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David Round

Multiculturalism and Diversity – part 1

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It was, doubtless, with relief, not unmingled with boredom, and a silent prayer of thanks that we lived a very long way away, that we recently read in our newspapers that ‘[f]inally, Iraq is on the verge of having a government, only eight months after its long-suffering people went to the polls….’

What a ghastly place Iraq is. Saddam Hussein was bad enough, but since his overthrow the country has torn itself apart with sectarian strife. Soon it may have a government, but its future as a stable even vaguely democratic society is dubious, to put it mildly. It is easy to imagine it completely collapsing into anarchy, and any semblance of order being restored only by another strongman not afraid to knock a great number of heads together. Saddam Hussein was a monster, but such are the passions of Iraqi society that perhaps his appalling methods, or something like them, are the only way order can be kept.

Iraq, of course, is not the only country in the world where democratic government is difficult. Lebanon has had immense troubles for years ~ as I recall, the various offices of state ~ president, prime minister, speaker of the assembly, and so on ~ are divided among the country’s various groups, so that the holder of one office must always be a Christian, another a Muslim, another a Druze, and so on. But when one starts to think about it, the number of countries where democracy is thriving and its future seems assured is pretty small. Even many countries which are nominally democracies are run by pretty tough men. And even in the long-established democracies of the West, our own included, countries where, if anywhere, we might surely consider democracy to be firmly established, there will be serious stresses in future years. Only the congenitally stupid and ignorant ~ in which category we must include a fair number of the supposedly educated classes ~ would assume that democracy’s survival is certain. Has the world stopped changing? Has history ended, and everything will now be wonderful for ever, as Francis Fukuyama suggested? I for one have my doubts.

Now where, you may wonder, am I going with these thoughts? Well, my point is this. Government is very difficult in Iraq , and a brutal strongman may turn out to be necessary, precisely because of Iraq ’s sectarian passions. The report I quoted above spoke of Iraq ’s ‘long-suffering people’. It would be more accurate to speak of ‘ Iraq ’s long-suffering peoples’. Iraq is a land of more than one ‘people’. Some of these peoples are of different racial ancestry, some of different religions ~ but too many of them put the interests of their own particular group ahead of the interests of the nation as a whole. Indeed, it is impossible to speak of an Iraqi ‘nation’ at all. A nation is, as the O.E.D. defines it, ‘ a large aggregate of people so closely associated with each other by factors such as common descent, language, culture, history, and occupation of the same territory as to be identified as a distinct people, especially when organised….as a political state’. The very word comes ultimately from the Latin ‘natus’, meaning ‘born’. We do not now necessarily define a nation, as we did in ancient times, as all those descended from a common ancestor, although common ancestry is still usually pretty significant, but a nation is still a group of people who share and are united by common interests; a group of people who, despite the differences inevitable and natural in any community, nevertheless still look upon themselves as a community, a group of people with much in common, a group of people who are united by more than divides them. If people so see themselves, they will work together for the common good. If people do not see themselves as a community with common interests, they will, obviously, not put the interests of the wider community, the nation, before the narrower interests of their own particular group. They do not recognise any wider community. As far as they are concerned, there is only their group to which they have loyalty, and all outside that group are strangers and enemies, to be ignored, exploited and even destroyed. That being so, it is only reasonable that these groups war against each other.

Iraq is certainly an extreme example, but it is nevertheless a perfectly good example of the natural and inevitable tendencies of ‘multiculturalism’. Our dimwitted worship of this idea ~ which also goes by the name of ‘diversity’ ~ is only possible in a society which takes its own peace, order and good government so much for granted that it can assume that nothing that it says or does will actually upset it. It talks of many cultures, but fails to realise, or does not believe, where that talk actually leads. If it actually saw where its worship of diversity was actually heading it would, let us hope ~ but sometimes I have my doubts ~ it would flee from the idea in horror. Our worship of diversity is basically insincere; it is unthinking fashionable play, not taking seriously the very idea it espouses. If it does, then it has not thought the matter through

Right now Western Europe is facing its own disintegration because the multicultural venture it has been engaged in since the end of the Second World War has been, in Enoch Powell’s prophetic phrase, the building of its own funeral pyre. New Zealand has been engaged in the same project. Mercifully, we are not so far down the primrose path, and if our rulers display any sense we may yet avoid disaster. But our history in the last twenty or thirty years has displayed very clearly that very few of those ~ both elected and unelected ~ privileged to hold power in this country have had the elementary intelligence to understand the complete folly and danger of the policies of diversity and multicultur

alism which they espouse. Europe ’s main threat is Islam, but if we have any sense we can avoid that problem here. In New Zealand the chief threat to nationhood has been the Maori separatism which our leaders continue to promote, at the cost of the rest of us ~ costs both immediate, in terms of loss of assets and resources ~ the foreshore and seabed is next ~ and long-term, in terms of national disintegration.

For the next few weeks, therefore, I thought I might offer some observations on multiculturalism and diversity. Every country’s precise mixture of racial and cultural issues is, of course, slightly different, but for all that our perplexities, arguments and stupidities here in New Zealand arise out of a far wider political, social and philosophical context. It will be interesting ~ it may even be useful ~ to look at the bigger picture.

(To be continued – on Breaking Views)