It’s frequently been said that despite the way many Australians laud the benefits of multiculturalism, this embrace of other cultures often doesn’t go any further than our eating habits.
Bay Area Guy sez:
I'd say the same thing applies in the United States. This has been pointed out both by white nationalists and liberals such as Christian Lander (author of the hilarious, and in my opinion very insightful "Stuff White People Like")
When white yuppie/SWPL types say they like "diversity", it usually boils down to one thing: Good "ethnic" food. That, and other things such as music.
In all of my life, I have NEVER heard anyone successfully argue in favor of the notion that racial diversity is a strength (maybe you'll be the first =D).
When they do, it usually revolves around specific items such as food and music. They'll enjoy the food and music, but would prefer to avoid large numbers of the people of that race.
(I don't like using the term "culture" too much, because at least in my experience, PC types use it as a code word for race)
Note: Bay Area Guy is apparently some kind of White Nationalist (I'm familiar with his comments on another blog), but he comes across as open-minded enough for reasonable and respectful discussions, so I guess he's welcome here.
I'll say a few things.
I don't think diversity is all smiles and sunshine. It has both bad and good aspects to it. The problem is, how does one quantify the benefits or drawbacks? To say that a society is improved by diversity is entirely subjective, and I don't think there is any definitive formula that can prove that cultural diversity is awesome. The justifications for diversity can sound perfectly reasonable to many, while to some it may sound just like feel-good hippy nonsense that doesn't have any actual tangible benefits.
I'll also add that I'm not a blind adherent of multiculturalism. I love living in an ethnically diverse society, but for such a society to function it has to be developed and managed correctly. There needs to be the right balance between the expression of diversity on one hand, and integration into the established cultural norms on the other, and I don't think we always get that right. I don't even know if it is possible to get that balance right. So there will always be examples of what is wrong with diversity, if you wish to find them. But I would question whether such an example is due to diversity itself, or the way diversity is managed.
Food and music are mentioned as the usual reasons thrown out for diversity being positive. Let me dwell on music for a moment, with the United States as an example. How that country came to acquire its particular kind of racial diversity -through slavery and oppression - is hardly something to be proud of. Yet the intermingling of European and African cultures has changed global culture immeasurably. Virtually none of the popular music we listen to today would be possible without a mixed-race America, and that includes most genres of music that we tend to think of as "white", such as metal. White folks wouldn't have done it on their own, and neither would Africans.
Is music a triviality? Perhaps, perhaps not. More broadly, it is an aspect of culture, and culture is what tends to change once the ethnic makeup of a country starts to shift. And it's important to note that when we speak of the benefits of diversity, we are speaking primarily in cultural terms rather than economic ones. This is why answering a question like "what are the actual benefits of racial diversity?" is not necessarily easy.
Ethnic diversity also adds new dimensions to other cultural expressions such as sport. While there is a lot of consternation these days about basketball and its increasingly "ghetto" image, it's worth reflecting that the sport could never have become the world-conquering juggernaut that it did in the 80s and 90s without African-Americans. That's a huge worldwide sporting and merchandising industry based around the athletic and aesthetic qualities that guys like Jordan, Magic and Shaq brought to the game. You couldn't build such an industry on the more subtle qualities of a Larry Bird.
Living in a monoculture isn't so bad, but it is nonetheless limiting in the sorts of experiences and ideas that can be generated. And in that sense, ethnic diversity encourages broadmindedness. Sure, there will always be ignorant and close-minded people around, but my hunch is that negotiating a multicultural society actually forces one's mind to think outside the square. There's a reason why country people and small-town people, bless 'em, are stereotyped as being more fixed in their way of thinking and stuck in the past; they are more likely to live in a bubble which mostly includes only people who are like them.
Why do I personally like living in a diverse society? For me, it like travelling without actually having to spend the money to travel. Due to the constraints of time and money, I don't think I'll ever go to Afghanistan, Zimbabwe or El Salvador; yet I've had the fortune to meet many people from those countries. When I do go overseas, I'm not one to lie around on beaches all day; I'm in markets, eating at roadside stalls and trying to get a feel for what the people are all about. I'm someone with a curious mind, and I like to understand the vastness of the human experience, and what the similarities and differences can teach me about myself and those around me.
So I don't know if that answers Bay Area Guy's question at all. But I actually think that a diverse society has made me into a better and more well-rounded human being, if that's worth anything.
Our perceptions of cultural diversity are often based on our own ideals and prejudices. Some of us see a rose-tinted view of a diverse society, in which everyone lives happily ever after and no one has any medieval attitudes which cause angst and disharmony. At the other extreme, some people only see the negative. Neither are right, I think. Yet even the people who condemn diversity are probably unconsciously living a life that would not be possible without it.