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Do monocultural countries even exist?


bookbard
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This thought was prompted by a bizarre comment on SWB's fb page where someone said that US multiculturalism didn't work, monoculturalism was the best way (the story of the tower of Babel was cited as proof), and used Japan as an example of monoculturalism. Which it isn't, as I assume most people know - there are Indigenous people in Japan and other minority groups. Most countries I know have a mixture of different people groups and language groups; I struggle to think of any that don't. 

On the other hand, perhaps we're guilty of teaching or introducing countries as monocultures - 'Japanese people do X, Danish people do Y' - and this is the outcome? 

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Yes, they exist.
I grew up in a country with almost no immigrants. There was a small minority people (of about 60,000 in a country of 18 million) who have their own language and traditions; their culture did not mix into the mainstream culture.
While the Western part of Germany had an influx of immigrant workers, East Germany was extremely homogenous. During the Vietnam war, the regime invited a few Vietnamese people in, and later some guest workers from Mozambique. They were extremely segregated, lived in separate housing, and did not have any impact on the mainstream culture. In the 80s, the government brought in a few Cubans to study. 
There were NO ethnic restaurants, ethnic grocery stores, ethnic cultural centers, communities, events to mix. Until I went to college, I had never spoken to a person with a different skin color (we had four Cuban classmates). For all intents and purposes, it was a complete monoculture.

I consider the multiculturality of the US a phenomenal strength.

ETA: while Japan is not completely homogenous, it is definitely much more homogenous than the US. The existence of minority groups alone does not mean it translates into large cultural diversity. So I would take the remark as an unfortunate choice of semantics.

Edited by regentrude
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Interesting - I wonder if we're thinking along different tracks? I always thought there were a wide variety of dialects in Germany, and the Germans I know tell me the culture of say Munich is quite different from the culture of Berlin. Of course, it's kind of hard to take Germany as an example as I assume it would've been far more diverse pre WW2. 

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39 minutes ago, bookbard said:

Interesting - I wonder if we're thinking along different tracks? I always thought there were a wide variety of dialects in Germany, and the Germans I know tell me the culture of say Munich is quite different from the culture of Berlin. Of course, it's kind of hard to take Germany as an example as I assume it would've been far more diverse pre WW2. 

First, I was not talking about Germany, I was talking about East Germany.
Second, different dialects do not translate automatically into cultural differences. Tiny variations in local customs, pronunciation, and cuisine are not what I would call "multicultural". Just like I would not consider the difference between my small rural Midwest town and and a small Oregon coast town with each an almost exclusively white population "multicultural". There is, of course, always a difference between rural and metropolitan areas, which exists in all countries and is not what they can possibly mean as "multicultural" either.

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There are all sorts of dialects in Japan but Ainu aside, it is a monoculture. Aside of Ainu in tourist centered “Ainu villages “, they are part of the greater Japanese culture. There are more people from various cultures now living in Japan but they are not there as Japanese citizens. I was born and raised in Japan but as fluent as I was in the language and culture, I was not Japanese. 

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I've no idea, but having lived my entire life in a multicultural society, I can't see it as a failed model.

People from a wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds, managing to live together without sectarian strife or other violence? It's a miracle of tolerance, truly. 

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As a person who grew up as a minority in a monocultural society, it doesn’t mean that they rejected me. 
 

But also as a person who married into a family who is part of a minority culture in the US, I am not against multiculturalism either. But when I am in my husband’s extended family, cultural organizations or churches I am still the minority in those situations even though we are in the US.

(Obviously that isn’t the case in general society though I am more of a third culture person than a member of the majority US culture as far as my personal comfort level.). 

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Yes there are. 

I have lived in several. There are subgroups however, these subgroups are not far culturally from the main culture. Same religions, foods (only a few slight differences), dress is only slightly different (colors mostly), same gender roles. 

We stick out so much living in these places because people have NEVER met anyone white, or of a different faith. 

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1 hour ago, bookbard said:

Interesting - I wonder if we're thinking along different tracks? I always thought there were a wide variety of dialects in Germany, and the Germans I know tell me the culture of say Munich is quite different from the culture of Berlin. Of course, it's kind of hard to take Germany as an example as I assume it would've been far more diverse pre WW2. 

Yes, you're on a track that doesn't quite get what diversity really means. Multicultural is about a differences in values, languages, cultural norms, religions, philosophies, customs, etc. Germany and Japan are both used as measures of monoculture because they don't have significant amounts of diversity in those kinds of things. Amy Chua used them as examples of monoculture in her book about political tribes.

I've never been to Germany, but I'm betting that Germans in Munich and Berlin tend to be punctual people.  In a multicultural place like AZ, you'll have people who are very punctual like Germans are famous for (most white people), some who have a much more relaxed sense of time where start times are somewhat flexible (some Latin American cultural influences, but generally referred to as "being on Mexican time" ), and some where the concept of time is so completely different so as to be almost non-existent (some Native American tribes.) 

*Note* Americans who work at The Grand Canyon find Germans mysterious creatures. At a homeschool PE class/Park Day I was at a picnic table with a group of parents, including a former white water rafting tour guide for the Colorado River based in the Grand Canyon. She told the story of a group of tourists who  encountered a snake outdoors and expected someone working there to do something about it.  As in they got all Karen about it.   Another person (new to the group) sitting at the table in the conversation said they formerly worked at the Grand Canyon Airport and asked, "Were they German? Germans do stuff like that. We [staff] always talked about it." Yep. They were German. For half an hour we speculated on what it was about Germans that would make them expect such a obviously ridiculous (to us) thing.  That's a difference in culture-something so ingrained in one group of people that's completely foreign to another. 

I had an AZ History teacher in high school who was Mexican (as were at least 40% of the students there.)   He would often show up 20-30 minutes late for the 45 min. class he taught. The teacher would laugh and say, "I'm on Mexican Time" and wasn't bothered by being late at all. "Mexican Time" is a term locals use for that attitude-it's matter-of-fact, not judgmental in tone. Since it was the first class after lunch, none of the students complained.  It was a read-the-chapter-and-answer-the-questions-at-the-end for homework style class anyway. Lectures were on the content of the chapter, so it didn't really matter that he didn't lecture that day as long as you read the chapter and did the homework assignment and turned in one project at the end of the semester. 

When my brother booked an Antelope Canyon tour on Navajo land in person for let's say 1:00pm like the brochure said, it was around noon. He went across the street to a coffee place. At 12:40 a bunch of people on the tour showed up early , so they started to leave for the site then.  He saw what was happening and went over there just before they left. I know other people who booked that same tour and warned that the tour could leave a hour or two later than scheduled.  No apologies.  No refunds.  No one running or working for the place was even bothered by the irate customers. The concept of time there is just different for different people groups. When we took the tour it started about 30 minutes late.

I lived next to the Pima reservation in the suburbs outside Phoenix. A Pima woman and her family attended my church.  When she had her last baby she had to prep all the invitees from off the reservation about what to expect:it would likely start a few hours after the scheduled time. She couldn't say exactly when. And there are no street signs-the locals living there take them down because they don't want anyone there who doesn't already belong there and know their way around, so the written directions had to be followed precisely (no Smartphones and navigation systems then, just flip phones.) Her house and mine were less than a 10 minute drive away from each other, but they were a world apart. 

It isn't a multi-cultural place.  Her oldest child had a Mexican father, so he blended in more easily.  Her 4 younger kids had a white father.  My oldest dated her oldest briefly.  It wasn't unusual for daughter to be on the phone with him and hear gunshots on his end.  They didn't like white people or mixed kids, so her kids all had to be homeschooled or attend school off the reservation. They eventually moved because they got tired of their house being shot at. Multiculturalism is better.

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I wonder what ethnic Koreans in Japan would have to say about this conversation and the assertion that Japan is monocultural and the implication that a monocultural assumption and outlook works just fine there.

Obviously there are countries where minorities are extremely small percentages of the population to the point that the nation essentially functions as a monoculture. And obviously there are areas within countries where it absolutely is monocultural. But in terms of nations as a whole, I would argue that's a model that's rapidly disappearing from the earth. I mean, the first example given in this thread after Japan's mention was a nation that no longer exists. Like, in the 1990's, Iceland's population was so ethnically homogenous that geneticists were using them to study. Now, the foreign born population has grown exponentially and demographers expect it may reach 15% of total population in less than a decade, plus all the children of those immigrants. 

Color me dubious that monoculturalism is something that can really work well in the contemporary world without creating discrimination.

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9 minutes ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

*Note* Americans who work at The Grand Canyon find Germans mysterious creatures. At a homeschool PE class/Park Day I was at a picnic table with a group of parents, including a former white water rafting tour guide for the Colorado River based in the Grand Canyon. She told the story of a group of tourists who  encountered a snake outdoors and expected someone working there to do something about it.  As in they got all Karen about it.   Another person (new to the group) sitting at the table in the conversation said they formerly worked at the Grand Canyon Airport and asked, "Were they German? Germans do stuff like that. We [staff] always talked about it." Yep. They were German. For half an hour we speculated on what it was about Germans that would make them expect such a obviously ridiculous (to us) thing.  That's a difference in culture-something so ingrained in one group of people that's completely foreign to another. 

I don't think this is a particularly good example. I rather think, it's because in Germany, snakes are extremely rare (most people will never see a snake in the wild), and there are almost no wild spaces. The experience of "wilderness" in a national park that is not curated by staff is not a common German experience. So I think it has less to do with attitude than with unfamiliarity about a scenario that, does not occur in Germany.

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Just now, regentrude said:

I don't think this is a particularly good example. I rather think, it's because in Germany, snakes are extremely rare (most people will never see a snake in the wild), and there are almost no wild spaces.

Huh.  That surprises me.  I think of stunning mountainous regions and old forests in Germany, so I guess I've just assumed there's an outdoorsy, rugged adventure aspect to the culture.

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7 minutes ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

Huh.  That surprises me.  I think of stunning mountainous regions and old forests in Germany, so I guess I've just assumed there's an outdoorsy, rugged adventure aspect to the culture.

but those are a small part of a densely populated country. And even in the Alps, everything is very developed. There is very little old growth. The forests are maintained, lots of trails, there is almost no cross-country hiking, no wilderness camping. 
Hiking is very popular, but it's a very different experience. Nothing that compares to the US national parks.

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Yeah, I know a lot of Germans (not East Germans specifically!) They're not all punctual. 

I still don't know if I agree that if a minority group is small, it makes the society a monoculture. There are other cultures; they may be suppressed or ignored or devalued, but they are there. I am not saying that the society has embraced multiculturalism or diversity. But I do think that people often ignore the fact that a society which may seem to have one culture actually does have diversity. It may be religion, language, historical. But it is there. 

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1 hour ago, bookbard said:

Yeah, I know a lot of Germans (not East Germans specifically!) They're not all punctual. 

I still don't know if I agree that if a minority group is small, it makes the society a monoculture. There are other cultures; they may be suppressed or ignored or devalued, but they are there. I am not saying that the society has embraced multiculturalism or diversity. But I do think that people often ignore the fact that a society which may seem to have one culture actually does have diversity. It may be religion, language, historical. But it is there. 

I think the experience might be a difference of degree.  A German who speaks a slightly different dialect isn’t likely to find seeing Angela Markel on tv jarring the same way some in the US found seeing a black man named Barrack Hussein in the White House.  
 

There might technically be different sub-cultures in Germany but it’s not experienced the same way as in America with a soul food restaurant next to Korean grocery across from a Mexican restaurant with a fusion food truck in the parking lot.  

Edited by HeartString
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10 minutes ago, HeartString said:

There might technically be different sub-cultures in Germany but it’s not experienced the same way as in America with a soul food restaurant next to Korean grocery across from a Mexican restaurant with a fusion food truck in the parking lot.  

Actually, Germany does have strong subcultures because we had so many migrants. In the cities, you will have that Turkish diner next to the Italian next to Chinese. There are neighborhoods where a large portion of the kids do not speak German in the home. Modern day Germany is very very different from the country I was referring to.
Roughly 20% of persons in Germany have a migration background, i.e. at least one parent who was not born a German citizen. 

That is a whole other issue than the differing dialects.

Edited by regentrude
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2 hours ago, Farrar said:

I wonder what ethnic Koreans in Japan would have to say about this conversation and the assertion that Japan is monocultural and the implication that a monocultural assumption and outlook works just fine there.

Obviously there are countries where minorities are extremely small percentages of the population to the point that the nation essentially functions as a monoculture. And obviously there are areas within countries where it absolutely is monocultural. But in terms of nations as a whole, I would argue that's a model that's rapidly disappearing from the earth. I mean, the first example given in this thread after Japan's mention was a nation that no longer exists. Like, in the 1990's, Iceland's population was so ethnically homogenous that geneticists were using them to study. Now, the foreign born population has grown exponentially and demographers expect it may reach 15% of total population in less than a decade, plus all the children of those immigrants. 

Color me dubious that monoculturalism is something that can really work well in the contemporary world without creating discrimination.

The ethnic Koreans I know in Japan hide their Koreanness to the point of taking Japanese surnames. They blend into the culture on purpose. I am not saying that the discrimination that they face if they don’t is good but unless things have changed drastically, they are not in general living as outward Koreans in Japan. (I have friends who even today have sworn me to silence on their ethnic background. ). That’s what I mean by monoculture. There is one dominant culture beyond what you see in the United States (especially depending on where you go in the US). 

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I know Americans who are Filipino (in ethnicity and culture). I know Americans who are Mexican. I know Americans who are Swedish. I know Americans who are Kenyan. I know Americans who are Nigerian. I know Americans who are Italian. I know Americans who are Japanese. I know Americans who are black Americans (not directly from one identifiable African nation). I know Americans who don’t identify with any background outside of the US.  I could go on….  Some are considered minorities and some are not but all are considered Americans. Some might face more discrimination than others but again- all Americans. 
 

I don’t see an equivalent to that in Japan. Other cultures are considered “visitors “. 

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5 hours ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

Huh.  That surprises me.  I think of stunning mountainous regions and old forests in Germany, so I guess I've just assumed there's an outdoorsy, rugged adventure aspect to the culture.

My husband liked the Alps in Germany when we lived in Belgium.  The German way was to have cafes and other food places along the way on the hike.  Nothing like that in most of the US

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North Korea is a monoculture. While I believe there are other reasons for its current position, I do not think it can be considered an advertisement for monoculture.

I think it's one of those things, that there are places that are monocultural, but once other cultures become established, the process is irreversible using ethical means. It makes about as much sense to talk about multiculturalism failing as it does currency bartering. More likely, the person complaining multiculturalism is failing is trying to express something else and struggling to find a way of phrasing it where both speaker and listeners would universally agree on what the issue was (let alone its solutions).

Edited by ieta_cassiopeia
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8 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

The ethnic Koreans I know in Japan hide their Koreanness to the point of taking Japanese surnames. They blend into the culture on purpose. I am not saying that the discrimination that they face if they don’t is good but unless things have changed drastically, they are not in general living as outward Koreans in Japan. (I have friends who even today have sworn me to silence on their ethnic background. ). That’s what I mean by monoculture. There is one dominant culture beyond what you see in the United States (especially depending on where you go in the US). 

I guess that’s sort of my point though. They have to hide their ethnicity to even get jobs. So, yes, Japan is monocultural, but at what cost? And are nations ever healthy as monocultures? 

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3 hours ago, Farrar said:

I guess that’s sort of my point though. They have to hide their ethnicity to even get jobs. So, yes, Japan is monocultural, but at what cost? And are nations ever healthy as monocultures? 

They can be healthy for the majority.

For most groups throughout human history that was the primary concern.

What we are trying to do in the modern United States is quite different from what most humans have considered or experienced as healthy. I think it is a worthy undertaking, but I also think we often frequently fail to account for the very natural and yes humanly-normal-and-healthy groupishness of the human species.

I think it is narrow-minded to claim that a monoculture is not healthy when it is precisely how 99.9% of all humans who have ever lived have structured their lives.

I like what we are trying to do in the US and in other nations with primarily immigrant populations from diverse backgrounds. I want people from all ethnicities and cultures to feel comfortably at home.

I'm not sure it is entirely possible, at least not in the way some seem to assume where every cultural variation could co-exist in equal comfort and without significant friction.

From my perspective, as someone who has lived in many different cultures (usually as an obvious outsider), and with a degree in anthropology, I think most people who talk about multiculturalism  vastly underestimate the actual importance of culture to happy, healthy human functioning. On the whole humans thrive within an established and secure cultural framework, and we find interacting outside that framework to be stressful.

Edited by maize
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1 hour ago, maize said:

From my perspective, as someone who has lived in many different cultures (usually as an obvious outsider), and with a degree in anthropology, I think most people who talk about multiculturalism  vastly underestimate the actual importance of culture to happy, healthy human functioning. On the whole humans thrive within an established and secure cultural framework, and we find interacting outside that framework to be stressful

It’s an interesting thing to think about (to me, lol.) I grew up around people who were very immersed in their American brands of Italian and Jewish culture. (Think RHONJ but without as much glam, lol.)  I sort of envied their ability to identify as “something”, but was mostly fine with being generic and occasionally eating a few of the foods of my various ancestors on bastardized holidays. 

I love other people’s celebrations of their cultures and LOVE when I’m invited to participate and experience. I don’t think my own lack of culture (aside from Generic White Female American, which I don’t see as a particularly noteworthy culture, especially given it’s comparative newness) has been an issue in my functioning.

Unless we ARE considering that an actual culture, in which case I’d just like to say it’s a toxic one. 😜 

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1 hour ago, maize said:

They can be healthy for the majority.

For most groups throughout human history that was the primary concern.

What we are trying to do in the modern United States is quite different from what most humans have considered or experience d as healthy. I think it is a worthy undertaking, but I also think we often frequently fail to account for the very natural and yes humanly-normal-and-healthy groupishness of the human species.

I think it is narrow-minded to claim that a monoculture is not healthy when it is precisely how 99.9% of all humans who have ever lived have structured their lives.

I like what we are trying to do in the US and in other nations with primarily immigrant populations from diverse backgrounds. I want people from all ethnicities and cultures to feel comfortably at home.

I'm not sure it is entirely possible, at least not in the way some seem to assume where every cultural variation could co-exist in equal comfort and without significant friction.

From my perspective, as someone who has lived in many different cultures (usually as an obvious outsider), and with a degree in anthropology, I think most people who talk about multiculturalism  vastly underestimate the actual importance of culture to happy, healthy human functioning. On the whole humans thrive within an established and secure cultural framework, and we find interacting outside that framework to be stressful.

Healthy for the majority is quite a telling statement and pretty sad.

I get that this was the norm for most people for much of history and worked just fine. That's why I said nations today and why I question whether this is a model that can work anymore. Nations now are experiencing massive immigration (and emigration), were carved by outsiders with boundaries that don't always make sense, and hold control over the lives of indigenous minority groups in ways that they did not always centuries ago.  I would also argue that multiculturalism is not some historical unicorn. The Roman Empire, the various Islamic empires... these were not monocultures. When politicians like the one quoted in the OP hold up monoculture as some laudable goal that will make us all happy, they're denying a political reality. And when we try to create monocultures by eliminating immigration and forcing out groups to leave or assimilate (or mass murdering them), then I'd hardly call that a model for the future. 

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19 minutes ago, Carrie12345 said:

It’s an interesting thing to think about (to me, lol.) I grew up around people who were very immersed in their American brands of Italian and Jewish culture. (Think RHONJ but without as much glam, lol.)  I sort of envied their ability to identify as “something”, but was mostly fine with being generic and occasionally eating a few of the foods of my various ancestors on bastardized holidays. 

I love other people’s celebrations of their cultures and LOVE when I’m invited to participate and experience. I don’t think my own lack of culture (aside from Generic White Female American, which I don’t see as a particularly noteworthy culture, especially given it’s comparative newness) has been an issue in my functioning.

Unless we ARE considering that an actual culture, in which case I’d just like to say it’s a toxic one. 😜 

Yes you have a culture.

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17 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Healthy for the majority is quite a telling statement and pretty sad.

I get that this was the norm for most people for much of history and worked just fine. That's why I said nations today and why I question whether this is a model that can work anymore. Nations now are experiencing massive immigration (and emigration), were carved by outsiders with boundaries that don't always make sense, and hold control over the lives of indigenous minority groups in ways that they did not always centuries ago.  I would also argue that multiculturalism is not some historical unicorn. The Roman Empire, the various Islamic empires... these were not monocultures. When politicians like the one quoted in the OP hold up monoculture as some laudable goal that will make us all happy, they're denying a political reality. And when we try to create monocultures by eliminating immigration and forcing out groups to leave or assimilate (or mass murdering them), then I'd hardly call that a model for the future. 

I just don't feel like we as a group make much effort to grapple with what multiculturalism actually means and how difficult it may be to stabilize. 

I'm not sure it is possible to stabilize.

Not because I don't want that, but because I think it may be counter to basic human instincts and needs.

The historic empires you cite did not try to equally balance and accommodate all cultures everywhere, nor did they manage whatever degree of tolerance to differing cultures they did achieve without significant ongoing friction. Mostly what they achieved was administrative tolerance for varying localized cultures with the vast majority of people under that administration living their lives in relatively monocultural contexts. Most people in the Roman empire probably never went more than twenty miles from their native village and never encountered the majority of cultures that existed within the confines of the empire.

I am not at all advocating against multiculturalism, I just think there are powerful forces that do and will continue to work against multicultural stability.

 

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4 hours ago, Farrar said:

I guess that’s sort of my point though. They have to hide their ethnicity to even get jobs. So, yes, Japan is monocultural, but at what cost? And are nations ever healthy as monocultures? 

I am not advocating for monoculturism over multiculturalism. I am just describing what is there. (Since the OP’s premise was that it didn’t exist at all). 

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When I lived in Norway in the 1990s it was pretty monocultural. There was a common language (actually 2 official ones, but both very similar to each other), common religion, and common cultural traditions (food, traditional clothing, celebrations, story-telling, recreational activities, handcrafts). They do have a minority population of Sami people in the north, and a growing number of immigrants - certainly more since the 90s. 

Historically, Norway was under Danish and then Swedish rule, and more recently occupied by Germans in WW II, and their national independence and pride was evident. They were also very conscious and proud of local dialects and preserving them, and this seemed to feed into their national identity rather then pull people apart. Local dialects are tied to the geography of the country, and traditional clothing (bunads) are also tied to geography. They wear their bunads at all special events (i.e., weddings, graduations, baptisms, confirmation, and especially May 17th - Constitutional Day). 

 

20 hours ago, bookbard said:

This thought was prompted by a bizarre comment on SWB's fb page where someone said that US multiculturalism didn't work, monoculturalism was the best way (the story of the tower of Babel was cited as proof), and used Japan as an example of monoculturalism. Which it isn't, as I assume most people know - there are Indigenous people in Japan and other minority groups. Most countries I know have a mixture of different people groups and language groups; I struggle to think of any that don't. 

On the other hand, perhaps we're guilty of teaching or introducing countries as monocultures - 'Japanese people do X, Danish people do Y' - and this is the outcome? 

I'm totally confused by the example that the tower of Babel shows how monoculturalism works better. Wasn't the whole point of the story that having one common language was a problem, so God had everyone speak a different language?  That would make multiculturalism better, using the tower of Babel as an argument. 

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17 hours ago, regentrude said:

Actually, Germany does have strong subcultures because we had so many migrants. In the cities, you will have that Turkish diner next to the Italian next to Chinese. There are neighborhoods where a large portion of the kids do not speak German in the home. Modern day Germany is very very different from the country I was referring to.
Roughly 20% of persons in Germany have a migration background, i.e. at least one parent who was not born a German citizen. 

 

I follow a book reviewer on YouTube (it's known as BookTube) whose parents are both from Italy. She was born and raised in Germany, has German citizenship, and considers herself German. That's interesting to me since I would have thought she's an Italian from Germany. Not according to her though. She is German.

5 hours ago, Carrie12345 said:

It’s an interesting thing to think about (to me, lol.) I grew up around people who were very immersed in their American brands of Italian and Jewish culture. (Think RHONJ but without as much glam, lol.)  I sort of envied their ability to identify as “something”, but was mostly fine with being generic and occasionally eating a few of the foods of my various ancestors on bastardized holidays. 

I love other people’s celebrations of their cultures and LOVE when I’m invited to participate and experience. I don’t think my own lack of culture (aside from Generic White Female American, which I don’t see as a particularly noteworthy culture, especially given it’s comparative newness) has been an issue in my functioning.

 

I grew up in an Irish-Italian American family in NE New Jersey. Think The Sopranos without the crime families lol. There were a number of ethnic white communities, usually segregated into neighborhoods. The Italian and Irish neighborhoods were next to each other so there are a lot of others like me with one parent from each background. The same went for the German section, the Hungarian section, the Greek section, and so on. My family and those we socialized with were all Catholic but there was also a large Jewish culture in and around my hometown. These neighborhoods mostly happened with late 19th and early 20th century European immigration. 

When we moved to Florida all the white people were just...white. That was jarring to me that they didn't even know or care to know their ethnic background. It kind of felt like we lost our tribe when we moved here. I've been here most of my life now so it's normal, but it was really weird at first. 

Edited by Lady Florida.
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6 minutes ago, Lady Florida. said:

I follow a book reviewer on YouTube (it's known as BookTube) whose parents are both from Italy. She was born and raised in Germany, has German citizenship, and considers herself German. That's interesting to me since I would have thought she's an Italian from Germany. Not according to her though. She is German.

She must have taken steps to acquire German citizenship, which is possiblefor her demographic. Being born in Germany does not automatically confer citizenship. It's ius sanguinis, not ius soli like in the US.

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10 hours ago, maize said:

They can be healthy for the majority.

For most groups throughout human history that was the primary concern.

What we are trying to do in the modern United States is quite different from what most humans have considered or experienced as healthy. I think it is a worthy undertaking, but I also think we often frequently fail to account for the very natural and yes humanly-normal-and-healthy groupishness of the human species.

I think it is narrow-minded to claim that a monoculture is not healthy when it is precisely how 99.9% of all humans who have ever lived have structured their lives.

I like what we are trying to do in the US and in other nations with primarily immigrant populations from diverse backgrounds. I want people from all ethnicities and cultures to feel comfortably at home.

I'm not sure it is entirely possible, at least not in the way some seem to assume where every cultural variation could co-exist in equal comfort and without significant friction.

From my perspective, as someone who has lived in many different cultures (usually as an obvious outsider), and with a degree in anthropology, I think most people who talk about multiculturalism  vastly underestimate the actual importance of culture to happy, healthy human functioning. On the whole humans thrive within an established and secure cultural framework, and we find interacting outside that framework to be stressful.

I suppose my bar is low. We're not a country riven with sectarian strife.

There's friction, yes, but I see that as normal, and the outcome of the multicultural approach - that the friction is kept at sub-strife levels - as a sign of success. 

It certainly seems more ethical than the White Australia policy preceding it. 

Even if a monoculture was more ethical/natural/desirable, once you're living in a multi-culture society, there's no ethical way to achieve a monoculture. 

 

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3 hours ago, Lady Florida. said:

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I grew up in an Irish-Italian American family in NE New Jersey. Think The Sopranos without the crime families lol. There were a number of ethnic white communities, usually segregated into neighborhoods. The Italian and Irish neighborhoods were next to each other so there are a lot of others like me with one parent from each background. The same went for the German section, the Hungarian section, the Greek section, and so on. My family and those we socialized with were all Catholic but there was also a large Jewish culture in and around my hometown. These neighborhoods mostly happened with late 19th and early 20th century European immigration. 

When we moved to Florida all the white people were just...white. That was jarring to me that they didn't even know or care to know their ethnic background. It kind of felt like we lost our tribe when we moved here. I've been here most of my life now so it's normal, but it was really weird at first. 

Yup.  I was mostly Sussex county, so we didn’t have the little “specialty” neighborhoods, lol. Just individual houses!

Until I did some ancestry stuff and my DNA a few years ago, I didn’t know a whole lot, and I still don’t really identify with any sort of heritage.  My largest percentage is Irish, but my closest 100% Irish ancestor was a great-grandfather I never met, and I had a 100% Swedish great-grandmother I never met (though her nationality was Finnish.) I like potatoes and two Swedish foods. That’s my deepest connection to my family history. 
A whole bunch of northwestern Europeans decided to mix it up and get a basic white b—— descendant.

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5 hours ago, wintermom said:

When I lived in Norway in the 1990s it was pretty monocultural. There was a common language (actually 2 official ones, but both very similar to each other), common religion, and common cultural traditions (food, traditional clothing, celebrations, story-telling, recreational activities, handcrafts). They do have a minority population of Sami people in the north, and a growing number of immigrants - certainly more since the 90s. 

Historically, Norway was under Danish and then Swedish rule, and more recently occupied by Germans in WW II, and their national independence and pride was evident. They were also very conscious and proud of local dialects and preserving them, and this seemed to feed into their national identity rather then pull people apart. Local dialects are tied to the geography of the country, and traditional clothing (bunads) are also tied to geography. They wear their bunads at all special events (i.e., weddings, graduations, baptisms, confirmation, and especially May 17th - Constitutional Day). 

 

I'm totally confused by the example that the tower of Babel shows how monoculturalism works better. Wasn't the whole point of the story that having one common language was a problem, so God had everyone speak a different language?  That would make multiculturalism better, using the tower of Babel as an argument. 

Some people believe that the point of the story is that separate national entities are better. So they are against a one-world government. I have never heard of it used with regards to cultures within a nation like the OP’s example but of course all sorts of people believe all sorts of things…. 

Edited by Jean in Newcastle
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I grew up in one. We had minorities with their own language and customs. There was virtually no intermarriage, but communities got along and nobody felt threatened. 

Now the immigration from places like Iran has increased fear that they are taking over, the language will be gone, land lost to what is a historical enemy. Basically it’s an existential fear of being culturally wiped out by a nation that is 100x larger, sort of what I imagine Israelis feel when discussing demographic issues with regards to Arabs. 
As a result of immigration the tensions and ethnic hatred is on the steady rise. We now have ultra nationalist groups that mostly direct their hatred and propaganda toward Muslim migrants. It’s hard to imagine how bad things have gotten. 
Won’t name the country for privacy reasons. 

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10 hours ago, maize said:

I just don't feel like we as a group make much effort to grapple with what multiculturalism actually means and how difficult it may be to stabilize. 

I'm not sure it is possible to stabilize.

Not because I don't want that, but because I think it may be counter to basic human instincts and needs.

The historic empires you cite did not try to equally balance and accommodate all cultures everywhere, nor did they manage whatever degree of tolerance to differing cultures they did achieve without significant ongoing friction. Mostly what they achieved was administrative tolerance for varying localized cultures with the vast majority of people under that administration living their lives in relatively monocultural contexts. Most people in the Roman empire probably never went more than twenty miles from their native village and never encountered the majority of cultures that existed within the confines of the empire.

I am not at all advocating against multiculturalism, I just think there are powerful forces that do and will continue to work against multicultural stability.

 

Yep.  I think successfully welcoming and working through the anxieties of living with different cultures takes a certain amount of mental space.  That’s why it works well when a country is doing well economically and in terms of quality of life but when times get tough there’s outbreaks of antisemitism or anti/whatever other culture people are worried about at the time.  The fear of there not being enough is increased and the mental space to deal with the intricacies of relationships between different cultures isn’t there.

 

Doesnt mean we don’t keep trying but it’s just good to be aware that stuff that we think is dealt with will probably raise its head again.

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On 6/18/2021 at 6:02 PM, bookbard said:

a bizarre comment on SWB's fb page where someone said that US multiculturalism didn't work, monoculturalism was the best way (the story of the tower of Babel was cited as proof),

I've read about at least one ethnonationalist embracing homeschooling and using SOTW.  This sounds like a comment from one.  

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19 hours ago, regentrude said:

She must have taken steps to acquire German citizenship, which is possiblefor her demographic. Being born in Germany does not automatically confer citizenship. It's ius sanguinis, not ius soli like in the US.

I'm pretty sure that's how she did it. What I thought was interesting though was that both of her parents were born and raised in Italy but she considers herself German. I suppose it's similar to someone in the U.S. with immigrant parents who consider themselves American but as you pointed out it's not automatic like it is here.

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