Multiculturalism | A Modern way of living | Or is it?

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

As the name suggests, multi means more than one, and the word culture is derived from the French term, which again is derived from the Latin term “colere”, meaning “to tend to the Earth” and grow, cultivate, or nurture.

Mathew Arnold

In the 19th century, the Humanist and English poet as well as essayist Mathew Arnold (1822-1888) used the word “Culture” about an ideal of human refinement of “best that has been thought and said in the world."

When humans started to evolve, they began to live in herds, which transform later into tribes and gradually different civilizations emerged, flourish, and consequently disappeared, like Mayans.


Humans started to domesticate animals, like goats, dogs, etc. The arrival of crops has changed lifestyles. Now we can store the food and have plenty. The learning and customs were passed from generation to generation, as different cultures evolved.

History has taught us that a multi-cultural society is richer, diverse, and genetically enhanced. Take the example of the Indian-subcontinent, due to different invasions and rules the diversity over there is not hidden from anyone. A major impact was made by the British making it more ethnically diverse.

Multicultural communities started to grow since Alexander the Great invaded Persia and conquered it. Somehow, people had learned to adapt along with their foreign rulers, and during that and even after they are long gone, a new culture, and sometimes even new languages evolved with time. A better example will be the French language derived from Latin over half a millennia.


Sometimes the conqueror had imposed their own beliefs or culture and treated others as slaves, like in ancient Egypt. Interestingly, a slave culture emerged, similar to that in the civilized world during the renaissance, and lasted until the 19th century, as we have seen in the United States of America.

After the rise of “Hitler” and World War II, many free independent countries were created; and it continued till the mid of the century. Most of those countries were surplus in population, and their colonist, in demand of more hands to fulfill the needs of their booming economies and high living standards, encouraged overpopulation.


In 1960-70 many western European countries decided to bring more citizens from their previous colonies to create multicultural societies. The United States of America, though an immigrant society herself, nevertheless, not a colonist, but was Imperial in its ambitions, welcomed many people from around the world and still doing so.


Many restaurants and diners were opened up by these immigrants in the USA, and along with sprouting of a variety of food, amalgamation of people also happened.


An interesting script from the Washington Post on multiculturalism in the USA says that “we should properly calibrate our tolerance for multiculturalism with our insistence on also supporting a unified national culture. We shouldn’t try to completely stifle all rival identities (whether Catholic, Jewish, or Baptist; Irish-American, Chinese-American, or Mexican-American; or whatever else), but neither should we neglect the building of American identity. We should accommodate some religious or cultural objections to generally applicable laws, as we have done for centuries in countless ways. But we shouldn’t (and generally don’t) accommodate objections when the accommodation would substantially harm others.” 


Everything has its ups and downs, so does multiculturalism. People, who are determined to settle in their adopted country, are not often welcomed by the host nation or they don’t mix-up so easily, frequently create trouble for their respective governments.


Somehow, they always consider them immigrants, and other times they are viewed as outsiders forever. It creates so many rifts in the communities, that citizens of host countries want stricter immigration laws or no immigration at all. When the people, who are born and bred in their homeland, think the immigrants as their job-takers and lifestyle-changers, the immigrants, think that they are not treated equally and felt marginalized.


After 9/11, concerns rose in the European countries and the United States about taking more immigrants despite increasing demand.

In contrast, some countries are inherently mono-ethnic, like China, South Korea, Finland, Bangladesh, etc. Efficiency and easy communicability can be put as pros of mono-cultural societies as the majority of the people belong to the same culture and ethnicity.

British ex-Prime Minister, David Cameron, had said in one of his speeches that multiculturalism has failed in the UK. After 7/7 and numerous other attacks on the UK and in other countries of Europe, some countries are changing their policies towards immigration, for the sake of a safer future for their new generations.

German Vice-Chancellor, Angela Merkel, believed that multiculturalism has failed in the whole of Europe. In Germany, many people protested in favor of anti-immigration, even the people who had welcomed refugees from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan, etc.


In my opinion, multiculturalism didn’t fail in Europe or the US, but we as humans are failing multiculturalism. Both parties are at liability, the host countries as well the immigrants, for neither making the proper efforts to bridge the drift.


Culture depends on cognitive, reasoning, and intellectual ability, which in turn depends on the societies and communities we are living in. Due to this, we affiliate ourselves to one sort or the other.  Physiologists believe that people who affiliate themselves to different cultural identities actually classifies their understanding of the world in a very complex way and thus bring fresh and unique ideas to their organizations.


In Indonesia, different ethnic groups were targeted until 1999 for being not loyal enough or different, like Chinese Indonesian, but the new president Abdurrahman Wahid abolished and banned discriminating laws against minorities, especially Chinese. Later his successor Megawati Sukarnoputri announced Chinese New Year as a national holiday since 2003.

Megawati Sukarnoputri

Bulgaria was the only European nation that had saved 48,000 Jews in World War II and still the capital Sophia is the example of multiculturalism at its best.


Over time, different cultures evolve for several reasons. To preserve these cultures one has to take out the bad practices with in the culture. Culture is not for control. Mono or multi-ethnic societies both grew and are still growing. The need is to better educate the people of all cultures.  


The relationship between Russia and Europe was never great throughout history. Even in the Tsar's dynasties their German princess “Catherine the Great”, after becoming the Queen, always put Russian Interest first compared to her parent Country Germany. At the time of the revolution in Russia, the wife of the last tsar was German royal blood. The Kaiser of Germany, though on the verge of losing their crown, finance the Revolution in Russia, just to see Russia shatter or maybe to control it later. The Russian Empire was not in the favor of people participation and made lots of violent acts against the movement of people, who were thought of as a danger to their Empire and interests.


Although today’s Russia is comprised mostly of people who speak Russian and are identified as Russian ethnicity, it contains 185 different ethnic groups speaking over 100 different languages. The largest minority groups in Russia are the Tatars, representing around 4 percent of the population with over 5 million people, Ukrainians at around 1.4 percent or almost 2 million people, etc. Other ethnic groups, like the Votes near Saint Petersburg, have only a few dozen members remaining. Because of the Soviet resettlement policies, the former Soviet republics have sizable Russian minorities. Kazakhstan and Latvia, for example, are almost one-quarter Russian. This has often led to tension within Russia, as minority groups have sought independence and outside of Russia as ethnic groups have clashed over leadership.


In Canada, the multicultural policy was adopted in 1971 by the then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Initially, the policy was to address the issue of nationalism in Quebec, where French-speaking Canadian wanted their language and culture to be preserved and equally represented in the Federal Government.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau

Before 1970, most immigrants in Canada were from Europe, but when the ban on immigration from non–European countries was lifted in 1976, a new wave of immigrants started coming to Canada from all over the world. The Policies were evolved in the 1980s and 1990s, to sustain the rights of other ethnic groups, especially indigenous people, who are the oldest culture to claim the land. Quebec still not satisfied by the new wave of immigrants and new policies towards sustaining other ethnoculture. Premier Robert Bourassa insisted that the federal policy was founded on a questionable dissociation of culture from language.


Claude Ryan, the then publisher of the Quebec French-language newspaper Le Devoir, warned that federal multicultural policy challenged the recognition of Canada’s two founding people (the English and the French).


In 2007-2008, a provincial commission reported and concluded that the Canadian multiculturalism was not well adapted to the conditions of Quebec. The reservation of French Canadians was about losing their language to English and their culture to other non-French cultures. Under the Cullen/Couture agreement, full power to Quebec has been given in the selection of their immigrants for economic gain and introduces policies for the integration of immigrants.


In recent years, there has been a greater acknowledgment and acceptance of mixed and multiple identities in Canada. While most Canadians appear favorable to the idea of multiculturalism, research suggests that support for the accommodation of religious diversity is more divided.


In Australia, in part due to injustice to Indigenous people, the government is now offering them special grants to reconcile with these communities. There is still a love and hate relationship with the white Australian people and the indigenous people.

The demand for minority cultures to be recognized by the dominant culture; especially in the civilized and developed world, is on the rise. Kids in schools are taught different sides of the cultural practices done by the dominant culture, like the western movement in the USA did bring prosperity to white American, but many Native Indian people were displaced due to this, and still, in parts of USA, they don’t have access to even clean water.

After more research in the field of anthropology, especially applied anthropology, the demand for understanding and recognition of other cultures became more prevalent. When European colonists arrived in North America, they looked at the practices of indigenous people as very primitive e.g. they ate when they feel the urge, there was no fixed timetable for eating, etc., but today people from the dominant culture wanted to engage with them. For example, the practices adopted by natives, to cultivate and are considered ecofriendly. In different parts of the world, multicultural day, or multicultural week is celebrated to get a knowhow of the other cultures, just by listening to their music, inviting them over for dinner, or going to an ethnic restaurant to taste their cuisine; after all, we are what we eat.

In countries like Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, the cultures are dominated by violence and authority rather than celebrations. In these countries, “might is right”! Their dominant culture is to curb convenient targets, like women, kids, people with dissimilar lifestyles, etc. I have much more to say about this and may discuss this some other time. If people from these countries immigrate to a western country like the USA, I will urge the locals to comprehend them individually rather than collectively, because by putting them into one box of their cultural identity, one may lose the human factor, after all, countries like the USA represent the modern and unbiased world and constantly growing in their capacity to be open-minded.


Sources

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Arnold

  • https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/01/27/the-american-tradition-of-multiculturalism/

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdurrahman_Wahid

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megawati_Sukarnoputri

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism#cite_note-FOOTNOTESetiono20031099-205

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism#:~:text=In%20reference%20to%20political%20science,and%20policies%20which

  • https://socialsci.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Geography_(Human)/Book%3A_World_Regional_Geography_(Finlayson)/03%3A_Russia/3.04%3A_Russian_Multiculturalism_and_Tension

  • https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/pierre-elliott-trudeau

  • Royal commission on Biculturalisms and bilingual reported in 1963-69

  • https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/robert-bourassa

  • https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/claude-ryan

  • https://thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/article/le-devoir

  • Federal l Government of Canada,since 1978

  • https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/multiculturalism

  • https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/multicultur


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