Bi-culturalism ?

Hugh Pavletich e-mailed me this article arguing that “Bicultural Europe is doomed“. Very dramatic. Also I must admit that the hostility in some quarters mainly on the right – to multi-culturalism surprised me when it surfaced and even now surprises me. I’m afraid I’m with Phillip Adams on this. We found out what fun it was and we wanted more.

Well that’s not the way it’s playing out politically since September 11 and there is at least some kernel of truth in the idea that we’re not anywhere near proud enough of our own culture. Well I am. I think it’s one of the great achievements of humanity it even brought us multiculturalism!

Anyway, it’s obvious that it’s not all a one way street and that certain ethnic cultures pose more challenges to multiculturalism than others. I hope things work out.

Anyway, despite it’s hysterical introduction “I find it easier to be optimistic about the futures of Iraq and Pakistan than, say, Holland or Denmark” I think the article raises a pretty compelling idea. That bi-culturalism doesn’t have a very good track record. And intuitively one would imagine that cultural difference could play out very differently if there was one central culture – to which all ethnicities were gradually being drawn and from which the legal and political system took its centre of gravity – as opposed to two.

Bi-culturalism isn’t what we’ve got in Australia though we had a bit of it in the nineteenth and twentieth century between Catholics and Protestants. And it’s not been a great success in India and Pakistan (Moslems and Hindus), Ireland (Catholics and Protestants), Palestine (Jews and Moslems), the Balkans and Cypress(Christians and Moslems). Even Canada (French and English). And so on it goes.

Hugh lives in New Zealand and perhaps he was thinking also of Maori and Pakeha. They’re certainly working at bi-culturalism over there. Anyway, it’s an interesting subject and I’d be interested in what people think.

By the way, Denmark was one of the very few countries that practiced open civil disobedience towards Adolph “no more Mr Nice Guy” Hitler.

What a great and humbling thing. But I digress . . .

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Kieran Bennett
2024 years ago

Riots in Paris are not the logical outcome of bi-culturalism, they are the logical outcome of the marginalization of any group of human beings. In France the basis for marginalization has been cultural difference, but this difference itself is not what I see as responsible for the violence.

2024 years ago

France is a racist secular nation (& failed empire) where everyone is treated the “same”.

“You are all Gauls” as it says in the school books, even if your from Noumea or Senegal. Even if you are _in_ Noumea or Senegal. It’s the total opposite of (multi/bi)-culturalism.

And most Parisian would like all Gauls to be Parisian.

They will sleep with you, whatever your pigmentation, but if you don’t speak French correctly you are subhuman.

‘Parisian’ being the offical/court type, in this they have never executed the king.

Its a tongue racial thing rather than skin racial.


2024 years ago

Kieran, in the mix of possible causes, you need to include the perverse incentives of the welfare state, where people can survive without making an effort to equip themselves with the skills and attitudes that enable them to contribute to the commonwealth.

Nicholas, when you mention the hostility to multiculturalism on the right, that is a huge and confusing over-simplification. It is possible to be a non-left person and embrace the good parts of other cultures (which incidentally does not include playing football with a round ball) while at the same time deploring the way that official multiculturalism degenerated into divisive “interest group” politics.

There is a serious problem here, when you consider the trifecta of public policy: minimiuse suffering, promote tolerance, resist tyranny, it is not hard to envisage things that the politicians can do to address suffering and tyranny, but tolerance is rather different and some of the things that have been attempted, like official multiculturalism and anti-hate-talk legislation only seem to make things worse. When I was young and had some hope for government regulations I floated this suggestion.

“To promote tolerance: for instance one might propose that newspapers and journals would be censored or subjected to some penalty if they do not make provision for a certain amount of criticism of editorial policy, perhaps in the letters section. Some publications have been notorious for providing their readership with the ‘party line’, uncomplicated by alternative points of view. Critics of this proposal might appeal to a higher principle, claiming that this provision restricts the freedom of the editors. Reply: it does not restrict their freedom to ventilate their own ideas, merely their freedom to limit the exposure of their readers to opposing views, a freedom which is inconsistent with the principle of promoting tolerance. Further, it poses a threat to the survival of the open society which requires that the citizens should have some knowledge of the competing arguments in any situation. One would hope that the debate with critics of the proposal would allow various interpretations of freedom and tolerance to be considered, which would be valuable even if the proposed regulation did not proceed. In this situation, other critics might argue that the proposal would not have the desired effect in practice, despite being consistent with the highest principles. The editors might comply by printing innocuous criticisms, or incoherent criticisms, or the readers might not read them. Some of these considerations might be overcome by judicious drafting of the regulations, others would be open questions for research.” That dates from 1972.

2024 years ago

Having glanced at Mark Steyns article on the perils of biculturalism, it may be that the way to address the problem has nothing to do with tolerance of other cultures, it is to establish a minimum or “nightwatchperson” state. [round footballs, waitpersons, don’t start me].

The minimum state polices rules designed to facilitate the flow of traffic and minimise the use of force and fraud in social transactions. OK, we need an army, an air force and someone to roll out red carpets when foreign dignitaries and royalty come to visit.

The point is that the minimum state does not attempt to regulate the private lives of the citizens and it does not hand out favours to special groups on the basis of irrelevant criteria other than the need for the service in question. As Martin Luther King and Pauline Hanson suggested. Under those circumstances the French would not need to worry about Islamics getting to be a majority because it would make no difference to the laws of the land or the allocation of public funds.

Hugh Pavletich
Hugh Pavletich
2024 years ago

The Europeans – and the French in particular – have been more than happy to point out the “failings” of the United States – and in my view, created many unnecessary problems in the process.

It was interesting too – in observing how the media treated Bush with respect to Katrina – and Chirac and Co with the Paris riots.

Obviously – Western Europe has a massive job in front of it – to ensure that their political structures have the capacity to allow people to assimilate. If Europe fails in this regard – Steyn is right and there is nothing but big trouble ahead for them.

This issue of “separatism” is one that is being constantly debated in New Zealand – and it would be fair to say that most New Zealanders ( Maori and non Maori ) are aware of its dangers.

Thankfully – both in New Zealand and Australia, we are very concious of the importance of giving people a “fair go”. That of course is why our forebears travelled vast distances and often endured much hardship – to escape the exclusions and limitations imposed on them within Europe and elsewhere.

Nicholas Gruen
2024 years ago


When you think about it, you would hardly expect an official policy of multiculturalism to end up being the paragon of bureaucratic objectivity. You have to go to the communities and give them some power and that will end up producing various things that don’t look all that pretty. My way of thinking about this has been to think that ‘that’s life’.

I have the same view of industry policy. It seems inevitable that pollies will want to dabble in industry policy

2024 years ago

“the idea that we’re not anywhere near proud enough of our own culture. Well I am. I think it’s one of the great achievements of humanity

Stephen Bounds
2024 years ago

The substance of Mark Steyn’s argument on bi-culturalism is pretty compelling, really. The tricky bit is identifying when two cultures are truly separate and when they just happen to be distinguishable into sub-groups.

For example, I would be intrigued to find out the correlation between intermarriage and social cohesion. It seems pretty clear that a 0% intermarriage rate is a sure recipe for social breakdown, particularly if the minority population is growing, but I wonder what the figure is for a healthy ‘blended’ society — 5%? 15%? 50%?