DAVID SOLWAY: THE PROBLEM WITH MULTICULTURALISM
Most conservative observers are of the opinion that multiculturalism as it has been understood and practiced is nothing short of a social and economic disaster. And it must be said they are largely, if not entirely, correct. The multicultural project in its contemporary form suffers from two grievous flaws: the filter is too wide, allowing into the country unskilled people who are poorly equipped to participate in a modern, technologically oriented economy and who consequently become a financial burden to the nation, disproportionately swelling the welfare rolls; and, no less critical, many of these immigrant groups import the hatreds, prejudices and conflicts of their countries of origin, sequester themselves with official approval into closed or aggressive enclaves, and often cause violence and disruption in the public life of their new home. (Rape and “grooming” statistics compiled in the U.K. give a dataset that leaves in no doubt the ethnic make-up of the great majority of offenders.)
Of course, in those cases where immigrant societies, while preserving their cultural habits and religious beliefs in the private sphere, make every effort to integrate into the public domain, to respect the laws, assumptions and folkways of their host, and to contribute to the economic vitality of their adopted country—in such cases, multiculturalism may be said to have succeeded. We are, after all, a country of immigrants. Nearly everyone has an ancestor who was not born here. But in every Western country, whether in North America, Europe or parts of Australasia, there is one immigrant group whose more radical members refuse to adapt to the heritage culture, insist on the supremacy of their ideas and customs, shamelessly milk the dole, create havoc and mayhem, and pose a serious threat to the security and wellbeing of the larger population.
Not long ago I spent an afternoon at Kingsmere Park, the historic estate of legendary Canadian prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, near the capital city, Ottawa. It was filled with thousands of weekend visitors enjoying the vast landscaped gardens, rustic dwellings and architectural ruins erected by King, who was prone to eccentric visions of grandeur. I was, however, more impressed by the people than by the site itself. They represented a microcosm of the Canadian census, the changing and multi-hued face of the country, brown, black, white and every shade in between, some speaking languages I could not identify, others in languages that I could, and English in a bewildering variety of accents and intonations. Many were garbed in a panoply of exotic costumes. But they were Canadians, experiencing a piece of Canadian history, reading the pamphlets and brochures provided by the service personnel, pointing out objects of interest to their children, and participating in the festive atmosphere of the place.
I spent most of the afternoon strolling about Kingsmere fascinated by the prism of citizenship before me. But I did not see a single hijab, or burka, or abaya, or chador, or niqab, or shalwar. I did not hear a syllable of Arabic. So far as I could tell, or at any rate on that particular day, a certain ethnic cohort seemed to be entirely absent.
A month or so later I attended the November 11 Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa, a profoundly moving event that brought me to tears, as it did many others among a multitude so large it could not be reliably counted. The laying of wreaths, the war veterans parading by, some in wheelchairs, the busby-topped buglers, the multi-denominational speeches, the jets flying at low altitude, the 21-gun salute—all brought to mind the debt of gratitude we owed to our soldiers and relit the candle of patriotism, too often guttering or extinct, for one of the more decent and tolerant countries on the planet. Recalling my earlier experiment at Kingsmere, I began canvassing as much of the crowd as was feasible under the circumstances to determine its composition; and, as at the national site, it seemed no less chequered and comprehensive. I did note one woman in a hijab staring impassively at the proceedings, but apart from this anomaly, even after several hours, I was unable to detect a single one of her congeners. Again, a certain ethnic cohort appeared to be massively un-or under-represented.
The parallel memorial in Toronto, however, featured at least two Muslim women, who made their presence felt not by honoring Canada’s war dead and her living heroes but by disrupting the ceremony, screaming obscenities at the crowd. A scuffle then broke out among some of the participants although no arrests were made—probably because this would have been offensive to a certain ethnic group. Food for thought, although not especially appetizing fare.
The fact that Luton in the U.K. saw much greater abuse, the burning of poppies and the jeering at and taunting of British soldiers returning from Afghanistan, is no consolation. The point is, to put it bluntly, that such people should not have been welcomed into a democratic country with a history of sacrifice and traditions of loyalty that require respect. They are not genuine citizens but an obstreperous and unproductive fifth column that works against the viability of the country that has taken them in. And many seem to have all the time in the world to attend protests and demonstrations when other people are busy at their jobs—as I recently observed at a vehement pro-Hamas rally before the Israeli embassy—so that it seems clear they are the welfare beneficiaries of the very society they seek to subvert.
Here, once again, we are presented with the problem of multiculturalism as it is currently implemented: we have opened the gates to seditionists on the one hand and parasites on the other, two categories that frequently coalesce. We need not be as strictly exclusionary as, for example, Switzerland, where citizenship is difficult to obtain. (My aunt, who worked for the International Labor Organization in Geneva and has resided there for most of her life, waited for years before citizenship was finally granted.) But if we are to be candid and scorn the travesty of political correctness, we should admit that citizenship is a precious gift and that it needs to be earned and deserved.
This does not militate against any race, religion or ethnicity, and we know that there are peaceful, law-abiding, responsible and productive members of any and every immigrant group, without exception. Therefore, the argument I am making for a rational immigration policy is neither “racist” nor “xenophobic,” the favorite slanders of the liberal-left political class that has a vested interest in promoting indiscriminate multiculturalism. On the contrary, as philosopher Roger Scruton, in a speech reported by The Brussels Journal, has eloquently maintained, “the problem posed by the large-scale immigration of people who do not enter into our own…way of life” affirms the right “of indigenous communities to refuse admission to people who cannot or will not assimilate.” The host society’s failure to sift wisely among aspirants to citizenship leads inevitably to “inter-communal strife” and to the political and cultural trauma of “states that have been irreversibly changed through immigration”—changed by those who refuse allegiance “to a shared home and the people who have built it.”
The principle holds. Immigration policy in general should be louvered toward the proper criteria of admissibility: capacity to contribute to the life and prosperity of the nation, and willingness to integrate. Anything less produces costs in political dissidence, cultural upheaval and fiscal extortion we are increasingly unable to defray.
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