Saturday, December 05, 2015

We should celebrate Britain's multicultural society not berate it.

The idea that multiculturalism, as Mr Altaf Ussain claims today on the Conservative Home website, has "guided so much of our policy for decades " is just plain wrong and there is not a scintilla of evidence for it. A multicultural society was never, ever a goal of any political Party or Government. Yes we have such a society and benefit hugely from it. But it is a consequence of a host of actions and circumstances never a goal.

I don't know whether Mr Hussain was around in Britain in the early 1950s but I was and a very dull place it was. Homogenous, unicultutal, introspective, ignorant, suspicious, antisemitic, xenophobic. It was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant world, There weren't many people of colour around so the WASP established order had to be rude about the Catholics, or the Jews or the Irish. There will always be someone to blame if you feel the need to. Now, for Mr Hussain, it's those of ethnic minority heritage who don't "integrate". Well I've news for him. It was ever thus. There are Jewish families living in London from the faith's orthodox outer reaches who haven't "integrated' for 100 years or more. And it hasn't mattered a bit. They obey the law. That is all we require them to do. How they live, worship, eat and which festivals they observe or what clothes they wear doesn't matter a fig, and never did.

The extent of our integration into the predominant Unicultural norms of the majority British culture is a matter of choice. When I lived in Hong Kong some of my friends called themselves "Bananas" - they looked Chinese but in fact they were as British as I was. They were yellow on the outside, but white inside. That was their choice (or had been that of their parents). Similarly I have met many West Indians who call themselves "Coconuts"! There is nothing offensive about these self-imposed descriptors, and nothing superior either. 

Mr Hussain is a "Melting Pot" man. He seems to want to make us all conform to some bland norm which has eliminated our differences. Well I've been there 60 plus years ago and I don't recommend it. There are more challenges living in a pluralist society - but it is far, far richer. I celebrate our differences, the variety of our  cites, the range of our cultures and people. I don't thnk my norm is better than anyone else's. It's mine and I'm not going to change it. And I'm not going to presume to ask anyone else to change theirs either. 


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