THE VALUE OF MULTICULTURALISM
Passive tolerance does little for society argues Louis MacPherson
TORONTO STAR FEATURE EDITORIAL JANUARY 01, 2007
Multiculturalism is important because it dilutes and dissipates the divisiveness of ignorance. It is important because it encourages dialogue, often between radically different cultures that have radically different perspectives. It is important because it softens the indifference of tolerance, and embraces it with the genuine humanity of acceptance. It is a bridge between the divide of tolerance and acceptance.
Famed American writer and civil-rights essayist James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Ignorance of and about our fellow man, is, perhaps, the most important challenge facing humanity. Without the intervention of differences, mankind cannot appreciate what each of us has in common. Only then can we work toward a truly egalitarian world.
Differences aside, man, regardless of his specific culture of origin, strives, for the most part, to provide the best he can for his family, and to live in as peaceful and harmonious a world as possible. These two goals unite us all. Multiculturalism makes the ideal and altruistic notion of loving our fellow man a tangent possibility, rather than a nebulous philosophical concept.
To paraphrase American educator Howard Shorr, “Mankind must make global multiculturalism a cornerstone of education…events occurring in our community could have consequences beyond the borders of our world”. Multiculturalism is an antidote for ignorance.
What is humanity to gain if we simply endure one’s presence within our society? Where is the merit in that? Where is the nobility in tolerance? There can be no remediate benefits with this narrow-minded approach.
As a species, we are handcuffed by our own cultural myopia if we eschew an ignorance of the philosophical, ideological, or spiritual knowledge of our fellow man. It is chauvinistic and dangerous if we believe that there is not merit in the differences of our global neighbours. It is incumbent on us to exploit the best of all of our differences for the benefit of as many of us as possible and, by so doing, establish a climate of trust rather than suspicion.
We should cherish the opportunity to sublimate the notion of a rigid Western, Eastern, Christian, Judaic, Islamic, etc., viewpoint, and encourage people instead, to look at society and culture from the viewpoint of a globally infused diaspora. A little nationalism, like a little knowledge, can be a very dangerous thing, and, as history has shown to the point of redundancy, it can be a catalyst for the egregiously barbaric and immoral treatment of our fellow man. The intermingling of cross-cultural discussion, particularly dogmatic religious beliefs, can only help to diminish the razor-edged threats of nationalist rhetoric.
As a young, often annoyingly inquisitive boy, my father continually reminded me of the need to examine other cultures from a neutral, rather than Western perspective, if humanity is to gain true insight into the brotherhood of man. This does not mean “tolerate”. Frankly, I find the word tolerate euphemistically offensive, ambiguous, and a metaphor for insincerity; it also has a patronizing tenor.
It is appreciated that some of us feel a sense of lost ethnic identity as the cultural representation within our community becomes more and more diverse, but man is a migratory animal. Unfailingly, history continues to demonstrate man’s search for a more harmonious life in times of political, climactic, pandemic, or discriminatory upheaval. And, as the world’s population continues to mushroom, and the reach of micro and macro economics defies the traditional notion of borders, the importance of global civility becomes not only more important, but essential to our very survival.
Multiculturalism may be the antidote for the inappropriate and destructive behaviour of dictatorial regimes and religious orthodoxy, regimes bent on breaking the will and spirit of their subjects, and antagonizing the benevolence of their neighbours. The value of multiculturalism must be disseminated likes seeds in a farmer’s field, and nurtured with the fertility of our common goals.
Relative to so many cities and countries around the world, Toronto and Canada are such a model of civility, a model that is envied and admired, and yet one that some Canadians are only too quick to criticize. Why is multiculturalism sometimes seen as a “dirty word”?