When we look at history, it is typically the strongest of opinions that drive conflict, violence and social unrest. Strong opinions and people committed to their ideas, many of which were uniformly unpopular, are also the cause of our most significant advances. The impact of religion has had a mixed impact on society as a whole, at time beneficial, and at times violent. Racism falls in the same boat. Despite the popular notion that “multiculturalism” is good for society, has some limitations that we need to consider.
The concept that multiculturalism is good for society stems from scientific studies on genetics and the long-term survival of species. In general, non-specialized species tend to survive longer than highly specialized ones as they are most able to adapt to change. The more genetic diversity in an ecosystem, the better prepared it is for unforeseen shocks to the system. Further, it is more likely for mutation to occur in a diverse population than in a singular one. Increased mutation means more opportunities for adaptation, and some but not all of those mutations become beneficial. The value of the mutation is the basis of natural selection.
What we tend to ignore is the non-beneficial diversity. In the case of genetics, the non-beneficial end of the spectrum is fatal or sterile or inhibiting to the organisms function. In either case, the mutation typically dies out. That is how natural selection works. In other cases, the mutations are innocuous and largely irrelevant, however as external circumstances change (Climate, acidity, etc…), one of those mutations may become the key that ensures the survival of the species. This same type of system is present in ecosystems around the world.
We find this same logic reinforced in studies on decision-making in business. In dogmatic, structured linear organizations, they are very unlikely to innovate. In organizations with a diverse talent pool, and processes in place that utilize that diversity to bring alternate points of view to the table, they tend to make better decisions. We can measure the value of that diversity that based on the performance of the organization. The difference is that in business; natural selection is measured by cash flow. Poor cash flow generally leads to extinction. Were we to artificially prop up the cash flow of all businesses equally to ensure their survival we would be inundated with substandard products and low productivity as a whole.
We find ourselves capable of making choices that are clearly not in the best interest of ourselves, our societies and the ecosystems we inhabit. Drug & alcohol abuse, unsustainable farming practices, energy, and the list goes on. Unlike plants, the genetic mutations are no longer the sole drivers of our behavior, and our environment plays a large influence. Unlike business, we have no overriding system like cash flow to select against the negative influences.
Angela Merkel declared this week that multiculturalism has failed in Germany, much to the chagrin of the socialist parties in Europe. She went a step farther and told immigrants that they needed to leave the cultures they are from behind and adopt German cultural norms – to include the language. I am sure there will be cries of racism, fascism and far worse. While it is difficult to determine where to draw the line between thought control and freedom, it is not nearly as difficult to draw a line between beneficial cultural attributes and counterproductive ones.
Does the logic of natural selection still apply when nature’s selection process is overridden by our ability to perpetuate the species, despite our bad choices? Are we perpetuating the cultural norms that are of no value to our society in the name of equality? The reality is that we are quite able to make societal judgments as to the value of cultural diversity. Some are quite beneficial, whereas I would say stoning, slavery, and caste systems have no productive value in any society. The problem we face is that American society has labeled anyone who makes those judgments a bigot of some sort.
The reality is that there are a few cultures on the planet that have contributed most of the innovation we have seen in modern society. Others, by comparison, have contributed very little, and a few elements are actively counterproductive. Having largely removed the process of natural selection from survivability of the species, perhaps it is time to start to cull these counter-productive “cultural norms” from our society. If you want to live in a place where slavery, stoning and dogmatic adherence to religious edit is the norm, indeed such a place exists right now in Syria and Iraq. We should not tolerate that type of valueless “cultural norm” in our society in the name of religious freedom, racial equality, or cultural diversity.
Angela Merkel is the first western leader to denounce the value of multiculturalism, but it is unlikely she will be the last. If you choose to immigrate to another nation, the reason for that immigration is quite likely to be dissatisfaction with your existing cultural norms. War, Famine, Persecution, etc… does not appear in a vacuum, and the incidents of negative aspects of human society are in large part culturally driven. Showing up in a new state and expecting to maintain the cultural norms that drove you out of your previous one while taking advantage of benefits of the new society is a lazy, and selfish approach. Western society has largely equated freedom and liberty with diversity. They are not the same.
Despite what genetic diversity does for an ecosystem and talent diversification does for a business, cultural diversity may not have the same impact. Attempting to define legal protections for every cultural variation in society seems to be where America is focused. When pandering to the few, negatively impacts the freedoms and productivity of the many, perhaps it is the few and not the many who need to adjust.
~ Patrick Henry