Politics of bad memories

Nina Katchadourian @ X-TRA/

Markha Valenta considers the real motives for attacks on multiculturalism in Europe @ Eurozine.
You always know something is up when the leaders of Germany, France and Britain are in happy agreement. Their most recent cheery confabulation is that multiculturalism in Europe has been a failure. In quick succession first Merkel, then Cameron, then Sarkozy seized the limelight and declared diversity's demise. They stated this as a truism rather than as an argument. Equally striking is that these political leaders seem more relieved than troubled: as if, for a while, western Europe had lost its bearings but now is regaining them. Diversity is out, they seem to say, and common sense back in.But of course, given the diversity of our societies, it is diversity that is common sense.Even as I say this, it is very much to be wondered if Europe, notably Germany and France (of all places), ever gave multiculturalism a real chance. To paraphrase Gandhi's famous quip on western civilisation, European multiculturalism would be a good idea. With the exception of the Netherlands and Sweden, there have been no serious attempts in continental Europe at implementing comprehensive policies for accommodating the new cultural and religious pluralism. So in fact what Merkel, Cameron and Sarkozy actually are saying is that western Europe's response to immigration has been a failure. This we could perhaps discuss: but in that case as a failure of western European politicians, policies and imagination, rather than of an invented multiculturalism that Europe never tried (if by "multiculturalism" we mean a society that offers full possibilities, membership, and respect to all its members – regardless of cultural and religious differences – yet also creatively accommodating of them – in a fashion that is both morally persuasive and practically effective for the majority of society).read more