on would be very foolish.

  32. Update: Yup, it’s true. The BBC has stated that the people who don’t believe multiculturalism is a good thing, or who don’t strictly adhere to the tenants of the Church of Global warming are no better than pedophiles.

    Before this, I didn’t think the beeb could sink any lower than they already were. I was wrong. Next they’ll be suggesting that in fact the democracy of ISRAEL is the bad guy, and Hamas is nothing but saints. Oops, too late, they already did that.

    If you want two cents, I think you guys should start driving on the correct side of the road as a sign that you don’t accept this kind of malarky from your master island.

  33. You are welcome! As usual. But we all know the truth about that one. When you can blame warm or cold, sun or shade, rain or drought, or pretty much any something and that something’s exact opposite on man-made global warming, you’re dealing with a religion, not a science. See here.

    I wonder if multiculturalism falls into the ‘I just want to believe it and don’t care what the results are’ category. We’ve seen it fail over and over and over again, much to the chagrin of the thousands or possibly even millions who have died because multiculturalism was tried and failed so massively. Yet some of us, specifically you, seem to think that it’s a good thing! I’m starting to think that it might be a religion capable of ignoring all facts. You know, like islam.

    Take those 1960s flower decals off of your walls and wake the hell up, Neil! 😉

  34. Kevin, for a man whose definition of “monocultulturalism”, it turns out, is a variation on the melting pot view of immigration which in turn is about 50-100 years out of date, it ill behooves you to counsel me about immigration and multicultural issues in my own country, which you obviously cannot or will not understand.

    I am neither defending nor condemning the the mythical beast called multiculturalsm regularly evoked by right wing ultranationalists and neo-nazis in Europe, and Australia for that matter, not to mention Tea Party deadheads in the USA.

    But I do understand and endorse our own policy on immigration, because it is reasonable and it works.

    Go and indulge in your monochromatic world somewhere else, Kevin, because I am totally pissed off with how banal, ill-considered and generally ignorant your views so often are. Even on climate change there is not one point you have ever made that I have not found totally rebutted by real scientists elsewhere.

    I find it painful that you may reflect the views of a majority of Americans, but hope you do not. The world would be fucked if it were so.

    Goodbye. I’ve stopped playing.

  35. Heh. Just to clarify, my definition of monoculturalism is EXACTLY the melting pot which you deride. But I must say I’ve never told you how to run things in your own country. I’ve been pretty clear that it’s up to you do to what you will in your own country. I’m jut trying to convince you not to fall in the hole that Europe is in. The decision is entirely yours.

    And again just to be clear, you DO defend multiculturalism. Repeatedly. I’m trying to get you to cut it out.

    Hehe, you brought the nazis into the conversation :). I knew you could do it :).

    Neil, you make me smile. Sorry I can’t reciprocate.

  36. Neonazis, you idiot, and they are a very real factor in Europe My statement is factual. Here for example is Stormfront, a notorious Neonazi site, about multiculturalism.

    Not that I think you are a neonazi and I know you are in no way racist — but you do seem unaware who is in bed with your views.

    Don’t come back. You’ve had plenty of scope to parade your shit uncensored.

    Why not revive your own blog?

  37. Neil, are you quite serious? I will of course honor your request if you mean it. I was under the impression that we were just having a spirited debate. In any event, I don’t want to continue to spoil your view of the world through rose-tinted glasses. Some would say that the world needs that type of childlike belief in the impossible.

    Drop me an email if you change your mind. You’ve got the address. Until then I will consider myself banned from your site :(.

    (FWIW, I DID revive my blog with a great quote from the magnificent Mahatma Ghandi, just a few days ago. He also makes excellent rice, if extra-long grain is your thing.)

  38. Yes, I am serious.

    I don’t want to continue to spoil your view of the world through rose-tinted glasses. Some would say that the world needs that type of childlike belief in the impossible.

    What a patronising prick you are!

    You pride yourself on independence of thought, and resistance to “hippiedom” (whatever that is), but your views are off-the-shelf US Right commonplaces which you probably get at WalMart.

  39. This is jumping in where I don’t belong, but I don’t want to see you two play no speakies!

    Kevin, Neil has strong views. You have been stirring him on in no uncertain fashion. I don’t always agree with Neil – you will have seen that. But in responding to you, Neil has tried to present evidence.

    My interpretation of that evidence may not be the same as Neil’s, I have been collecting material from you both to write another post, but Neil has been responding in a substantive way.

    I can understand Neil getting upset. You said in one comment that you wanted to maintain relations, but then immediately added petrol! Life’s too short for this.

    • Jim, my mind is made up. Tell me why Kevin isn’t a troll.

      As Thomas said on Facebook: “Neil, you have patience far beyond necessity sometimes”

  40. Jim, I also think it is fair to say that compared with many others you may read I have extraordinarily moderate views. There would be plenty of genuine lefties who would chide me for that.

  41. This is a difficult one Neil, and it bears upon the current on-line opinion imbroglio.

    First, this is you blog. You have to decide how to respond to comments. Arguably, you should have called the line a little while ago.

    Secondly, Kevin as a guest on your blog has been plain insensitive. It’s not been a discussion, but a stream of roughly overlapping opinion.

    I commented in the way I did because you and Kevin seem to have got value from dialogue in the past. This time you both seemed to spiral of the planet.

    To call Kevin a troll just replicates comments like “Some would say that the world needs that type of childlike belief in the impossible”. Mind you, I could be accused of the same!

  42. Neil, the fact that you and I get on and so often reach common ground is because we are prepared to discuss issues. It is a genuine dialogue. If you adopted the approach of the lefties you talk about, the ideologues, there could be no common ground ground.

  43. And there you have it, Jim.

    Kevin is an ideologue of the right. His preferred modes of argument are repetition of his “party line” and mockery. I don’t think that is unfair to him.

    None of that means he does not have some sterling human qualities, as indeed do many left ideologues I know.

    It does mean that any discussion with him turns into an “infinite regression”, as I noted when you first entered this thread.

    He first entered my blog some years ago from Tim Blair’s blog. That may tell us something.

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