Our politicians must do all they can to not be swayed by populist pressures. Rather than being constrained by a dogmatic ideology, they should make informed, impartial decisions, says Ken Crawford.
Turn the clock back, back through your own birth, the sepia-tinged photograph of a distant relative from a family album, the furthest back you can trace the family tree, the ghosts of the medieval period, the Crucifixion, the early civilisations, the Ice Age, the first humans who walked out of Africa with no trace of their passing. At some point, we come back to a common ancestor we all share, the Biblical Adam and Eve, who first walked with God and emerged as conscious human beings. Viewed through this lens, we should all treat each other as brother and sister who share a spark of the divine. Since Adam and Eve were presumably black skinned, there are no real grounds for racial tensions. It is not hard to find some points of agreement between the major religions. The figures of Christ and the Buddha have similarities. The Koran acknowledges Christ’s existence and the Book of Genesis appears in a similar form. It is not without hope that the multiculturalist asks for different races and religions to coexist in peace and harmony. It has worked well in practice for many people who have found good partners, friends and work colleagues from different cultures, people who have integrated well with the West.
What Europe has attempted, in combatting its declining birth rate by peacefully transferring millions of people from different cultures with the goal of integrating them to be part of our western culture, is unique. It has not been attempted before on this scale and timeframe. Skilfully managed, it can succeed but we shouldn’t be naïve. The difficulties in the Balkans evidence that different races and religions can have challenges in integration. Things can go wrong if management of the challenges is not equal to the scale of the problem and these countries have had centuries to resolve their differences. Any critique of multiculturalism is fraught with difficulty, a toxic subject to approach as a writer. The debate immediately and dramatically polarises such that one is either writing ‘brave truths’ or is ‘dangerously naive’, and the middle ground is extremely hard to tread. It is balance and the middle ground I have aimed for.
If we are going to be a family, there should be an honest discussion about the difficulties and a genuine effort to resolve them. Aimless whining is of no value but constructive criticism should be sought to establish what the problems are and how they should be addressed. A clear policy would be formed that was widely respected, giving the strongest possible democratic mandate to the cultural changes being made. Inevitably we wouldn’t get things right the first time but through continued honest dialogue and high-quality research, we would prioritise, fix the problems as they arose and keep diligently working for as long as was necessary. The very worst approach would run something like this – multiculturalism is an ideology that does not tolerate criticism, it is a dogma policed by ideologues. Anyone who utters concerns is an extremist and given a suitably derogatory label in an effort to silence and marginalise them as a lesson to others. We have not practised either of those, rather somewhere in between but closer to one or the other? Decide for yourself, but the first serious research I can recall in the first category was the Casey Review published in 2016 and not inauspicious circumstances. In my view, we’ve left it late in the day, though not too late, to do better.
The ultimate bellwether of public acceptance in a democracy is the participation of citizens in the election process, where change in Government can be affected. The picture in the UK is optimistic on this measure. None of the established political parties offer a challenge to multiculturalism, the truly extreme groups are fringe enough to be outside the democratic process, they do not command enough support from citizens to have a voice. UKIP, once approaching 15% of the vote, were becoming mainstream but have seen their support collapse dramatically after the Referendum victory. UKIP could change into a new party with a new mission but for now, that is speculation. The picture in mainland Europe is much bleaker, using this democratic measure. A number of political parties have emerged that share some common features, especially nationalism over globalism and an anti-immigration platform that offers a challenge to multiculturalism. So far this challenge appears in a milder form, directed at future immigration and not current immigrants. In Eastern Europe, where immigration is in any case low and the memory of history looms large, such parties are in Government. Austria went the same way in 2017. Italy is ruminating on its coalition makeup but could form such a Government in 2018. France, Holland, Sweden and Germany all now have politically significant parties of this ilk that could conceivably take power in the decades ahead. America elected a President who ran on a platform that fits the same pattern. These political parties have been termed ‘popularists’ by opponents and the mainstream media typically uses the same term.
To return to my opening passage, in the broadest sense, we are all one family with much in common, not least the spark of the divine. At the same time, great change has been experienced in a short period of time, people have concerns and democracy is sending the message that a significant number of citizens are losing faith in traditional political parties to address those concerns. In a spectrum between openly embracing constructive criticism at one end and an ideological dogma on the other, the inference I draw from the European political scene is that citizens are increasingly judging that traditional political parties are moving closer to the ideologue. It could be we have found the magic formula in Britain that others have missed, that our liberal values make us immune to the trend but it is not obvious to me that we are doing anything different (if you disagree please state why in the comments section). I would say rather that similar pressure is building and awaiting a suitable political outlet, though we likely have more time to better manage things than our European counterparts.
If you have read psychology you may be familiar with the work of Carl Jung and his concept of the archetype. I had a dream some months ago that the Trickster is now in play, think of it as the Joker or the Wild Card of our culture. If sufficient weight forms in society to pursue an ideological path (whatever that may be) without balance, the winners will not like their reward. I have tried hard to make this a balanced article. As individuals, citizens with a vote, it is incumbent on us to avoid the ideological path, read history, read widely, hear the voices of those we disagree with, stay balanced, stay open to new information and facts. At the very least it will make you a better rounded, more interesting person and it may allow us all to navigate a path through these challenges that avoid extremes of outcome. All of this and more applies to our politicians because the power they wield gives them much more opportunity to influence events than the average citizen. There is still time. I pray they use it wisely.