Musterlösung 2013: Textproduktion Comment: "The neighbourhood" GK
“I was surprised there wasn’t more violence, considering how combustible the parts were.” With this statement Kureishi’s narrator Jamal is contemplating one of the generally perceived problems of many different ethnic minorities living together in one relatively small space such as one particular borough or district of a big city. Handling the cultural and religious diversity is not always easy. Immigrants, who, very often, leave their home country for reasons of poverty, war or persecution, find themselves faced with new challenges once they arrive in the new country. For many the clash between their own values and traditions and the mainstream culture of their new home presents a shock and makes integrating into their host society even harder.
The problem is made worse where immigrants do not meet with the necessary understanding and help by the majority. Whether a host country is open to receive newcomers often depends on factors like the economy, the state of the labour market and the condition of its social system. If the country’s economy fares well, it is ready to invite immigrants to supplement its labour force. In times of recession, however, immigration is very often perceived as a threat to local jobs and as an extra strain on the welfare system. Moreover, successful integration is by many considered to be an adaption to the mainstream culture without little thought for the immigrants’ wish to keep a part of their cultural identity. Tensions may arise where different expectations cannot be met. This is what Jamal describes as the “combustible parts” of his borough. Successful integration therefore needs readiness on both sides to accept and respect the cultural idiosyncrasies of the other.
The USA can be taken as a good example how ideas of immigration and integration can come into contest. For a long time America has been proud of its “melting pot” society – a term which describes the assimilation of immigrants to the American culture and way of life. This notion has, however, been put into question by the idea of multiculturalism or the “salad bowl theory” as historians and sociologists have suggested that immigrants retain part of their cultural identity while integrating into US society. The constant influx of immigrants, Latin Americans in particular, however, has by many – among them political scientists –been considered a threat to American identity. As illegal immigrants from South and Central America keep pushing into the US, many politicians have called for tougher laws while mass protests across the country have shown that many Americans object to such policies and ask for a more liberal go on the issue of immigration.
Great Britain, meanwhile, is confronted with its own debate about the success of its multicultural society as conservative politicians, including Tory Prime Minister David Cameron himself, have declared that multiculturalism in the UK has failed. This statement raised a cry of protest from the British public who strongly rejected such a view. The aspect on which politicians draw for their assumption is the potential radicalisation of young Muslim men. In the wake of the 7/7 bombings in 2005 by home-grown terrorists, politicians were quick to declare young Muslims as alienated from British society and as unwilling to integrate. Surveys, however, have revealed quite a different picture and as Great Britain hailed its Olympic athletes in London in 2012, it showed a nation proud of its team’s achievements no matter whether the athletes were black, white or mixed race. For many Britons this served as the more objective indicator for a functioning multicultural society.
To conclude, the success of a multicultural society does not depend on the level on which immigrants adapt to the host culture, but on the readiness of both to accept the other’s sets of value and belief. Besides, people need to redefine the terms “Britishness” and “American identity” as both have experienced a new quality over the past decades.
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