Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Multiculturalism Fails in Germany

Whatever its virtues, European social democracy has a dark underside, an unassimilated underclass that is wreaking havoc in many of its nations.

Segments of the French suburbs are off-limits to the French police and French laws. Abuse of the welfare system, coupled with increased violent crime by unassimilated immigrants, has bedeviled many European nations. David Frum reports here.

Last weekend German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the bull by the proverbial horns and declared that the German experiment in multiculturalism had failed.

Of course, multiculturalism has slightly different meanings in different cultures. In Germany it meant allowing different peoples from different cultures to live as their native cultures demanded, as long as they were loyal to the state. Link here.

To grasp the issue, we can turn to George Friedman of  Stratfor. He explains the historical and political context of German multiculturalism here.

German multiculturalism grew up around the problem of Muslim, especially Turkish, guest workers.

Having been invited into the country to help in post-war rebuilding efforts, many of them stayed and either failed to assimilate or were not allowed to assimilate into the larger German culture.

According to Friedman, Germany tried to deal with the problem by striking a grand bargain. It allowed these immigrants to maintain their own culture, their language and their values. In exchange they would be required to pledge loyalty to the German state.

In one sense it sounds like the invidious American principle of “separate but equal,” but in practice it reflected the reality behind the American principle. A group of citizens was taken to be: “separate but unequal.” Not just unequal, but inferior.

It is a recipe for social anomie. German Muslims were Germans, and yet they were not. They were isolated and separated, forming a class, even a caste, of their own. They were supposedly loyal to Germany but they did not speak German and did not respect German customs.

As we discovered on 9/11, it created a perfect place to recruit terrorists.

Where Germany was proposing a separation of cultures, America had been built precisely on cultural assimilation.

In Friedman’s words: "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."

Of course, many self-identified American multiculturalists reject the notion of assimilation and integration. They especially reject the idea of cultural dominance. In their minds all cultures should be respected, and be treated as equals.

It resembles nothing other than the old, discredited idea of the Tower of Babel, a formula for economic inefficiency.

American multiculturalism is not about separate but unequal. In its denial of a cultural hierarchy, it seems to be aiming at: separate but equal. At the least, it rejects the old American model of assimilation.

Not only does it reject assimilation, but it finds that there is a fundamental injustice in the notion of a “dominant culture.”

Why, American multiculturalists ask, should one culture dominate others? Doesn’t a dominant culture oppress other cultures, demanding adherence to its values while disparaging the values of other peoples?

Also, American multiculturalists believe that there is nothing very special about America, and that the sources of American pride are corrupt and polluted.

Here’s the rub. It’s one thing to argue that you should conform to the culture in which you are living, that you should speak its language and adhere to its values. That could be argued as: When in Rome, do as the Romans.

But what happens, when the argument becomes: Do as the Romans do, because the Romans are better than the Carthaginians?

When you tell ethnic Turks that they can or should no longer pretend that Germany is a suburb of Istambul, you are asking them to renounce their culture and to join another culture whose values are largely incongruent with their own.

But, you are also inviting them to join a stronger and more successful culture. Or so it will appear. On the most obvious grounds: namely, that the new culture can, in most cases, provide a better life for them than their old culture could.  Exception made for those who are persecuted in their home countries.

If they choose to stay in Germany, and adhere to German culture, are they not saying that this new culture does a better job of providing for them? Otherwise, why would they not return to Turkey?

For reasons that probably lie at the core of human nature, cultures, even civilizations, compete for dominance.

And when you join a culture, you become part of a team that is competing with other teams, that has had its share of victories and defeats and that will invite you to take pride in its achievements and to ensure that you not aid in repeating its defeats.

When you join a winning team, you are expected to draw moral sustenance and motivation from its achievements.

If you cannot see anything other than the faults, foibles, and failings of your culture, you are going to find yourself morally bereft, rudderless and unmotivated.

Part of the problem with Merkel’s insistence that German Turks learn to speak German and adopt German values, lies in the question of whether or not it is possible to feel pride in being a German. Given the horrors that Germany perpetrated in the last century, can today’s Germans put all of that behind them and feel pride in what Germany has accomplished in the post war period?

For the length and breadth of its history, America has justifiably provoked feelings of pride in those who belong to the nation and, equally, in those who have assimilated and integrated.

Yet, America as a nation did systematically exclude one group of people from full membership in its community.

Since the model of cultural assimilation can only work if it works for everyone, America has been at considerable pains to right the wrongs in its own past and to offer everyone full membership in the culture. Along with it should come feelings of pride in America’s achievement and loyalty to its principles and values.

If, as most of us believe, the good largely outweighs the bad in American history, it makes no sense to try to induce people to fail to assimilate into America.

To do so would be to produce the kinds of anomie that are threatening European social democracies today. As Frum suggested, the solution seems not to be to make America conform more to Europe, but to have Europe become more like America.

Multiculturalism, in whatever the guise, does not work. In this, Chancellor Merkel is merely echoing the conclusions of a study conducted by Harvard Professor Robert Putnam. Link here.

Failing to encourage people to assimilate, teaching them that all cultures are fundamentally the same, that no culture should inspire more pride than another, is simply a formula for cultural decline, and a new, special form of anomie.


Dennis said...

A "coat of many colors" is easy to pull apart whereas the product of a "melting pot" cannot be so easily undone. Multiculturalism only serves to divide us into that "coat of many colors." Becoming part of the "melting pot" is to add flavor, spice and other various ingredients that make a fine "stew" that all can enjoy.
Like all fine "stews," it is enhanced by aging and the slow blending of its ingredients.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

That's an excellent analogy. The real issue about the different kinds of multiculturalism is whether it allows people to exist within a singular and cohesive culture or whether it seeks to divide them against themselves.

Proud Hindu said...

Why do these country offer welfare? People should have to undergo language lessons and job training BEFORE they are allowed to immigrate. They also need to undergo "cultural sensitivity" classes in order to acclimatizie to whatever culture they are immigrating into.

I travel the globe quite frequently and I easily assimilate everywhere I go by preparing myself a bit ahead of time - language and all.

Sure, sometimes there is culture shock, but you roll with the punches.

If you are kind, personable and willing to bend a little in order to fit in, any culture will welcome you.