“Multiculturalism is the cultural diversity of communities within a given society and the policies that promote this diversity”. At least that was the first definition I got when I “Googled” the term, and I have no reason to disagree. Most reading this will find the concept reasonable given the diverse society in which we live and would go along with moves in recent years towards stamping out prejudice and discrimination and promoting an atmosphere of equality, supporting laws such as the 2011 Equality Act. Given some of my “friends” are from the minority groups this act seeks to protect, and I have had significant involvement in organizing diversity events as a means of building friendship, trust and understanding and breaking down barriers, one might well expect me to agree.
Yesterday, I was struck by two Facebook postings and shared them. The first was about a letter a Belgium mayor wrote to the Muslim parents of children in schools in the town where he had jurisdiction. Some had requested that pork be removed be from the school canteen menus, because of religious sensibilities. His reply was a robust defence why he would not do this. They had come to live in Belgium attracted by what it had to offer and while they were free to exercise their religion they also needed to accept the cultural norms of Belgium, or else find somewhere else to live. The second post was a criticism of the Home Secretary in one of her speeches. In it she quotes from the Koran as to why ISIS was not representative of Islam. His point was all about interpretation, for a few verses later some of what ISIS did in dealing with those who did not embrace Islam would seem to have been endorsed, and that rather than conning the people there was nothing to fear from Islam she should focus on being a good Home Secretary and protecting the citizens.
When I was a boy, there were very few people I came across whose ethnicity was not white British and whose religion (if any) was not Christian. This is no longer so, and the doctrine of multiculturalism has been promoted to come to terms with that change. I have no issue embracing the good things (and there are many) of our BME, other religious newcomers to our country, and welcome it, believing in many ways we have been enriched as a result. I also believe we should be showing hospitality, which too often in the past has been hit and miss. I have many friends who are black, non-Christian and gay, and I value their contribution to British society. What worries me is the shift in cultural norms have overall been negative and our going out of our way to embrace multiculturalism is partly a cause, but more significantly a consequence of our disregard for our own national heritage. I regret the recent rise in popularity of far right politics, which is partly a reaction to the balance shifting the wrong way. While I believe we should try to accommodate the preferences and sensibilities of newcomers into the country, I see no reason why we should give up our way of life, including its rich Christian heritage, and why we spend time and money on newly arrived guests as a result of them not making an effort to be integrated.
So let me put my head above the parapet and try to explain, inviting as I know I will missiles to be directed toward me. The cultural norms of growing up in the 1950’s and the 1960’s were far from perfect and one of the things that have come to characterize the swinging sixties is the permissive society. Since I believe that “righteousness exalts a nation and sin is a reproach to any people“, I see this to have been a bad thing that ushered in decline. But what I remember of my childhood was the emphasis put on doing one’s duty, respecting authority and “fair play”, all of which might be seen as part of traditional British values. It is not to say these have been undermined by foreigners coming into the country – far from it!
As a country, we have lost our moral compass. As a philosophy of life, doing ones duty has been replaced by pursuit of pleasure, authority has come to be despised rather than respected and fair play ideals have become dimmed because the underlying moral code has been discarded. Rather than doing the right thing being seen as of paramount importance, this has come to be replaced by allowing an anything goes mentality and more emphasis on self-expression and tolerance to all except what the liberal elite deems unacceptable, or what might upset the sensibilities of a vociferous minority.
As a consequence, we are more likely to be condemned, rather than commended, if we are to insist that certain things, like allowing the eating pork in school canteens even when there are Muslims, are perfectly ok, and should we raise concerns over certain impositions by and pandering to adherents of the Islam religion. Not only does this create dissatisfaction and provides a breeding ground for far right politics to flourish, which I reject because it breeds hatred and disrespect toward those who are different but, given “nature abhors a vacuum”, I dread to think what will come to fill it.
Addendum 1: Just found the Belgium mayor letter was a hoax. Even so the points made above still apply!
Addendum 2: Since first posting, I was made aware of an incident when the local authorities in Clacton had removed some graffiti because of a complaint it was racially offensive, with which the council officers concurred. The graffiti depicted five grey pigeons telling a colorful swallow to go back to Africa. Myself, I felt the artwork very good and also funny. If anything, it was poking fun at those who are racist. While I would not want to unduly offend anyone, there are always things that will offend a minority. It is a sad commentary on the doctrine multiculturalism (as well as political correctness, spoken about in an earlier post) that we find such actions are becoming less the exception and more the norm. Clacton, like many other towns in the UK, will have its fair share of rough sleepers – and that is something I find particularly offensive!