Is South Africa a multicultural nation, or just a nation with many cultures
Is South Africa a multicultural society or just a society with multiple cultures on a perpetual collision course.
I am not talking about scientific experiments of perpetual collision illusions to illustrate differences between foveal and peripheral vision.
We seem to be on each other’s throats at every chance we get, making mountains out of molehills. When a fellow citizen complains about crime, we don’t look at the complaint but the colour of the complainant as a determining factor whether we support or attack him/her.
A complaint about an increase in crime becomes a racial attack against the government of the day when raised by a Caucasian person. And that person will be attacked by fellow citizens as if it is treason to complain about crime.
The same complaint raised by a black person will either get support from the majority or dismissed as ranting of an Uncle Tom trying to appease the minority. This is despite the fact that crime affects everybody, and by virtue of their sheer numbers, blacks constitute the majority of crime victims.
Another common scenario is the politicising of every Caucasian death, especially farmers, by the minorities and of every farm worker death by the majority.
Multiculturalism is an ideology that promotes the institutionalisation of communities containing multiple cultures. Politically its ranges from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society to the promoting and maintenance of cultural diversity as a policy.
Descriptively, multiculturalism is merely a term describing the diversity of cultures that make up the South African nation. Normatively, it implies a positive recognition and celebration of diverse cultures making up a society based on the rights of different groups to be respect and recognised.
Where do we fall in terms of these discriptions? Only former president Nelson Mandela understood and fought for the normative application of multiculturalism. Since his term ended, South Africa has become merely a country with diverse cultures, but not a multicultural nation.
In Europe multiculturalism was first adopted as policy in Canada in 1971. Australia followed shortly, but abandoned it in 1973 in favour of assimilation. Governments such as in the Netherlands and Denmark have ditched multiculturalism and replaced it with monoculturalism.The UK is considering a similar move.
The debate in the countries that have abandoned multiculturalism has been whether the ideal of co-existing cultures within one nation is paradoxical, sustainable or desirable. Supporters of multiculturalism call it a fairer system that allows people self expression and creates a more tolerant society.
In its argument for abandoning multiculturalism, the Dutch government asserts that the policy has allowed Muslim immigrants to create a parallel society within the Netherlands.
In his letter to parliament, Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner said: "The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people. In the new integration system, the values of the Dutch society play a central role. With this change, the government steps away from the model of a multicultural society."
The question is whether South Africa needs to follow the Dutch model and abandon multiculturalism as a policy for the sake of creating a united nation, or tolerate the parallel societies that exist within the so-called rainbow nation.
Donner could have been describing the South African situation in his letter in this passage: "A more obligatory integration is justified because the government also demands that from its own citizens. It is necessary because otherwise the society gradually grows apart and eventually no one feels at home anymore in the Netherlands. The integration will not be tailored to different groups."
It’s a tough call the Dutch government felt it had to take. The National Party government’s answer was separate development, which may not be an ideal policy to reintroduce today. What about the groupings that demand a volkstad and self-determination?
There are more questions than answers yet there is no debate on our national identity.