The Menace of Multiculturalism - section five
A Moving Target:
The Slippery Ideology
Multiculturalism is a slippery ideology, in that there is a myriad of variations to the concept. This wealth of definitions is actually a great advantage to the supporters of multiculturalism, as it is easy for them to deflect any attacks upon their viewpoint, by saying "Oh no, that's not the kind of multiculturalism that I'm talking about"; they can swap, merge, and confuse definitions, and therefore dodge valid arguments by avoiding "being pinned down" to one definition. Various commentators have spoken on the issue of the various definitions of multiculturalism:(26)
Lois Foster and David Stockley, in their study of the multicultural concept, talk of
"the various ideologies of multiculturalism which have competed for official acceptance and dominance in Australia", and have said that "there has been a growing body of theoretical criticism of the ambiguity and confusion surrounding the use of the term 'multiculturalism'."
An Ethnic Affairs Council report admitted that
"There are many kinds of multiculturalism and some are grossly incompatible with Australia's political and social system."
Dr. Franco Schiavoni (of the Victorian Ethnic Affairs Commission) said that
"In the Australian context the term 'multiculturalism' has been used to refer to a variety of policies and theoretical perspectives".
Dr. Ralph Pervan (then Chairman of the Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission of WA) prophesied that
"in the 21st Century ... we will still be debating the meaning of multiculturalism."
Paolo Totaro (of the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW) said
"Multiculturalism - notwithstanding the widespread use of the word - is still a very imprecise, albeit very useful concept."
The Ethnic Affairs Task Force has told us that
"the concept of multiculturalism has lacked precise formulation and wide public acceptance."
As Professor Lauchlan Chipman said,
"years ago when the term 'multi-cultural' had not been long in vogue, I was inclined to dismiss multiculturalism as, at best, an irritatingly muddled way of trying to represent the whole range of life-styles to be found among Australian residents ... In terms of the spectrum to which I earlier referred, ranging from Millian liberal pluralism ('soft' multi-culturalism) through to anti-assimilationism, ethnic separatism, and non-hierarchical apartheid ('hard' multi-culturalism), I was inclined to interpret it at the soft end. Today it is clear that advocates of multi-culturalism are operating in the middle and harder divisions of the spectrum; the soft end - which has no essential connection, in origin or in justification, with ethnicity - is reserved simply for astounding the shallower critics who, in expressing doubts about multi-culturalism, are made to look like racists, or illiberal and intolerant bigots. Fast footwork through the spectrum is frequently necessary in debates with multi-culturalists."
In summing up this "trendy" ideology, Chipman was later to describe multiculturalism as an
"intellectually degenerate and practically corrupt social philosophy".
Government officials, and other multiculturalists, have even been apparently contradictory as to whether Australia actually is multicultural (supposedly) or not.
On some occasions, we're told that Australia isn't multicultural:(27)
"The major recurring themes of the position most clearly associated with the Fraser government can be summarized as: 1) Multiculturalism was an attitude to be encouraged, not a present reality ..." (This says that we're not multicultural).
"Australia has been developing towards a multicultural society for nearly 200 years". Prime Minister Bob Hawke, 1984. ("Developing towards" infers that we're not multicultural).
"... the widely shared goal of a multicultural Australia". Dr. Andrew Theophanous, MHR for Burke, 1982. ("Goal" infers that we're not multicultural).
"Thanks to migration our Australia today is a multicultural nation in the making." Bishop of Bathurst, A.E. Thomas, 1978. ("In the making" infers that we're not multicultural).
"Government assistance is a necessary factor in achieving a multicultural society." Ethnic Affairs Task Force, 1982. ("Achieving" infers that we're not multicultural).
On other occasions, we're told that Australia is multicultural:(28)
"Australia has been multicultural in nature throughout its history, both before and after European colonization". The New South Wales Department of Education's Multicultural Education Policy, 1983.
"The crux of our argument is that Australia is already a society of multiple cultural identities, or a multicultural society". The Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, 1977.
"In a descriptive sense multicultural is simply a term which describes the cultural and ethnic diversity of contemporary Australia. We are, and will remain, a multicultural society. As a public policy multiculturalism encompasses government measures designed to respond to that diversity. It plays no part in migrant selection. It is a policy for managing the consequences of cultural diversity in the interests of the individual and society as a whole." Office of Multicultural Affairs, 1989.
"In a descriptive sense Australia is likely to remain multicultural well into the twenty-first century." Office of Multicultural Affairs. 1988.
The apparent contradiction lies in the use of two differing assertions of multiculturalism. First, that of Descriptive Multiculturalism, whereby a claim is made "about the pluralistic nature of society" (i.e. that Australia consists of many different cultures). Secondly, that of Prescriptive Multiculturalism, whereby an assertion is made "about an ideal type of society to be achieved some time in the future." The way that many multiculturalists can so easily swap between these two differing assertions of their ideology can make their arguments "as slippery as an eel" to pin down. As has been noted by Anne Seitz, "The descriptive and prescriptive definitions of multiculturalism are seldom used consistently and accurately. Very often there is a confusion or a 'sliding' between the two concepts. Frequently this 'slippage' is deliberate -- a convenient tactic to confuse the issue under debate."(29)
As another example of the selective use of the term; it could be asked why some other "multi-ethnic" societies are not normally (if ever) called "multicultural" (even in the "descriptive sense"). For example, Fiji, the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, and Sri Lanka; let alone apartheid-era South Africa. The truth is, multiculturalists use the term as it happens to suit them at the time.
The effects of the introduction of multiculturalism into Australia have been enormous, with the results being mostly divisive and destructive. In 1989, in what amounted to an expensive attempt to rehabilitate the general public's view of "multiculturalism", the government produced a widely-publicised document: The National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia. This was the government's opportunity to give its version of multiculturalism. However, to believe a pro-multicultural government's public definition of multiculturalism would be as naive as believing Joseph Stalin's public definition of communism, or Adolf Hitler's public definition of nazism: their explanation would be a "whitewash", avoiding the real disadvantages and negatives inherent in the system, and ignoring the "reality" of their ideology (i.e. what it means in the "real world"). The introduction of multiculturalism in the 1970s has given a "concrete" impetus to, and a "moral" justification for, a wide range of pro-ethnic machinations and anti-Australian practices from those multiculturalists in government, the public service, various institutions, the education system, and in general (whether such practices arose from ideology, group "needs", or self-interest is immaterial).(30)
So, what is this ideology called "multiculturalism" really all about?
The Menace of Multiculturalism
Australian Nationalism Information Database - www.ausnatinfo.angelfire.com/~natinfo