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The Trials and Tribulations of Multiculturalism

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:54 PM
This has been a week in which the world seemed to get a little smaller. The demonstrations in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia calling for a change in government and a more democratic government have grabbed our attention. In Great Britain, there have been demonstrations for quite a while protesting governments cuts to students. I’m starting to believe that 2011 is this millennium’s 1968 – people are calling for a world where everybody gets a chance to have his or her say and a world where people just feel that they might have a chance to get ahead period.

It’s very easy to feel that all that stuff is happening over there. On Saturday, I was cross-country skiing in the woods and feeling very apart from the world, but as I was swishing around and falling in the snow, I did get a little quiet time to ponder something that the Prime Minister of Great Britain said. He claimed that state multiculturalism has failed and that countries need to implement what he called, “muscular liberalism.” His idea is that once you immigrate to Great Britain, you have to accept its values. This is not unfamiliar territory. We’ve had a similar discussion here in Quebec with our debates over reasonable accommodation.

With a world so interconnected, I think that Prime Minister Cameron is trying to go back to a 1950’s world that will never exist again. Nowadays, people are moving from one country to the next in search of employment and in search of a better way of life for their families and themselves. With cyberspace, we are connected through Skype, Twitter, Facebook, and whatever social networking system will come along in the next few years, and there are sure to be plenty more with bells and whistles that we haven’t thought of yet. Very few places are isolated anymore; what happens in Egypt may eventually have an effect on us, particularly if oil tankers aren’t making it through the Suez Canal.

You can only ski in the woods for so long nowadays, both literally and figuratively. Whether you are in Montreal, Sherbrooke, London or New York City, you are sure to encounter people whose cultures, upbringings, food, dress are going to be different, maybe radically different, from your own. To think that we can create a national or international system of right values in the twenty-first century is nostalgic daydreaming and it’s the kind of daydreaming that can get us into trouble. We have to recognize that the days of one people of one nationality and one colour living together in harmony are long gone, and let’s face it, even within that same group, someone was always fighting with somebody else anyway.

We have to face the fact that we live in a multicultural world and multiculturalism simply can’t be allowed to fail if we are to live in some semblance of peace. People will come to live in our country and they will have to find a way to navigate through our value systems. Yes, they will have to learn to live side by side with us, but it might be a little much to ask them to accept everything that the rest of us believe in, hook, line, and sinker. Perhaps over time, they will adapt to us, and as our society becomes more diverse, we may adapt a little to them. That kind of give and take makes for a more peaceful and perhaps a more interesting social environment. In a world where modern day fascists are making hay with our fear of terrorism, decrying multiculturalism is downright dangerous. A prime minister should know better.

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