What comes after multiculturalism?

Of all the alternatives that have been tried and rejected, nationalism seems like the best possibility

You don’t have to be an anthropologist to understand that multiculturalism as the cohabitation of multiple distinct cultures is a non-starter. If ‘culture’ is understood in its simplest meaning, as a distinct way of life, then the idea of many distinct and mutually contradictory ways of life sharing the same space is obviously nonsensical.

One important feature of culture is language. For people in a society to communicate, they must share at least one common language. It’s possible for a society to have two official languages: Kyrgyzstan has Kirgiz and Russian as official languages; Belgium, French and Dutch; Finland, Finnish and Swedish; and Canada, English and French.

The record is clear: bilingual societies are fairly unwieldy and can be politically unstable. So how many official working languages could a country have?

Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, faced with demands from other cultural groups to recognize their languages, decided that Canada would have “multiculturalism” in a bilingual society.

So too with law, the formal statement of what’s criminal and what fulfils contracts. Canada officially recognizes both English common law and French civil law.

Could Canada also accommodate Bedouin tribal law, Indian caste law, Catholic canon law, and Islamic sharia law?

They all contradict one another, so the likely result would be utter chaos and frequent outbreaks of violence. Society would grind to a halt, because no one would know what would happen next.

In 2011, David Cameron, prime minister of Great Britain, said that “state multiculturalism” contributed to radicalization and terrorism.

Also in 2011, president Sarkozy of France said that “We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.” He declared the concept of multiculturalism “a failure.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of German had already stated in 2010 that “the idea of people from different cultural backgrounds living happily ‘side by side’ did not work.” She said, “This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed.”

And the list of those giving multiculturalism in practice an F grade goes on, including past Liberal prime minister John Howard of Australia, and past prime minister of Spain Jose Maria Aznar.

Why have all of these government leaders declared multiculturalism a failure?

Because it’s unworkable. And faced with unbending and truculent immigrants and minorities, vast sums spent on those incomers unable or unwilling to support themselves, major upticks in crime, especially violent sex crimes, and having been subject to terrorist atrocities by people they have taken in, and the incomers’ determined resistance to integration, those leaders are at their wits’ end.

Increasingly, voters are disillusioned by multiculturalism in practice.

Here are some of the candidates to take the place of multiculturalism:

Misogynous dystopia

Author Margaret Atwood has set out in The Handmaid’s Tale the misogynous dystopia that she fears. But our social and political reality is so far from this vision as to mark it more paranoia than foresight.

Gender equality is now a central principle in western society. In practice, however, North American feminists strive not for equality but for female dominance, and current ideology and institutional rules offer special advantage to females at the expense of males.

A more realistic fear is a misandrous dystopia.

White supremacism

The alleged great influence of North America’s sad handful of white supremacists, throwbacks who hate blacks and Jews, and favour Nazi paraphernalia, is an imaginary bogeyman of our quasi-dominant progressives and far left.

All together, North America’s white supremacists are not numerous enough to carry a vote at a meeting of one university’s faculty members. But the left must find some way to justify their extremism.

There is no chance that white supremacism will play any significant role in Canada’s future.

Islamic supremacism

Canada and the United States, unlike Europe, have low numbers of Muslims. While some North American Muslims can occasionally mount a small-scale terrorist attack, the chances of their taking over is small. Muslims in North America are not a demographic bomb as Muslims are in Europe, partly because the general birthrate in North America is substantially higher than the native European birth rate.

However much some North American Muslims would like Canada and the United States to adopt sharia law and Canada and the U.S. to join the umma, the community of Muslims, many other Muslims are happy to become Canadians and Americans in substance as well as form.

Whatever the fate of Europe might be, Canada and the United States will not be having an Islamic future.

Decolonialization and Indigenization

A more serious contender for Canada’s future is decolonialization and Indigenization, inspired by Marxist anti-imperialism and by our contemporary culture of victimhood.

The object of this movement, sometimes under the cover of ‘reconciliation,’ is to re-do Canada’s history and to rectify the losses experienced by Canadian indigenous native peoples. This is a project moving ahead at the initiative of the United Nations, the government of Canada, and all Canadian universities.

Indigenous Canadians make up less than five per cent of Canada’s population.

Advocates foresee the return of Indigenous ownership to land now occupied by provinces and cities. Perhaps Canadian ‘foreign occupiers’ may remain, by paying rent for their colonialist cities and industries. As well, Indigenous groups want a veto over any Canadian resource projects.

Another much discussed goal is political independence of Indigenous peoples. In Canada, the Indigenous already live under separate laws, for example, being excused from paying taxes. And while they receive billions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers, the finances of Indigenous bands are not overseen by the Canadian government.

Indigenous individuals are also tied to the collective tenure of their bands, which have no freehold real property. But a more complete independence of First Nations is envisioned by activists: First Nations are to become entirely independent of Canadian laws and the Canadian government. They are to become independent states, which would deal with Canada, or whatever is left of it once Indigenous land is removed, on a nation to nation basis. Canadian subsidies would then presumably become foreign aid.

Canadians have already taken the first steps into this future. It may be the next big thing.

Nationalism

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argues that Canada is a “post-national” state, and that “There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada.”

But the Canadian public doesn’t believe this. A national poll found that that 68 per cent of respondents agreed that “Minorities should do more to fit in better with mainstream Canadian society.”

Quebecois have always rejected multiculturalism.

Nationalism is very much passé according to ‘progressive’ intellectuals. The European Union was devised to undercut the European nationalisms that had come close to destroying Europe in the two world wars of the 20th century. Nationalism became a dirty word.

However, in the 21st century, in response to what many Europeans regard as arbitrary and undemocratic governance on the part of the European Union, the asymmetrical economic crisis of integrated currency, and the flood of refugees and illegal immigrants from distant and alien cultures of the Middle East and Africa, nationalism has returned in an unexpectedly muscular form. The European Union directive for all member states to take a portion of the refugees and immigrants was rejected by Eastern European states, which closed their borders to protect their citizens and their cultures.

Nationalism has returned to Europe, less as an enthusiasm than as a reaction.

Nationalism may not be the best political philosophy, but today many people appear to believe that it’s better than any of the alternatives. It’s the most likely candidate to succeed multiculturalism.

Philip Carl Salzman is professor of Anthropology at McGill University, senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and fellow of the Middle East Forum.


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