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.
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):
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.