Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Pluralism vs Multiculturalism

A lot has been made of the success of multiculturalism in Australia. We have vibrant communities of Greeks, Italians, Maltese, Polish, Finns and Vietnamese etc that have been attracted to this country over the last 50 or so years and in just a couple of generations these people have blended into the Australian population and enhanced Australia in the process.

The same can be said of the United States. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence includes the famous line "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." That Americans have steadfastly worked towards upholding these truths in spite of an economic strength that could diminish their importance in the public psyche has been a powerfully attractive force for immigrants from all over the world.

As the inscription on the Statue Of Liberty states:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
To immigrants arriving by ship into New York in years gone by the first glimpse they'd have of America would be the Statue Of Liberty, complete with shackles lying at her feet signifying freedom from oppression and tyranny. Stirring stuff, indeed. No wonder it's by far and away the most popular destination for immigrants.

Equally, Australia's earliest settlers were, famously, convicts transported from the 'old country', many for the most trivial of crimes. That people from all walks of life worked together to create the great nation of Australia is one of the reasons that we have such a classless, fair-minded society today. This is also powerfully attractive for our immigrants.

Whereas Australia and America are truly egalitarian societies, open to anyone to enter and try their luck, European nations have been much less accommodating of their immigrant populations. Worse still, their increasing secularism has seen the values that made them once great be eroded away through the push to cultural relativism and equality of outcome with the obvious consequence of a spectacular failure to achieve truly multicultural societies.

So why have European nations failed so miserably where the US and Australia have been so successful?

The answer lies in a reinterpretation of multiculturalism by European elites that has seen it lose pluralism from its definition. Pluralism and multiculturalism are now completely different things, as I shall explain.

Melanie Phillips has a very important piece in which she talks about multiculturalism:
Many people think multiculturalism just means showing respect and tolerance to other cultures and faiths. If that were so, it should be unarguable. We should all support respect and tolerance. But that's not what multiculturalism is at all. It holds that all minority values must have equal status to those of the majority. Any attempt to uphold majority values over minorities is a form of prejudice. That turns minorities into a cultural battering ram to destroy the very idea of being a majority culture at all. And so, since no culture can assert itself over any other, liberalism cannot assert itself as a dominant cultural force. Instead society must fragment into a kaleidoscope of equal — and opposing — values, and liberal values must give way to their opposite.
Regular readers will recognise the similarity to what I have written previously.

The key difference between pluralism and multiculturalism is this:
  • Pluralism is based on exceptional values as determined by the host society
  • Multiculturalism is based on lowest common denominator values

As Phillips points out, "...all minority values must have equal status to those of the majority." While the intellectual intention of multiculturalism is to raise the values of immigrant societies up to the norm of the host society what it achieves in practice is to dull, or completely remove, those exceptional values from each society thus creating what I refer to as lowest common denominaterism. All values must be equal and all outcomes must be equal.

Let me give a sideways example of how this equality of outcome and culture creates a lowest common denominator result and kills off exceptionalism.

Let's say that your humble blogger is entered in a 100m race against world record holder Asafa Powell. Equality of outcome dictates that I am to be given a dirty, great headstart due to my lower ability (brought about by years of self-indulgent beer drinking and pie eating that I'm sure Asafa would be jealous of) so the race starts with me at the 30m mark and Powell back at 100m. The gun goes off and Powell is away and racing, chasing the not inconsiderable lump of blogging humanity in the distance. I take off slowly, making sure not to do myself an injury in the first 10 metres of the race, build up a pretty impressive head of steam through the second 10 metres before hitting the wall at the 25 metre mark and staggering to the line completely spent after 30m, collapsing into the hands of my trainers and the welcome hose of an oxygen bottle. Powell, meanwhile, is running like a man who's seen a ghost and in a terrific burst over the last metres of the race manages to equal his 9.77s world record (!) and, amazingly, finish in a dead heat with me.

The question is - have I been raised to Powell's exceptional standard or has he been lowered to mine? The answer is obvious. Multiculturalism does not raise overall societal values, it lowers them to a standard below what existed previously. As an aside, affirmative action programs have the same effect, which is logical when you think about it.

Pluralism creates a society in which the best of all inputs continue to integrate and improve baseline values. Drawing again from Melanie Phillips:
Pluralism allows for many different groupings but, unlike multiculturalism, does not try to impose one uniform status on all of them. It allows a thousand flowers to bloom, with minorities forming communities of faith, ethnicity or culture within a society — but under the overarching umbrella of a national identity to whose core values everyone signs up. It is only by having that overarching set of common values — monogamy, freedom of conscience, equal rights for women, freedom of expression — that a society coheres as a common project.
Australians often refer to the success of multiculturalism in this country. In the new age definition of the term what we really now mean is that our success has been based on pluralism - getting the best out of everybody "...under the overarching umbrella of a national identity to whose core values everyone signs up" - rather than allowing the worst values of our immigrant populations to take root, such as has happened in Europe.

It's possible that the success of Australia's and America's immigration policies has been due to the fact that we're both large countries, far away from our original European homes, which has meant that there has been greater opportunity for people to take advantage of our wide open spaces.

While European nations' socialist politicians preach cultural equality - in order to attract/buy the immigrant vote, as far as I can see - the reality is that they hold on to the cultural identities that have distinguished them from their physically close neighbours for a millennium or more and shut out immigrants completely.

How is it that the integration of France's Muslim population has been such a debacle? After all, this is the country whose official motto is "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity). There are two issues at play here. Firstly, your average Frenchman is more than just a little bit racist, an unfortunate truth that needs to be recognised. Secondly, employment conditions in France are so restrictive that once an employee is hired into a full time position the employer is virtually stuck with them for life. In order to sack someone for even the most hopeless incompetence or laziness requires the employer to go to court and make their case. France has allowed millions upon millions of unskilled North African Muslims to settle in their country. How are they going to get a job when they have little relevant skill and an employer has such difficulty moving them on if they don't work out? Of course it's a debacle.

While France is in bad shape what's going on in the UK makes it look like a raging success. Returning again to Melanie Phillips:
Many Muslims accept it (British standards), and manage to reconcile their faith with acknowledging that sharia law must give way to English law and values. But a third to a half of British Muslims want to live in Britain under sharia law, even though its precepts —such as polygamy, the subordination of women or the death penalty for apostates or gays —are totally inimical to western society. And multiculturalism gives them the muscle to insist that their practices must become mainstream.

...Above all, Britain must not allow the encroachment of sharia. Yet it is paving the way for sharia. There are now areas of the country under the informal parallel jurisdiction of sharia law. A blind eye has been turned to honour killings, forced marriage and polygamy – now polygamous men settling in Britain are even receiving welfare benefits for their multiple wives. We have sharia-compliant mortgages; our tax authorities are considering recognising polygamy for inheritance tax purposes; and the government is encouraging London to become the global hub of Islamic banking, despite the fact that such arrangements will force those who make use of them to conform to sharia law.
In a secular society the individual is left to choose what values they want that they deem important, creating a situation where no fundamental values exist that are worth fighting for. The UK is probably now the most secular society in Europe.

You can't fight bad values with no values and, thus, extreme Islamist ideas have gained a strong foothold in the country, aided and abetted by a compliant, culturally-relativist, socialist elite.

European intellectuals look down their noses at Americans and, to a lesser extent, Australians but how does it come about that the Muslim population in the US has been able to integrate so seamlessly and enjoy the terrific economic success that sees them earn more than the average US worker?

Pluralism is now a completely different thing to multiculturalism. One is based on strong, positive values. The other is based on appeasing everyone with a lowest common denominator approach.

Which society would you rather live in?

6 comments:

Henry said...

I'd like to disagree with a feature of your post.

The Italian, Greek etc communities are a perfect example of integration.

Multiculturalism is a failure. It is a failure always, everywhere across the world.

Countries with multiple ethnicities are always riven with strife. Why would this want to be encouraged ?

Immigrant groups should be encouraged by government to merge with the majority ethnic group rather than remain separate.

Jack Lacton said...

Good point, Henry.

I meant that pluralism has led to successful integration but didn't use those words clearly enough.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't ignore the fact that the societies of the USA and Australia only came about through the genocide of the indigenous population. The first immigrants were not into either multiculturalism or pluralism - they simply attacked and did their very best to eliminate the previously existing culture. They were pretty successful at that.

Jack Lacton said...

Anon,

You must have gone to University and done an Arts degree to have such a negative view of the world.

If genocide occurred then how is it that both populations of indigenous peoples are so high?

You really are a moral idiot.

Anonymous said...

You know, there's loads of Jews in Europe. They are in every country. I guess that means the Holocaust never happened, eh?

Jack Lacton said...

Anon,

Fair point.

As an aside, you might be interested in the percentage of the world's population that is Jewish - 0.23% - from the World Factbook 2007.

Given all the blathering about Jews running the world you'd have to say that the other 99.77% of us aren't that effective if that's the case.