A generation ago the Europeans who had bled themselves white in war after war based on chauvinistic nationalism, decided their salvation would come through multiculturalism. The concept was a vague but expansive one which sought to celebrate ethnic and other cultural differences by giving them a place in the national firmament. Rather suddenly Europe’s “native” multitudinous minorities had been enhanced by the arrival in the post-World War II era by vast new numbers of non-Europeans, many of them from former colonial appendages. By cultivating their differences rather than trying to integrate them into the host cultures, it was believed, tolerance and cultural enrichment would be an automatic benefit.
But increasingly prominent Europeans are turning their backs on the whole idea. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have both taken the floor to denounce the whole concept.
The reasons are clear. The supposed exemplary idea that new arrivals would end up with a mixture of the best of their inheritance and the new host’s culture largely turned out to be nonachievable. Instead, multiculturalism created ghettoes, often impoverished ones.. The institutionalized subsidies to the new arrivals often helped create dependence on government hand-outs rather than workplace integration. This, in turn, produced a reaction among some native elements, increasing leading to the formation of nationalistic political parties threatening the moderate center. In some instances, this has even led to violence such as the homicidal attack in July 2011of Anders Behring Breivik on the Norwegian island of Utoya.
The face of multiculturalism was different in each country. In the United Kingdom ethnic communities were encouraged to take part in the political process as separate entities. The Germans provided jobs and security but refused citizenship to the large Turkish immigration, alienating its second generation and setting some of them off on radical political tangents. France believed it was integrating the new arrivals as it had earlier mass Italian and East European immigration, but in fact, they herded North African Moslems with high unemployment. into separate communities on the edge of the large cities,
The truth was that the huge flow of immigrants was transforming European society, much of it in unknown ways, and attempts to channel the various cultural streams were either inappropriate or ineffective or both. The numbers were staggering. <strong>B</strong>y 2013 Germany, which took in more immigrants than any country in the world except the U.S., had foreign born population of 12%. Even relatively remote Sweden had 12% foreign-born and its generous welfare system was becoming a magnet for heavier flows, causing a near breakdown during the current wave of Syrian and other Mideastern migrants.
The argument that this influx of immigrants is not that different from earlier flows of population in Europe ignores the fact that there are racial and ethnic differences among the non-Europeans. The old institutions of church and trade unions, for example, which were once able to help absorb new migrants, have for various reasons become much weaker and no longer can perform that function. A British government report warned in 1953 that “[A] large colored community as a noticeable feature of our social life would weaken . . . the concept of England or Britain to which people of British stock throughout the Commonwealth are attached.”
Today, of course, there is a newset of concerns. Multiculturalism has not vitiated the concept of a growing Moslem community in all of Europe, and, unfortunately, one that has ties, however nebulous, to the Islamic terrorists. Events has forced a nw and more aggressive Moslem identity on the migrants to Europe that was not prominent in earlier years when a ge neration sought to improve their standard of living in a free society .
What is obvious now is that European leadership has to go back to the drawing board for new concepts to handle new problems. It is a warning that Americans, even with their long history of relatively easy assimilation, must hear with the possibility of new and different migrants in large numbers being welcomed to our shores.