August 15, 2013

Failure of multiculturalism? No, Failure of Government

There has been much talk about the apparent failure of multiculturalism, but little talk about the successes.

In Newport, where I have lived for 30 years, multiculturalism has long been a way of life, but that’s not to say it can’t be improved.

The media punishes us with scaremongering ideas of hoards of immigrants crossing the channel. Government is worse. It continually announces immigration figures as if they are a bad thing, yet government doesn’t have a firm idea of what the figures are. What we do know is that per head of population, Germany has twice as many immigrants, and welcomes them.

We also know that the UK is not a poor country. However, the distribution of wealth distorts the picture. In the UK wealth is concentrated into the hands of the very rich few. Conversely poverty among the rest is increasing. Immigrants are the traditional scapegoat for all our ills, and right now they are being wrongly blamed for this increasing poverty.

It is government policy which is creating inequality, not immigration. Migration is natural. In fact without the natural urge to move around, the first humans may not have left the East African rift valley 200,000 years ago.

The migration of culture is a slightly different matter. Its success depends on mutual understanding, and without this understanding tolerance is difficult. Yet we like to think we are a tolerant people.

When another state joins the EU, the resultant influx of people from another culture is inevitable. It is how we deal with it which counts. Fear of ‘the other’ manifests itself in several ways, but all too often the flames of fear are fanned by government and media alike. ‘They are taking our jobs.’ ‘They are using our healthcare’.

The blatant omission here is ‘Who are they?’

That is precisely where multiculturalism is being forced to fail.  People living in the UK have a right to know more about the people coming to join us. We need to know about their values, their religions, their ethnicity and education. We need to know their history and their politics. In short we need to understand our differences and our similarities. All this could be provided simply and cheaply through TV programmes and news items, newspaper articles and websites. Multiculturalism works. It always has. 

We do not have a failure of multiculturalism. We have a failure of government.