Friday, September 6, 2013

Many Means More

I don't understand why people think multiculturalism has failed. There are proponents of this thinking, such as Angela Merkel of Germany and more recently, Pauline Marois of Quebec. But what exactly constitutes as failure? They point to the loss of traditional cultural values and identity, as well as violent enclaves and the always fear-mongering idea of conversion, dissent and possibly takeover.

But what about all the things that multiculturalism has given us? For many Canadians, multiculturalism is a big part of the Canadian fabric. What do I love most about Canada? Multiculturalism, hockey, our ability to laugh at ourselves, humility, comedy and our universal health care system. All of these things are, to me, a part of our values, this idea that we don't have to be scared of another, that we can learn from each other and we all have rights, regardless of race, religion or gender. That's what the Canadian dream really is, not the ability to own a microwave or identify icing. Human rights. Respect. Dignity. Peace.

Wouldn't it be terrible to live in a world without diversity? Isn't part of the joy of living in Canada the ability to go down the street and hear or see something new or different? Whatever happened to embracing difference? What ever happened to curiosity and opening up our minds to another culture, recognizing that the world is diverse and that there are many different ways to see the very same things?

The most tangible example of what multiculturarism gives us: food. Delicious, diverse, exotic food. Maybe some people enjoy eating the same ham and cheese sandwich every day, but how much richer are we for the fact of having lots of restaurants? Some countries make incredible food. In one week, you can go for Italian, Chinese, Jamaican, you name it. They may not all be authentic, but everyone understands the common language of delicious.

And then there's language. Language is more than just the spoken word. It's a way of perceiving the world. Some cultures have words that others could never imagine, because they reflect ideas that are most relevant to them. What is more mind boggling than learning a new language and a new way of being? It's stimulating and exciting, not something to be feared. And it's a challenge. People with emotional maturity, perspective and intelligence see challenge as a good thing.

And what about fashion? Clothes are a big part of self expression and creativity. The world would be a dull place without colours. It's good to see people wear ironic t-shirts, silk saris, weaves and pigtails, colourful scarves. Jeans and t-shirts could be made the official clothes of the human race, but there would always be someone doing it differently, mixing it up with a red scarf or ripping the jeans. We don't need to be the same.

Even exposure to other religions is a good thing, as long as they're treated respectfully and presented with context. People should question their beliefs system, people should think about what faith means to them personally. Most people blindly follow the system that they're raised with, or in absence of that, never ask if they have a faith. The blind followers are nowhere near as devout as the educated child who questions and then chooses whether or not to believe. Your faith is only as strong as you make it, and choosing makes it stronger still.

Multiculturalism works and if it has 'failed', it's because we have failed it. If we fail to believe, to approach things from a rational and mature point of view, or come to the table with closed minds, then it's us who have failed, and not multiculturalism. Multi means many, and that means more- more problems, more work, more explanations needed, more time cultivating and adapting. We can do it. We have done it. We fail when we abandon it.

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