These past months, a personal experience (and failure, it seems) and some of the presidential election campaigns hot topics here in France led me to consider, not for the first time but with an added perspective (the referred to below as newcomer’s one), the concepts of Tolerance, Integration, Multiculturalism and Enrichment.
I came to the obvious conclusion that any Society (i.e. group of individuals who share some common values and ideas) open to foreign integration -thus accepting newcomers- should first and foremost be willing to acknowledge the very existence of said newcomers, with their inevitable differences, as the Society acknowledges its own individuals in their diversity (are we not all different?). In the next step, in the sole purpose of making integration easier, both Society and newcomers would establish and sustain some kind of communication/interaction, for evident practical reasons. On this basis, the Society would then share its ‘substance’ and principles, further facilitating the newcomers’ efforts to assimilate their new environment. Some ultimate, rewarding, enriching consequence of a successful integration would then be for the Society to integrate in return part(s) of the newcomers’ culture and usages. Where would we all be without this elementary, essential, historical, in one word ‘sine qua non’ principle?
Tolerance, individual diversity and time seem to be the primary -and necessary- elements to build the richness of a Society. The patient and open combination of all distinctive features and components keeps building the whole, sometimes adopting a newly integrated element as a rule -for the sheer rightness of it-, sometimes restricting another (or suppressing it, for survival necessity) by using an adaptable set of rules guaranteeing that none of the components is damaging to each other and to the Society as a whole.
During the integration process, the Society expects newcomers to ‘ingest’ and adapt to new, different ways/culture/principles, to abide by the law (and in doing so sometimes having to renounce to some of their ways) and eventually to participate in the Society’s activities. In return, the Society should clearly state its ways/culture/principles/laws and make them easily accessible, and provide a guide who’d patiently and skillfully explain them -sounds like Education, doesn’t it? This is particularly true when said Society is known (or claims) to master the Arts and means of communication* (basically language -in all its subtle uses and tones, and images with all the techno-stuff that conveys them both).
So far, doesn’t that sound a little like Utopia?
Some education and training methods, as well as simply ‘growing up’, are based on the trial-and-error approach. As far as integration endeavor is concerned, though, trying this method is clearly an error, and is potentially detrimental to the whole integration process. Before even thinking of participating to the Society’s activities, a newcomer often needs to acquire at least the basics in communication skills (language included, of course) and codes, as well as some usages and behavioral rules that noticeably differ from his or her original ones*. An observant reserve is probably the safest way to do that. Obviously, without those preliminary steps, the newcomer is likely to somehow ‘misbehave’. On attempting to participate anyway (out of enthusiasm, eagerness or spontaneity), and making some mistakes, the newcomer should be ‘coached’ by some guide who would step in to show (explain) the ways of the Society, or at least point out the inadequate behavior. Then, the initial problematic participation may evolve and become an exchange as the ‘enlightened’ newcomer starts to share his or her own ‘substance’ and riches, thus making the ‘sine qua non’ principle effective. That’s when multiculturalism is supposed to become a really good experience and a mutual enrichment.
At least, in Utopia it would probably work that way. 🙂
So, now that I’ve objectively (er… I think) considered an ideal environment and a wise and efficient way to achieve integration, where did I fail, in my past attempt?
To be continued……..
* In some Societies (like cyber-groups, for example), as a wise person reminded me, the written word is the only interaction medium(no visual clue, no tone of voice), which makes the communication that more tricky, and the integration attempt that more difficult. The same wise person added that because of different cultures and interacting ways, what is commonly accepted by the ones can be considered offensive by the others. I got it, H. Thanks. 🙂
… And thank you to Your Highness for Your wise editorial advice, that I didn’t follow on every point. Pigheaded Frog is my Squaw name. 😉