Flat White

The one huge problem with multiculturalism

22 November 2018

9:09 AM

22 November 2018

9:09 AM

The greatest enemy of migrants in Australia is a bad immigration policy; an immigration policy that generates anxiety and suspicion about immigration in general and innocent migrants in particular, especially Muslims. In the midst of tensions generated by terrorism, all the talk about diversity and how successful our multicultural society is—Compared to where? Europe, with its increased terrorism, ethnic tensions, social fracturing, and shrinking centrist politics?—will serve only to convince Australians that our leaders have tin ears. The ultimate victims of anxiety about immigration will always be immigrants themselves.

If our political leaders, especially those on the left, really care about the welfare of Australian immigrants and any racism and disadvantage they may face, then they will construct an immigration system that reduces people’s anxieties about immigration and migrants. This would be an immigration system that finally rejects the multicultural fetish of diversity for diversity’s sake, and one that places the safety of Australians in an age of terrorism as the first priority, including the safety of Australian migrants from waves of racism that inevitably emerge in reaction to a thoughtless and ideological immigration policy.

Global anxieties about immigration are not merely about security and economics. They are also about culture. People are feeling robbed of their cultural security, like someone has come into their home and changed the furnishing and décor without their permission, and then shamed them for daring to speak out.

Most Australians—immigrants included, I believe—don’t give a damn about diversity, they care about immigrants fitting in and making a contribution.

The problem with multiculturalism is that at its heart there is a contradiction, a contradiction that is now playing out in Europe with the rise of anti-immigration movements, and in the UK with the Tommy Robinson movement. Foundational to multiculturalism is the plausible premise that culture matters to personal identity and self-respect. But multiculturalists then advocate the adjustment of pre-existing national cultures to suit the cultural needs of migrant communities so that they don’t feel alienated from the host nation. The problem is that multiculturalism forgets that the pre-existing national culture means something to its citizens too—surprisingly, to multiculturalists at least, it isn’t just cultural minorities who love their culture.


Multiculturalism produces nations of cultural homelessness: natives feel alienated from their rapidly-changing communities and become critical of immigrants, and many immigrants consequently feel as if they are in an alien and hostile land. Nobody wins except for the multicultural industry, which thrives on the very cultural tensions created by multiculturalism that are then used to justify more funding for their divisive programmes.

The trick of multiculturalists in terms of deflecting criticism has always been to transmogrify culture into race. Worried about Islamic immigration? Racist. Don’t like how your community has turned from English speaking to Chinese, Vietnamese, or Arabic? Racist. Worried that our immigration system is eroding all that remains of the Anglo-European aesthetic of Australian communities? Racist.

Multiculturalism was imposed on Australian. As if any nation would ever vote to kill its own culture. It was a policy that in the 1970s breezily swept aside the normative significance of the still largely British nature of the Australian nation and simply declared that we had no culture but multiculturalism. Australians were never asked whether they were happy for Australian culture to be radically changed over a generation through high levels of non-Anglo-European immigration without an emphasis on assimilation. Young Australians ever since have merely been taught to recite the creed: ‘There is no Australian culture but multiculturalism.’ It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fact, you don’t need to have the ideology of multiculturalism to have cultural diversity. Australia was diversifying culturally after the waves of European immigration from World War II. All of this was under a policy of assimilation, not multiculturalism. Immigration under a policy of assimilation is commendable, for immigrants inevitably bring their own culture—as they did from the late-1940s-60s—but the diversity is restrained by an expectation on fitting in. Of course there were racial tensions that emerged from immigration after WWII, but they weren’t exacerbated by an ideology that tries to convince migrants to hold on to as much of their culture as possible, and that shames all who express a sense of loss and alienation as their communities become unrecognizable.

The discourse of multiculturalism, with its trick of conflating culture with race, prevents anyone from questioning the wisdom of an immigration policy that is creating large cultural communities whose nature seems radically at odds with our historic Anglo-European cultural aesthetic and ways of thinking. The upshot is that good migrants become the meat in the sandwich, the injured bystanders of a war between ideological policy elites who either don’t recognise the existence of an Australian culture or despise it, and ordinary Australians who resent the rapid and radical changes to their surroundings.

A vote winner for Scott Morrison is to embrace migrant communities while explicitly distancing himself from the ideology of multiculturalism and its tendency to shame anyone who feels attached to an older Anglo-European cultural aesthetic. Morrison must emphasise unity, but not some sham unity through diversity, but unity through collective love of this country and its long-standing institutions and history, which are the product of our Anglo-European heritage. An immigration policy that allows insular and radically different cultural communities to emerge will in the long-run only further intensify existing anxieties about immigration and migrants, Muslims in particular. Witness Europe.

If the worst enemy of migrants is a bad immigration policy, their best friend is one that values national security and, more importantly, the pre-existing Australian culture that many love and that has made this country so desirable for so many creative and hard-working migrant families. Migrants would do well to realise this and accordingly support an immigration policy that lessens public anxiety about migrants. Let no one say that a culture-and-security-sensitive immigration policy is racist; on the contrary, it is the greatest service we can render to our migrant communities.

Stephen Chavura teaches history at Campion College, Sydney

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