Multiculturalism has failed. Time for Interculturalism.

Katarina Church and the minaret of the Stockho...

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.

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Anna Lindh Exchange Forum

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!

ALF Forum 2010

Union for the Mediterranean
Image via Wikipedia

The Anna Lindh Foundation Forum 2010 takes place in Barcelona from the 4th of March to the 7th of March. The Forum aims to give new momentum to the cooperation among civil society organizations committed to intercultural dialogue in the Union for the Mediterranean region and to enrich the activities of the forty-three National Networks of the Anna Lindh Foundation

The Forum is being  organised by the Anna Lindh Foundation in partnership with the European Institute of the Mediterranean, Head of the ALF Spanish Network.

The gathering of around 500 representatives of civil society organisations as well as high-profile speakers from the political, cultural and economic field from the entire Union for the Mediterranean region will also serve as inspiration for the development of regional cooperation and as a tool to influence policy-making in the field of intercultural dialogue.

The programme of the Forum is built on two key pillars: the ‘Agora’, which is dedicated to plenary debate and workshops with experts on the achievements and challenges of social and cultural cooperation in the regional framework, and the ‘Medina’, which brings together members of the Anna Lindh Networks and regional partners to share ideas and build new partnerships and initiatives.

The Agora is dedicated to plenary debate and workshops with experts on the achievements and challenges of social and cultural cooperation in the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean.

Specific debates which have been developed for the Agora include:

  • Education, Intercultural Learning and Youth: “Learning to live together in diversity”
  • Cultural & Artistic Collaborations: “Creativity for Dialogue”
  • Creating Spaces of Peace and Co-existence: “Restore Trust, Rebuild Bridges”
  • Cities, Migrants and Diversity: “Valuing Diversity, Understanding Migration”
  • Religion, spirituality and values: “Inter-religious dialogue and common values for action”

The Medina aims to bring together members of the Anna Lindh Networks, regional partners, networks and initiatives in order to share ideas and build new partnerships and initiatives.

Themes of the Medina workshops will consist of:

  • Intercultural Fair with presentation stands for members of the Anna Lindh Networks
  • Presentation of best practices with an insight to positive and challenges in the field
  • Spaces self-managed by members of Anna Lindh Networks and partners
  • Information sessions on subjects identified during the Forum preparation meetings
  • Artistic Exchange through exhibitions, audio-visual screenings and installations

There will be a part about blogging. Hence this post! A Bloggers’ Task Force is being set up to attend, which I have been asked to be part of! It is all very exciting. I will post more about this later in the week. Stay tuned!

See the website, facebook and twitter for more information about the Forum

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My Speech

EU Flag + Gay UK
Image by stephen.spillane via Flickr

As you are probably aware, I gave a speech at the Alliance Francaise/UCC European Symposium on “European CItizenship”. My speech was on National Identities withing European Identity and Culture. I got great feedback on the speech so I decided to share it with you.

Presidents, Excellencies, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

What am I? Irish or European? When I go abroad, I rarely get told I am Irish, well that is until I open my mouth, but even at that they can get confused to where I am from within Ireland. So for me this idea of being European is a natural definition of my identity.

But am I alone in this feeling? Is it only because I don’t have an Irish accent and my sallow skin, that I think this or is it there something else, something deeper?

Recently a number of us in the European Bloggersphere managed to have a bit of an identity crisis, so I am not alone in this feeling. Younger generations, I think are feeling more European. But is it because we are growing up in a Europe that is a lot closer to us and the fact we learn more about Europe in School. Or is it as some would say it is thanks to ease of international travel with Ryanair and other low-cost airlines and the fact that the internet can bring places closer to us. We can chat to people in other countries easily online with new technologies. But is it just traveling and technology that is bringing us closer or is there something more, something more basic, something deeper that unites us.

Some argue, though that being European is “aspirational”. Conor Slowey sums this up quite well on his blog “The European Citizen” when he said “When I think of Europe, I think of its diversity and its languages and its traditions, and I want to travel, explore and experience all of the little differences, while I still feel at home. To me it’s not rootless cosmopolitanism, but a deep appreciation for many roots and a desire to feel a part of the different places and people that I meet.”

Coming back to identity, national identies though are social constructs, they are formed by what we see around us, by our expeirences and by what matters to us. My church recently sent around a questionaire on identity, it seems to be all the rage lately, and it gave the following options for describing an identity:

  • Class
  • Religous Denomination
  • Nationality
  • Political Beliefs
  • Race
  • Gender

Of those only two would mean something to me as part of my identity, the others would not mean much to me. A big issue of course with identity, is some parts of it you have very little choice over, for example if we take the list the church gave only of two of those can be changed some what easily, Religous Denomination and Political Beliefs. The rest is decided at birth. Granted class can change over time depending on circumstances but you can’t decide in the moring you will become Upper Class, while you can wake up in the morning and decide to vote for a different party in future.

There is an interesting excercise around identity in non-formal education. Basically you draw a flower and on each of the petals write one thing that describes your identity. I did this on a Anna Lindh Training Programme and it was very interesting and you would surprise yourself with what you would come up with. I know the first thing I wrote down was European, the second was Irish.

That is not new for me though. I can remember having conversations in secondary school about this with friends, and I am sure I was definately then in the minority that thought myself European first and Irish second. I still think that way today, as that excercise showed.

I don’t think national identity and European identity are mutually exclusive, being European to me means that I am broad minded, that I speak more then one language, that I have expeirenced life in another country, I start counting with my thumb, that I have expeirenced Europe. That is a very personal definition, because I have friends that haven’t lived outside of Ireland and feel as European as I do. European Identity is a very personal thing, just as with Irish Identity people put different emphasis on different things. To some being Irish is all about the language, to others its the traditions, to others its the sport. There is no single Irish Identity, while all these do come together to form the Irish Culture.

Identity is a personal thing, no one can impose one on you, unless you let them. In one sense sterotyping is trying to force an identity on someone. For example when I say I am Irish, people think “party” and “drinking”, but there is more to me then just partying and drinking. So I always try to define myself by actions, that is how we take control over our identity.

So Irish Identity feeds into European Identity. By saying I am European is not saying I am less Irish, but there is this European aspect to me, which influences how I react, what I say and what I do. It influences how I approach problems, how I deal with friends and how I behave. It isn’t this thing that suddenly appeared thanks to the Maastricht Treaty which gave us rights as European Citizens.

These rights that were given to us under the Treaties and which have expanded under subsequent treaties. These have not changed how European I feel, but I think they have helped in increasing the feeling for others.

Identity is something that is fluid, that it changes over time, that it can expand with new experiences, and that who you are can change. Being European is something, not to aspire to, but to be in your own way. Again we have no choice in our identity, but we do have control over what makes up the important parts of our identity, to me that is what I have learned, my experiences, my loves, my dislikes, and my friendships. In a year in which we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall I leave you with the words of a German Blogger, Julien Frisch,

“Today, I live in a Union that opens its borders internally but is closed down to the world outside its own borders. 20 years after the Wall – the material representation of the division of Europe – was torn down, Europe is still divided. There are those who are in . And those who are not.

As a former East German, I will continue to fight against these borders, because I want to share what I received, not least because I have plenty to share. I want everyone in. And I am ready to invest myself as much as I can to reach this goal.

48 years ago, the Wall was constructed. 20 years ago, its material representation removed. It is time to remove its immaterial leftovers!!”

A few people did help with the speech and I would like to thank Joe Litobarski for pointing me in the direction of a few articles on this area, my good friend Sean for reading over the speech and pointing out all my mistakes, and of course to Hélene and Cécile in Alliance Franciase du Cork for asking me to speak and for all their help!

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Symposium on European Citizenship

As the Euroblggersphere is suffering an identity crisis at the moment it is a conincidence that Alliance Francaise Cork and UCC are organising a European Symposium on European Citizenship on Tuesday, September 1st in UCC.

It looks like it will be an interesting day. The topics covered will be “Women and Europe”, “Justice: rights and responsibilities of the European citizens”, “National Identities within European Culture and Identity” and “Green Citizenship”.

The speakers include:

  • Nicole FONTAINE, Former French President of the European Parliament
  • Treasa NI MHURCHU, Deputy Chairperson of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, Vice-President of European Women’s Group
  • Pascale JOANNIN, Director of the Foundation Robert Schuman
  • Micheál MARTIN, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Alan DUKES, President of the Alliance Française Dublin
  • Jean-Dominique GIULIANI, President of the Foundation Robert Schuman
  • Loïc TRIBOT LA SPIERE, Jurist and General Delegate of CEPS
  • Jérôme CLOAREC, President of Atelier Europe
  • Dermot KEOGH, Professor of European Integration Studies
  • Dominique REYNIE, Director of the Foundation for Political Innovation
  • Cécile LE CLERCQ, European Commission, Citizenship Policy Unit; Europe for citizens
  • Maurice RIEUTORD s.j., General Delegate of the Institut Robert Schuman pour l’Europe
  • Stephen SPILLANE, Euroblogger, “thinkaboutit.eu” Project – European Journalism Centre
  • Déirdre de BURCA, Senator Green Party
  • Michael EWING, Social Partnership Coordinator, Environmental Pillar
  • Dr. Peter BRENNAN, Managing Director of Economics, Policy and Strategy Consulting

Throughout the day there will also be a exhibition from goodplanet.org. At the end of the day there will be a showing of Yann ARTHUS-BERTRAND’s film “Home”.

Yes, you did see my name mentioned in the list of speakers. I will be speaking on the panel on “National Identities within European Culture and Identity” which should prove interesting and it will be my first time speaking on a panel!

The full programme is  availible here in PDF. If you wish to attend here is the Invitation and reply card (both PDF)!

To find out more check out the website, facebook and twitter!

12 days to write a speech the pressure is on!! Do come along and support me though, I am speeking at some point between 2:30pm and 4:30pm in UCC’s Aula Maxima

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The Flower of Identity

Pink Flower, Oxalis Weed Macro
Image by cobalt123 via Flickr

In Luxembourg as part of the training with the Anna Lindh Foundation we had to write a list of things that we think identify us. One suggestion was to draw a flower and on each petal write one thing. I of course am useless at drawing so decided to write a list.

So how do I see myself?

The first things that came to my mind was European, the next was Irish and after that Gay came into my mind. Then the fact that I was Male reared its head. After that I was stumped.

Now I didnt want to seem superficial so I tried really hard to come up with more, so Political came to mind. Then Adventerous and Outgoing popped up. Religous also came to mind as did Blogger After that it was tough going.

Even now two weeks after the training I find it hard to come up with more. Ones that do are Stubborn, Caring, and Smart.

How to others see me?

I decided to see how others saw me, so I asked on twitter, facebook and MSN about people saw me. I got the following back:

  • Friendly
  • Caring
  • Up Beat
  • Outgoing
  • Helpful
  • Headstrong
  • Opinionated
  • Political
  • Intelligent
  • Someone who stands up for what they Believe in
  • A good friend
  • Sexy (I am not making it up!!)
  • Nice Guy
  • Listener
  • Values debate and diversity
  • Principled
  • Respectful
  • Smart
  • Gay

Why do this?

After asking a friend, a conversation ensued about why I was doing this and was their a difference in how I saw myself and how others saw me. To me the big difference was no one mentioned nationality. Which was strange cause if was the first thing I thought of when asked the question about myself as it forms part of who I am and therefore how I act. That was the huge difference.

In Luxembourg after we wrote this out we all went to another room and sat on the floor. One of the trainers Xavi called out different categories about how we saw ourselves and for one of them I was one of two people standing. That category was “Sexual Orientation”. To me started off the questioning that led to this blog post, am I placing too much emphasis on it. The fact that someone else mentioned it, kind of puts my mind at rest.

At the same time I was overwhelmed at the response given to me. I simplfied where I could what my friends said down to one word where possible. It is strange when your friends can come up with more ways of describing you then you can.

But thats Identity thats Personality!

One thing I noticed even while doing this was how fluid Identity and Personality are. To me they are not mutually exclusive. This excercise proves that in most ways except in the area of nationality which I have already dealt with.

So is nationality what actual divides us from stangers, as we don’t see it as part our friends?

Do try this yourself and see personally how you describe yourself, draw it as a flower or a list. It will surprise you.

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Luxembourg in Video

Carmel has some videos from Luxembourg up on her blog, so I have robbed them in case you missed them! I of course am in them and the second video as me attempting Irish Dancing while under the influence. It really gives you a taste of what we got up to and why it was so much fun!

Part one: Presenting Our Online Identities Offline

Part Two: Intercultural Night

These videos reminded me of all the fun I had and what I learned! Thanks Carmel!

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ALF Training: Culture, Identity and Dialogue

Bloggers discussing during the training. Picture by Carmel Vaisman of absolutecarmel.com
Bloggers discussing during the training. Picture by Carmel Vaisman of absolutecarmel.com

I arrived back in Cork today after spending Monday to Wednesday at the Anna Lindh Foundation Blogger Training for Intercultural Dialogue in Luxembourg. It was a fantastic event with 18 bloggers from 17 countries from across the Euromed region, It was an amazing experience.

Not only did I learn about places I didnt know much about (Magreb and Middle East) but I also learned alot about myself and how I and others perceive me. It really opened my mind on issues about identity and culture and how I perceive other cultures. The course which was packed into two days was so interesting, exciting and tiring. It has inspired me a lot and we have plans to keep working on this issue. For me this will be both online and offline as I try to pass on the knolwedge and ideas I have gained to some of the groups I work with.

A website that the Anna Lindh Foundation is working with was also in attendence and it is a great tool for bringing together the Arabic and English speaking worlds. Meedan.net is a great site for translating news and comments on the events into the two languages. A fantastic idea and one I will keeping an eye on. It might highlight a few issues for me to blog about!

The other bloggers on the course, who will be added to the my blogroll very soon, were great fun! It was amazing to see how we all got along an dtook part in the energisers (games really) from all these countries. The Euromed evening was a great way to learn about these fasicinating cultures as well as try out food an drink from the different countries and learn about the issues in them.

So what can you expect to see changing on the blog? Well hopefully you will see more blogging about issues in the Euromed region and the work of the Anna Lindh Foundation in Ireland and in the Euromed region. Intercultural Dialogue is such a wide area in my mind that I have lots of ideas in my head on what to blog about. Also in September their will be an online campaign on Restore Trust, Rebuild Bridges that we as bloggers will be running so keep an eye out for it!

So a huge thanks to the Anna Lindh Foundation, the organisers, trainers, and of course the other bloggers for a fantastic time and I hope I have made good connections that will blossom into a great Euromed Partnership of friends!

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Interculturalism in Irish Blogs and in Ireland

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 17: People enjoy St...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

On Sunday I head off to Luxembourgh to take part in the ALF Euromed Bloggers Training on Intercultural Dialogue. As part of that Programme I have to look up a bit on interculturalsim. Searching Irishblogs.ie I found a few websites dealing with the issue, but most were websites and not blogs. Only two of the blogs I found were ordinary blogs but the rest were photoblogs.

Does this mean that Interculturalism isn’t an issue in Ireland? I think it is an issue, but blogs in Ireland cover it as part of the wider issue of politics. While searching I came across posts on the Limerick Blogger, Maman Poulet and Cedar Lounge Revolution. These posts were on events and politics and put intercultual issues in context in terms of how Ireland is dealing with the issue.

While interculturalism is new in the modern Ireland, I think we have well adapted while there is some people who might not like it. A friend recently posted a view of interculturalism which most Irish People would agree with (I would hope)

love living in this country, for the most part it is a good, safe and fun place to live, and increasing diversity is making it much more interesting. I like treating myself to a shave at the hands of a barber from Istanbul, I like chatting to some Polish lads while I’m out for a drink and I like learning something about the history of Slovakia from a student on campus. The point I’m getting at is that diversity makes societies better and has done so since the dawn of man. History has shown us that it is not possible to create a completely culturally (or ethnically) hegemonic society, regardless of the physical and cultural barriers that may separate people. Even if it was possible, it should never be done. Without new ideas, new concepts and new blood societies are doomed to fall.

He has a point, and I think it is fairly normal in Ireland. Take me for example and when you look at my friends here in Ireland, they are not all Irish! I have French, Polish, Chinese and English friends!

Irish blogs deal with interculturalism in the same way that Irish society deal with it. As a day to day issue part and parcel of the normal process in Ireland. Should it be treated differently? I dont think so.

The Blogs I found on Interculturalism in Ireland (Non-photoblogs):

Thats what I found if you know of any others let me know in the comments! Thanks!

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