Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Debate on Accommodation

Welcome to the new racism.

The fact that we even need to have these accommodation hearings is disturbing in the extreme. Religious acceptance isn't what I'm known for, but I don't think that other people's minds is any more my jurisdiction than anyone else's. We have to realize this, collectively, as a society. Ideas in people's heads are important because, as John Stuart Mill said in his trailblazing essay On Liberty, very rarely are the opinions we possess the entirety of the truth; it is through discussion and interaction with people of different mores, values, opinions, ethics and traditions that we continue to approach a more complete, more factual version of reality and truth.

I saw a headline today on a newsstand; rough translation "Is diversity detrimental to society?"

That question is offensive simply for being asked. Diversity is the engine of improvement for a society. The most heinous, totalitarian and immoral societies in history have been homogeneous; united in all their ideas and opinions and mores and values. The more I see this sort of thing pop up, the more I believe that On Liberty should be required reading in ethics & diversity classes in high school and recommended reading in every level of higher education.

These roving hearings are going to reveal one thing; the isolationist sentiment which has dominated Québec politics for nearly forty years has had a detrimental effect on the social and political (sociopolitical?) climate and has left the province (are we still saying nation?) outside of the island of Montreal virtually inhospitable to immigrants; there's a certain spillover effect as the venom from the more isolated regions of the country and the current global climate of xenophobic paranoia (thank you, Osama) gradually infiltrates Québec's multicultural metropolis and poisons the citizens there against immigration. It is ironic that some of the most vocal opponents of integration (reasonable accommodation, I guess) - in my experience, not in any sort of scientific polling - are italians, second only to Francophone proles.

There is no accommodation, accommodation implies an expected standard; we must tolerate all actions and ideas and hold no standard, as long as those actions and ideas affect only those who they belong to and are not detrimental to anyone else. This is not for their good, but for ours; we benefit from the polylogue (dialogue means two interlocutors) of multiculturalism, just as everyone else does. We would be remiss were we to pass up such an opportunity.


CatherineAnne said...

"we must tolerate all actions and ideas and hold no standard, as long as those actions and ideas affect only those who they belong to and are not detrimental to anyone else"

I would argue (and I think most people who dislike or fear immigration would also) that the actions and ideas of immigrants do not, in fact, affect only those they belong to. And if they did, what would be the point? If multiculturalism is to be good for society, then the differing actions and ideas MUST affect that society.

Granted, immigration for you is probably quite different than immigration for me. And for the most part, I'm in favor of it.

Steven Alleyn said...

When I say actions that affect only themselves, I mean detrimental actions which affect only themselves.

But multiculturalism being good for society is not the primary reason for maintaining multiculturalism; individual rights take precedence over all other social rights and we cannot protect society without protecting the rights of the individual - the most basic unit of society.