Australia prides itself on always having been a country for immigrants. We like to think of ourselves as welcoming, tolerant, inclusive. Over a quarter of our population was born overseas. Most of us think Australia is a better country today than when we were an Anglo-Celtic monoculture seventy years ago – although that view has become more nuanced in recent years.
Most of us call this “multiculturalism” and our politicians love the term. They assiduously court votes in the various ethnic communities, and think that “diversity” is a great thing, irrespective of the culture we are being “diverse” with.
Why is this? What do most of us think of when we think “multiculturalism”?
When we look at another Culture, most of us think about things that are ON THE SURFACE, most easily seen: interesting things like differences in food, dress, music, visual arts, drama, crafts, dance, literature, language, celebrations and games. (For more on this, see separate post on The Iceberg Concept of Culture.)
And we congratulate ourselves on how successful Australia’s “multiculturalism” has been – often without considering the differing extents to which individual immigrant cultures have been successfully integrated here.
People who cite Greek, Italian, Dutch, German, South American, Russian, Finnish, Swedish, Croatian etc. immigration as a proof of the success of “multiculturalism” overlook a common factor in all of these source countries: they are part of broad European, Judeo-Christian, WESTERN CIVILIZATION. They share very many of the values of our own society.
Immigrants from the various countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East are successful also to the extent that they respect the essential values of our Australian culture. But these cultures are further from our own, and successful assimilation into the Australian community imposes bigger challenges for them. Undoubtedly many of them do succeed and become good citizens. HOWEVER, some of them do not, and immigrants from just a few source cultures present serious problems for Australia’s social cohesion and community safety.
Very serious problems arise when an immigrant culture REJECTS the host culture, or clings to values and practices which are incompatible with ours or downright illegal – or takes the attitude “I’m all right, you (the host culture) are not all right.”
ALL CULTURES ARE NOT EQUALLY ASSIMILABLE.