The United Kingdom’s cultural evolution often leads ours by a few years, or so it seems to me. We can sometimes look across the pond to get a preview of the sort of change we can expect within the next decade or so.
One trend I’d like to see arrive at our shores is the frank talk I’m hearing from Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron on issues such as prudent/restrained fiscal management and the failure of state multiculturalism.
There are many of us centre-right conservatives who believe that state multiculturalism has provided a safe haven for people with anti-Western political views. As Cameron pointed out in a speech to a security conference in Munich, “Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.”
Cameron sees elements of multiculturalism in his country as contributors to extremism and terrorism. And he has been bold enough to say so without pandering to the politically correct, or to those who argue earnestly that our tolerant approach is the lifeblood of any open and thriving democracy, and fear that, if we downplay multiculturalism, those who wish to follow different and sometimes separate cultures will have their civil liberties undermined.
Cameron stressed “that terrorism is not linked exclusively to any one religion or ethnic group.” He acknowledged, however, “that this threat comes in Europe overwhelmingly from young men who follow a completely perverse, warped interpretation of Islam, and who are prepared to blow themselves up and kill their fellow citizens.”
Cameron said that in the United Kingdom, there are young Muslim men who “find it hard to identify with Britain … because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity.”
Cameron believes that because of what he calls “the doctrine of state multiculturalism,” his country has “encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.” And, further, that the United Kingdom has “failed to provide a vision of society to which they [young Muslim men] feel they want to belong.” Cameron added, “We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.”
Cameron believes that to counter extremism, “instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.” He believes, “we must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home.” And offers this advice:
“A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.”
Cameron added that, as practical things that we can do, we can make sure “that immigrants speak the language of their new home” and ensure “that people are educated in the elements of a common culture and curriculum.”
There seem to be several lessons we can learn from the experiences of our European allies. Are you listening, PM Stephen Harper?