multiculturalism and integration

Many countries around the world are desperately trying to deal with ever increasing numbers of immigrants. We hear many apocalyptic predictions and witness many unfortunate situations. Mostly though, we read long tirades about what this or that country is doing horribly wrong. I want to suggest a few things that some countries are doing right, so that we might learn and improve rather than bemoan the sorry state of our messy world.

So here is what i think America (the U.S.) does right:

  • it forces immigrants to fend for themselves economically. This ensures that new arrivals immediately find their way into american society, if only to get enough food to eat.
  • it has a vibrant patriotic sense which it imposes upon immigrants. It is expected that an immigrant be proud to be an american.
  • it makes it real easy to feel american. Basically, all you have to do is say you are american and they’ll believe you – no matter how far your english vocabulary reaches.
  • it is perfectly acceptable to be half-american, that is, chinese-american, native-american, african-american, etc. This means that people can feel and be american without forsaking their original culture or identity.
  • all americans know that all american are immigrants.

Here is what i think France does right:

  • it has a very strong, well-defined and proud culture. This is something that immigrants can latch on to.
  • the french state provides people with an identity that is above religions. Being french is not about being christian – it is about being republican, and anyone can be that.
  • the french will accept as french anyone who embraces their culture – though half&half is not permitted and your french must be (almost) perfect.
  • france has a long history of welcoming prominent people – and turning them into good frenchies (think Derrida from Algeria, LĂ©vinas from Lithuania, Milan Kundera from Checkoslovakia, etc.)

And here is what i think India does right (though it does not deal with immigrants but with a gigantic inner diversity):

  • it has multiple levels of diversity (cultural, linguistic, geographic, religious) that all intertwine. This ensures that people are always dealing with some element of diversity, but also can always find some similarity to bring them together.
  • indians have a very long history of diversity.
  • the main indian religion is notoriously open to everything.
  • all levels of society are completely diversified (esp. politics).
  • when moving from state to state, indians will seek out and mostly interact with those they resemble the most. This maintains a strong sense of identity while enabling one to live in very foreign environments.
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2 Comments to “multiculturalism and integration”

  1. Interesting stuff, I particularly agree with you on India, the diversity it celebrates is an example for all. Though does that not contradict with the US and French examples, where diversity is culled for the sake of nationalism?

  2. the indian examples are certainly different from the US and French where conformity is perhaps more stressed. The French and Indian types of solution could certainly not coexist alonside one another very easily and are thus contradictory. But my aim was not to come up with _one_ solution but to overview a number of different options. Countries should adopt those solutions that will suit them best.

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