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On Germany, Nationalism and Multiculturalism

From George Friedman at Stratfor, comes this thought-provoking excerpt on “Germany and the Failure of Multiculturalism” (emphasis added):

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared at an Oct. 16 meeting of young members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union, that multiculturalism, or Multikulti, as the Germans put it, “has failed totally.” Horst Seehofer, minister-president of Bavaria and the chairman of a sister party to the Christian Democrats, said at the same meeting that the two parties were “committed to a dominant German culture and opposed to a multicultural one.”

…The statements were striking in their bluntness and their willingness to speak of a dominant German culture, a concept that for obvious reasons Germans have been sensitive about asserting since World War II. The statement should be taken with utmost seriousness and considered for its social and geopolitical implications. It should also be considered in the broader context of Europe’s response to immigration, not to Germany’s response alone.

As the migrants transformed from a temporary exigency to a multigenerational community, the Germans had to confront the problem. At base, they did not want the migrants to become part of Germany. But if they were to remain in the country, Berlin wanted to make sure the migrants became loyal to Germany…The solution Germans finally agreed upon in the mid-to-late 1980s was multiculturalism, a liberal and humane concept that offered migrants a grand bargain: Retain your culture but pledge loyalty to the state.

Continued below…

Imperial Germany Prussia

Image of Imperial Germany, courtesy Wikipedia

While respecting diversity, the policy seemed to amount to buying migrant loyalty. The deeper explanation was that the Germans did not want, and did not know how, to assimilate culturally, linguistically, religiously and morally diverse people. …

This goes back to the European notion of the nation, which is substantially different from the American notion. For most of its history, the United States thought of itself as a nation of immigrants, but with a core culture that immigrants would have to accept in a well-known multicultural process. Anyone could become an American, so long as they accepted the language and dominant culture of the nation.

…To be French, Polish or Greek meant not only that you learned their respective language or adopted their values — it meant that you were French, Polish or Greek because your parents were, as were their parents. It meant a shared history of suffering and triumph. One couldn’t acquire that.

For the Europeans, multiculturalism was not the liberal and humane respect for other cultures that it pretended to be…The Germans tried to have their workers and a German identity simultaneously. It didn’t work.

Multiculturalism is profoundly divisive, particularly in countries that define the nation in European terms, e.g., through nationality. What is fascinating is that the German chancellor has chosen to become the most aggressive major European leader to speak out against multiculturalism.
Her reasons, political and social, are obvious. But it must also be remembered that this is Germany, which previously addressed the problem of the German nation via the Holocaust. In the 65 years since the end of World War II, the Germans have been extraordinarily careful to avoid discussions of this issue, and German leaders have not wanted to say things such as being committed to a dominant German culture. We therefore need to look at the failure of multiculturalism in Germany in another sense, namely, with regard to what is happening in Germany.

Simply put, Germany is returning to history. It has spent the past 65 years desperately trying not to confront the question of national identity, the rights of minorities in Germany and the exercise of German self-interest.

…an attack on multiculturalism is simultaneously an affirmation of German national identity. You can’t have the first without the second. And once that happens, many things become possible.

…the process that has begun is neither easily contained nor neatly managed. All of Europe, indeed, much of the world, is coping with the struggle between cultures within their borders. But the Germans are different, historically and geographically. When they begin thinking these thoughts, the stakes go up.

Related posts (some directly and some indirectly; all thought-provoking):

A “nationalism” rooted in Sanatan Dharma

Why I am a proud nationalist

What’s so provocative about Chhatrapati Shivaji killing Afzal Khan?

An open letter to BalaSaheb from a Marathi Manoos

finally, read Acorn on Liberal Nationalism

I am hoping to use these posts as a trigger to a forth-coming discussion on “Identity” and “What does it mean to be an Indian”? Details will be up on Facebook page in a few days. In the meantime, comments and thoughts welcome, as always.

October 19th, 2010 Posted by | Political Ideology, Politics and Governance, World History | 10 comments


  1. Hi Sir,

    Well the harsh truth is multicultural society brings with it lots of diversity and challenges to take care of which eventaully hinders in the development process but ultimately it also brings in the expertise from all the diverse groups to build that strog foundation !!

    European viewpoint is definitely alarming

    Thanks for the insight !1 :)

    Comment by Ashish Kumar Shrivastava | October 19, 2010

  2. @Ashish

    Tell me how India’s multicultural diversity has given the country a strong foundation? Because of diversity of belief systems, it has been impossible (and indeed expensive) to marhsall any sort of unfied action amongst the Hindus. This has meant that India has suffered overlordship of foreign conquerers for two thousands, if not even now as Sonia Gandhi, a foreign born Italian presides over the Indian state.Where is the pride in that?

    Comment by khandu patel | October 20, 2010

  3. Well said Khandu.

    Multiculturism only works when the ideologies of these multiple cultures are not “confronting” with one another. They can be divergent, but not conflicting. With Bharat, the problem is that we have multiple cultures, in which the imported ones are trying to eliminate the native one, and NOT co-existing with it.

    If you draw 2 straight lines representing two cultures, then for them to be called just “divergent” and not “conflicting”, the angle of their ideological directions must be within + or – 90 degrees. This is not so in the case of India.

    Whatever the hindus hold in reverence, is a symbol of contempt for the other cultures. Though, I don’t generalize this to the extreme (giving a chance of fairness to other cultures), the average trends do indicate this.


    Comment by Ravindranath | October 20, 2010

  4. Kindly read the posts of Ernst Zundel (google for books and videos on youtube).
    It seems that Germany’s nationalism has been whittled down through “lies, damned lies and statistics”.
    Anybody speaking anything contrary to “established” opinion about Germany and the WWII can go behind bars for a very long time.
    By the 80s, such a denationalized Germany had to confront the “gastarbeiter” from Turkey: These “guests” had taken over the drug and prostitution rings in major cities and flouted any and every law.
    Two years ago a Turk got his own daughter murdered by his own son for “dressing in western clothes” and “going out with a German”. The son got 5 years, the father was let off with a slap on the wrist.
    The “guest” has taken over the home.
    So, now since nothing can be done with scum, we have “multi-culturism”. And, of course, in the meantime, Turkey is on the way to becoming an Islamic Republic.
    If you don’t have the right people in charge, you lose big time.
    What Dutch politician Geert Wilders advocates is just the beginning.

    Comment by seadog4227 | October 20, 2010

  5. The definition of American culture is broad enough include all cultures. From this view every nation has a unique culture, now it has to be seen how many small or big cultures can live under the much bigger nation culture.

    Comment by Praveen | October 20, 2010

  6. Praveen said:

    “The definition of American culture is broad enough include all cultures”

    Not true. America is predominantly an Anglo-Protestant culture. Thats why Catholics from Italy and Ireland had difficulty in US when they arrived. Eventually they became part of the melting pot called America under the ‘white’ classification without having to renounce Catholicism.

    Hindus are not there yet. That is why Bobby Jindal and another former Sikh lady had to renounce their previous religion to be accepted as mainstream, without which they would never have realized their political ambitions.

    What ever multiculturalism US has is quite superficial. It manifests itself as different cuisine or dress. US is multi racial not multi cultural.

    Comment by Malavika | October 21, 2010

  7. Good article Shantanu and may I be permitted to copy a few lines from an essay written by Hege Storhaug that originally appeared in Norwegian on the website of Human Rights Service, http://www.rights.no:

    “Awareness of a society’s and a culture’s need for a sense of community seems especially absent from the EU system. The kind of communal feeling I am talking about contrasts sharply with the multicultural mentality of the pro-EU and anti-national forces. They refuse to understand that a nation’s culture — its folk songs, traditions, holy days, flag, and national anthem — is different from a broad-based Constitution based on ideals of equality. A text, simply put, cannot replace a feeling of community. A national community with strong survival instincts is founded not on a text but on matters that are close to the heart, on traditions, on things that are palpable, on things as obvious as a common language and a sense of belonging to a motherland. The principles that tie people together cannot be legislated by politicians; such bonds call for something more — trust between citizens, national loyalty, a high degree of agreement as to what freedom is and is not, and a broad sense of support for the obligations that a real community demands of its members.”

    This is what I feel binds a nation more than any Constitution can,however lofty its ideals and motives may be.

    Comment by Bhanu | October 21, 2010

  8. @Ravindranath

    Thanks. I want to clarrify my thinking. Muslims (even if Islam did not) once respected greatly GB and US for its balance of pragmatism which admitted as honoured guests others of an altogether race and religion (culture which we Hindus like to shout about is a private thing to accept or reject as a matter of good taste). Now that we are all not so much honoured guests as part and parcel of their society, the true test of assimilation requires that we abandon any such privilages or if we remain so much wedded to what makes us stand out as so different, we should make sure that we shout so loud over the roof tops that our new country should have no doubt about our loyalty to our masters. There is no better example of this than the book of Esther of the Old Testament to the Holy Bible.

    I am afraid as is evident in the Mahabharat, we had already been deeply infected by the multicultural virus from ancient times. This has proved fatal to our society because we had nothing distinctive to offer our own people let alone our guests

    Comment by khandu patel | October 21, 2010

  9. @Bhanu

    India’s constitution approximates to the EU constitution more than it does to the American. The lofty ideals of freedom and equality are meaningless because it fails to address its failings to the Hindu community on the project it has been signed up on the sentiments of Nehru and a few of his close associates.

    Comment by Khandu Patel | October 24, 2010

  10. I cannot imagine any politician speaking like Merkel in India. Every nation US, UK and etc are proud of their heritage and try to maintain their culture. They are proud of their culture in spite of the genocides they committed. But, Hindus, who are victims of genocide are supposed to be ashamed of their heritage. So much for ‘secularism’.

    “While Merkel reversed course to officially bury multiculturalism, one of her primary coalition partners, Horst Seehofer — the leader of the Bavarian Christian Social Union — called for a wholesale stop to immigration. The newly elected German president, Christian Wulff, gave a speech emphasizing the Judeo-Christian foundation of German society, and left just a touch of room for Islam to play a role, too. Their seemingly coordinated pronouncements smacked of panic.”



    “The rise to office of the Swedish Democrats in September’s elections touched off a heated debate in this country, home of the Nobel Prize and known as the “conscience of the world” for aiding refugees and pioneering laws for women’s equality and gay rights. Yet even here, the Swedish Democrats made it into the Rikstag by tapping into a surge of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment sweeping across many nations in Western Europe, propelling right-wing and nationalist parties to their biggest gains in years.”

    “The Swedish are tired of walking around in their own neighborhoods and feeling like they’re in Saudi Arabia,” said Ekeroth, an intense 30-year-old and founder of the new Anti-Islamic Fund, which promotes criticism of radical Islam. “It is time for the Swedish to be comfortable again in their own country.”

    Comment by Malavika | October 26, 2010

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