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Europe has failed multiculturalism, Mrs. Merkel
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-10-19 09:24:43
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Multiculturalism is dead, long live …what? I’m not sure if the German chancellor, Angela Merkel did it intentionally or fully aware but she really did put the gravestone on something too many people work for in many ways for decades. She did it in the worst possible way, she said it the worst possible timing and she did it in front the worst possible audience, young people who need something to stand for and what she gave them is blind chauvinism and messages of intolerance.

I think there is more damage in what Mrs Merkel said or did. Using half truths she said one major truth which unfortunately is going to be lost inside the rest of the messages. Multiculturalism in Europe is dead, what Mrs Merkel missed is that multiculturalism in Europe is dead as we thought of it. To my opinion multiculturalism sounded as a very fancy word to cover integration and in some ways violent integration. Multiculturalism in Europe didn’t fail because – as Mrs Merkel repeatedly has said the last few years every time she had the chance to talk about the subject – because the Turkish immigrants in Germany failed to learn the German language, multiculturalism failed because we used it as an excuse to create ghettos. The ghettos of Turks in Germany, the ghettos of Albanians in Greece, the Somalis in Finland, the North Africans in France and the list go on and on.

We failed multiculturalism and not the other way around and this is only a European phenomenon but a global one. Is just that in Europe we tried to act as models, we tried to teach the rest of the word on how multiculturalism works and we did so in places like Middle East and mainly Muslim countries. We told them that multiculturalism is to accept the difference, to show tolerance in different customs and believes but what we really meant is that they have to accept our tolerance, our way of multiculturalism. And Mrs. Merkel specified it, it is all about integrating. Accepting the local “ways” and live with them. But that is so superficial because for example the veil or the female circumcision has nothing to do with the Islamic culture or better it has to do as much drugs have to do with the western culture. And I used drugs here because travelling in Asia and Africa I found out many times that people think that we Europeans are lazy, interest only for sex and drugs and rock & roll. Is this what European culture is? Of course not but that has to do with information.

There is a huge problem in Germany with the Turkish minority which is reaching the four million - including second and third generation. A big percent of them don’t speak German, have nothing to do with the German way of life, some of them have never even spoke with a German person leaving alone befriending with a German. But instead of finding ways to expel them why not try to understand first why they are like that. Why these people moved to Germany in the first place. And I’m using German and Turks as an example but I could talk about any other minority in any European state as I did above. These people first of all feel insecure with their new home even though they moved searching for a better future dispirit of what was going on in their own country. In the new countries they have to deal with prejudice and discriminations and please don’t tell me that the Turkish workers in Germany, the Somali workers in Finland or the Albanians in Greece have the same rights with the locals. In theory of course they have and of course they are protected from the law but unfortunately as I have often said before the laws are there but people are the ones who practice the law and people can be prejudice, ignorant and racists.

Regarding the German reality there is a whole bibliography that describes what Turkish workers have gone through including books from a former government member and two MPs. A reporter form the magazine "Stern" a few years ago pretending that he’s Turk lives the hell on earth when he tried to find a job and in the different working places he actually worked including a mine. So you got a group of people that live in constant fear, often victims of racism and prejudice then it is natural that they will find settler among their own people and they will feel safe among their own. So soon you get the Turkish cafes, the Turkish restaurants where only Turkish people go and even the Turkish discos and clubs. For anybody who has lived even for a little time in Berlin or in Stuttgart they know what I’m talking about. There are places, cafes or shops in Berlin where if you don’t speak Turkish you will never been served. And why the surprise when these people try to protect their own? When there is a job opening why not invite a person you know, and you know the need that person has for a job and having a stronger group inside the job for more safety. And yes when the poor immigrants turn into an active minority of four millions where most of them have earned the German citizenship and now literally demand their rights you suddenly remember that multiculturalism has failed because they don’t speak the language and wear a veil?

A few days ago I had a conversation about multiculturalism, xenophobia and racism here in Finland with a Finn and he insured me that Finns are neither xenophobic or racist and that they are people fully into multiculturalism but then how it happens that for the next elections there are three parties with two of them bright new with main motive to "kick" the immigrants out of the country and one of those parties having great chances not only to get into the parliament, not only reach 10% of the votes but having chances to become partner in a future coalition government. Amazingly so there are no doubts of the prejudice and racism this party represents, it goes with the name "True Finns"

And how people understand multiculturalism has been for long my question here in Finland but I have the feeling that the same goes to all Europe. Do they understand multiculturalism because they like Lebanese and Thai food and in their CD collection they have a couple of CDs with Turkish or Arab belly-dance music? That they have a rug from South America or Afghanistan does it help their multiculturalism? I’m a member of an organization supporting immigrant artists in Europe an organization that has members of people who have immigrate from all around the world to Europe and they constantly create and exhibit their work. Including myself we have often find out that the locals are surprised of our work not expecting us to express ourselves in example with surrealism or pop art but expecting us to do folklore art, the one you can find in tourist shops. 

Mrs. Merkel remarks are unbelievable, not only because any conversation about multiculturalism is now dead but mainly because she gave an excuse to all those who live and evolute in prejudice and racism to surface and become mainstream always in the name of free speech and democracy. One more thing that I hope the ones that should – including international organizations and NGOs - notice is that Mrs. Merkel didn’t just talk about immigrants but she targeted, photographed the immigrants she was referring to. And accidentally they all have darker skin, long beards and veils on their head. Using the Turks often as an example Mrs. Merkel actually targeted the Arab people and now this alliance Merkel, Sarkozy and Berlusconi with all the help from the Eastern European states and the general Islamophobia in Europe and in the western world is getting unpredictable dimensions. In the beginning is Arabs and Islam but soon it can be the southerners. Prejudices plenty inside Europe long time now and the first immigration movements in Europe - and the first victims of prejudice - where internal and they were Italians, Greeks and Spaniards immigrating to more the industrial advanced north hoping for a better future.

And then what Mrs Merkel? Who is going to follow multiculturalism in the grave you just opened?

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Emanuel Paparella2010-10-19 10:02:58
Plenty of food for thought here Thanos. I am especially struck by that distinction between assimilation and integration. In fact, the failure of multiculturalism is the failure to properly appreciate that distinction: one can be assimilated into another culture without being integrated and without losing one’s original cultural heritage. Unfortunately too often our narrow-minded politicians who fancy themselves statesmen, or stateswomen as the case may be, understand multiculturalism as the tyranny of the majority toward the minority, especially so when the minority has a different culture from the majority. The founding fathers of the US who were more than mere politicians wrote the amendments to the Constitution exactly to prevent that kind of tyranny, and it was probably one of the wisest thing they could have done at the time, short of abolishing slavery. The founding fathers of the EU also understood that the proper name for forced integration never was multiculturalism but xenophobia and intolerance toward the other, an ugly phenomenon redolent of the rabid nationalism that produced two destructive world wars (the very thing that the EU is supposed to stand against) which is now rising its ugly head all over the world, always an ominous sign of major wars and social catastrophes. The worst thing that can befall an individual and even a body politic is to lose its soul (its very cultural identity based on respect and tolerance for all cultures) and not even be aware of it. Kierkegaard called it “the sickness unto death.”

Marco Borg2010-10-21 01:02:16
Actually as a Greek I think you know what Muslims did to your country and your people and not just in Turkey. One recalls the Muslim genocide of the Armenians and also the Assyrians and the Greeks around 90 years ago.

One recalls that not ONE

Thanos2010-10-25 11:17:47
Marco it was not the Muslims that did everything you said but the nationalists (fascists) of Kemal Ataturk. You cannot blame a religion for the crimes of humans.

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