Guruji: A dhrashta—XXIII
Multiculturalist models beginning with “melting pot” and like theories may, at first sight, look similar to the Hindu concept of unity in diversity. But a closer look will reveal that the religious, philosophic and historic origins of the two, and so their character, are different. Multiculturalism evolved out of the monotheist Christian civilisation which invalidated all other faiths. But unity in diversity emerged out of Hinduism, which validated all faiths.
Consequently, ‘assimilation’ in ‘melting pot’ theories in the West and ‘assimilation’ in Hindu culture too are different. Unity in diversity as the core of Indian – read Hindu – culture and polity – has sustained India for thousands of years. But multiculturalism is proving relatively short-lived as the West, after few of decades of mad love with multiculturalism, now seems keen to drop it, but does not know how. The West increasingly sees multiculturalism as fertilising Islamic extremism that threatens the very way the West lives. But, why did the West swung from monoculturalism to multiculturalism in the 20th century?
Multiculturalism is endogenous to Christendom. But what does the West actually mean by multiculturalism? Multiculturalism doctrine believes that “several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can co-exist peacefully and equitably in a single country.” Multiculturalism was in contrast to monoculturalism which meant “the practice of actively preserving a culture to the exclusion of external influences”, namely keeping a culture exclusive. Like Godless secularism was the inevitable outcome of the Single God Church, multiculturalism was the unavoidable result of monoculturalism, But multiculturalism is not an inclusive concept like the Hindu idea of unity in diversity. Multiculturalism in varying degrees tolerates other faiths while Hindu concept of unity in diversity accepts all faiths. As the monotheist theology is exclusive, inclusiveness is the very core of Hindu philosophy. The source of all cultures being their respective religious beliefs, unity in diversity is the concomitant of Hinduism and monoculturalism is a concomitant of monotheism.
From “melting pot” and “bowl of soup” finally to “tossed salads”
How did multiculturalism, that allows cultural and religious rights to all, evolve in the West, whose roots are in monotheism which does not allow cultural and religious freedom? Multiculturalism was the inevitable response of the monocultural – read monotheistic – societies to the cross cultural immigration into their territory. Multiculturalism is inseparable from cross cultural immigration. Multiculturalism entered the monotheistic and monocultural West, forced by immigration. Take the case of America. The first immigrants, colonialists from Europe, destroyed the native American demography and changed the demography of America as nation of immigrants. The pre-Columbus total native population of North America is estimated at 79 million; the total population of the whole of Europe then was 70 million and of the world, 500 million. Now, the native American population is just 2.9 million and of the rest of America, 309 million. Had the native American population grown proportionate to the total population of US and West [now 800 million], it could be more than 800 million now, not 2.9 million. Thanks to opening the floodgates of immigration, present US population consists of 310 races/ethnicities, including Whites [72.4 per cent], Hispanics [16.4 per cent], Blacks [12.6 per cent], Asians [4.6 per cent], American Indian [0.9 per cent], Hawaiian and other races [9.3 per cent]. The imported racial and ethnic diversity of US has made America a “nation of immigrants”. The Americans proudly evolved the theories of “melting pot” or “bowl of soup” society to encourage the new immigrants to assimilate into the common American culture. This is how multiculturalism began. But, later on, the melting pot imagery was contested by a more rigorous version of multiculturalism which detested the expectation that the immigrants assimilate as coercive. Therefore, “bowl of salads” or “plate of tossed salads” theories were enunciated to enable the immigrants to retain their own national characteristics while integrating into a new society. This relieved the immigrants of the need to adjust with, and to allow to be assimilated into, the mainstream culture and gave them the right to retain their native, national and religious culture. But the new theories could not integrate the immigrants into main society. Instead it created ghettos of immigrants.
Multiculturalism in the US and Europe
The US, Canada and Australia were the first national laboratories to experiment with multiculturalism. Europe followed but not too late. As a nation built after cleansing it of all natives and on importing people from outside, America had to evolve its unique model of living together – concept of “melting pot”. But soon multiculturalism dispensed with the “melting pot” expectation of the immigrants to melt into common or core culture. America was “built” through immigration which necessitated multicultural policies. In contrast, most European nations “evolved” over centuries. George Friedman, writing on “Germany and the failure of multiculturalism” in Geopolitical Weekly, brilliantly captures the difference between the America that was “built” as a nation and European nations that “evolved” as nations thus: This goes back to the European notion of the nation, which is substantially different from the American notion. For most of its history, the United States thought of itself as a nation of immigrants, but with a core culture that immigrants would have to accept in a well-known multicultural process. Anyone could become an American, so long as they accepted the language and dominant culture of the nation. This left a lot of room for uniqueness, but some values had to be shared. Citizenship became a legal concept. It required a process, an oath and shared values. Nationality could be acquired; it had a price. To be French, Polish or Greek meant not only that you learned their respective language or adopted their values — it meant that you were French, Polish or Greek because your parents were, as were their parents. It meant a shared history of suffering and triumph. One couldn’t acquire that.
The message is obvious. While America was built by immigration, European nations evolved on ancestry. The origin and sense of nations in Europe was socio-cultural but in US, it was socio-contractual. But why did Europe turn multicultural? In the mid-latter part of the 20th century, economic compulsions drove European nations to seek massive immigration. Says the Economist magazine: It is hard to overstate what a brutal business much of this post-war immigration was, especially in the late 1940s and 1950s, with industrial interests and governments teaming up to scour the Mediterranean basin for strong young men, signing treaties with foreign governments for the supply of millions of migrants to work in the coal mines, steel mills and factories of a booming western Europe.” Consequently, nations of Europe had to compromise with their cultural nationalism and begin experimenting with “acquired multiculturalism”.
Multiculturalism weakens core culture, core society in US and Europe
Liberal politics, which began evolving post World War II, was increasingly celebrated in the West and later, from 1990s, the West began advocating it to the rest of the world. In 1990s liberalism was integrated to globalisation. Thanks to the idealist approach of US and Europe to the migrant minorities, US and Europe shifted away from ‘assimilation’ to ‘active multiculturalism’ which meant ‘a policy of intentionally supporting the diverse cultural heritage of the migrant people’. Ironically the very policy of multiculturalism was debated and ruled out in the US discourse in early 20th century as having the potential to Balkanise the US. Multiculturalism has changed the US and later Europe particularly in the last four decades. The core societies in Europe and in US have become weaker. The idea of core culture is equally under severe stress as there can be no core culture without a core society. Multiculturalism extended beyond granting to the migrants the right to their culture, to feminism, sexual revolution, gay liberation and the like, which weakened the core society even further. With the increasing volume and diversity of the new immigrants by 1980 coupled with the transition from “melting pot” America to multicultural America, the “core society” – which claims English ancestry – has shrunk to 22 percent of the total US population “resulting in the demise of the concept of an unchanging, monolithic, Anglo-American cultural core”. The fate of US and Europe recalls Guruji’s warning to the Hindus and the Indian polity not to weaken the core Hindu culture in the name of ‘composite culture’ without basic culture which is the Indian version of multiculturalism.
The cultural pendulum in the West, which swung from the monocultural extreme to multicultural extreme in the 20th century, is now on reverse swing from multiculturalism back, to where? God only knows.
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