Can Multiculturalism Work?

What is multiculturalism?  Here is something that I am for, and think is a positive thing, but a recent interview I listened to made me wonder if I was perhaps defining it differently than other people.  Not that I am necessarily wrong, but it is perhaps a term that easily lends itself to some interpretation.  Perhaps part of the reason is a definition of what we consider culture likely also varies from person to person.

The argument has come up many times in Europe and North America in response to the Syrian Refugee crisis that multiculturalism doesn’t work.   My father-in-law in Poland has even joined the parade of fear over refugees and said he’s against “multy-culty”.  Many Americans describe the U.S. as a melting pot and promote that as an important part of a successful nation.  But are we really a melting pot?  It’s clear when you look around there are plenty of cultures celebrating events that are important to them.  Whether it’s religious holidays, whether it’s going to the church or temple of their religion.  There are also plenty of restaurants catering to different ethnic cuisines.  We can see the evidence of different cultural norms among African-Americans and among Hispanic groups.

So, what is it that we are actually afraid of changing?  It seems that when most people say multiculturalism won’t work it’s targeting specific values that another culture holds, or is perceived to hold that is different than values held already in the country.  But since there are clearly many diverse cultural practices that go on already that don’t bother anybody is it reasonable to say something so broad like multiculturalism doesn’t work?  I don’t believe so.  That doesn’t mean that bringing in other cultures into your own society won’t have problems.  Part of the reason why the story of immigration keeps repeating itself with one generation of immigrants being criticized by the generations before is that we generally don’t trust what we really don’t know.  But we live in the age of information so there should be a bunch of stuff we do know.   So let’s take a look, and for a little bit, ignore the fact that often in these situations the experiential knowledge goes a lot further than book knowledge.

When it comes to refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan let’s face it, a large majority of these immigrants are going to be Muslims and fear of Islam is at a high today.  While extremism exists in every religion right now, a good portion of it is coming from Islam, so perhaps there is a good reason to have more fear, even if that fear compared to other things we have to fear in this world, are exaggerated.  Once again I don’t want to get into any No True Scotsman arguments, because we can say extremists are not truly followers of Islam, but they claim they are so let’s go with the idea that whatever religion people claim they are affiliated with that’s their religion.  It’s true to say that whatever small percentage of Muslims we bring into this country that are jihadists, the more immigrants we take, the numbers go up.  So I think this is always worth paying attention to since a society should always be aiming to reduce violent crime.  But for now let’s just throw away the extremist views and look at these societies in general.  We have very traditional values.  Women do not have equal rights in Islam.  They are expected to dress modestly because they are a temptation to men.  They try to protect their followers from information that would cast doubt or refute tenets of their religion.  Their governments do not have separation of church and state.  Islam has strong rewards for commitment to the religion and strong punishment for those who are apostates (both on this plane of existence and the other ones).  They have no tolerance for homosexuality.  Do any of these qualities sound familiar?  They should, they are the very similar attitudes held by a large portion of the religion right here in the U.S.  What’s very odd about it, is that the same people who have so much in common with all these potential new immigrants are the most against them coming in, and it’s the left that is happy to important such illiberal values into the U.S.

Now before you fight me on this, let it sink in a bit.  If this is the case, what’s going on.  Are we all very confused?  No, but perhaps we are a little confused.  First of all we shouldn’t expect two very similar religions to coexist happily.  It’s easy to see why to very conservative groups with slight variations on “The Truth” don’t want to share space.   It’s also not hard to see that Islam doesn’t have a high degree of tolerance towards free speech, something that many, if not most on the right, consider to be one of our most important values as an American. It is also isn’t difficult to understand why people on the left would be side with Muslim immigrants.  Certainly, when it comes to the refugees there is going to be a great deal of desire to reduce human suffering.  But let’s say, to a large degree many people, whether they support immigration or not, are moved my human suffering.  From an ideological point of view, we’d expect many people to be sensitive to the oppression they’ve endured at the hands of religious intolerance, racism, and misogyny. It’s not completely irrational, therefore, to be against allowing large groups of people that are experiencing oppression and suffering to be painted with a broad-brush stroke simply for being different.  We’re all too familiar with what happens when such attitudes persist in a society.  We know the harm that stereotyping can play and how it closes doors to meaningful conversations which can lead to an exchange of ideas and mutual understanding.  There is value in diversity and adding some might not be a bad idea.  This at least for me is at the heart of a multicultural society.

My concern is that we seemed to have reached a level of political correctness where it is not okay to criticize Islam, out of fear we will be supporting attitudes on the right.  And I would like to believe that there are many people on the right who might be similarly scared of expressing empathy to humanitarian crisis in the Middle East in case they are seen as supporting the left.  Identity politics is not helping.  We have to have some honest conversations about what we can tolerate in terms of diversity and multiculturalism.  As a liberal there are certain harmful views that I will not tolerate in any culture, and do not want to see them increasingly practiced in my country or any country.  Many of the Syrian refugees are very educated, which is helpful, but harmful cultural practices, particularly attitudes towards gender or sexual orientation are not dependent on the level of education.  It’s not unreasonable to be against importing illiberal values into our society, just as it is not unreasonable to be intolerant to illiberal values here.  It seems clear to me that multiculturalism is not impossible, but it does have limits and if you claim to be a liberal it’s of value for you to recognize that.  And on the right, the level of xenophobia and fear of terrorism is also highly disproportionate, dishonest and is not helpful to meaningful conversation.

I come from Canada and am proud to say that is one the few if not the last country that largely embraces multiculturalism, but this does not mean that we tolerate every cultural practice.  Canada can boast some of the most progressive imams in Islamic society who actively speak out against Islamic extremism.  I wonder if Canada’s inclusive attitude towards different cultures has anything to do with that?  And I am not under any illusions that racism or bigotry is absent in Canada.  It’s still a problem.  It takes time to solve such problems and I think Canada has made some impressive progress.  Growing up in Canada my view of multiculturalism was that you retain the best of your culture and adopt the best of Canada, and the nation simply gets better.  As someone who is biracial I never struggled about whether to consider myself Indian or white, I always just thought of myself as Canadian, because Canada recognized the value that other countries have brought with them to Canada.  To me, this is one of the principal differences between Canada and the U.S.  Canada definitely thinks we have some lessons for other cultures, but we are humble enough to recognize that maybe other cultures have something to teach us as while.  It seems to me that the U.S. has an attitude that it only needs to teach others, but has nothing to learn from them.  Such an attitude seems to be held by many Americans on the left and right because it seems to play out in identity politics as well.   Maybe, in the end, whether or not multiculturalism can work all depends how willing each culture is willing to listen and learn.  This is a value that we all need wherever we may live.

52 thoughts on “Can Multiculturalism Work?

  1. I suppose technology and the rise of middle classes in what were once regarded as undeveloped nations has tended to blur the lines on distinctions between regional cultures. Aren’t we all exposed to the same stuff these days, more or less? If there is a dominant thematic, then perhaps we might speak of an American cultural hegemony? But then in its very spread across Europe, most notably, and elsewhere, the underpinnings of its American origins are themselves weakened. It becomes more a Facebook and Google hegemony, and it’s these corporations’ culture that we absorb into, liking others, or hating others, and knowing no one, understanding no one. The old play of your culture vs my culture dissipates in shallow and short term spats of emoting. We become fodder to be sold to. Those two corporations bring in one fifth of global advertising revenue; four years ago it was one tenth. That’s astonishing. It tells us where the world’s attention is focused, and it’s not on TV, or shared local customs and rituals, it’s on Google’s algorithms and Facebook’s corralling. 20 of the 30 biggest media corporations are U.S. based. But they’re harvesting globally, setting trends globally, and their funders, the advertisers, want to destroy the old idea of culture, because why would they make twenty versions of a product if they can get (what were) all twenty cultures to buy one? Nice post, Swarn — thanks.

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    1. Hariod. I am soooooooooo sorry (I wanted to put more o’s there but you are not a man who needs superfluous, but yet felt that some number of o’s more than 5 and less then 10 were necessary). I usually only respond to comments through my notifications button, and for some reason I missed yours. I remember reading only John Zande’s comment as the first one, and didn’t even know this one was there. And what an amazing comment yours is, because it raises both a good and sad point. That we are being homogenized by forces that just want to make money off of us. What’s interesting though is that I feel like they still want to create the illusion of difference. Recently in a podcast I listened to they were talking with Tristan Harris who has started this company to raise awareness about ethical computing. He talk about this attention economy we live in, where apps, websites, are all vying for your attention and nobody cares really about the ethics of how they get your attention, so in order to get more of your attention you have to be persuaded (i.e. manipulated). And so what you’ve said here ties nicely into this idea that right now it’s greed that’s really running things.

      In regards to attention, I am also reminded of this thing I read in Steven Pinker’s “How the Mind Works”. He was talking about one hypothesis about sibling personality differentiation. While there are certainly genetic differences the hypothesis argues that since each human has the best chance of survival by getting 100% of a parent’s attention, when there are siblings attention must be fought for. To do that it is more profitable to develop differences between the siblings because being exactly like another sibling can at best get you half the attention. But if you’re different you might get more. So at least in some ways it seems that creating diverging views and conflict is in the best interest of capitalism. It is homogenizing in one sense in making us care about the same things, but then splitting us up on different sides to control what we fight over, so we don’t know they are the ones exploiting us. Perhaps that sounds a little paranoid. Point is there is high volume and conscious attempt at manipulation out there.

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      1. Thank you Swarn, for your interesting reply and analysis. I had half-assumed that you were annoyed with me in that I may have slightly derailed the concept of multiculturalism in questioning what it really stands for these days. Anyway, your main thematic seems to be on differentiation (i.e. ‘the illusion of difference’). It seems to me that, in the last 30 years or so, the media, the political agents, and the corporates have all propagated a sort of faux-individuality, a self-centric ‘culture’ of self-identifying and putative self-determination, spawning the illusion of choice and personal freedom. But the actual freedom of choice, the actual degree of self-determination, has increasingly narrowed over time. We’re increasingly sensing this, I think, and so we preoccupy ourselves, we vent our frustrations, in Twitter spats, in shallow ideological battles in Clicktivism, in gaming culture, in sporting tribalism, in staged contests for who can out-emote the other on TV and radio, and so on. I don’t think it’s enough; I think we’ll see through the vacuity of all those things soon enough, and then what? Do we then finally wake up to see that our position in the world, the way we are valued in the world, is entirely beyond influence by any cloak of differentiation we may adorn ourselves with as a palliative to our fundamental dis-ease and malcontent? It feels as if we’re on the edge of a big change, one that may take another 30 years to reveal itself in any coherent form.

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        1. How could I be offended by anything you say!? Even if you were offending me you’d do it in a evidenced and reasoned way. Such that I couldn’t be too mad. It’s no RoughSeas situation! lol And I am the kind of going off on thought tangents based on someone else’s words that make me think about all sorts of things jammed into my head.

          More on this later, but I have to run out for a bit.

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        2. A good analysis here Hariod. I agree that right now there is indeed a lot of time wasting. Perhaps this is also a waste of time. lol But of course there are good and important conversations to be had, which is why I prefer my blogging community over social media like Facebook. I tend to share your optimism that we will eventually see beyond the veil that has been placed in front of us. In the interview I referred to previously with Tristan Harris he talks about the fact that right now technology is being used to warp us into fitting it, and his position ethically is that we should be figuring out how to make our technology fit humans in the way they want to live. I wonder though how many people know how they want to live having been raised in a society that has dictated how they should live. While I believe in this awakening, it still feels like we need that little rock fall that is the beginning of the much bigger slide that needs to take place.

          And to sort of come full circle to my post, I do think that many of the cultural differences that separate us are somewhat arbitrary, but I do know that there are some important ones. I remember my cousin’s perspective of Chinese people when he lived in Shanghai. He said that Chinese people never see anything as a problem. They don’t get as anxious, they either solve it or just work around it. I mean we all do that to a certain extent, but I do think there are cultural attitudes and values which breed real differences, which may be worth paying attention to. It’s interesting though, I remember many Indian immigrants coming to Canada, and it’s funny that many of them often held on to certain traditions like grim death, perhaps not wanting to completely disappear inside another culture. Something that was clearly less imperative for their children. Many cultural traditions seem like something people just refuse to let go of. Like a favorite shirt that no longer fits, but you keep trying it on hoping you will still look good in it. I am a very untraditional person. I worry sometimes that I am not giving something, that so many consider important, to my son. Traditions have value, but I see no difference really with starting new ones that have meaning to us, then continuing to practice an old one. I do like history and learning about other traditions. It seems though that culture is such a tangle that maintaining certain traditions that are harmless often mean maintaining others that are not so harmless. It seems better to be critical and move forward. As a humanist, I am much more interested in universal values than adhering to the values of any one culture.

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  2. The whole idea of multiculturism will fail if the minority culture, which should be assimilating, doesn’t, and in extreme cases, promotes its own retarded idealogies that directly contradict the values of the new homeland. For example, an iman in Australia defending Muslim men raping Australian girls by comparing Australian girls to “uncovered meat.”

    “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside … without cover, and the cats come to eat it … whose fault is it, the cats’ or the uncovered meat’s? The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab [the headdress worn by some Muslim women], no problem would have occurred.”

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    1. I agree…but to what level of assimilation do we need or expect? Should we expect Jews to assimilate to the appoint where they aren’t eating Kosher or Halal meat? I think that we can see that assimilation to that degree is not necessary. Which is why I raised the question about what multiculturalism is, and that perhaps the definition of multiculturalism makes a difference. I would agree that such views that you mention are harmful and they should be opposed…there are some Christians who have similar views and we stand against them as well. The fact that in the U.S. that is has become taboo to criticize Islam in any way is dangerous, but I also think that the expectation that every immigrant start eating burgers and watching NASCAR is also unnecessary. 🙂

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      1. Thoroughly agree. In this instance, Multiculturalism must then ultimely mean shared values. I experience a bit of reversed multiculturalism here in Brazil where my values (especially when it comes to political behaviour) far exceeds those of the people around me. They tolerate things that I refuse to tolerate. In that way, I’m trying my best to lift the game in the country.

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        1. That’s interesting…I am sure there would be some truly frustrating things for you living in Brazil.

          Certainly for multiculturalism to work there must be some shared values, but like I said not all values must shared in so much as many of those values also vary among people who already are living here. If your culture values family more, you will certainly find a home here in the U.S. among many people, even if there are a lot of people who are more individualistic and career-oriented. I’m probably not saying it right, but I think you should always be prepared to sacrifice some of your culture moving to another country. How tied your cultural identity is to your views on gender become relevant. Personally I think that views of gender should be separate from culture, that a certain level of humanism and is important in every culture, and can only act to enrich it. It seems reasonable that we could have egalitarian views of gender and sexual orientation and still have very distinct cultural identities.

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        2. John, when you say “lift the game“… surely you are not lifting the futebol game! 😮 Because if you are I am going to take all kinds of SERIOUS exception to your Australian futebol culture to Brazilian futebol culture! They aren’t at all the same! 😡

          Hehehe 😉 😈

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          1. I assume it’s because there are certain values that we can objectively say are harmful. Imams pushing values in Australia aren’t really a problem as long as they aren’t harmful or oppressive. I don’t think it’s the job of any individual to sit back and allow harmful practices to persist whether or not they are popular in a particular culture.

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            1. Certainly, promoting civic engagement is more positive, but that doesn’t mean that this imam doesn’t have the right to promote his own ideas. In a free market of ideas, stupid ones *should* fall away. In the context of multiculturalism, assuming the imam is an immigrant, why shouldn’t he be allowed to espouse his views, however wrong and harmful they may be (up until the point of being illegal). Blaming rape victims is a long standing tradition in most western nations; it seems a bit arrogant to say to newcomers, “Oh, but you’re not allowed to do that.”


            2. With all due respect, Chris, but what you appear to be suggesting is nothing short of that we should just permit, say, the genital mutilation of African girls in Australia because eventually that “idea” will be exorcised from the immigrant group. Well, no. That “idea” (clitoridectomy, in the west) has already been exorcised and deemed criminal.

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            3. I’m sure that female genital mutilation is already illegal in Australia. I’m not saying that it should be legalized or that people should be able to avoid prosecution because of their religious beliefs. But I do believe that if a group of people want to get together and try to change the law, that’s their right. If they want to extol the virtues of clitoridectomies, they should be permitted to do so, provided they don’t exceed the legal limits of free speech.


            4. Yes, and so is enabling/encouraging/sanctioning rape.

              Then the imam goes to prison and loses his position of influence. He’s no longer able to promote his retarded ideologies effectively, so problem solved.


            5. Right. I was also starting to wonder what we were talking about. Let’s see, I was taking issue with your original statement that the “minority culture … should be assimilating”. I think this is an unnecessary constraint because:

              members of the minority culture that break the low go to prison, effectively losing their ability to influence the majority culture
              members of the minority culture that do legal but disagreeable things still must convince the majority culture to change and bad ideas tend to fade away
              I want to retain the moral licence to influence other cultures and expecting others to assimilate when I am not willing to do so takes that away

              As a side note, I once took a personality test at a marriage seminar and one of the things that was assessed that I had never seen before was permissiveness. I scored extremely high, the highest in the room, if I remember correctly. I am willing to admit that I may have an unhealthy level of tolerance.


  3. A few thoughts to add to what you’ve already said:

    Considering that various ethnic/religious/national groups of people have immigrated to North America for hundreds of years, introducing aspects of their native culture into the local culture, multiculturalism has been happening whether people like it or not, and no matter what label people want to give it. The current opposition to multiculturalism is really about Islam, as you pointed out. Consider that the oldest mosques in North America are over 100 years old, so Muslims have been here for a long time. Now, it may be that Islam is incompatible with Western culture; however, I don’t think it’s really relevant to the conversation, since people who immigrate to the United States or Canada know what kind of society they are choosing and decide they want to come here. I don’t think Canada or the United States is an attractive choice to Muslim extremists. Add the difficulty of crossing the Atlantic Ocean along with the screening that refugees undergo, the likelihood of terrorists sneaking in is quite low (although not impossible). Now, I think it’s reasonable to expect that the current influx of refugees will influence the larger culture, those refugees will themselves be influenced by the local culture to a larger degree. Maybe I won’t like some of the ways that recent Muslim immigrants affect my culture, but I’m pretty sure there are homegrown cultural changes that I dislike more. In the end, I don’t think there’s any good argument to refuse refugees based on nationality or religion.

    You pointed out that it is largely the religious right that is opposed to Muslim immigrants. It strikes me that in Canada many churches and Christian groups are the ones sponsoring refugees. In my current province of New Brunswick, the Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada is one of the most experienced groups sponsoring refugees and has facilitated the sponsoring of 50 Syrian families in Atlantic Canada. Although opposition to Muslim immigration is mostly concentrated among the right-wing politically, it doesn’t appear to me to be tied to religious affiliation.

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    1. I generally agree with your assertions. But I think there are certain thinks to clarify. When I say the religious right, I am talking about evangelical Christian community here in which over 80% voted for Trump during the election, and who wield a high degree of political power. I think you often underestimate just how old testament many Christians still are here in portions of the U.S. It’s certainly unlike Christianity in Canada and indeed much of Europe. There are liberal Christians certainly here and I do not include them in who has been the biggest vocal opposition to taking in Syrian refugees. But Christians like Auntie Sherri have also expressed concerns about Islam so there certainly is a Christian contingency in Canada who does not want to see more Muslims. And while I can’t speak for Canada, I don’t think there are many Republican voters who wouldn’t also list their religious affiliation as some Christian denomination. The amount of atheist and agnostic voters (or indeed any other non-Christian religious affiliation) who tend to vote Republican here would be very small.

      Second I don’t think it’s necessarily true that that extremists would not want to come here. When it comes it Islamic extremists there goal is literally a Muslim world and destroying those who oppose. I mean it’s kind of the motivation behind jihadism. So to say that a jihadist isn’t motivated to come to western countries isn’t precisely true. And to say that all cultural are as equally adaptable to values held in west would not be a fair statement to make either. They may be misinformed about our culture, they may be well intentioned in their desire to adapt, but making that psychological adjustment is often hard. In fact I’ve seen many Indian families try harder to hold on to customs harder in Canada, even though they were fading away in India itself. When you miss your country, sometimes you try to hold on harder than you should. Usually that’s washed away in the next generation, but it still can lead to conflict in the presence. I do think the correct answer though is to weather that storm. It’s the moral thing to do.


      1. I think you often underestimate just how old testament many Christians still are here in portions of the U.S.

        I was thinking about this during a rare mid-week shower that I was able to steal this morning. I think you’re exactly right and this explains a number of things that I haven’t been able to make sense of until now. It’s sad.

        Men will always prefer a worse way of knowing to a better way of learning.
        – Jean-Jacques Rousseau


    2. I should add, but weather the storm, I don’t mean tolerate it, but I mean keep fighting for the good values your country holds and oppose any cultural values from immigrants that try to erode those values.

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      1. Fair enough, and I agree on all points, except that I’m not convinced that jihadists immigrating to Canada or United States is a real threat. Besides the logistical difficulties of getting in the refugee queue and passing through screening, there is the very real possibility the jihadist will decide he would rather live in his new country rather than blow it up. I think it would be much more effective to recruit home grown jihadists, disillusioned by the collapse of the American Dream, and disenfranchised by a culture of consumerism. At least that’s what I would do if I wanted to realize my dream of a global caliphate, which I don’t, so I won’t.

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        1. I agree. I am less concerned about jihadists than I am about illiberal values that Islam represents, which is why I left out much of the discussion about terrorism from my discussion. Homegrown jihadists or other domestic terrorists is clearly much greater a threat. Again it’s perhaps not so much of a problem for the U.S. or Canada, but when you look at the amount of refugees Germany took in, you are looking at about 4 generations before Islam could be a significant minority in that country, where they will have actual political influence. Given their attitudes towards Jews, apostasy, women, and free speech this is a greater concern in my mind. When cartoonists and satirical writers are in fear for their lives because they criticize Islam, and now there is a vast population of Islamists, who while they might not be jihadists but get very offended by free speech on the subject of their religion, this is a recipe for danger. So multiculturalism, for it to work, does require the adoption of certain values in the country you immigrate to.


          1. I agree with that. What’s happening in Europe is completely different from what’s going on here. Most European countries are not very multicultural to begin with, so a large influx of a Muslims is naturally disruptive. In Canada, the Syrian refugees we brought in were almost exclusively families (i.e. no single men) and this is after screening. Germany didn’t have that luxury. People just walked in, more or less. It’s messy in Europe.

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  4. You’ve said a Lot here, Swarn. And of course I’m going to give you my two cents as a female Caucasian person. Why in anybody’s world would people want everyone to be the same? How ridiculously shallow and boring That would be. And further, it wouldn’t give the pundits anything to rail against. Shame, that.
    I am personally for anything that furthers humanitarianism in the collective, period. Nothing can or will dissuade me from that viewpoint. Further, NOTHING is scarier to me as a woman and mother of two grown daughters, one of whom is married to a woman, than the Christian religious right. Men always at the ready to legislate women’s bodies and to carry out heinous acts in the name of their ridiculous and optionally active Old Testament God. And the KKK is alive and well in the South, lest we forget. No, I would not want to live under radical Islam. But I don’t have to, and I doubt it would gain any serious traction in a freethinking nation. I mean, once out of the box, hard to pack it back in (despite the efforts of a few these days).
    Maybe fractious elements are unconsciously introduced ito various societies in order to break unhealthy molds, for no one person or body of persons should have the final say in how we all live our lives. Sadly this is what many Republicans in power are once again attempting to do in this adolescent nation – I’ve not seen this kind of regressive politicking since the 1950’s.
    We have lived in multicultural environments for many years, from the Hawaiian melting pot to the cultural blend of the mountains of northern New Mexico. We’ve also been amongst communities that truly strive to get along, so there’s that. And yes, Hawaiians were largely Christianized, as were the Catalan Spanish of NM. So there’s that in common, to be clear. And yet the differences are markedly obvious, and old cultural practices are alive and well alongSide those Christian values. I maintain there is room for acceptance, but I’ll also say that laws, themselves need to be respected by all citizens, or consequences follow. That’s simply how societies work.
    Finally with my Depth Psych training, I’m going to say that you cannot kill an archetype. We are so trying to eradicate our national Shadow, but in doing so, it looms larger and larger among us. Fear brings out the worst in people and only serves to whip up more fear. And as you’ve no doubt noticed in your own personal life, decisions made in fear don’t usually pan out for the best. Or at least that’s been my experience in counseling people most of my working life.
    And finally and not to be redundant, I’ll quote Rodney King once again, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Yeah. That. Cheers, Swarn. Great post.

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    1. Thank you for your excellent response Bela. I agree that I am in general for taking the humanitarian response as an act of principle and dealing with any cholateral damage afterwards. When it comes to the Syrian refugee crisis I think the part that is often ignored in the “possibility of taking in terrorists” is that by leaving so many in refugee camps there are so many children languishing there receiving absolutely no education. This is a far more dangerous situation in my opinion. That has to be balanced into the cost of our decision. In terms of illiberal values that are held by many Muslims in regards to things like gender equality, LGBQT issues, and separation of church and state, I don’t think it’s unreasonable however to be able to have discussions about these matters. Liberals in our society certainly feel comfortable enough hammering Christians over such issues, so why should the suggestion that there is a concern about bringing more of such values into a society? This is a taboo thing to even suggest among many on the left who would say that to even utter such a thing is Islamophobic. There is data suggest that once a minority becomes about 10% of a population they can begin to wield a lot of political power. When you look at Germany and the numbers they have taken in. When you look at the propensity for religious people to propagate in comparison to secular birthrates, it’s conceivable that in 40 years Muslims will have a significant political say in the country, and it does change the political landscape. I think that’s a conversation at least worth talking about. Evangelical Christians in the South only represent about 15% of the population and look at the amazing influence and suffering they are able to cause. So I think the belief system we important does matter, should be discussed, and it should perhaps tailor the number of people we bring in at any one time. I am happy to be wrong about that, but the fact that this is a topic that is becoming taboo to even discuss is worrisome to me.

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      1. Yes, agreed with all you say – and of course we must dialogue about these sorts of things, I am not at all opposed to that. My point has more to do with ‘What Is,’ and the general response to it. NOT HERE! Certain people want to proclaim. But where? Where on this finite earth are these hordes of displaced people going to go? And how are those decisions being arrived at? Fear? That’s no good; it causes people to react instead of strategize and think it through for the common good of humanity. Or to stuff it away in a metaphoric hole somewhere, only to have it overwhelm at a later date, and then what? Start another righteous war to end righteous wars of radical oppressive regimes?

        Where are these masses of people, many who are now and will be in the very near future displaced by climate change – where are they supposed to go? If every nation refuses to take them in, simply because they are measuring the potential for danger due to religious extremism? Like I said, I surely don’t want to live under any sort of restrictions to my already-truncated liberties as a female in a Patriarchal society. But exchanging loss of liberties like equal pay and rights to my own g*)){#)%d body for a veil is not a solution. Your greater point that we need to get all this out in the open and discuss it is well taken, Swarn. And so important. Because if and when it all breaks down, we are left with the angry bullies in the schoolyard. I think we’re dangerously close if not there already. Which is frightening, and I’ve closed my own circle which began with “… if we make decisions based on fear …”

        Liked by 3 people

  5. I am all for multiculturalism. However an immigrant with x beliefs and x traditions, should understand that while it is fine to have those beliefs/traditions, our laws here supercede their personal desires. It is not ok for them to set up shop with traditions/customs/beliefs that break the laws we have in place. No honor killings, no mutilations, no jihads, no mandatory hijab, no stonings, no burning of witches, no swordtip conversions, no condemning others who might not see things as you do.

    Other than that I’m good. Let’s all multiculture ourselves. 🙂 I can say that being married to a full blooded Puerto Rican. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. If I considered myself an Earlthling Swarn, would it be fighting you or argumentative? 😉

    This is a fantastic post Sir. Love it. Embrace it. Digest it. Regurgitate it onto someone… or just repeat it, huh? Play it forward! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Haha…thank you professor. I mean you are certainly free to call yourself an earthling, and it may be that over time there are so many similarities among all humans in terms of culture that this would be more appropriate and I would in many ways welcome such a time. I do find certain cultural differences fascinating and provides interesting insights into their history and values. As a scientist though I am most interest in drawing from the best of values I see and adopting those as being values that better serve humanity as a whole. I think diversity tends to do that to a certain extent, and I think there are certain values we can say that are objectively bad. Such values do not need to be respected or tolerated, recognizing of course that convincing someone that the values they hold are harmful requires more tact than just throwing the baby out with the bathwater!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Could not agree with you more Swarn! And I was being half-cheeky (dim-witted?) and half-serious too. Apologies. But I know you recognize that as well. 🙂

        New things, new people, new places, all offer SOMETHING to learn the first time or refine the subsequent times, always! As Mark Twain wisely uttered:

        Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

        Multiculturalism is absolutely interchangeable with “Travel” too, or diversity as you put it. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

          1. Probably is… if one never leaves a 100-mile radius all their life, huh? Or 200-, 500-, 2,000-mile radius!? And for those millions that can’t (ever?) afford those large long-distance trips of more than a few days but weeks/months, thank the greater good there’s at least the internet, huh? 😀 Yet, the internet is not always 100% reliable either.

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post, Swarn, and the comments have been illuminating, as well. Here’s my two cents. I think multiculturalism works when the cultures that cohabitate are not predominately authoritarian. Andrew Nathan, a professor of political science at Columbia University, specializes in foreign policy, human rights and political culture. He states that few authoritarian regimes—be they communist, fascist, corporatist, or personalist—have managed to conduct orderly, peaceful, and stable successions.

    A 2017 study, found that economic anxiety wasn’t what drove white working-class voters to support Trump. It was cultural anxiety. A 2016 study (noted in the link) found that nearly two-thirds of white working-class Americans have an authoritarian orientation, including 37% who are classified as “high authoritarian.

    A 2012 study (also noted in the link) found that white working-class evangelical Protestants are more than twice as likely to have an authoritarian orientation than those who have no religious affiliation (82% vs. 39%, respectively). A majority of white working-class evangelical Protestants qualify as “high authoritarian.” The majority of white working-class Catholics (70%) and mainline Protestants (61%) also hold authoritarian orientations.

    This compliments what cognitive scientist, George Lakoff, describes as the “strict father” and “moral hierarchy” value systems (predominately authoritarian), explained in #17 – #20, here. You’ve read it already. I’m just posting the info for anyone who might be interested.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Victoria. What you say certainly makes sense, although I am certain waves of immigrants earlier in our history were also fairly religious, just as many Latinos are as well being strongly Catholic. It seems reasonable that what really clashes is perhaps not so much being authoritarian but having different authorities. Although I see little difference between strong religious beliefs in any Judeo-Christian religion most Christian denominations will eventually get along, they all have the Bible, Jesus, and essentially the same God. But the authority of the Qu’ran is something hard for most other authoritarian people here to tolerate.

      That being said, part of my post was also pointing out that less authoritarian side of society has to some degree turned a blind eye to the authoritarian views of Islam to the point where criticizing Muslim people has become taboo. The Southern Poverty Law center put Aayan Hirsi Ali, and Maajid Nawaaz on a anti-Islam hate list, even though one is a former Muslim and one is a current Muslim who are both calling for reform in Islam. We freely rail against the authoritarians in our own culture, but many on the left seem unwilling to offer the same criticism towards Islam. That’s not say we don’t have certain responsibilities in humanitarian efforts, but simply that part of making multiculturalism work is embracing differences that have value that provide new perspectives but also being honest about ones that we know don’t. And we know they don’t because we see how it doesn’t work in Christianity.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. Oh certainly not. I agree. But at least one side has to start having honest conversations and I fear we are moving further away from being able to have such discussions. As always my goal is to try to find some common ground in which we can talk about the pros and cons of multiculturalism which might be relevant to all people.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. “That being said, part of my post was also pointing out that less authoritarian side of society has to some degree turned a blind eye to the authoritarian views of Islam to the point where criticizing Muslim people has become taboo.”

        Agreed. Same can be equally said about the significant harm caused by Christianity. Published in the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, psychologist Marlene Winell, addressing her colleagues, wrote: “We need to let go of making religion a special case in which criticism is taboo.” Her comment was predominately focus on the significant harm caused by conservative Christianity, and how the U.S. turns a blind eye, and even elects legislators who sanction and exacerbate the harm.

        Also, from an article in Newsweek:

        ““Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face,” the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security reported this past June, based on surveys of 382 law enforcement groups. The problem is getting worse, although few outside of law enforcement know it.
        They and untold thousands like them are the extremists who hide among us, the right-wing militants who, since 2002, have killed more people in the United States than jihadis have.
        The FBI also learned that right-wing extremists have created bogus law enforcement and diplomatic identifications, not because these radicals want to pretend to be police and ambassadors, but because they believe they hold those positions in a government they have created within the United States.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Swarn, a fantastic post that proves the point I made in my reply to your incredibly generous comment on Velvet Javelins — by the Gods you do this -*points above* – well.

    I agree with many replies on here and think Shelldigger summed it up well in their comment. It comes down to respect, open mindedness and tolerance ultimately, but that has to be on both sides and there will always be limits when it comes to violent, abusive and cruel practises that come under the umbrella of culture. When in Rome I do not necessarily do as the Romans do, but can’t expect to force my own beliefs upon the occupants either, and vice versa. (Obviously it’s pizza eating I’m on about there hahahaha). Assimilation does happen, but it happens very slowly, which is why in the UK a ‘curry’ is now practically a national dish, yet thirty years ago it was described as ‘foreign muck’. The individual, and how kind they act, the way they behave towards the occupants of a country and vice versa again, that is the key. It always, ultimately comes back down to kindness, for respect and tolerance are already included if that action becomes a way of life when interacting with others.

    – Esme going on about the Romans inadvertently upon the Cloud

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much Esme. 🙂 I love it when you come over and visit! 🙂

      It’s funny you mention the curry. My wife and son were just over there and reported how funny it was that every restaurant seems to serve at least some curry! It’s how it should be of course! lol But your points are well made. I sort of see the right answer as most likely being an amalgam of cultures out there. What I mean is that we’re all part of this human experience and there many things which are scientific but which we can’t create a scientific experiment for, so we figure it out along the way through the slow march of course correction, likely after committing some fairly large mistakes. It seems extremely important to me that mixing has advantages, because both sides will invariably have something important to offer. We don’t want to be so quick to assimilate that we throw out good things along with the bad. And we don’t to force people to assimilate without carefully considering what they have that we might learn from. So in addition to kindness, I think humility comes into play as well.

      In regards to kindness a wonderful quote passed by me yesterday which I thought was powerfully worded. It has an element of harshness to it, but its truth, and we’d probably do well to embrace such truths.

      “Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”

      – Sam Harris

      Liked by 2 people

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