I’m not alone in thinking that our last debate about multiculturalism was marred by the fact that nobody seemed to agree on what the word actually meant. The following bit from a Christian Science Monitor opinion piece caught be eye:
Supposedly [European authorities] were enlightened “multiculturalists” who respected differences; for many, the real reason was a profound discomfort with the idea of “them” becoming “us.” Naively, they imagined they could preserve their nations’ cultural homogeneity while letting in millions of foreigners and smiling on their preservation and perpetuation of values drastically different from their own.
Perhaps we need to distinguish between “multiculturalism” and multiculturalism?
It’s a wish-washy word whichever way you cut it, but if I were to make a simple distinction I’d put it this way: “Multiculturalism” is the dumb idea that everybody should be able to live as they please, ignoring (under the flimsy pretense of tolerance) the potential harmfulness of some behavior. True multiculturalism, I think, simply means a recognition that “culture” (in this case, national or European culture) is not something that’s fixed, essential or immutable, nor even homogenous, but rather contains a variety of different influences — sometimes competing ones, even — and changes over time.
This discussion really shouldn’t get bogged down in isms. My point is that Europe is going to have an “immigration problem” as long as it doesn’t accept the fact that “Europe,” for better and for worse — net better, I say, provided basic political rights are preserved — will be quite a different creature in a hundred years’ time due to the massive immigration of today.
Or course the ball is not squarely in European Europe’s court. Over time, I expect to see a compromise with Immigrant Europe. Now calm down. Compromise does not mean chopping off your foreskins and living under Sharia law. In fact, I’m not sure what such a Europe would really look like…. It’s an amusing and slightly thrilling idea, though.