In the powder keg of nationalism that has become Europe, it’s fair to say that in many ways, multiculturalism has been the spark. The recent outpouring of refugees from the Middle East into Europe, which ensued a wave of crime and terrorist activity, has, at the very least, struck up the debate concerning Europe’s nationalist uprising and the idea of multiculturalism.
Time after time, the punditry and blogosphere have been overflown with all the necessary buzzwords such as “nationalism,” “Islamophobia,” “racism,” “terrorism,” and the like, and inevitably the focus has always seemed to shift back to one name: Angela Merkel.
Essentially, the German Chancellor has been the spokesperson and prime implementer of multiculturalism throughout Europe, being largely responsible for Germany’s refugee open door policy. In 2015 alone, Germany welcomed just shy of 900,000 refugees and migrants, many coming from conflict-ridden areas of the Middle East.
This influx preceded the now infamous New Year’s Eve incidence, in which over 1,200 women were sexually assaulted throughout Germany during New Year’s Eve celebrations. Prior to that, Merkel drew intense criticism — including from many in her own party — after she declared that “Islam is part of Germany” in response to anti-Islam protests.
Merkel’s stance on multiculturalism has certainly undergone quite an evolution over the better part of this decade.
In 2010 she denounced multiculturalism as having “utterly failed,” and stressed the need for immigrants to integrate themselves into German society. In that same speech, Merkel also emphasized the need to remain welcoming, saying: “We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don’t speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here.”
This was Merkel at her most reasonable.
It’s clear from her consternation, as well as later stances, that she felt Germany stood at a precipice; if multiculturalism was to prove successful, there could be no half-measures, it must be embraced completely.
This is the all too common trap proponents of multiculturalism often fall into. Merkel’s goal and her acolytes are incredibly noble. The idea of a society composed of a multitude of separate cultures living side by side peacefully is nothing if not utopian.
The inherent flaw in this vision is that it relies on the assumption that, at their core, all cultures share the same underlying values, particularly in regards to the treatment of other humans. Putting aside differences in religious views, the idea that people spending their entire lives fighting for survival in some of the world’s most war-torn areas, will have no trouble adopting the values of whatever peaceful western nation they suddenly find themselves in is ludicrous.
Combining this naïve view with a policy of open door immigration is a recipe for disaster. The reality being that the only real way for the multicultural dream of harmony and tolerance to occur is for some level of assimilation to take place.
Take the United States, which is often cited as a successful example of bringing different cultures together, particularly in regards to Muslims. In 2016, the United States accepted 84,995 refugees, roughly a tenth of people accepted in Germany the previous year. The United States is also much larger than Germany, both in population and territory. This helps to dissuade pockets of refugees from forming, forcing refugees to come in contact with the host country’s dominant culture through proximity and interaction, which in turn will likely cause them to drop or minimize the aspects of cultural traits that directly clash with the dominant culture.
Human beings are nothing if not creatures of habit, and by importing mass numbers of people of any culture, you remove the pressure weeding bad habits out. Currently, it is my view that the newcomers are able to cluster around one another, forming their own bubble, and separating from the society. Away from the culture they’ve just entered.
If the meteoric rise of the Internet and social media has taught us anything is that self-reinforcing echo chambers rarely lead to adaptation or tolerance. Quite the opposite. They only serve to entrench their members deeper into their own beliefs, creating a sense of “us vs. them.”
This is the exact scenario Merkel’s policies have fostered. By allowing such a large number of migrants, from such a drastically divergent culture, relative to her country’s population, she has virtually guaranteed that any sort of assimilation will be impossible.
The results have been fairly predictable. Within the first 6 months of 2016, migrants had already committed 142,500 crimes. Though most of that number consisted of petty crimes such as theft, there has also been a rise in more serious crimes — such as the New Year’s Eve attacks mentioned earlier — not only in Germany but throughout many other European nations following Merkel’s example.
Despite the criticism and chaos, Merkel has been able to remain steadfast in her support of Germany’s open door policies. However, with anti-immigration sentiment on the rise and her approval ratings in a state of flux, cracks have begun to form.
Just a couple weeks ago, in what can only be described as a shameless attempt at pandering for her upcoming 2017 reelection bid, Merkel took a sudden step back from her typical rhetoric of tolerance when she voiced her support for banning the burqa.
Merkel is essentially trying to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle, and in doing so, she falls into a reactionary trap.
Although this may help in the long term with the assimilation of migrants, the immediate effect of such a ban will only serve to intensify the division between migrants and the German society. Leading to the same divisive, tribal feeling that inspired the acts of terror that have plagued Europe over the past years.
The irony in Merkel’s actions is that she has, more or less, created and implemented the blueprint on how to effectively remove multiculturalism from the world’s zeitgeist. Whether or not this will correlate with her removal from the political arena, we can only wait and hope.