Confused about multi-culturalism and what it actually means for those of us living in modern-day Britain?
The always congenial and helpful David Cameron has a handy cut out and keep guide in an exclusive article for The Birmingham Post (http://icbirmingham.icnetwork/birminghampost).
Or, rather, that is what we’re led to believe. The reality, as ever, is far removed from the theory.
The article reads like a check list for all the meaningless phrases associated with multi-culturalism. Read the article and tick them off as you see them:
- melting pot
- respect and tolerance
- live side-by-side
- peace and harmony
- community leaders
- tackle the causes of poverty
- cultural identity.
Birmingham does need to be proud of its achievements in embracing other cultures, as the Conservative leader states. There are important lessons that other towns and cities can learn.
But these lessons tend to be in spite of the efforts of politicians and community leaders.
The progress that has and still is being made in Birmingham has little to do with local and national policy or frameworks. It tends to be a result of individuals working with other individuals to ensure something positive, practical and long-lasting is created.
Cultivating relationships is often one of the hardest and most time-consuming tasks we face. Quick-fix solutions offered by government, local authorities and community leaders rarely even begin to scratch the surface.
One of the criticisms that arose during the Lozells disturbances of 2005 in Birmingham, but which often fell on deaf ears, was the fact that many people within the communities affected were unsure who the “community leaders” representing them actually were and who had appointed them. As a result, they didn’t believe their views were being properly represented.
If that is the case, talk of integration tends to be little more than hot air as it suggests that people even feel isolated within their own community.
Some communities in Birmingham are integrated and do live alongside each other harmoniously. But that is not the case across the whole of the city, there are still stark inequalities and as a result a large degree of suspicion and resentment. Official policy often makes such divisions worse.
Mr Cameron makes some useful points in his article, but yet again we’re left with an overview rather than anything more substantial and worthwhile. He acknowledges some of the deficiencies with the multi-cultural model so many have already raised, but he does not provide a clear way forward.
Pointing out the pressing need to “tackle poverty” and provide “a first-class education” for all is one thing, putting forward ideas on how that can be achieved is something else entirely.
Mr Cameron has singularly failed to put any meat on the bones of any issue he has raised so far. This article does nothing to move forward the issues of multi-culturalism, social and economic exclusion, education, health, crime, immigration, indeed just about any major policy area.
The point that still needs to be grasped is that tackling multi-culturalism is not one issue. It involves every single aspect of our society so merely acknowledging the problems that exist and referring to the end dream of a fully integrated, harmonious, diverse, equal nation does not offer a fresh approach.
How we can achieve that end dream is what should be debated. In his 1,000-plus words for The Birmingham Post, Mr Cameron once again fails to deliver on his wise and insightful words.
The multi-cultural ideal is not a Utopian dream. It is achievable and it can be found in pockets throughout Birmingham.
But it should be something that is universal.
I want to live in a melting pot of cultures, where respect and tolerance is second nature to everyone, we all live side-by-side in peace and harmony, maintaining our own cultural identity and yet remaining fully integrated into a society where the views of fundamentalists and extremists don’t get an audience. It would be wonderful if community leaders fully represented each and every person and worked together to tackle the causes of poverty and other forms of social and economic exclusion.
We aren’t there yet. However, it should not be regarded as an impossible dream
The big question is whether the likes of David Cameron or Gordon Brown are capable of leading us to such a point?
They both have a lot of work to do in order to prove they are up to the job.