What’s good about multiculturalism?

John, a tiler from Hackney, doesn’t know. But he knows exactly what’s bad about it. A Londoner born and bred, John finds himself in a minority in his native city.

Diversity at work

He often spends his holidays in Ibiza, which he pronounces ‘Ibiffa’. But while there, John wears Union Jack shorts and a T-shirt saying: “Two World Wars One World Cup So Fuck Off”. He means no harm by it, just one of those things you do in Ibiffa. He quite likes Spaniards.

Back home John doesn’t mind people who look or sound unlike him either. In fact, he often goes down the pub with Andrzej the plumber and Anand the roofer. They’re good blokes. It’s just…

Well, John knows he isn’t supposed to say it, Andrzej and Anand being his mates and all, but London just doesn’t feel English anymore. That doesn’t seem right, although he may be hard-pressed to explain why in any depth. So perhaps those who have spent a lifetime putting thoughts into words can give John a helping hand.

A nation or, my preferred term, society is a collective entity uniting individuals on the basis of some common elements. Language is the most obvious one, though it can divide as well as unite. G.B. Shaw pointed this out in the preface to Pygmalion: “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”

Language can be divisive because it acts as a badge by instantly betraying the speaker’s class, education, culture, geographical origin and other potentially problematic characteristics. In fact, people like John often refer to toffs as very English, implying that Englishness comes in class-sensitive degrees.

Hence language, English more than any other, can encourage some deadly sins, and not just those of the misdemeanour variety. The same goes for culture in general. For it to function as a social and national adhesive, a country has to have the kind of educational system Britain hasn’t possessed for at least several decades.

In the absence of education that truly educates, rather than instructs, trains or indoctrinates, culture becomes even more stratified and fractured than language. When half the school leavers (a conservative estimate) don’t know in what century the Battle of Britain took place, can’t quite place Wellington’s name or understand a single joke in 1066 and All That, it’s hard to hail the unifying potential of culture.

A society worthy of its name will always have more or less educated people, but there will still exist some corpus of knowledge they can all be confidently presumed to share, some well from which they draw their commonality. Britain doesn’t seem to have anything of the sort.

In fact, the only reliable social adhesive for any Western country has been proved to be the national Church. It alone lacks the divisive potential of language or culture. When the priest offers communion wafers to his parishioners, he doesn’t reserve the better morsels for the rich or well-spoken.

Everyone is equal at the altar – and only at the altar. Communion isn’t just between the people and God; it’s between the people themselves.

However, this great adhesive has been for all intents and purposes dissolved. The Church has lost its power to unify a national community. It’s now tolerated, at best, as strictly an individual idiosyncrasy. You go to church, I go to pop concerts, he goes to football matches, they go to raves – it’s all a matter of personal choice.

Yet personal choices are two a penny; their number is roughly coextensive with the country’s population. Take the Church out, and the atoms of every social molecule spin out of control. Society becomes atomised, which is to say it stops being a society.

So what can hold a nation together at a time of rampant ignorance, egoism, solipsism, materialism and deracination? Here someone who knows how to put thoughts together holds no advantage over my fictitious friend John. We become like children who have a first mystical experience. We don’t know what it is, but we know it’s something.

All we can do is guess. It could be some genetic memory. Or a tribal instinct. Or love of the land. Or pride in being different from foreigners. Or some shared, subliminally perceived historical experience. Or ethnic commonality working in mysterious ways. Or a combination of them all – I just don’t know.

But I do know that, unlike faith, language, culture and a shared body of knowledge, all such imperceptible things are vulnerable to a huge influx of outlanders, accompanied by an ideological commitment to increasing the flow rate.

A colonial administrator of the Raj could spend decades in India without becoming one jot or tittle any less English. He had his language, culture and the local Anglican church to fall back on – those acted as his sources of strength, the earth to his Antaeus.

John the tiler is short in those departments, and he feels his Englishness is being diluted by the rapidly changing demographics. And people he considers, with typical English diffidence, to be cleverer than he is are telling him there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s diversity, innit?

That brings back the question in the title: what’s good about multiculturalism? I’ve argued what’s bad about it, and my argument may or may not be persuasive. But at least I’d like to think it’s intrinsically cogent.

So what’s the intrinsically cogent argument in favour of multiculturalism? If it exists, I have yet to hear it. All I do hear is rabid ideological waffle. John would call it a load of bollocks.   

P.S. The freshly made lord, Evgeny Lebedev, is everywhere described as a “newspaper proprietor and son of a former Russian KGB spy turned multi-millionaire oligarch”. That description is false on several counts.

First, “There’s no such thing as former KGB. This is for life.” Thus spoke Col. Putin, and in this area at least he knows his onions. Second, the word ‘oligarch’ is misleading. Since no Russian billionaire made his fortune legitimately, ‘gangster’ would be more to the point. Third, since Evgeny bought his newspapers still in his twenties, without ever having earned any serious money, it’s Lebedev père who’s the real owner.

Thus the freshly made lord ought to be described, accurately, as “the quasi-legit front for his KGB gangster father and therefore his sponsoring organisation”. Hope this clarifies matters.

10 thoughts on “What’s good about multiculturalism?”

  1. It worries me that recently I seem to have been often the first and sometimes the only commenter. Nevertheless I will press on to say that you are entirely correct or, colloquially “spot-on”. We (the old-style British – I was born in 1933) have been sold down the drain by our politicians and others. Unfortunately I know not how we can/could turn back the clock. But if I knew, I would certainly do it: the future does not bear thinking about! My poor sons will have to suffer it. Fortunately there will be no grandchildren!

  2. American liberals used to point to the old Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Ceylon [Sri Lanka] as places where different groups could all live together in harmony and thrive.

    They don’t talk about those places in the same context anymore.

  3. It worries Bernie that he is often the first and only commenter. I read Mr Boot’s blog every morning (I live in Australia) because I enjoy reading something so clear and concise and in my opinion correct, although I do not always agree with every sentence. Some time ago I asked in this comment section how many readers there are of this blog. Mr Boot could not say but thought that there were quite a large number or words to that effect. I tend to disagree, I think there a very few readers of his column. Regretfully, because it should be read by the millions. Why I think there are only a few readers is threefold; there are very few who comment, they are most often the same people and there are never any comments in disagreement. I am worried about the future of my children and grand children because it will be terrible. Of that I am certain. I am old enough (thank God) so I can still enjoy the rest of my years i happiness.

    1. Actually, for reasons unknown to me, WordPress, the operator of my blog, dumps into spam all comments it rates as inappropriate. I only found out about that recently, and it turns out there close to 2,000 spammed messages.

    2. Ben, I’m from ‘free-state’, (QLD), as opposed to ‘Red-state’ (Vic) and daily read Boot’s column as I enjoy his intellectual rigor, Christian perspective, historical over-view and his innate ability to smell a ideological socialist a mile off.
      I can understand why people don’t input; laziness, feel challenged to be articulate, are distracted from expressing a view to instead put time into the real world, (scrolling endless inanities on their smart phone, or reading the daily corporate lies). One letter, for example, to a politician is suppose to represent 1,000 view.
      Today, for example, I was going to compare the changing social fabric in Australia since we shifted from forms of integration policies to our current multi-cultural disaster…but that takes time, and I’m extremely busy.

  4. So there seems to be quite a few readers anyway, thats good then. And spammers/commenters who can only use invectives as arguments are of no use anyway. So back to the gutter with them where they belong. And as you rightly cited some weeks ago; “you cannot reason people out of an opinion they have not been reasoned in to”.

  5. I too am from Australia, and lament the amount of comments on this site. I could also be the “John” in this column, wondering why multiculturalism is so necessary, when it ought to be called “multitribalism”.

  6. I started reading this column only a few months ago. I too read it each day and find much to agree with.
    I made a few comments a little while back in general agreement but also pointing out some odds and ends where perhaps another view could be taken. They didn’t go down awfully well, so being a bit of a lazy one, I gave up.

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