General Question

Jiminez's avatar

What's your take on multi-culturalism?

Asked by Jiminez (1253points) March 29th, 2009

Does it make society stronger? Weaker? Does any of that matter? Seems to be a pretty popular topic these days.

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43 Answers

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

I think from a purely evolutionary standpoint it should be a good thing. socially I also think it’s good, I mean what harm can it do? at the very least it helps people become less narrow minded.

TaoSan's avatar


evolutionary speaking we’re all from Africa anyways :)

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I believe that when you migrate from one country to another, your culture becomes your heritage, and you assimilate into the culture of the country you migrate to. Each wave of immigration, however, shapes and enhances the culture of the country into something new, and adds vibrancy to it.

resmc's avatar

Can, in its most common form (that i’ve encountered) be a way of ignoring or glossing over vast inequalities in the social power/voice members of various cultures have compared to the dominant one.

But diversity makes us stronger, so long as it doesn’t repress people’s natural movement to be respected, equal and free. Otherwise, that motion will be pent up until the white crust of society threatens to crack – and of course, to those on the surface, the stress or even rupture will likely be blamed on the nature of the minority group, rather on their own oppression and marginalization of them.

Those who see society purely as what exists without minorities, without ‘other’ cultures, will naturally tend to see diversity as weakening ‘true’ culture.

Also, multiculturalism isn’t something we can avoid. We live in a increasingly pluralistic society in a more and more interconnected world. The only thing in question is how we deal with this.

Jiminez's avatar

@AlfredaPrufrock What if the people don’t assimilate but maintain their culture in it’s exact form? That’s what multiculturalism is; when there are many completely different cultures living amongst each other and no single unifying culture.

Zer0's avatar

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

theluckiest's avatar

Evolutionary advantage :)

Darwin's avatar

I think it gives us all a lot of opportunity to try new things, to see that there is more than one way to do things, and gives us lots of trivia to use in trivia competitions.

VzzBzz's avatar

Society is stronger when there is a bond. I’d love think multi-culturism could thrive but it includes various religions which separate. I believe humans possess an interconnectivity which attracts but created social differences (for uniting smaller groups) repel. What to do.

galileogirl's avatar

Can you identify any mono-cultural society in the world. Certainly not European or African. China has something like 53 ethnic groups.

Racists like to think of themselves as of a singular culture. If your family came from England though you probably have some Roman, Scandanavian, Celtic, German (Ango/Saxon) and French (Norman) blood. And if you don’t carry all the genetic material you share aspects of language, religion, food and traditional celebrations-all parts of culture.

Every culture is a poly-culture.

Jiminez's avatar

@galileogirl But how do the people relate to each other if they each make no effort to bridge the gap? Seems to me like everyone just breaks up into little culture-pods and ignores everybody else.

Vincentt's avatar

It’d be boring without.

galileogirl's avatar

Seems to me that people who break up into culture-pods, break up into age-pods, philosphy-pods, political-pods and any other-pods because of their personal fears and limitations. They are the unhappy minority. If one finds oneself in such a restrictive social environment it is incumbent on him/her to break out and join the world instead of settling for life in a box.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@Jiminez, that’s a good question. Perhaps mobility is a factor? The more mobile you are, the easier assimilation becomes? Or educational attainment? Or perhaps it’s the three generation rule, which is certainly true in my family. We’re on our third country in three generations. My great-grandfather was illiterate in both his native language, and in English. My uncle was the CEO of a subsidiary of a Fortune 100 company. I don’t speak the language of any of my grandparents, even though both my parents were multilingual. I work with people who deliberately do not teach their children to speak Spanish, even though it was their first language.

I tend to look at culturalization from the perspective of food. How diverse a person’s eating habits can say a lot

galileogirl's avatar

Alfreda is Taco Bell American or Latino cuisine.<:}

HarmonyAlexandria's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 I think from a purely evolutionary standpoint it should be a good thing

I have no idea who keeps perpetuating that myth, but it’s simply not true. It is axiomatic that a single species cannot become two species if group members keep mating with each other. Once isolated, groups can gradually become separate species.

Larger populations also evolve via sexual selection. Members possessing the most desirable traits mate with each other, instead of with the general population, effectively isolating them.

Increasing the size of the mating pool favours prolific breeders, who are not necessarily the “fitttest” . Consider Darwin’s light vs.heavy beaked finches in times of famine.

essieness's avatar

I love the idea of multi-culturalism, if it can work. I truly believe that no culture is superior or inferior to another; they are just different. I think everyone has an opportunity to learn from everyone and we should embrace that fully.

Qingu's avatar

Civilizations that tolerated cultural differences have history been the most successful (for example, Babylon, Rome, Persia, the Islamic Caliphate, the British Empire).

But there’s always going to be a balancing act, even in “multicultural societies,” because societies operate by laws and laws are a part of culture.

Let’s take the example of Islam in modern, Western cultures. Should we allow Muslims freedom to worship as they choose? It’s easy to answer “yes,” but then some Muslims may claim that part of their religious tradition* entails female genital mutilation. Do we tolerate that aspect of Islamic culture? I say no. My circle of tolerance doesn’t extend that far outside of my own cultural norms.

*FGM predates Islam and is also practiced by non-Muslims, FYI

Qingu's avatar

@essieness, do you really think modern, Western, secular culture is “just different” than, for example, a traditional Islamic/African that practices female genital mutilation?

Or, more locally, American culture 100 years ago, which saw blacks and women as second-class citizens?

I think certain cultures are obviously “superior” to others. We can measure this in a number of ways, such as:

• Do more people of a certain culture seek to move out than move in?
• Does a culture foster (or at least coincide with) economic or social stability?
• Can a culture’s proponents “compete” with other cultural ideas or does the culture require isolation to survive?

essieness's avatar

Yes, and I’m not including outdated cultures in my answer.

Qingu's avatar

I think that’s the whole sticking point though. Where/how do you draw the line for “outdated” cultures? (Not that I’m disagreeing with you)

essieness's avatar

Disclaimer: I’m having a mini adrenal crisis today, which gives me major brain fog, and am having trouble putting my thoughts into words.

Any culture that is not occurring presently, or is not remembered by a living human being. For example, you mentioned American culture 100 years ago. That culture, IMO, is not relevant because there are only a few people still living who were alive then. Does that make sense?

theluckiest's avatar

@essieness What do you mean, “foster (or at least coincide with) economic or social stability”?
Give me an example of a culture that fails there, and then is categorically “less” than a different culture, if you will.

edit: Also… “Can a culture’s proponents “compete” with other cultural ideas or does the culture require isolation to survive?” I’m not sure what this means either… many cultures have been destroyed to to the “expansionist” culture of more militaristic societies; I wouldn’t think that makes one more valuable or important than the other.

essieness's avatar

@theluckiest I think you meant to direct that question to @Qingu. I didn’t ask those questions, he did.

theluckiest's avatar

@essieness oopies you’re totally right.

@Qinqu : see above please :D

Qingu's avatar

During the middle ages, the culture of “Christendom” would not engage in “usury” because it was considered a sin. Thus, there wasn’t really such a thing as a “bank.” There certainly wasn’t such a thing as “capital” or “investment.”

However, a sub-culture in Christendom, the Jews, would lend money. Their culture managed to accumulate a lot of wealth (despite being second-class citizens). The dominant culture, Christendom, would eventually be forced to copy the Jews because their culture led to more wealth.

Darwin's avatar

@galileogirl – Taco Bell is neither. It is an alien construct designed to fatten up potential Earthling prey.

theluckiest's avatar

@Qingu I don’t think that’s a grand enough situation to say that Christendom (which is really just a description of a type of polity, and thusly only a particular part of a “culture”) is inferior, as a culture, to Judaism, as a culture. Economic strategy, perhaps. Boom and bust capitalism is not good for most Americans, but that doesn’t mean we’re culturally inferior to the Canadians

Qingu's avatar

@theluckiest, I wouldn’t actually say Christendom as a whole is “inferior” to middle-ages Judaism as a whole simply based on their economic situation. It’s just one element that determines fitness.

Cultures are really just collections of such elements, which nerds call “memes.” A culture with a more competitive set of memes will outlast a culture with a less competitive set of memes. We can look at history to make pretty good guesses about what sort of “memes” are more competitive, and by this standard we can say that certain cultures are superior to others.

resmc's avatar

@Qingu Which memetics is fascinating to study, it’d be impossible to accurately determine the ‘fittness’ of memes without taking into account the more material advantages which are available (or are not) to people living in different regions of the world, as that can allow them much more power than those in other regions.

This is important, as sometimes those with more power – especially when engaging in exploration/colonialism/imperialism – imbue their culture with power. For instance (tho this isn’t always the case), a conquered peoples (assuming their conquerers have a relatively advanced culture) will usually face pressure to conform to the ‘dominant’ (in the sense of power) culture. In fact, the only example in history i know of (not that my knowledge is in any way extensive) where invaders adopted the culture of those they conquered was in India ages ago (tho some elements of their own culture remained, i believe) involved war-glorifying nomadic invaders who hadn’t spent much energy developing a culture of their own – and a highly advanced but not very militaristic agricultural society.

And a distinction should be made between ideas which spread very well and even undermine the ideas they replace (fit, in your metaphor) and ideas with inherent value (truth, morality, beauty, &tc.). Plenty of untrue memes spread (urban legends, anyone?) and plenty of very true or otherwise valuable ones struggle to be heard.

Am not discounting, by any means, the possibility that memes play a role in the course of the history of human cultures… just that other influences must be factored in.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@galileogirl, Taco Bell is Kentucky cuisine, given that Yum is headquartered in Louisville.

But salsa outsells ketchup.

Qingu's avatar

@resmc, the romans adopted many of the cultural traits of the Greeks when they conquered them. Both the Christians and the Muslims adopted many aspects of both Greek and Roman culture, even though neither really “evolved” from this cultural tradition (maybe some of Christianity). The Mongols, when they conquered China, left most of Chinese culture relatively intact and adopted to it.

You are absolutely right that powerful cultures will simply spread their memes through force. But there are certain memes that spread independently of force (such as the meme for allowing usury.) And force cannot be maintained in a culture with certain other memes, such as a wilingness to experiment with new technology (to get weapons) and, in some sense, economic might.

You are also right that certain memes seem to exist only for their own benefit and do not confer any truth-value to society. But I think these memes actually have a tendency to die off. Look at the memes about geocentrism. For most of history, these memes were firmly attached to the broad cultural idea that the Bible is true.

The geocentrism meme eventually became a drag on the “Bible is true” meme, because it became very obvious that the earth revolves around the sun, and if the “geocentrism” meme remained attached to the “Bible is true” meme, both would be in danger. So the “geocentrism” meme eventually detached itself and died off, and the “Bible is true” meme changed to exclude geocentrism. (Interestingly, this entailed completely changing the way the Bible is interpreted in mainstream Christian culture since the Bible plainly says the sun revolves around the earth.)

So I do believe that, over time, “truth” is a selective force for memes. False memes can often survive for a very long time, but on long timelines and large scales they become drags on the culture they’ve attached to.

TheIowaCynic's avatar

It is a meaningless, Orwellian Catch phrase.

theluckiest's avatar

@Qingu I don’t think the “survivability” of memes is a good criteria. Almost nothing has the survivability of tribalism or religious extremism. Discrimination is a powerful, lasting meme. I hardly think that gives it cultural credibility.

fireside's avatar

I think it is incredibly important for world to move forward by recognizing the positive contributions of each culture. Only by exposure can ages old traditions and prejudices be broken down.

Jiminez's avatar

@fireside But you’re not, like most people, acknowledging the problem of multiculturalism; namely the break down of communication between the members of society. It would be fine if there was a 3rd language (like Esparanto, or something) that they could both speak, but that’s not the case. These members of the same society have almost no communication and no ability to communicate.

fireside's avatar

@Jiminez – Huh? I know people that travel the world and only speak one language, but they still manage to get along just fine. In the business world, you will be able to find someone who either speaks English or Mandarin pretty much anywhere you travel on the globe. You will also find many translators who speak their native tongue and another language which enables charitable organizations to help develop small villages in parts of the world where there aren’t a lot of non-native speakers.

In Singapore, they have forced integration, which means that landlords must rent out their apartments to many different religious and ethnic groups. This helps people to learn to break down those barriers.

You have identified a challenge of multiculturalism but not a problem. How do we get there from here is something that is faced in different arenas every day and people have been finding ways to bridge those gaps for centuries.

I do agree that at some point, it will be more efficient for everyone to speak the same language; just as it will be more efficient to have a global currency at some point in the future. We are all one people and the world is waking up to that fact.

Jiminez's avatar

@fireside That’s supposing people are inclined to learn the other language. Sometimes that’s not the case.

galileogirl's avatar

–noun 1. the state or condition of being multicultural.
2. the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.

I thought this was what we were talking about-the preservation of different cultures within a unified country-why does that entail learning other languages? San Francisco is multicultural but I can communicate with Chinese, Spanish and Eritreans etc without speaking their native languages fluently.

fireside's avatar

@Jiminez – I do agree that if people do not want to find a way to get along, they will find a reason.
That doesn’t take away from the value of exposure and cooperation among those who do want to forge stronger bonds.

Jiminez's avatar

@galileogirl – That is what we’re talking about. I guess the question is: @ what point does the preservation of one culture work toward the elimination of another culture? Also, do less predominate cultures make their preservation more imperative? Kind of like endangered species’? Are cultures without places? Or are they the result of different places?

BBQsomeCows's avatar



get into the pot and MELT already

galileogirl's avatar

Salad is healthier.

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