A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

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Friday, 8 July 2011

Multiculturalism Has Failed The Sudan

South Sudanese voters go to the polls in the independence referendum.

It is not part of any political ideology to state that limited resources plus many different groups leads to competition. It is fact. It is also fact that competition leads to division, and division leads to conflict. It doesn't matter if the different groups hold no animosity towards each other; humans are intrinsically tribal creatures, and will ultimately favour their own group - their own civic tribe, if you will - if they have to compete. This, too, is political and social fact. When the groups do hold animosity towards each other, and the resources in question are the most vital of all - food and water - you have a recipe for chaos.

And this is exactly what happened in Sudan. Despite all the columns that will be written about the subject, despite all the endless newspaper accounts, and despite all the speculation and analysis, that is the one angle that will not be covered by any major newspaper, I guarantee it: not a single journalist will ever cast even a quick glance over the theories that, somewhere, somehow, at the heart of Sudan's problems lies a failure of multiculturalism at its most extreme.

That is, at the end of the day, what multiculturalism is: the belief that different nations will somehow learn to share the same geographic territory, and share each other's ideas and beliefs with tolerance and respect. It is a Utopian ideal, and, like all Utopian ideologies, does not take into account its limitations. For one, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to share limited resources - social housing and education places, for example - with people from outside their 'civic tribe.' Second, it is unfeasible to assume that cultures will simply integrate. All historical and current evidence shows that communities that share a language, culture, or beliefs stick together and stay as communities; a brief look through east London is evidence enough of this. Thirdly, it is a two-way thing: one culture cannot, will not, show respect to another if it is not reciprocated, especially if the beliefs and values of both are diametrically opposed. You cannot reconcile female servitude with gender equality, nor homophobia with sexual freedom, even if you do try to sweep the problem under the carpet.

South Sudan is neatly divided between a Muslim north and a Christian south. Socially, politically, and economically, the divide runs clean across the country. Such a clear division does not apply in western multicultural states: in fact, western multicultural states may have hundreds of different nations, and inner-city estates may have patchworks of areas - streets, roads, or blocks - inhabited predominantly by a single ethnicity. But, nonetheless, the same rules apply. I am not proposing that Britain will end up like Sudan any time soon, or perhaps ever, but I am saying that South Sudan is a perfect illustration - if perhaps a simplistic one - of what can happen when multiculturalism goes disastrously wrong, as, due to its inherent Utopian flaws, it always will.

Britain will not see twenty years of civil war; but it will see - has already seen - social strife and racial tension, due to stoking the flames on both sides; righteous anger over apparent injustice and inequality for both the disaffected youths from ethnic communities and the abandonment of the original white inhabitants, who have seen their communities radically transformed in a short space of time, despite their constant objections, in favour of a tide of multiculturalism and diversity, have made a mockery of what was once a very fine ideal. Multiculturalism has failed Britain; it has failed the people of Britain. It may not have failed it on such an epic scale as South Sudan, but ultimately a Utopian ideology that is impracticable in one place will be impracticable in all others, for humans are the same the world over.

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