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Sunday, 05 May 2013 19:14

Cultural Pluralism as Colonisation

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Multiculturalism in Education

 

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Thanksgiving Enactment

The images above comfortingoffer a comforting sense of security to the feeling of nationhood, identity, education and their relationship. We see happy smiling children who inhabit a world of acceptance and tolerance for cultural and racial difference. We also see a comforting romantic portrayal of the first (Thanksgiving) encounters between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. This fictionalised encounter conveniently glosses over the brutal realities of the indigenous experience and sets up a false notion of mutual respect and acceptance where, instead, there was displacement, murder, brutality and enslavement. We never stop to think what our mythologised beliefs in cul;tural pluralism have for the indigenous peoples whom we have swamped with our majority-rule democracy and who now exist on the excluded m,argins of our society in aconditions of abject poverty and dependenc. 
 
Cultural Pluralism is supposed to be a good thing. We are all one big happy family in the new world of Cultural Inclusivity, Acceptance and Tolerance.

At the same time, we are all encouraged to view our cultural inclusivity as an element of deep patriotic pride. The Melting Pot theory of Nationhood. Since British Prime Minister Harold McMillan delivered his famous Winds of Change speech to the Colonial South African Government in Cape Town in 1960, colonialism has been portrayed as a thing of the past. We now inhabit the Post-colonial Era, so it is said. Here, in the Post-colonial World, difference is good: acceptance is holy. Conversely, exclusivity and separatism are bad. That's the rule! Tolerance, Acceptance and Inclusivity. The Holy Trinity of Postmodern theorising and cultural normativity. And all of this makes for a great and strong nationhood. A new kind of nationhood. - one not based upon the colour of a person's skin, or their spiritual belief system, but rather on an ideology - the ideology of Democracy.

What a lovely, cosy picture this all makes. How comforting to believe that (yet again?) the White Western Mind has been able to conceive of a transcendent concept that moves beyond conflict and difference towards the idealised goal of One Nation, Indivisible, Under God....

And what is that One, Indivisible Nation about? It's about material, spiritual and intellectual Imperialism - about plundering the world's resources to benefit a few very rich and powerful individuals while the rest of humanity struggles to merely survive. How can it be that the most powerful nation on the planet, espousing a doctrine of Democracy can wilfully and without sanction violate the sovereign territory of Iraq or Afghanistan (or coming shortly Iran). Isn't there something a little odd and contradictory that this Democracy needs to be imposed? And like all other colonial impositions, isn't it once again being portrayed as "In their own good!" Have we ever wondered what the colonised indigenous peoples of the world who have suffered such impositions for centuries think about the myth of our Great Inclusivity? Those whom we have historically displaced, dispossessed, oppressed, assimilated, murdered and subject to genocide? Those upon whom we have imposed Democracy, the Rule of (European) Law, Property Relations, Christianity, Capitalism? What do they think about all of this generosity on the part of the Western "Democracies"?

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