All of today’s Australians (even the Aboriginal people) are either migrants, or descended from people who migrated here from overseas. From the founding of the modern Australian State at Federation, until the early 1970’s, the basis of our immigration policy was more or less the same as that of the United States.
This was articulated clearly in the following letter from Theodore Roosevelt to the American Defense Society:
In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here.
Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.
This policy worked because our earliest immigrants worked hard to become Australians. The great majority were from Europe and the UK, whose cultures were quite similar to ours. Cultural harmony is no problem with harmonious cultures. Children of immigrants were almost indistinguishable from their school mates.
These immigrants turned Australia into one of the most prosperous and successful countries in the world. Sometime between the early 1970s and the early 1990s however, every “Western” nation around the world (excluding wealthy “non Western” countries such as Japan) decided to implement a previously unheard of doctrine known as multiculturalism.
In Australia, this policy was introduced in 1973 by controversial Whitlam Minister and suspected Mafia collaborator Al Grassby. The public was never consulted about this policy, and the concept of “culture” was never defined.
If you have ever been to a “cultural” festival or celebration, you would most likely have found it full of exotic spicy foods, ethnic people doing lively, interesting dances and wearing unusual and brightly coloured clothing. When we hear the term “culture,” these days, this is what immediately springs to mind.
If this were all that was meant by the term “culture,” then a multicultural human society might exist in peace and harmony. What is there NOT to like about that?
However, the flaws in this policy come into stark relief when we understand the deeper meaning of the word “culture”. This meaning is far less visible and will never be on display at any “cultural” festival, but is in fact, far more important. Culture in its deepest sense, refers to the set of values which are used by a society to determine its ethics. It is those things which a society, as a whole, considers to be right or wrong.
An example: Hindus consider it very wrong to kill a cow, whereas most Westerners are happy to enjoy a nice rump steak. For this reason, India may have laws outlawing the killing of cows, whilst we have no such law.
This has nothing to do with ethnicity or race. If you or I had grown up in a Hindu family in India then we would also probably consider killing a cow to be morally wrong. This is the basis of any culture, a set of shared beliefs in what constitutes right and wrong which are shared by one group but not another.
These values are passed on from one generation to the next by parents, religious institutions, media, schools, peers and other institutions.
Each of the different cultures has its own concept of right and wrong. There is no universal definition of what is right and what is wrong. We in the West tend to rather arrogantly assume that the Ten Commandments’ principles of not to kill, steal, cheat, or lie etc. exist in every culture but this is demonstrably not true.
In the past (and probably even today in remote areas) there have been warrior societies where killing was considered a rite of passage for all males. The Vikings were somewhat famous for glorifying rape, pillage and plunder and there are numerous examples of cultures which considered particular Western (Judeo/Christian based) “sins” to be virtues.
Going back to our original example, we cannot say that all Westerners will agree to killing cows for food, or that no Hindus will ever have a sneaky t-bone steak. However most Hindus would consider eating beef to be “wrong” and for most Westerners it is “OK”.
The doctrine of “multiculturalism” as opposed to “multi ethnicity,” dictates that groups of people with different cultures will live in one society and retain their culture, rather than trying to assimilate into the culture of the host nation.The first problem with this lies in the fact that the laws which a society makes, and agrees to be governed by, are simply an extension of the culture of that society.