adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
[personal profile] adalger posting in [community profile] debate
So, now that we have some members, here's a topic:

Is "multiculturalism" truly beneficial?

I'll start off by taking the negative position.

Multiculturalism is a tool used by the establishment to prevent the unification of Americans into one common culture. It perpetuates inter-cultural tension by emphasizing the differences between Americans who come from different cultural heritages. The only true path to peace and unity is to abandon this continued segmentation to fulfill the promise of the Melting Pot.

Discuss. :)

Date: 2009-04-18 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ex_autopoiesi457
Leaving aside the question of what one means by "multiculturalism"--because there a lot of different ways the word might be applied--it wouldn't make sense for an establishment control measure to prevent cultural unification, when one would think a culturally conglomerized population would in fact be easier to control. Which is an argument against the Melting Pot metaphor.

ETA: That's not the same thing as saying identification with a larger crosscultural national identity is a bad thing, or even an unnecessary one. But why should peace and harmony depend on people giving up their differences/Culturally Specific Important Stuff?
Edited Date: 2009-04-18 11:42 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-04-19 01:46 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ex_autopoiesi457
The establishment depends for power on being able to prevent the different cultural groups from uniting behind a single opposition candidate [ . . . . ] A heterogeneous cultural mix is too busy acting in opposition to itself to act in unison against its oppressors.

One might argue that they just did, this past November. :-)

Date: 2009-04-19 01:48 am (UTC)
elf: Subvert (Subvert)
From: [personal profile] elf
The problem with advocating "one USan culture" is... whose culture is that?

Do we get a culture where nothing is sacred and everyone's ancestral history is irrelevant, thus denigrating the efforts to maintain cultural identities through wars and crises, or do we get a culture where all cultural icons are accorded the respect they are given in their original setting, thus constraining all of us by the beliefs and preferences of a very few?

Shall the bride wear white, a European tradition, or red, a Chinese tradition, or a brightly-colored, heavily-embroidered sari, an Indian tradition? Shall business meetings serve coffee or tea or water? Shall everyone keep kosher? Or will those who would prefer to, be forced out of the military and any government-funded meal plan?

Shall children meet adults' eyes to show they are honest, or avoid them to show they are humble? Should they avoid the words that are considered offensive in the South, or should people in the South learn to deal with casual swearing and sexual innuendo from pre-teens?

Should children be allowed to marry at puberty, or at legal adulthood? Who should decide, and why? Should infants mostly be tended by their mother, or their father's female relatives? Should we allow, or forbid, public nudity? (And what counts as "nudity"--breasts? Of both genders? Cleavage? Butt-cracks? If nudity is okay, does that include male erections?)

Note that "everyone should do what they feel comfortable with" is a cultural norm only in some cultures. Announcing "I am free to do anything that doesn't physically assault you" is pushing one culture over another; it's saying that parents have no right to restrict their children's exposure to acts they find reprehensible.

Promoting a "melting pot" approach implies that the differences between cultural groups are irrelevant distractions, rather than important matters of personal and social identity.

Date: 2009-04-19 03:25 am (UTC)
elf: Subvert (Subvert)
From: [personal profile] elf
First we must have a single language

I suppose you assume that language would be English, and the people who speak something else natively should be even more outcast than they are already. (In my office in downtown SF, English is the language we mostly communicate in. However, six other languages are spoken in the office.)

Which dialect of English would be the correct one?

then a single culture

Which culture are you advocating should be THE American culture?

This is not a "detail of integration;" it is the core question. Whose ancestral, religious, and familial history has to be set aside for the benefits of the "melting pot?"

Often, when this issue comes up, the answer is "all the non-white, non-Christian people should ignore their history, because USA is a white Christian nation and other cultures are suitable for background flavor only here." And given our history about dealing with non-white peoples, I don't think that's an acceptable approach to cultural clashes.

Date: 2009-04-19 05:09 am (UTC)
elf: Subvert (Subvert)
From: [personal profile] elf
The core question is, as I stated it, is there truly any benefit to perpetuating a plurality of cultures within one political entity

Ah. Sorry; got distracted.

Yes, there is a benefit: the plurality of cultures is essential to respecting the diverse lives, freedoms, and histories of the individuals who are members of the political entity. Cultural plurality is required in order for the USA not to be an oppressive tyranny.

I consider this so obvious that I immediately jumped to a related issue: in what way is it harmful to end a plurality of cultures? And I suppose that was the question I was addressing, rather than the one you asked.

Date: 2009-04-20 10:00 pm (UTC)
cyberjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cyberjunkie
I do see what you are saying, but I do want to ask a question here...

Reading quotes such as "We don't make any distinctions at these festivals to say we only accept certain parts of the culture." and "Do we really want Texas to have another reason to want to secede?" left me with a thought... and part of it deals with my point of view due to my career choice in the education field.

So, in the USA we have 50 different states and a bunch of territories, etc., so we have 57 (if I recall Obama's slip-up correctly) different rules and regulations within our country alone. There is no overall National system for education, nor for how roads are built, or how money is spent by the state. Gay marriage is ok here, but not there. Earlier in history it was ok for an black-skinned person to be enslaved in one state but not necessarily in the state that borders it to the north.

In other countries, there are provinces, such as in Canada. But there, 10 provinces is still easier to deal with than 57 different areas. Other countries, like Israel have no issue with one way of dealing with education across the country. (and, yes, I know, it's the size of New Jersey or so, so the size comparison issue is way off, but still it's one Nation compared to many nations.) Having just pinged a friend in Israel, I was correct here -- most curriculum across Israel is the same, except obviously religious studies. (Although Jews, Arabs, and Catholics/Christians may go to the same schools, often they do not as the communities are far apart and separated by their differences.) However, all exams for science and math, for example, are the same across the entire country. Here in the USA, they might be the same across the State of NY, where all students in 4th grade take the same science test, but compared to Ohio, Florida, Iowa, or California, they will be greatly different, as there is no National curriculum, just the mandates that No Child (shall be) Left Behind.

So, I think that the whole idea of the melting pot was a great one when we had all the different cultures immigrating to the USA in the late 1800s/early 1900s, but I also believe that Cultural Blending overtook this idea long ago (or I think the social studies book back in jr. high called it the 'Cultural Mosaic' model). That each culture adds some facet/aspect to the mosaic, but all of the parts create the whole.

My personal opinion is that cultural differences are great to make people unique, but we need to keep it in check to make sure that it is part of the solution and not adding to the problem of segmenting the country's population. I love learning about new-to-me religions, cultures, languages, etc... But, I know I might be in the minority in the area in which I live. I keep to myself often, here, as to not stick out like a sore thumb. Why, you might ask? Because, I don't want to be ridiculed/tagged and looked at as an 'outsider' because I am different from the norm here. Some people, I have learned, are unfortunately very closed-minded.

Hopefully I didn't stray too much from the topic.

Date: 2009-04-20 09:37 pm (UTC)
cyberjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cyberjunkie
I would throw in the suggestion of creating "Americanese".
We here in America have destroyed "English".

just don't suggest Ebonics.... that still gives me nightmares...

Date: 2009-04-20 11:27 pm (UTC)
cyberjunkie: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cyberjunkie
Ita vero!
Ego laeta quod Latina regit!

(not a member, but might be in the future?)

Date: 2009-04-19 09:30 am (UTC)
sloth: a rainbow and a shadow rainbow  (Default)
From: [personal profile] sloth
I have two main points I would like to make.

The first of these points is that in your negative position the theory of "multiculturalism" here has been directly applied to the practice of America without first working to historicize and contextualize both "multiculturalism" and "Melting Pot" as ideological terms. I think the incidence of immigration is also a missing, yet core, component of your argument, and the lack of discussion surrounding the issue of immigration in your stated position complicates my own response. By not knowing exactly the parameters you've laid down in terms of timeline (when did "Melting Pot" shift to "multiculturalism"? what did this shift entail? what immigration statistics preceded, accompanied, and followed this shift?), I find it difficult to formulate a suitably tailored response.

My second point is that in your example position, you have shifted the address of the original topic from is "multiculturalism" truly beneficial? to is "multiculturalism" truly beneficial in America to Americans? I feel this excludes how multiculturalism functions in organizations and countries that are not America. Had others in comments addressed multiculturalism as it functions outside of America (or inside America at business, educative, familial levels rather than mainly overarching governmental and social political levels), I don't think this would be as pressing an issue; but instead commenters have been engaging with your negative position rather than the originally posited topic - two similar, but not cloned, beasts.


Date: 2009-04-19 02:05 pm (UTC)
jayeless: photo of me at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (Default)
From: [personal profile] jayeless
I have a couple of thoughts on this.

My first is, does it not perpetuate inter-cultural tension to require newcomers to a country to abandon their way of life for some kind of approved culture? Of course it would depend on the extent to which you're prepared to crack down on those not behaving the same way as everyone else, but if you were to -- say -- forbid people to practise their own religion in public, isn't that more likely to create resentment than allowing differences to exist?

My second thought is that multiculturalism surely improves cultural relations with other states and nations in the world. If one country has a large number of immigrants from another, and those immigrants are allowed -- and encouraged -- to retain much of their cultural heritage, surely that culture will come to be better understood by those who lived in that country all along. That should theoretically foster greater respect between the two countries involved.

The problem with both of these thoughts would be that, if multiculturalism lead to animosity rather than tolerance within a country, conflict is more likely to ensue rather than less. I believe that is a problem with implementation rather than a problem inherent in multiculturalism itself. I also believe the alternative -- that immigrants should assimilate, or else not come -- leads to citizens being expected not to tolerate anyone's culture but their own. I think this attitude can become dangerous when in a political context -- international conflict is much more likely to begin when neighbouring countries refuse to respect each other than when they do.

Date: 2009-04-20 08:58 am (UTC)
jayeless: photo of me at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (Default)
From: [personal profile] jayeless
If you accept that being forbidden to practise your religion in public creates resentment, the following point will probably seem to be stating the obvious. But regardless, if there is to be only one world culture and only one world language, that means all others will have to be eradicated. So far as I can see this serves to make people very, very angry, in at least two ways. Firstly, members of cultures which have just been outlawed (which will comprise the majority of Earth's population, no matter which culture is chosen) will be angry that their way of life has been branded unacceptable. Secondly, it necessitates a massive erosion of human rights the world over -- people will have to be deprived of every right that promotes or is part of any non-approved culture. They will also have to be deprived of rights that would prevent the authorities from finding out who is covertly engaging in illicit cultural activities. This, too, will make people angry.

This anger is incredibly likely to manifest itself as civil disobedience -- making the world difficult for any organisation to control, and also perpetuating multiculturalism -- and violent protests -- which will mean no world peace. If the world organisation held on to power throughout the first few generations of this new regime, was capable of destroying all dissent, and could control the dissemination of information such that no world citizen would ever think of tolerating difference... then that regime would survive. If the world got to the stage at which all dissent had been eliminated, and censorship was that effective, then yes, there would then be world peace. But is that a fair trade? All rights and freedom to think for oneself sacrificed in exchange for world peace?

I cannot think of a way in which multiculturalism could be abolished without resorting to such tactics. Of course if everyone on Earth agreed to abandon their own cultures for a new "world culture", that would work, and no one's rights would have to be lost. If that ever occurred, and if we were unifying under a culture I felt good about, I could not object -- the abolition of multiculturalism would be a free choice of all people, for a set of beliefs I believed in.

However, so far as I can see, human beings naturally want to preserve their own cultures. Thus, they should be allowed to be preserved. I also see acceptance of others' cultures as more effectively promoting peace than trying to tell them, "No, you're wrong, because I say so." It's not foolproof, but what would be?

Date: 2009-04-21 02:32 pm (UTC)
jayeless: photo of me at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (Default)
From: [personal profile] jayeless
The reason I discussed the implementation of a world culture is because I thought you asked [personal profile] sloth whether the benefits of a world culture outweigh the price. I believe the implementation is a price in itself. Since you agree that abolishing multiculturalism is unrealistic for our world, I'll have to assume that we're now discussing the effects of culture on a hypothetical world, rather than our own.

Even if a world willingly united under a common culture, that would not eliminate all conflict, so there would not be world peace. There can still be conflicts over territory, resources and economic concerns. As time goes on and new generations develop new value systems, there would also no doubt be some fragmentation of society between the different groups. Eventually I'm sure that would lead to conflict as well.

Conflicts on ideological and nationalistic grounds would, presumably, not happen. This is not to say those conflicts would have happened if not for the "world culture", though. I tend to think that if a world's population can reach agreement on a culture to unite under, there probably wasn't enough disagreement to lead to conflict in the first place.

There would also be a disadvantage in that some people enjoy studying, experiencing and trying to understand cultures different from their own. They couldn't do so if there were no other cultures to experience. They could study them from records (keeping them would be more feasible if the world voluntarily gave these cultures up), I guess, but some people really like the diversity of people. They may also enjoy discussing differing values with other people -- politely, not starting wars about it -- and that would also be eliminated, to a large extent, by a worldwide culture (incl. value system).

So, I remain doubtful about the benefits of a unified world culture. It wouldn't work in the real world, and I don't know how much it would reduce conflict on a theoretical world -- perhaps it would depend on the culture agreed to. Out of interest, to what extent do you believe it would reduce conflict?

Date: 2009-04-23 02:52 pm (UTC)
jayeless: photo of me at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (Default)
From: [personal profile] jayeless
I think our definitions of culture differ somewhat; I would include traditions (or customs) as part of culture in addition to values, which is different to your view. Cultures do change over time, so one may adopt traditions from another, or may value tolerating that tradition, but I believe traditions themselves are still a feature of culture. The difference may not matter in the context of a New Culture, though, because this New Culture could simply adopt all cultures' traditions.

That said, I think you've dealt with most of my reservations about your argument. I could happily support a value system that protected people's rights, and I can see how armed conflict wouldn't happen if governments shared the same values (the two I think of in particular would be valuing non-violence and fairness).

I am doubtful about entrusting an organisation with creating a value system for everyone else to follow. Its members wouldn't necessarily be impartial, after all, and you wouldn't want them promoting values only to benefit themselves. There would have to be checks and balances to ensure they remained tolerant and committed to protecting people's rights.

I still haven't been persuaded, though, that multiculturalism is bad (although considering we define "culture" differently, this may not be surprising!). I see it as being about people of different cultures living together and accepting each others' backgrounds, and I see that as enriching our society. It provides a whole range of ways of thinking for us to consider, and in making us more tolerant and interested in foreign cultures it improves our relations with other countries. We also celebrate the variety of ethnicities here, and I don't believe that encourages fragmentation in our society -- everyone is Australian as well. There is some trouble with groups who reject "Australian values", but they're made up of people who seem to feel alienated, rather than excessive pride for their lands of origin. And certainly, if we told people to become "more Australian", I think there would be more alienation. Thus I believe we're better off with multiculturalism.

You're very welcome for the questions! :) I like discussions that make me think.


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