One of the advantages of ageing, they say, is getting a long view. It is said to give you a sense of equilibrium and perspective, and stop you getting blown about by the winds of passion.
It doesn’t always work.
When David Cameron took aim at ‘Multiculturalism’ the other day, anyone with a long view would have realised how fatally an ignorance of history affected his arguments. To be fair, he was not alone. ‘Multiculturalism’ has come in for some bashing over the past few years, and for a time – knowing from experience the real gains and benefits – I was bemused by the chorus of detractors.
But finally, I came to recognise that none of us had been sufficiently intellectually rigorous. ‘Multiculturalism’ – or the more common term ‘cultural diversity’ – isn’t one single and simple entity. There are two very separate major forms of discourse, each with different needs, heading in different directions and with very different outcomes indeed. Ironically, one of them offers a route to precisely the goals of citizenship and community that the coalition government desires…..
I rapidly wrote a piece for the Guardian’s Comment is Free, but it didn’t make it. If you want to find out more, check out my website – www.naseemkhan.com. It is currently being redone, but when it’s finished (imminently), you can find a link to a longer presentation I gave to a conference last autumn where I first started to lay out explore those double strands of diversity.
It made it clear that Cameron and his like are in fact like those characters in a movie who see what they think is an ominous shape in the bushes, who take aim and fire. And then find they have shot and wounded their best friend.