The Debate on the Best System of Life
The debate on the best system of life (assimilation or multiculturalism) continues to rage in many countries. Multicultural systems advocate for and encourage several different cultures and ethnic groups within the same social space. On the other hand, assimilation encourages the dominance of one cultural group over several other cultural groups. In assimilation, other groups are encouraged or even coerced to give up some of their cultural practices in favor of a dominant group. Generally, both multiculturalism and assimilation have their pros and cons, but it eventually turns out that a multicultural society could provide better opportunities for work and life.
- Multiculturalism fosters the existence of several cultures in a single country. Naturally, the diversity of cultural practices could mean a diversity of tastes and an abundance of demand (Nabhan, 85). Therefore, as people strive to meet these demands, several job opportunities are created. For instance, people from different cultures prefer certain foods to others. Cultures are often defined by the foods that prevail among the members of such cultures. In a country where multiculturalism is encouraged, people would, of course, prefer eating in places where their favorite dishes are prepared. Therefore, several local restaurants would sprout to meet these demands. This would mean that several different people would be able to tap into the market and earn a living. In contrast, an assimilated society would not encourage plurality of cultures, and this would result into a reduced diversity in cultural dishes. Therefore, the number of restaurants offering traditional dishes would be reduced. In effect, this would choke the spirit of business and competition. It would encourage dominance of those businesses that are already offering the desired foods; other business would not thrive in such a setting.
- Secondly, a multicultural society tolerates or, in a more appropriate term, respects several moral-cultural standards. It is not practically possible to pick a single moral-cultural standard. Many cultural values are relative and subjective making it practically impossible to pick a single, broad-sweeping cultural practice and set it as the moral standard. Therefore, a multicultural society would be better placed to pick aspects of cultural practices from different cultures and adopt them into the general practice rather than dwell upon one single culture. This is in contrast to the assimilation approach that assumes that a single culture is not only superior to the rest, but also has better moral standards and practices than all the others.
Looking at things from a freedom perspective, multicultural societies offer a wider angle of freedom as compared to societies that practice assimilation. Naturally, people have different preferences for particular lifestyle or work; these preferences are born of practices and values to which they have been exposed very early in life. Multiculturalism allows people to act according to their preferences as long as their actions do not violate the law of the land. In assimilated societies, people are wrongly banned from indulging in practices according to their wishes and preferences. This is an outright violation of people’s natural freedoms. For instance, people would prefer to wear certain types of clothing according to their religious beliefs. A case in point is the hijab, which Muslim women wear as a sign of their faith. Assimilation proponents argue that wearing hijabs is wrong because of the possibility of coercion to comply. However, the reality on the ground is that most Muslim women voluntarily wear it to proclaim their faith. If this is the case, then banning the practice would prove to be a violation of people’s right to freedom. The truth is that assimilation runs the risk of banning many practices which people do out of their free will and preference. To make it worse, assimilation tries to curtail these practices in many unacceptable and often barbaric ways. Thus, assimilation curtails people’s freedom to a great extent.
Multiculturalism promotes tolerance and therefore encourages social cohesion to a greater degree than assimilation. When every culture is allowed to thrive in a social setting, people accept and appreciate each other’s cultures; this brings a greater degree of tolerance among people of different cultures. This is different from a setting where one culture is encouraged to dominate over other cultures. Often, this leads to ill feelings and suspicion. Members of the minor groups will often stage demonstrations demanding that their rights are respected. Confrontations between members of the minor groups and members of the dominant groups will be rife. The consequence of this is that injuries and deaths will only heighten the suspicion between members of the dominant group and members of the minor groups. When matters of national cohesion and integration are considered, multicultural societies are better placed to offer national cohesion.
Multiculturalism is better for safety, security, and stability of a nation. This is because acceptance of several cultures as equal in a country could help separate groups that are fighting for dominance in the society. Multiculturalism does not accept any culture as a leading one and other cultures as inferior. This effectively disables the “dominant culture’s” position. Therefore, different cultural groups would not fight over the position, because it does not exist in the first place. On the other hand, when assimilation is practiced, other cultural groups are suppressed so that one can emerge as the dominant or leading culture. This naturally spurs contests between rival groups, and the conflicts can turn to be very violent. This was the case in Britain before it officially adopted a multicultural outlook. Different cultures with long histories of violence between each other had lived in Britain. The hostility that had persisted for centuries was brought to a decisive end by the adoption of multiculturalism, because the groups accepted each other as equals in the country.
Multiculturalism is also a better system to adopt with regard to the economy of a nation. Multiculturalism encourages immigration of foreigners since they know that the recipient country will exercise tolerance to their cultures (Mangan and Vani 34). Many immigrants who flock to any country, aside from being refugees, do so either in search of a place to invest or a place to work. There are only two possible outcomes of such immigration. The first one is that the immigrants would create a lot of job places, and the second is that they would provide plenty of cheap labor. In essence, immigrants usually offer countries an economic boom by their sheer presence. Multiculturalism would encourage immigration, thereby fostering the economic benefits that may accrue from their presence. On the other hand, assimilation repels immigrants, thereby denying a country a resourceful pool of entrepreneurs and employees. On the whole, the economic impact of such a practice would be negative.
There are arguments that people have thrown in support of assimilation. The first and perhaps the most prominent is that in comparison to assimilation, multiculturalism stands a greater chance of leading to hatred among communities. The argument goes that multiculturalism exposes differences between different cultural groups, thereby fostering hatred and hate crimes. In multiculturalism, different groups do not assimilate under the idea of unity in centrality. The gaping differences between various cultures can come to the surface in light of such an incident as a terrorist attack. This has the potential of increasing hate crimes and associated vices. For example, records point out that hate crimes in London after the 7/7 bombings took an upturn in an unprecedented fashion (Pantazis and Pemberton 78). This is a clear indication that people aware of their glaring differences were motivated to orchestrate hate crimes against members of other cultural groups other than their own.
Assimilation proponents also argue that multiculturalism does not settle for one single moral-cultural standard creating a possibility for legal inconsistencies and challenges in the law. The multiculturalist approach entails several cultural standards, therefore creating confusion, because in adopting several cultural standards, both good and bad traits of a particular culture stand an equal chance of being picked. As such, barbaric acts like “honor” killings, female genital mutilation, and corporal punishment for minor offenses would be adopted. This would lead to a system where the law itself is so chaotic that it becomes similar to anarchy.
Another reason why some people prefer assimilation to multiculturalism is that assimilation can provide skills and attitudes to indigenous people and enable them to pursue their dreams. People who stick so much to their indigenous beliefs and practices stand a small chance of succeeding in their endeavors as compared to people who open up their minds and adopt new lifestyles and new methods of doing things. A typical example is when during the colonial period, colonial powers from Europe went into indigenous lands such as Africa and imposed their cultures on the Africans. There are undeniable benefits that came of such assimilation efforts.
However, these arguments proposed by assimilation proponents are half-baked. Those people who say that multiculturalism stands a greater chance of leading to hatred than assimilation do not consider the fact that most civil wars arise in assimilatory settings when several minor cultures gang up against one predominant culture. Those who say that multiculturalism could lead to legal inconsistencies do not consider that multiculturalism can be practiced perfectly well within a binding legal framework that allows for a large degree of versatility. Those who claim that assimilation provides skills to indigenous people helping them succeed assume that these skills are only possessed by a few cultures. They do not consider the fact that forcible assimilation practices such as those employed in the colonial period led to more blood-bath than there has been in the history of mankind.
Although both multiculturalism and assimilation have their advantages and disadvantages, one bears more benefits than the other. Assimilation has, indeed, worked in a number of countries, including the United States, so-called “the melting pot”. However, multiculturalism reigns supreme in the diversity of opportunities it offers people both in economic terms and in light of their inherent rights and freedoms as human beings.