Ranting aside and earlier complacency aside as well, the fears of the populace with regard to the dangers in our midst are real. People have very real fears of society changing into something unrecognisable and undesirable whether as a result of cultural osmosis and gradual demographic shifts or through violent reaction to violence.
As I’ve written earlier, I have no wish to live a country where religious beliefs are forced onto me through the legal system whether those beliefs are from Islamic groups or religious aligned parties like Family First. However, I also do not wish to force my ideology and philosophy onto others no matter how irrational, self-destructive and downright stupid I feel they are being. At the very least, consistency requires that I maintain this position.
The problem with this stance is that it leaves one open to the argument that even if you are able to foster a respect and tolerance for the ways of others within these sorts of [insert favourite marginalised and demonised group here], population growth is going to outstrip us decadent western liberal types and eventually using those very same democratic instruments, vote in an entirely different system or at least legislation of some other sort. In short, your country and the very institutions that allowed such a group to flourish will eventually be irrevocably changed and you would become a minority (presumably a persecuted minority).
The other point often made is that even if through gradual population expansion, they will eventually form a sizeable enough minority to create ghettoes which will only result in greater conflict and distrust amongst the major groups. Proponents of this argument then cites Bosnia, Rwanda, Macedonia and Indonesia as examples of ethnic conflict. There is no shortage of examples there.
These are powerful arguments. Powerful enough to be used in justifying the white Australia policy and now powerful enough to be the shadow that lies under the current toeing around multi-culturalism. It’s also the fear that is evoked whenever politicians talk about strong border protection.
But it is because they have such power that it is important to examine the arguments in a little more detail.
First, the population outgrowth argument. This is basically an argument that taps into fears of cultural change. I dont have a counter because I believe it is going to happen one way or the other. Live with it. As a society, you could try to legislate for certain values and attempt to outlaw others but like it or not, if there is an underlying cultural shift occuring in the population, it is going to happen either painfully and with much abuse and hatred on all sides (Falun Gong, Iran revolution etc) or in a controlled fashion. Trying to shortcut potential cultural change by implementing assimilation measures, IMO, only postpones the inevitable and in the meantime impinges on the civil liberties of everyone. As in an earlier post, I believe the only way to influence cultural change is to provide the population with choice, freedom and a stable society as free from hatred, poverty and distrust as possible. In other words, a bottom up process. And I believe that if we are able to this successfully, cultural change is going to head towards the western democratic free(ish) market type situation.
Second, the ethnic conflict argument. The problem with ethnic conflict arguments is that they tend to be self-fulfilling and tend also to be perpetuated by people who get into power by playing on those fears and using those arguments. It assumes that communication is not possible, that everyone who is not like oneself is implacable and uncompromising and that conflict in impossible to avoid. It forgets that in reality, there will always be more moderates who just want to get along and live their own life peacefully and that the implacable and uncompromising are always in an absolute minority. It also hides the real reasons and causes of conflict which are often to do with inequal opportunity and mutual distrust.
Finally, and this is what I’m really getting to is that we have no choice and I mean this as a collective we as in all participants. As globalisation continues, we are always going to be a country with people holding different beliefs whether due to ideology or culture or religion or sexual orientation. There are always going to be flash points and conflict areas.
So, now to actual policy which I believe will help (but not guarantee) peaceful cultural transitions any which way are as follows with the caveat that I havent done enough research and reading in this yet.
1) A common language. To communicate, people have to speak the same language and so it is essential that government subsidised language schools are provided and people encouraged to learn as much of the common language as possible. Here I’d go further and actually legislate that all schools private or otherwise must have the common language as its primary medium of instruction (ie > 50% of school lessons).
2) Civics. Migrants and school children from a certain age onwards should have a civics course that teaches the current political system, explains the whole liberal acceptance of difference position that is cultural diversity is to be respected and accepted and is in fact an enriching asset for the country. At the very least there is an expectation that in the general population that they respect difference if only because everyone is different.
As well, an understanding of political process can empower minorities and migrants which is always a good thing.
3) Hate speech and anti-discrimination laws (even if I do have problems with some of that) and a strong and consistently applied criminal code.