So its 2011, the supposed “Clash of Civilisation” hasn’t happened, but it still could. Multiculturalism and Political Correctness once hailed as being the only way to deal with “people different to us” is failing. The issues created when “others” moved into an area are still there. Nothing is improving and in some places cultural tensions are increasing.
There are a few reasons why multiculturalism is failing.
The fear of the “Other” still exists. We say say we aren’t racist, we may say we respect them. But neither of those statements cover up for the indirect racism or the misrepresentations we make of people from other cultures who may even live on the same street.
There is no interaction. Multiculturalism and Political Correctness have left people afraid to say things to each other out of fear of offending someone. Since when do we worry about this? If we do not mean to offend, people will know this! We no more understand people from other cultures as we did when they came to our countries as we are afraid to interact with them.
So I think German Chancellor Angela Merkel is correct. Multiculturalism has failed. Its time for a new approach. Can things be better with interculturalism?
Since getting involved with the Anna Lindh Foundation and the concept of “Intercultural Dialogue” I am more and more convinced that this is the way forward. We need not just to accept people from other cultures, we need to interact with, and I mean really interact with them. Not just going to joint events, but going to events aimed mainly at one group.
It is only this way that we will socialise with people from other cultures and move outside our comfort zone. This is the only way we can learn how to truly be accepting. Through the Anna Lindh Foundation I have learned this and the more events I attend the more I think this is true. The recent Anna Lindh Exchange Forum meeting confirmed this for me. The more we are willing to interact with people from other places and cultures the more we learn about them and they about us. It will mean we have to worry less about Political Correctness as there will be a level of understanding that will be beyond the need for this.
So its time time we stopped being understanding each other on a deeper level by being intercultural and not paying lip service as being multicultural.
This week the Anna Lindh Exchange will take place in Tunis, Tunisia between the 23rd and 26th June. This will be a region-wide meeting of civil society players acting for democracy and freedoms with an intercultural perspective.
Gathering between 150 and 200 participants from all over the Euro-Med region who work in the fields of Artistic creation, Media and Social Networks, Civil society development and Resources for Citizenship, the event will be a great opportunity for participants to learn from each other, exchange experiences, best practices and project ideas as well as to build partnerships.
I shall be attending the Exchange and I will be part of the team covering the event through twitter, facebook and blogs. As part of that I have posted a blog post on the conference up on the official blog just on the background!
Do check out the website tunisforum.org for all the ways to follow the Forum. On twitter follow the #tunisforum tag! Or follow the list I created on twitter which will be updated over the course of the exchange. On Facebook like the Anna Lindh Foundation Page and the Believe in Dialogue Page to get updates there! There will be some live coverage and videos on the website so do keep an eye on it!
Im really looking forward to it now!
As protests inspired by Tunisia move across the Middle East, with protests in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, its hard to imagine that a few years ago these protests would not have been tolerated, let alone successful as we have seen in Tunisia.
Since getting involved in the Anna Lindh Foundation I have met many people from these countries bordering the Mediterranean. Some of these people, while proud of their countries and their heritage, were not happy with their Governments. Whether it be lack of Women’s Rights or controls on internet access, these people wanted more. They wanted freedom and they wanted a say in how their lives were run.
This is what is amazing about these protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. The people have seen what can be done. They have seen that change can be brought about with revolution.
This is a hard lesson for the ruling elites in these countries who are quite used to not being challenged. They are now facing the challenge that will cement their memory in the national consciousness of these countries. Either a memory of a Government that will not listen to its people and put down the protests, or of a Government willing to change, it meet the protester’s demands, either in part or full.
In the title I made use of the phrase “Euromed Consciousness”. I used this because while these countries share a common Arab and Muslim Heritage, it is through their contacts across the Mediterranean that these people have realised that more is possible. That freedom is available. These people do not want to leave their countries. They want them to be modern societies with the rights, freedoms and technology available to those across that small sea.
Whether or not the European mindset have contributed to these protests, these protests prove the effectiveness of modern technology in organising people against their governments. Facebook, twitter, mobile phones and the internet in general has galvanised people and have ensured mass turn outs in Liberty Square in Cairo and other cities across Egypt, Tunisia and the Middle East.
As these protests become successful, expect more to happen in other sates where the Government have left their people behind.