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These days, there is a lot of talk about globalization, multicultural society, and diversity. Very often the point is made that diversity is strengthening a culture, or society. But is this view correct? The answer is yes and no.
Often indeed, diversity has yielded a certain cultural strength – New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, Barcelona can be cited as good examples. Diversity leads to strength, when elements of different character, but of a common root, are allowed to blossom. Citizens of New York may have different ethnic or cultural backgrounds but see themselves as New Yorkers. As long as there is a common denominator among a diverse population, diversity means strength. A common denominator may be culture, ethnicity, history, and language, Weltanschauung, Law.
What happens if a common denominator is lacking? In this case trouble looms ahead. That’s when cars are burning in dirty French suburbs, and liberal filmmakers are murdered in Amsterdam. The lack of an intrinsic common root, or consensus, leads to parallel societies, or ghettos.
In a parallel society, the other part is ignored, if not plainly rejected. Parallel means: two lines that never converge. Parallel societies are of a wrong kind of liberalism, where people believe that keeping one’s eyes closed will solve the problem. Ignoring each other may work for a while, but can and will lead to social clashes sooner or later – at the next economic downturn, to be precise. It may and will erupt violently.
In world’s history, the most tragic example is certainly the failed (ultimate) integration of Jews into German mainstream culture. Although both sides had gone a very long way toward a permanent platform of common thought and culture, one catastrophic event (WW I and the economic disasters thereafter) was sufficient to wipe out hundreds of years of cultural synopsis, and ultimately lead to the Holocaust. This could happen, because a common cultural platform had only materialized at the level of the elites, whilst the majority uneducated lower class rabble remained prone to anti-Semitic feelings.
Currently, the most challenging subject seems to the integration of Muslim believers into the mainstream of western culture. Integration means that both sides cede part of their territory, and move toward the other position, in fair amounts given in respect to number and standing within the host societies.
Neither side may reject the other, nor expect the other of fully embracing ‘alien’ values.
The are a number of Islamic elements western societies might take profit from - such as a strong reliance on family, or even (the by far 'healthier' laws of) Islamic banking. Yet the process of assimilation will be a painful one, particularly for Muslims. The followers of Islam must abandon absolutist statements, such as owning the only way to God. It fall’s short of revising the ‘source code’ of this religion. Yet, the bottom line is: there is no choice. Parallel societies are and have been a recipe for disaster. Adherence to absolutist ideas means, ultimately, acceptance of bloodshed.
Citing Murphy’s Law ‘what can happen will happen,’ a tremendous effort is needed on both sides to work on a truly common and reliable platform of co-existence, and beliefs cannot and may not remain taboo. What will happen, if these efforts remain fruitless? The answer is: mass murder and ethnic cleansing. Just look, what happened to Yugoslavia! A clash of culture will see no winners. Should the autochthonous (‘western’) culture prevail in a ‘clash of cultures,’ freedom might be preserved, but our dignity will be lost.
© 2006 by Franz L Kessler