July 12, 2016

“Multiculturalism is a Sham”

Angela Merkel really doesn’t like Multiculturalism.

As far back in 2010 she declared the idea a failure. Ever since, she’s argued against it. “Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies, and therefore multiculturalism remains a grand delusion,” she’s said in her direct, German way.

To be clear, Merkel isn’t against different cultures. After all, she’s been opening Germany’s borders to more Middle Eastern refugees than any other European country. But she wants these refugees to integrate rather than coexist in a separate groups. “Multiculturalism,” she says, “is sham.”

So everyone needs to integrate, right? Hell no, say the Brexiters. Regardless of this week’s outcome the question of UK leaving the EU will re-define their relationship with the rest of Europe. This is a vote on how the country views integration with its continental neighbors.

As the world continues to get smaller, the topic of group identity will grow. How do nations handle all of these differences? How do companies? How do you?

Peek across the pond. For so long the concept of being American trumped the smaller group identities. (Did I say “trump”?) The country seems to be changing. Is it possible that more and more people can’t, or won’t, identify with a nation where they feel they’re being kept apart in terms of justice and economic opportunities? The melting pot seems to have cooled and groups seem to be strengthening. “Us vs. Them” is the new norm and it’s loud and angry.

So here’s the issue: Multiculturalism says people should celebrate all their silly behavior that makes them different. Integration is about pretending those silly differences don’t matter. Neither seems to be working too well in a world growing more complex every day. Maybe they need each other. Multiculturalism’s Yin to Integration’s Yang.

Enter Singapore. Here’s a tiny nation-state surrounded by diverse countries. They had to open their doors in order to compete. They certainly have a multicultural population and it’s not at all a sham. Has everyone been integrated into a Singaporean melting pot? Nope. But it works. Like everywhere else, it’s not perfect, but there’s a lot to be learned from how Singapore faces this new cross-cultural world.

Merkel’s statements need to be discussed and debated more around the globe. It’s not happening because the topic is so tricky, so sensitive. How do we all come together and sing “kumbaya” while ensuring everyone still feels secure in knowing they’re a special and unique snowflake? Let’s start the debate with with a serious case study: Singapore.

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