Who is in favour of monoculturalism?

No-one in Australia in his or her right mind, or who has thought long enough about the issues, or who is simply capable of seeing with any clarity at all what Australia really looks like and who 21st century Australians really are.

This is not my Iranian neighbour here at The Bates Motel, but it is an Iranian citizen of Wollongong:

And this is the ground-breaking research he is involved in: Researchers Invent Tiny Artificial Muscles With the Strength, Flexibility of Elephant Trunk.

In fact, though, my Iranian neighbour is a PhD student in the same field. He is also now an Australian citizen, and just one example of the kaleidoscope that is today’s Australia.

Monoculturalism is, to say the least, a very dangerous path for us even to consider. At the risk of sounding like Cory Bernadi worrying about whether I may want to marry the sheep of my choice, whether ram or ewe, I would venture to suggest it is a path that leads in due course to the mind, if not the actions, of Anders Breivik. See Breivik’s ideology is all too familiar: that’s our big problem.

The desire for a monoculture may well be nostalgic but it can be heard from Folkestone to Bradford. The flight from state schools of many middle-class parents is a flight from "diversity", the fear that dare not speak its name.

At its extreme, it incorporates a desire for a kind of re-masculation via the destruction of women’s rights and a simplistic nationalism. The collision of Breivik’s thinking with al-Qaida’s is a circle of hell. Such thinking is driven by an urge for purity and an absolute certainty. The cultural relativism of liberals crumbles away here. We cannot "respect" those who would gun down our children.

In life, though there may be "passive tolerance", there is often aggressive confrontation between all kinds of people about who has priority. It is rough. And tumble. The excitement of difference. Edgy, if you are young.

And frightening sometimes, too. Breivik’s fear of being taken over was out of all proportion, obviously, but how are people to express their fear of change? Is voicing concerns about the modern world not part of multicultural discourse?

For to express such a fear is to be labelled racist, uptight, intolerant. Parts of the left are still arguing for a multiculturalism that superficially placates but never involves deep and actual change. Breivik’s "crusade" meant murdering children yet he still sees himself as a victim. He is indeed part of the modern world, after all, where the language of victimhood is paramount.

Surely not everyone who feels unheard or uncomfortable is an EDL headcase or will engage in a Breivik-style jihad. But we do need to listen to our fellow citizens instead of preaching this tired doctrine of cultures all fitting together in a beautiful mosaic. Multiculturalism too often means a kind of sampling, both musically and gastronomically, which is lovely for the bourgeoisie but leaves behind a huge and indeed ethnically diverse underclass who do not yearn for modernity and indeed oppose it. This is why we all keep talking about culture because we will not talk about class in a globalised economy. Modernity means we live without illusions but do not become disillusioned. Let’s discuss these illusions instead of wishing them away. This is cultural Marxism for you. This is the very thing Breivik feared.

That is of course all founded on the European experience. I have argued before that the Australian experience of multiculturalism is significantly different and much more successful. See one of my most popular posts and the series of which it is a part.

Everyday life in The Gong

As sure as night follows day events like the recent demonstrations in Sydney bring out the Islamophobes and the closet monoculturalists, as well as the genuinely perplexed and anxious. At such times we need to value even more what we have learned in this country about living with diversity:

AUSTRALIAN multiculturalism is bigger and stronger than what happened in Sydney last weekend. When people come together from so many cultures, it is inevitable there will be some discord.

What happened at the weekend was brought about by a combination of factors that all countries must now deal with, not just Australia.

While the protest was made possible because we have a multicultural society, this eruption did not devalue the powerful dynamic of multiculturalism developing here for more than 60 years. It did, however, remind us that multiculturalism is a work in progress and needs attention to meet contemporary challenges.

Our reaction, as a nation, to the weekend’s events made a good start. The police were there to monitor a peaceful protest, but met violence with resolve. Our political leaders were united in their condemnation of the violence. The leadership of the Muslim community, and the vast majority of Muslims in Australia, were dismayed at what had occurred and also condemned the violence.

And the community as a whole reacted with such revulsion that the perpetrators can be left in no doubt that there is no place for this kind of behaviour here, and never will be.

Far from being an assault on multiculturalism, last weekend can be seen as a sign of the strength and maturity of our multicultural society…

So said Jewish Australian businessman Frank Lowy in Canberra last night.

See also The Australian Multicultural Council  and an excellent book available as a free eBook from the Australian National University: Multiculturalism and Integration: A Harmonious Relationship (2011).

Multiculturalism is a public policy adopted by all Australian governments, with varying enthusiasm, since 1978. It has always been controversial and is currently facing new challenges, especially in the growth of a Muslim community in Australia. However, it has been defined and refined over more than thirty years as a method of settling a wide variety of immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds and has been relatively successful.

Multiculturalism has always been seen as a function of the Commonwealth and has not concerned itself with Indigenous affairs. It has normally been seen as a concern of the Immigration Department and has been less interested in second and subsequent generations of immigrant parentage, who now form a substantial part of the population. Together with the overseas-born, they constitute 40 per cent of the population, although a substantial number are of English-speaking descent.

This study draws on a variety of academic disciplines and results from an ARC Learned Academies grant awarded to the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, which has managed the business side. The disciplines represented here are Linguistics, Political Science, Sociology, Political Philosophy and Demography, rather than the central concern with economic factors which dominates official thinking.

The object is to inquire into precisely what is meant in practice by such terms as multiculturalism, integration, national identity and assimilation. The focus is not simply on the migrant generation in its early years but on long-standing social attributes such as language and religion. Academic studies of the long-term impacts of a diverse migration policy have been neglected in Australia compared with the situation in Europe and North America. While this may be due to the less acute problems here, it remains true that much more needs to be done to illuminate the ongoing issues. This work is intended to start a debate within the formal disciplines but also to suggest directions and issues which have so far been inadequately surveyed by academics and policy makers. To this end a group of academics known to each other for some time has come together to discuss the importance and impact of their disciplines on this important area of public concern.