Tim Dunkin
February 6, 2010
The joys of assimilation
By Tim Dunkin

Diversity is a prescription for social chaos.

In today's leftist-indoctrinated world, the words above are about as close as it is possible to come to committing foul, burning-at-the-stake-worthy heresy. The diversity bug has infected pretty much every area of modern American life — business, government, popular entertainment, the way banks loan money — it all operates on the implicit assumption that "diversity" is good, while monoculturalism (by which is meant "traditional American middle class culture") is bad. Diversity is our strength, or so many a motivation poster hanging on the walls in corporations all across our land would have us to believe. It's good to have "vibrant" neighborhoods full of wonderfully non-assimilated guests who've transformed their adopted geography into a little slice of the old country. The suburbs, which are largely full of white, middle class people doing white, middle class things, are booooring. Diversity is the spice of life, and is the strength of America, or so it is believed.

But is this really true?

Actually, it's not. Far from encouraging a vibrant, rainbow-colored aura of tolerance, cultural diversity actually seems to increase distrust between groups. As far back as 2001, the Los Angeles Times was forced to acknowledge that with increasing cultural diversity comes decreasing trust in your neighbors and a decreased civic engagement, the willingness to work together for the benefit of the community. This article parallels Steve Sailer's own experience with his hyperdiverse neighborhood in Chicago — one where nobody was really willing to do anything for or with individuals from other groups. The conclusion that cultural diversity is a trust killer has been reinforced more recently by a 2007 study conducted by Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam, as discussed in this article appearing in The New Republic. Putnam observes,

    "New evidence from the US suggests that in ethnically diverse neighborhoods residents of all races tend to 'hunker down.' Trust (even of one's own race) is lower, altruism and community cooperation rarer, friends fewer...Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television. Note that this pattern encompasses attitudes and behavior, bridging and bonding social capital, public and private connections. Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."

This has interesting, and disconcerting, implications for the future of American civil society, as America grows more culturally diverse while failing to do anything to "mainstream" American middle class "bourgeoisie" culture among those groups who do not share its basic cultural assumptions about liberty, economics, and a host of other issues.

A point that needs to be made is that I am not so much talking about "race" as I am "culture." To the extent that race factors into a discussion of diversity and polyculturalism, it is in that people of the same race generally tend to hold to the same culture, for a multitude of reasons. However, while race is an inborn thing that an individual pretty much can do nothing about, short of extremely invasive plastic surgery, culture is more flexible — it can be abandoned, adapted, or adopted. When Putnam noted that diversity destroys civic participation, he observed this to be the case across (and perhaps regardless of) strict racial lines. What he was observing was a cultural phenomenon, one which exists because human beings — for good or for bad — have an inherent tendency to trust those who share the same values, assumptions, and mores over those who don't.

This explains, for instance, the persisting tendency towards friction between "the black community" and "the white community" in America, even after decades of legal equality and extensive efforts at desegregation. Despite these efforts, as can be observed on any college campus or in any major city in America, black Americans tend to "self-segregate" from the surrounding white majority. Concomitant with this is a very well-developed sense among many black Americans of cultural particularism. The reason for this, simply put, is that most black Americans are more comfortable associating with each other than they are with white Americans. This, in turn, is because blacks and whites in America, generally speaking, have two different cultures. Whites generally tend to express what we might call "white middle class culture," a culture which, because of the traditional tendency on our part to "melt" incoming groups together into American culture, transcends differences such as ethnic origin, religion, political affiliation, and even underlying philosophical worldview. This "white middle class culture" underlies everything from our tastes in music and other entertainments to the fundamental assumptions we make about the purpose of politics. The same, of course, can be said for black America, which has its own very well-developed and culturally sophisticated set of assumptions of purpose, and which, as we all know, has characteristic types of entertainment, music, and other expressions. As we all know, there is some crossover — whites who adopt much of black American culture, and blacks who adopt much of white American culture — which shows that this issue is cultural, first and foremost. So the basic differences that I am talking about are cultural.

This explains an observation that I have made repeatedly over the last twelve years that I've lived in the South, which is that (despite the stereotypes) race relations tend to be better in rural and Southern areas than they are in urban or suburban non-Southern areas. The reason for this? Blacks and whites living in rural, culturally conservative areas tend to share more of the same basic cultural assumptions. Blacks and whites in these areas tend to share more similar religious outlooks (socially conservative and evangelical). They tend to share the assumption that private property is a good thing (since blacks in rural areas are more likely to own, rather than rent or living in government housing). The two races in these areas share many of the same cultural phenomena, from church picnics to an interest in motor sports. They also tend to be more uniformly working class — and let's face it, a working class black man has more in common with a working class white man than he does with a limousine liberal black man.

Conversely, whites in urban and suburban areas tend to share much less in common, culturally speaking, with their black neighbors, especially in urban areas where the last vestiges of "middle class values" has been almost eliminated from the black cultural repertoire. In our inner cities, for instance, the nuclear family — long a bedrock of the normative "white" American culture — has been all but destroyed by three generations of Democrat-engineered welfare mentality. The drive to entrepreneurship and long-term self-improvement has been replaced by an ethos of living for the moment and the search for easy money. These are cultural differences from white American culture as much as they are political distinctions.

Compound this with the vast numbers of immigrants who are here in America, many of whom are resistant to being assimilated to the dominant culture in this country. In America's earlier history, we could handle large numbers of immigrants because there was a pervasive, holistic, culture-wide drive to "Americanize" immigrants. This was the "melting pot" model, where everybody who came in lost their former culture and mindset and "transformed" into Americans. This is why today, you can have people whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower sharing the same general set of cultural assumptions as people whose ancestors came from Italy, Ireland, Eastern Europe, or Scandinavia, as well as from Vietnam or Korea.

This point about the need for assimilation and monoculturalism is not without historical precedent. Take the example of the Byzantine Empire, for instance. The Byzantines — the eastern successor state to the Roman Empire — ruled a large area that included many, many different ethnic groups. Early on, this definitely served as a detriment to the stability and cultural unity of their empire. The eastern provinces (Syria, Egypt, Palestine, etc.) were rife with discord, most of it caused by the clash between the various particular local cultures and the Imperial cultural of Byzantium. Most markedly in this era of intense religiosity, these differences were manifested in cultural friction between the Chalcedonian Christianity of Byzantium and the various schisms such as Monophysitism and Nestorianism which dominated the local ethnic churches (Copts in Egypt, Jacobites in Syria, Nestorians in Assyria, etc. ). Compounding this was the resurgence of local traditions and the use of local languages semi-officially against the Hellenism that had dominated the area since the time of Alexander the Great. As time went on and the discord between Byzantium and her eastern provinces intensified (often provoked by the Empire's own persecution of its "heretical" subjects), these areas became more openly hostile to the Empire, and eventually ended up collaborating with the invaders who swept through the area in the 7th century — first the Sassanid Persians, and then (more permanently) the Arabs. It is notable that after the Arabs took these provinces over, they embarked in a long-term process of Arabization, which involved the replacement of local dialects with Arabic and the replacement of local religions with Islam, that resulted in the bulk of the population of these nations eventually not only converting to Islam, but also identifying themselves as "Arab." This drive to monoculturalism ensured that these areas have remained culturally Arab to this day.

On the other hand, with the loss of her eastern provinces, the Byzantine Empire became much more monocultural. Granted, there were still a huge number of different ethnic groups contained within the borders of the Empire. However, these groups — ranging from Thracians and Illyrians in the west to Cappadocians and Pontines in the east — had largely adopted the Hellenistic culture inherited from the Greeks and Romans. To the Byzantines, these ethnic distinctions made little difference. Indeed, the Empire had Emperors who originated from all over the Empire — there were eventually to be Illyrian Emperors, Macedonian Emperors, Cappadocian Emperors, even Syrian Emperors. The one thing they all had in common was the shared Byzantine culture. To the Byzantines, as long as you spoke Greek and were Eastern Orthodox in faith, you were perfectly acceptable. After the Empire had been reduced to its monocultural Byzantino-Hellenistic core, it had much less in the way of the endemic internal discord that previously characterized its relations with its former eastern provinces.

Examples of the stability of monocultural states versus the instability of polycultural states abound. What do Japan, Sweden, New Zealand, and Switzerland all have in common? A common denominator of high social stability that arises from their monoculturalism — even the case in Switzerland which technically is made up of Germans, French, Italians, and Romansch, they all still share a basic cultural element. What do Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Ukraine — states that all demonstrate high levels of social strife and instability, ranging from the merely political to outright violence — have in common? They all house(d) multiple ethnic groups that are very aware of their differences and that often nurse mutual, historic animosities against each other.

Unfortunately today we see a "Balkanization" model growing more predominant in the way immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, interact with the dominant American culture. Instead of learning English and assimilating to our way of life, many immigrant groups — often but not always at the behest of self-appointed "leaders" in these communities — refuse to assimilate and become part of the larger American culture, either through simple inaction or through active refusal. This balkanization of our society helps to contribute to a nationwide increase in distrust and a decrease in civic participation and civic engagement. In short, it tears the fabric of American associationalism — something which, as de Tocqueville observed, originally helped to bind this country together into a robust and vigorous society. It can even lead to violence — after all, what was the motivation behind the destruction of Korean stores during the 1991 LA riots? Ultimately, cultural differences between the Koreans (who tend to readily adopt "white middle class" cultural values) and the predominating black population, and the misunderstandings and mistrust between the two that these differences engendered. Likewise, look at the Crown Heights riots, where Jews were victimized by black rioters who were instigated by racist hooligans such as Al Sharpton. Again, look at examples from overseas. European countries such as France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and the UK have seen their social stability begin to break down and have even seen violence arise as a result of a non-assimilated — and in many cases actively anti-assimilationist — Muslim populations.

So what are we to do about this? The answer is simple on paper, though obviously much more difficult to put into practice. We need to go about encouraging assimilation to the dominant culture in America. For our immigrant population, this means more than just English-only laws (though that would be a good place to start). It means strengthening the requirements for immigrants to learn about our history, culture, Constitution, and so forth. It also means discouraging and deporting illegal immigrants, who often serve as the nuclei around whom non-assimilative enclaves develop. Most of all, however, it means that average, everyday citizens like you and I need to get busy about encouraging immigrants to truly Americanize. Ultimately, the process is not something the government can just enforce top-down, but is instead intuitive, holistic, and takes place at a personal level.

Also, we must do our level best to try to salvage black America from the pit that the Democrats have thrown it into. Part of the solution here is political — the laws that encourage welfare dependency, penalize the traditional family, and discourage individual initiative and entrepreneurship need to be change, even though it will create a tremendous amount of sound and fury, for a while at least. The more anti-social aspects of popular black culture that are the result of the social degradation, such as "cop-killa" rap and the glorification of the thug/gang member lifestyle, need to be discouraged — legally if necessarily, but through the force of social disapproval primarily. Our nation as a whole — and let's face it, to say this is just "a black problem" is to aid and abet the balkanization — must get serious about dismissing criticism of black culture as "racism" and setting about grabbing this bull by the horns. What I've called "white" American culture really should not be — it should just be "American" culture, since this nation needs to be unified in more than just geography and in sharing the same government. No less a luminary in black American history than Booker T. Washington would have wanted it to be so — a man who sought to inculcate in a race of freed slaves the value of industry, self-discipline, education, and self-reliance.

In essence, what we need to be doing, culturally, as a nation, is to encourage the assimilation of all of our population to the American norm that made America the greatest nation on earth. Industry, self-reliance, respect for private property, respect for the rule of law, the importance of the traditional family unit, and a respectable moral system are the necessary props that help to maintain the type of capitalistic, individualistic, and prosperous society such as we once were. This is a touchy subject for many, due to the hyper-polarization about race and ethnicity that has been caused by the multicultural cult, and the charges of "racism" that seem to inevitably follow criticisms of black American culture and of the cultures of immigrant groups. To call for assimilation is viewed by many of the more hyperbolistic as "cultural genocide," which is of course ridiculous. I am not demanding that black Americans and immigrants to this country become carbon copies of white, middle class suburbanites. I am not saying that these groups should not continue to enjoy the distinctive products of their own cultural traditions — everything from foods and handicrafts to art and philosophy. I am, however, saying that there need to be normative assumptions about things like right and wrong and what is socially responsible and socially acceptable that are shared by all Americans, whether native or naturalized. There need to be normative cultural patterns that affect the way we interact with each other as a corporate body of citizens, things like respect for the law, family, and our national heritage. In short, we need to be Americans, without hyphens.

© Tim Dunkin

 

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Tim Dunkin

Tim Dunkin is a pharmaceutical chemist by day, and a freelance author by night, writing about a wide range of topics on religion and politics. He is the author of an online book about Islam entitled Ten Myths About Islam, and is the founder and editor of Conservative Underground, a bi-weekly email newsletter focusing on foundational conservative worldview and philosophy. He is a born-again Christian, and a member of a local, New Testament Baptist church in North Carolina. He can be contacted at tqcincinnatus@yahoo.com. All emails may be monitored by the NSA for quality assurance purposes.

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