Multiculturalism

What is Multiculturalism

What is multiculturalism. I find this term and the philosophy behind it so interesting that I'm dedicating a whole page to it.
Traditionally we think of multiculturalism in terms of ethnicity or languages or even sex. We try to make our workplaces accommodating to various people to reach some level of 'diversity.' So we might think to ourselves, we need more people of African descent at my work place. We need to address the needs of women…

Deeper meaning

However, this is not the 1960s. We really need to think deeper about multiculturalism. Increasingly, we are being defined not by what we are, but by what we choose our values to be. Take any 'multicultural' big city and what do you find. You will find big party life people; but you find them of all ethnicities. Are they really that different from each other?
Contrast that with the life choices we make. Gothic people choose their culture and yet they are so unique. When's the last time you applied for a job and had to check off if you are a member of the Gothic persuasion?

Let's bring it to Engineering, which is what I do. I find it laughable that they still ask if you are a member of a minority such as being Asian. Look around the field, no one discriminates against us. I've worked in places where I wished there was a white person around :P So we have this rather superficial notion of multiculturalism that exists at the policy level. Yet, how does it help. An Indian nerd is pretty much the same as a Caucasian nerd or a African nerd, or a Chinese nerd. Engineering is extremely mono-cultual. One could ever argue that the barriers faced by those outside the dominant culture are increasing.

Google / Microsoft: The ultimate monoculture

Take a look at the extreme monoculture that permeates some of the more tech oriented companies. Do you think it is a barrier to those not of the dominant geek culture? Here, just browse through some images of Google's offices
http://images.google.ca/images?hl=en&q=google+offices&um=1&ie=UTF-8
Look at the bright colors, bouncy balls, nerdy gimmicks… That's just the superficial part. Try interacting with some of the people :P Now imagine you're a regular young guy who gets into computer, but you still chill with the boys, listen to hip hop, go to clubs, love women too much. All this and you're still a darn good software engineer.

Ask yourself, would you really be able to be productive in an environment like Google's?

I had such an experience. I love teaching. So I went and got my bachelor of education.
When left to my own devices to teach, i really enjoyed it. Yet, the environment of teaching is such a monoculture, I said 'screw it, back to engineering'. The field (at least in Ontario, Canada) is such a monoculture in terms of mentality, it drove me nuts. You HAVE to believe in this educational philosophy. I don't want to use the word feminized to describe it, but its the best word I can come up with. To be productive at the schools, you had to be of that mindset. I found older male teachers to feel the same thing, even many young female teachers as well. They all felt like the environment propagated was BS. Yet, I was a darn good teacher when it's me and the kids; confirmed by evaluations too. Suffice to say, I was not able to contribute fully to the benefit of students.

Similarly, many of the practices in engineering deter people from contributing fully to the pursuit of engineering.

Resolving a mono-culture

Now, it might be said that being good at programming and being a nerd go together. I suspect that is what most people think. Yet, looking back at my engineering class (~80), i can think of at least 5 guys who were really smart, but also really social, who've since left the field complaining of the environment. Heck, I've never left a job for the money, but I have left it because of the environment.

So what can a good company do to make sure the right environment is there? First you have to have the right mindset and recognize your mono culture. I'm not going to suggest quotas or hard rules because this is more of an active management strategy. It means watching your workplace and seeing the groups develop. It means putting yourself in the shoes of someone outside the dominant company culture and seeing how they might be affected.

Awareness here is key. Take care is which group you place worker's in. Make sure their personalities fit. Take care as to how you arrange your offices/cubicles. Don't be so keen to isolate your engineers from sales / marketting people. Find out if an engineer likes to interact with such people. Be aware as to where you locate your office. You're ignoring a significant number of candidates by locating in remote areas, or only in downtown, or in the burbs.

The point is there are values that every engineer needs to value: a devotion to quality, integrity, efficiency, innovation…
The key is to focus on those values instead of any of the superficial values that define an engineer.

Bring it back to politics…TERRORISM

I think that's a nice title. There is much to be said about multiculturalism in terms of politics. The most flagrant example is how to 'integrate' muslims into 'western society.' If you don't do it properly, you can end up with radicalization and terrorists.

So what makes a radical Muslim in the West? To many people, it is 'being indoctrinated' by mullahs or madrassas… that is how they excuse it. Yet, if you actually asked Muslims, you would quickly find this myth disintegrate. Take Canada for example. It's not unique to find Muslims who came here in the 1970/1980s who are very secular and westernized. Their kids went to public school. Yet, some of their kids become very orthodox. They wear the hijab or grow big beards, or start going to mosque 5 times a day… The rare ones become very radical in their views and can engage in terrorism.

The question you must ask is how did these children turn so radical when their parents are so secular? The reason is a 'lack of identity'. Without a strong Muslim identity, many of these kids were left in the cultureless public school system. They grow up without a culture, and don't really fit in with Westerners. So they try and find a culture…Islam and they devout themselves to it to an extreme. This is not unique among Muslims. It affects many immigrant groups. Some kids become westernized,but the ones who don't, can turn radical. A less controversial argument can be African Americans. Due to history, they've been deprived of their culture. So when growing up, they can either accept 'white' culture or turn to the only 'black' culture they know and they turn to it to an extreme. Gangs, drugs, womenizing… become their extreme values. All this because they are cultureless.

To solve these issues, many 'white' people come to the conclusion that all these immigrant groups need to be better integrated and thus we need more effort into public schools for example. We can't have them ghettoizing themselves in their own communities. The sad result is, this only worsens the situation by denying them a positive culture even more. It's the reason why african americans still have such a high drop out rate. We keep pushing them into a system that does not provide them with a culture and they respond by seeking that culture outside. It actually has the opposite effect.

The solution then is to allow them to support their own culture, but to make it in accordance with 'Western Values'. Of course this requires defining what western values are and sticking to that limited definition. Back to Muslims… we should be allowing muslims to have their own schools to provide them with a solid community. However, we should make sure that muslims are taught about liberty, freedom, live and let live, law and order… those values MUST be instilled in the younger generation. There are real examples of this working. In Canada, Alberta fully funds all alternative schools including religious schools. Has it resutled in Muslims becoming extreme? On the contrary, Alberta is among the most progressive muslims. It is the public-school systems in Ontario/Quebec where you find the most radicalism.

A small side trac. Multiculturalism has to be more than different foods and different clothes. It is about different values and different ways of life. It is why I saw, Toronto does not support multi-culturalism. Alberta supports multi-culturalism. In Alberta you are allowed to have different values. In Toronto, you are only allowed to keep the superficial aspects of your culture (food,dress…).

So is the solution to Islamic terrorism more islamic schools? No! If it were, Europe would not have such a problem as most European countries provide some kind of school choice. The problem with Europe is they forgot the second part of the equation. They allow Muslims to keep their own culture,but they deny them 'Western Values' that they should have instilled in them. They do not mandate the teaching of liberty, freedom, live and let live, nor do they make an effort to treat their muslim populace as equals. So that leads to radicalism.

So the solution then, is to allow them to keep their culture, while at the same time making sure western values are instilled in them.
This is similar to the engineering problem I talked about above :) You cannot force a person to adapt to a 'nerd' or 'geek' culture. No they should be allowed to keep their own culture within as long as they are instilled with the values of an engineer (quality, integrity…).

Mark Steyn and the 'Islamic Invasion'

Mark Steyn http://www.steynonline.com/www.steynonline.com/ is a Canadian who has spoken of the 'Islamic' invasion of the west. His basic argument is that the West has falling birth rates and a welfare system dependent on immigration, which comes heavily from Muslim countries. It is only inevitable that Muslims will eventually be the majority in the West. He talks at length about this dynamic and also about Muslim alienation in Western countries. Now let's be clear, just reading his various writings and blogs, you'd be hardpressed not to see a clear anti-muslim agenda. He uses simple tricks like quoting various people instead of using his own words. I too could rant about christians or white people and write an entire book by using quotes only from christian/white people. Another trick, is he rants on and on and then add a little politically correct disclaimer as if the absolves the tone of his rant.

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/736142/posts is a classic example. He spends a great deal to time ranting on about muslim immigrants raping westerners. The he adds this qualifying statement

"Well, you get the idea. Whether or not Muslim cultures are more prone to rape is a question we shall explore another day."

Well, that is the heart of the issue. If Muslim immigrants are no more likely to rape than Jamaican immigrants to African Immigrants or Christian Arab immigrants… why spend the bulk of the article on rape emphasizing Islam? Heck, the starting line of the post is very indicative of Steyn. Heck, Steyn speaks of Islam as synonymous with Arab culture. Of course…just like his tactic above…he'll qualify that with a one liner :P

"I'm not a racist, only a culturist. I believe Western culture — rule of law, universal suffrage, etc. — is preferable to Arab culture:"

Then of course, he goes back to talking to Islam instead of Arab culture :P

"Last Thursday, in Sydney, the pack leader of a group of Lebanese Muslim gang- rapists was sentenced to 55 years in jail. I suppose I ought to say "Lebanese-Australian" Muslim gang-rapists, since the accused were Australian citizens. But, identity-wise, the rambunctious young lads considered themselves heavy on the Lebanese, light on the Australian. During their gang rapes, the lucky lady would be told she was about to be "f- —ed Leb style" and that she deserved it because she was an "Australian pig."

Here the Lebanese tell the girl she is going to be F—ked Leb Style. Indeed, why is he emphasizing "Lebanese Muslim gang- rapists". Would not Lebanese gang rapists suffice. The next time a Jamaican rapes/kills someone in Toronto, it would be interesting to see if Steyn writes "Jamaizan Christain gang-rapists/murderer" Heck, I might have let Steyn slide on this one, if instead of the rapists saying "f**cked Leb Style" they said "We're going to fck u in the name of Allah". So yeah, there's no question in my mind Steyn has a clear anti-muslim agenda. But facts are often facts. It is how you present them and draw opinions on them.

The problem is what you take from it. I'm a productive person, so I take from his writing what I can learn from it. If you're a western person, the key to take from him is what are the things in western society that make us dependent on immigration. Things like the welfare state, pensions, dependency on growth. He also spends some time on the integration of immigrants. Surprisingly, much of what I talk about, he agrees with. Except of course, he often speaks in a hostile/hateful tone, so much it would get lost. However, he talks about alientated muslim youth growing up in a culture less western society then seeking a bond with radicals and the like. I speak of that solution above.

The human rights complaint against Steyn and Macleans magazine

There are many human rights complaints against Macleans which was prompted by a article Steyn wrote http://www.macleans.ca/article.jsp?content=20071130_111821_7448 which basically concerns the fall of the west to muslims via muslim population growth. The complaint alleges that Macleans did not provide an opportunity for opposing view points and created an atmosphere of hate towards muslims. I've read/listened much of the debate, and unfortunately, people are missing the point of the complaint…including the filers of the complaint :)

The issue is that Macleans published dozens of articles over the course of 2 years depicting 'anti-muslim' bias. It is not about a single Mark Steyn article, no matter how hateful and biased it is, he has the right to be as big as a bigot as he chooses to be. We should remember why such hate laws are in existence. Mass Media DOES have the ability to impact the views of people. There is such a thing as propaganda. Just as the Jews who were victimized at the hands of the Nazis or the Tutsies who were slaughtered at the hands of the Hutus in Rwanda. A constant message promoting fear and hatred towards a group perpetuated overtime can result in such extreme actions.

It is not unreasonable them to have a human rights commission look at Macleans magazine to see if they have a constant message promoting fear and hatred over time. It is something that should be monitored and looked at. I don't think the charges should be criminal or even that Macleans should be forced to do anything. However, turning a blind eye to such a message, if it exists, would be dangerous. I don't know where the line is to be drawn between free speech and mass media promotion of fear/hatred. Being a libertarian, this is especially complex.

The best i can say is given the Human Rights Commission's mandate, this is a valid case to look at and monitored. What solutions can be gained, I don't really know. It is a slippery slope at best, and maybe just the awareness of the issue is enough to stem an acceptance of fear/hate.

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