Friday, March 10, 2006

The Mess They Call "Multiculturalism".

Have you ever noticed how the term “Multi-Cultural” is often applied to the British colonies such as the US, Canada, Australia, and even Malaysia and Singapore, and how few other countries who were not British possessions give themselves such a description? The Soviet Union was a multi-national country and so was Yugoslavia but they were never called “multi-cultural”. Countries in South America have a more rigid class system, but, by and large, the Spanish or Portuguese models have never been called multi-cultural to my knowledge.

I have, on several occasions, come upon a few ultra-right websites who complain that certain elements in America ( such as Jews and Liberals) are aiming at diluting the US "racial purity" by bringing in "non-white immigrants" and turning the US into a multi-cultural nightmare.

There are, on the other hand, left-leaning groups who glorify multi-culturalism and proclaim that it serves everyone's interest to preserve our diversity; that the US has always been a nation of immigrants, and that it should stay that way.

Somehow, I feel that both sides are missing the point, so, being a centrist, I would like to give you my own take on how the much-lauded, much-vilified multiculturalism came about.

When the US was founded, it was primarily an English colony. Because it broke away from England, it sought to do away with a lot of class restrictions of the old society, so, official documents were written and enshrined to create a country based on the principle that ‘all men were created equal‘. The other principle as important in outlining American social philosophy was the "self-evidence" that people born or naturalized in the United States were, by virtue of that, US citizens.

Other countries were not like that and still aren’t. You can be born in Korea, but if you are not Korean by blood, you are not Korean. That’s just how it is there. You can be born in Saudi Arabia, but the Saudi nationality is not given to you because of that. Getting citizenship in those societies is hard, and even if you ever manage to get it, you will still never be one of them in social terms.

In America, these two principles should have been enough to create a veritable melting pot where people would harmoniously and naturally mix with one another and thus create a great American nationality. The same way as it happened in Brazil. However, there were also opposing principles in the US culture of those times which did not allow the One Nation Under God to truly develop, and, instead, lead to several parallel ethno-cultures arising in its place.

1) The birth of the "white" identity.

Most Europeans are not aware of the fact that they are “white”, and do not think of themselves as ‘white‘. Germans think of themselves as Germans, and Poles think of themselves as Poles. The British were English, Scottish or Welsh, not "white". The term 'white' originated during the colonial times, when various Western conquerors came upon the shores of continents where people had a darker pigmentation than these colonists did. Still, in many Spanish colonies, the conquistadors thought of themselves more as ‘Spaniards’ than ‘whites‘. It was in the English colonies that the 'white' self-nomination became the strongest.

Some of the Founding Fathers, after creating a white ’nationality’, went as far as declaring that only the English were “white”, and even people like Germans and Swedes were not. I can’t imagine why, though.

This new white "ethnos" took a deep root in the American psyche and became a cornerstone in creating other identities which eventually split America into several new uniquely American "ethnic groups" the likes of which seem to exist as serious ethnic identities in the US and some other British colonies only: the Blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, etc.

After the Native Americans had been pushed out and the Founding Fathers had a “white”, mostly ethnically “English” nation in America, they, very contradictorily to their own plans, did not keep it that way. I guess, becoming wealthy was more important. So, they went ahead and brought slaves from Africa. Why? Well, you see, they faced a “labor shortage”, and importing the English was probably too expensive. Slaves worked for free. To them, it seems, growing rich by slave labor while bringing thousands upon thousands of captive Africans into the country was more imperative than preserving a newly found “white nation”. They did not think about what these slaves and their descendants would become in the future, where they would live, how they would change the character of the “white country” that they had been trying to create. In other words, they had two conflicting desires- one for ‘racial purity’ and one for profit at another man’s expense, whoever he may be.

Black people from Africa did not think of themselves as Black, either, until they came to America. They thought of themselves by the name of tribes that they belonged to. However, these African identities were completely obliterated and instead morphed into a new “Black” identity by the virtue of different tribes being dumped together in the New World. They were now called “Black” by the settlers who were calling themselves “White”.

Thus, there were now two nations in the US, one Black and one White. When the slaves were finally freed, the two legal principles mentioned before eventually and, after along struggle ‘kicked in’ in their favor and helped ‘adjust their status‘- the first one again was that ‘all men were created equal’, and the second one was that almost sacred conviction of every American that anyone born in the United States was a US citizen. Following these events, albeit not immediately, a “Black”, and later”African-American” identity was born.

2) The English snobberies:

The first settlers brought a lot of the Old World, uniquely English snobberies with them. The main one was that anyone who was not English and /or who did not act, speak or look English was somehow inferior. Being an American in those times meant to be ‘English’, or, at least, talk and behave like one and have an English name to boot.

OK, it was their country now and they made the rules. This I can go along with. But they again do not practice what they preach and they go ahead and start bringing in boatloads of new immigrants from Europe because they are facing a new labor shortage and need someone to man factories and coal mines. They took advantage of turmoil and hunger on the Old Continent and brought more new, non-English people in.

When the Irish and, later, the Germans, the Italians and the East European Jews arrived, they came up against these merciless English snobberies. Instead of being embraced into a “melting pot”, many were kept at a distance by the people who had come before them and were not accepted as true Americans for a long time. If you had a non-English name, a foreign accent or, God forbid, spoke a foreign language, and did not behave as the original British settlers, you faced ostracism. You were kept at an arm’s length and treated as an outsider. In addition to that, even after you had children in the US, again, the original settlers would still call them Italians, Irish, Jewish or Polish and continued to discriminate against them for some generations to come.

The reaction of the new native-born Americans was to assert pride in their origin, and hyphenate themselves. “I am proud to be an Italian- American! “, “I am proud to be an Irish-American! “ Such hyphenated pride was often simply a backlash to the snootiness of the first English settlers. The new people were Americans because they were born in the US, but for since because they were not British in origin, they would still be considered not quite American for a long time to come. Hence, they would now form a previously unknown “dual” identity the likes of which did not exist in the Old World, where either you were German or you were not, or you were an Irishman or you were not. It was simple there. It became complicated in the US. Hyphenization seemed to solve the problem somewhat.

No such phenomenon took place in South America. People there simply became Argentineans, Uruguayans and Panamanians, although many were from the same countries as the immigrants that came to the US.

In North America, on the other hand, many of such groups became encysted in ethnic neighborhoods and special sections of the cities partly because they needed the support of like souls in the new land, and, partly, because those who had come before them discriminated against them

None of these American ethno- identifying terms helped in creating a single American identity, but rather, further paved the way to what we now know as Multi-Culturalism.

To give the South American example again, if you take a nation like Chile, you will learn that their national hero was of Irish background and his name was Bernardo O’Higgins. However, he is not known as an “Irish-Chilean Liberator“; just a “Chilean” one. In Latin America, they had presidents with names such as Kubischek, and Stroessner and they would just be called Brazilians and Paraguayans, because, in those societies, there was little snobbery against people who were not like the original Spanish ‘founders‘. They were simply and naturally embraced because they had been born in the country. Mostly, the ethnic background was simply not important. Your money and ability was. That is why many Latin Americans of various immigrant origins cannot understand the US people’s tendency to hyphenate and to be proud of being, say, an Italian -(American), all while not having Italian citizenship, never having been to Italy and not speaking any Italian. Why can’t a person be just an American? they muse. They are not aware of how in the US, the English exclusiveness reverberating through two centuries keeps many people from becoming members of society with only one word to describe them as one would be in so many countries south of the US border.

But let us go back to the US. With all the snobberies and the “white identity” still in place, the US government surprisingly goes ahead and purchases Louisiana with its very mixed Creole population, then annexes the northern part of Mexico with its mostly mixed “mestizo” inhabitants, and, later, brings in Hawaii, the Philippines and Puerto Rico under its fold with more “non-white” people now joining the country in one way or another. Add to that the Chinese and Japanese laborers that were brought in to build railroads, and the appropriation of the territories of Guam, Samoa and the Marianas, and the United States again adds to its population a veritable potpourri of new cultures and identities. Please explain to me the logic: If being “white” was so important to so many “original” Americans, why are they bringing in all these cultures that they did not consider as their equals? And, shouldn’t they now become more open-minded to other cultures and ethnicities?

So, thus you now have a cultural dilemma on your hands. How are you going to sort it out? The original principles of the Constitution would again be applied: all people born or naturalized in the US are US citizens and those born or naturalized in US possessions are US nationals. However, because of the unnatural “white nationality “ which now encompassed all the English descendants as well as other Europeans who by now have been “Americanized” still in place with all its superciliousness, there is still there the continued stratification and discrimination across all strata of society. The groups who cannot join “the white nation” form their own divisions based on how they look and how they see each other. Chinese and Japanese become Asian- Americans, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans become Hispanic Americans while Italians and Jews join the “White” or “Caucasian” group.

(By the way, outside of the English language, the word “Caucasian” means people from the Caucasus mountains- Armenians, Georgians, Azeris. However, in the US, it means people with “light skin” having origins in Europe, Middle East and N. Africa now. So the Berbers and Afghans have now joined the English. Kind of inconsistent if you ask me. I often wonder what anthropologists these classifiers have contacted before they coined all these arbitrary terms.)

As a result, all the above groups with the remnants of the Native Americans solidify themselves into a five-race system that is America today.

If you come from another country and move to the United States, you will soon feel the pressure to join one of these ‘tribes’ and abandon your original identity as a Thai, a Peruvian or a German. No, you do not melt into America. You melt into a White America, a Black America, an Asian or a Hispanic America. There is very little that you can do to fight against this ludicrous system as you are now outnumbered by people who will assign you to one of these groups whether you want it or not. This is how these things developed over two centuries and this is now the official policy of the government, schools and workplace. All thanks mainly to the strange New World phenomenon of ‘whiteness’ and the English snobberies which have been rolling down the hill and ricocheting against everybody in this country for two centuries resulting in splitting of the US into such five slices.

Yes, it is true. If you are new to the US, and you want to just make friends with all the people there, you will inevitably clash with this Quinto-Tribal structure sooner or later. If, say, you are a Dutchman who came to the US and you wants to associate with Black Americans, date Black girls, or associate with Hispanic Americans and date Mexican-American girls, etc., you will now encounter resistance and be called “Caucasian”/ “White”/“Anglo” and often made aware of your new identity even though you had never thought of yourself as anything other than “Dutch” before.

Politicians and liberal elements exploit this “Five-Nations in One” divisions to get votes, pitch one group of people against another, while the ultra right elements declare this to be a Jewish conspiracy to obliterate the “white nation” in order to make America safe for the Jews.

Very few people in the US are trying to forge an American national unity on creating an identity that is just purely “American” which is how it should be. The reaction to the original rejection by the English of whoever was not like them two hundred years ago keeps boiling in the veins of the American population up until today.

3) Guilt-ridden Liberals.

The original Protestant culture may have been intolerant, but now, after having understood the ‘evil’ that has been done to anyone who was not “white”, a new formula to correct the situation has been devised- forced integration. So, instead of teaching everybody that people should be just Americans and One Nation under God, and that we should all just be nice to our fellow man, the guilt-ridden elements try and correct the past wrongs by simplifying the problem and applying many broad measures across the board while hurting innocent people in the process.

The new philosophy is this- “We have the following protected species in this country- the African-Americans (never use the horrible word “Black“!), the Asians (do not use the word “Oriental”, it is not PC!), the Native Americans (do not say “Indian“, please!), and the Hispanics which rarely includes Spaniards or Argentineans of German descent. Now, we have to promote these and protect them by law but against whom? Mainly, against the whites. But who are the whites? They are now a bunch of Italians, Jews, Irishmen and other such groups who had been for a long time discriminated against by the English descendants, as well.

They, however, do not seem to get protection in the same way as the above groups. Even if other ‘tribes’ treat them bad for past slavery and oppression (which the Italian peasants from Sicily did not practice, nor did the Irish, the Jews, or the Scandinavian settlers in Minnesota were ever guilty of). It is unfair, again, but now the wrong people are paying for the dead slave owners’ crimes. Some elements among poor whites start forming militias and joining ultra right groups. All while the rich ‘whites’ really do not care. Which brings us to another stark truth in today’s America.

4) Profit is almost always above racial or national solidarity.

For a long time now, an average white American employer, a “John Smith” has discovered that hiring a Jose Rodriguez from Mexico costs less than hiring another John Smith from the US. Jose Rodriguez will work for less because his family is often in Mexico, and Mexico is cheaper than the US. $50 a day is a fortune in Mexico. Jose Rodriguez is working hard and is very happy with his job. But the other John Smith, the employee, is complaining that he is not making enough. The Smiths live in the US; not Mexico. School tuition is high, housing is expensive. He wants more money. ‘To hell with a fellow John Smith,” says the Gringo employer-“I am hiring Jose Rodriguez who is here illegally. I’ll save money in the process and make a fatter profit.”

In the US, when it comes to money, profit by any means possible often takes precedence over race, nationality, ethnic origin, citizenship or patriotism. Americans will usually hire anybody who costs less. The “white cause” is now opium for the poor, unemployed, and oppressed rural whites. But the economic reality is still this: an illegal Mexican plumber will come to your house and repair your faucet for $30. An American plumber (often white, but, sometimes, black, Hispanic or Asian) will charge you $200 for the same job.

What will a white American rather have- a white mechanic who presents him with an $800 bill for simple repairs on his vehicle, or an illegal Mexican mechanic who will repair his car for $300 or less? The answer is obvious.

For years, indignant comments have been made about illegal immigrants more than half of whom come from Mexico and Central America with the far-right groups seeing it as a conspiracy to destroy “the White Race”. Why don’t they address the real culprits who hire these people in the first place? -mostly other white Americans who are only thinking about making money off of cheap workforce. It is not about race. It is about the cost of labor. Before, you could get Europeans to come to the US and work cheaply, but now Europe is richer than the US, and even East Europeans would rather go and work in Germany or Portugal and make Euros than travel to America and make dollars which are now worth less and less. That is the main reason why you do not see so many Europeans coming to these shores anymore.

The Hispanic population in the US will continue growing not because of some preposterous Jewish conspiracy, but simply because Gringo employers will welcome these cheap workers since they make them rich. And, because the US law states that anyone born in the US is a US citizen, the children of these immigrants will be unconditional US citizens in the future. And they will bring their families to join them. Forces of economics are what is shaping the US ethnic demographics, not some fantasy meetings by mythical Elders of Zion in Williamsburg.

Another thing that a “white” American (or any other American) has also discovered very recently was that outsourcing a job that was meant to go to a John Smith or even a Jose Rodriguez in the US, to a Mr. Singh in India or a Mr. Lee in China was even cheaper. That means more money saved and a wider profit margin. So, what is more important? Hiring a fellow “white“, or even a fellow American of another ethnic group, or saving more money and becoming rich in the process? The answer again is obvious.

This leaves poorer ‘whites’ in America angered by the fact that their jobs and wages are being eroded and many of them become resentful of these new workers further keeping America divided. Some join the Skinheads (instead of going to computer schools) and mistakenly rant against people that have nothing to do with the “Destruction of White America“. Blacks, too, feel the pinch and blame the illegals for stealing jobs instead of placing the blame on American employers who hire such workers. These job-related squabbles further drive the wedge between all these groups in the US, and forever keep America from becoming a One Nation Under God.

This way the divisions among many ethnicities in America based on the original British insular snobbishness, mistrust, jealousy, selfish profiteering, lack of respect for the fellow man, the puttering Melting Pot that melts unevenly and with great interruptions, and the resulting, long-lasting, uneasy Salad Bowl has been given a fancy name of Multi-Culturalism to camouflage its ugliness. The school systems and the government’s unscientific and artificial ethnic classifications further divide people by giving them unnatural identities that have no equivalent in the countries where these people had originally come from.

Somehow we cannot seem to be able to correct the situation by following the Latin American example; we simply cannot teach in schools what many other countries in the Americas teach their kids: “You are all Panamanians“, “You are all Venezuelans“or “You are all Brazilians“. “You are all Americans” is hardly ever taught.

I guess neither the Founding Fathers, nor their followers ever went down to the many places on the another side of the equator to see that people can actually get along more and become much more of a One Nation Under God without creating a clumsy and unnatural social system that breeds nothing but continuous unhappiness for all concerned.

1 comment:

Steve said...

You've really summed up the problem quite nicely. The central arguement in the illegial immigrant mess is this: are you, mr. and mrs. american citizen, willing to pay $3 a pound for apples or $200 a month to have someone cut your lawn? Sadly, the answer more often than not is no. We would rather pay less for those things so that we can have two SUV's and a BMW in the driveway. Oh, and the summer place in the Hamptons. It doesn't really matter whether Jose is here legally or not. And if we can get Kaaljeet to write our computer code for $10 a day why not send our computer programming jobs over to India while we're at it. This of course is the backlash of a society obsessed with material goods and profit and any cost. The american dream is turning into a nightmare.