Multiculturalism is a word found in many news outlets, lecture theatres and everyday conversations. It mostly pertains to an idea where many different cultures coexist in the same community, region, nation etc. It is a dream held by many of the more liberal minded individuals and groups that multiculturalism will result in a beautiful utopic human society where all can express their own cultures without threats of discrimination, violence or unfair stereotyping. It really does sound like a noble idea, but can it actually work?. Can a multicultural society truly flourish in the long-term? My answer is no.
We firstly need to understand what a culture is. In short, it is a shared system of beliefs, practices and approach to life held by a group of people. Not every culture is the same, and it’s the multitude of differences that present the biggest problem to the idea of a multicultural utopia.
People can deny it, but eventually the truth that many people fear change and the unknown comes forth very strongly. We tend to fear that which we don’t understand; different cultures notwithstanding. We often have trouble truly understanding the differences in values and beliefs held by members of a different culture. This poses a major challenge to the idea of a multicultural wonderland, since a multicultural society requires a concerted effort by all its members to understand the different cultures that make up the society as a whole. Easily said, not easily done.
Multicultural societies can only succeed if there is mutual trust and understanding between all the cultures that make up these societies. Mutual trust and understanding is definitely not something that one finds easily in today’s globalised world. One merely has to watch the news for examples of human intolerance and prejudice towards people that are different from them.
I also question the sustainability of a multicultural utopia. How long can people bury the hatchet for? You mustn’t forget that we have thousands of years’ worth of hatred, wars, prejudice and ingrained distrust still floating about in the consciousness of societies across the globe. It isn’t as simple as conveniently deciding that society must now simply “get along”. For a multicultural utopia to emerge, all people of all cultures must be able to reconcile their differences.
I like to think of this concept as a seesaw. On the one side you have culture A, on the other there’s culture B. It gets even more complex when you factor culture C, D,E and everyone else into the equation. In order for the seesaw (society) to be perfectly balanced, both cultures, as well as all the others, need to have equal weight (standing, acceptance). Sadly, you can begin to realise exactly how difficult it is to achieve this. It only takes one member of one of the distinct cultures to upset the balance and you have chaos. You can think of examples such as the September 11th attacks in New York that caused a massive backlash against Muslims in the West; or the violence between the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. The list is, unfortunately, practically endless.
There is another almost insurmountable obstacle to the idea of a multicultural utopia. This obstacle takes the form of the left-wing versus right-wing dilemma. On the one hand you have the left-wing which is a group committed to all-inclusion and liberalistic ideals, and on the other you have the right-wing which is strongly opposed to change and values conservation of the status-quo. This dilemma can be seen as a ‘self-feeding’ problem. Liberalism gives rise to conservatism and vice versa. Once again, you aren’t only dealing with liberals and conservatives, but everyone else as well. How easy is it to fully integrate all these different views and ways of life into one coherent multicultural society? Humanity still hasn’t found an answer.
In conclusion, I believe that the idea of a multicultural utopia is noble, but ultimately not achievable or sustainable. We are all different, that’s the way our world is. Trying to artificially eradicate those differences and merge them into a singular culture based on multiculturalism is impossible.