Just what do we mean by “multicultural”? Who is part of multicultural Australia and who is not?
We are told by our leaders that Australia is a multicultural society but is it? I would define that as a society where there are many different communities all of which ae more or less equal. But consider the speech given recently by Prime Minister Morrison to a Greek gathering: ‘
“This year has asked a great deal of our multicultural communities. You’ve all been called on to make some very big sacrifices. Especially when it comes to the social networks that bind you. And your community and cultural activities, that reach out and bring joy to so many Australians. You’ve all played a part, you’ve done whatever it takes, to keep each other safe. That’s also meant enduring enormous disruption to your all-important faith traditions. Your perseverance and sacrifices underscore why Australia is the most successful multicultural nation in the world. A place where we all buy in and draw strength from our shared values – such as mutual respect and individual responsibility. By your efforts, you have helped the country that you have adopted – and that we all love – to lead the world in our response to pandemic.”
He continues in this vein. Many other examples can be found of this approach from politicians and in the media. For example, I read a newspaper comment recently that Bankstown was a very multicultural area. Clearly people who are not part of what we might call the British diaspora are multicultural. Is this just a polite word for wogs or is there some other meaning to it? Are our indigenous people part of the multicultural communities? How about the Morris dancers and the bagpipers?
Then there is the thorny question of what is the Australian identity and what are the much praised Australian values? Are these a kind of Socratic ideal to which multicultural communities must aspire?
How does a multicultural community differ from other communities? If you analyse the English language therein, it would seem that a multicultural community is one that contains more than one community within it otherwise it is not multi. Benedict Anderson wrote a very insightful book about Imagined Communities in which he argued basically that nations and communities were created by a group of people who imagined themselves as being a group with a common identity. So the multicultural communities are not seen as part of the mainstream community in Australia? Their duty is to adopt core Australian values which are presumably the imagined values of the non-multicultural community. Or are we all multicultural.
It is all too much on my brain at Christmas. I suppose the Romans saw the Jews and others as part of the multicultural communities? It was after all a multicultural Empire.
I wish you all a Joyous Solstice, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah and please honour the birthday of the Rasul Allah Jesus, peace be upon him, and pax vobiscum to all whatever their culture..