Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Question of Migration and Assimilation

The sacred Kaaba in Mecca.

Americans, Europeans, and anyone else who values egalitarian multiculturalism, I would like to pose a question. If you found yourself as an immigrant, how quickly and how thoroughly would you adopt the cultural values and practices of your new country? Would you assimilate easily?
Let’s say, for example, that circumstances compelled you to emigrate to Saudi Arabia in pursuit of a better life for you and your family. Would you try to learn Arabic? Would you embrace Saudi cultural values? Would you encourage your sons to adopt Islam so that they might become successful in Saudi society? Would you be happy that your granddaughters would have to wear the hijab and lose the legal rights and privileges they would have enjoyed as women in the West?

Now, let’s also imaging that the Saudi kingdom were as generous to you and other immigrants as European and American governments are to their immigrants. The kingdom would pay to meet your basic needs at least modestly and would cater to the educational needs of your children. In fact, you and tens of thousands of other immigrants could subsist without ever integrating with your host nation. How eager would you be to assimilate into this alien, sometimes antithetical culture without any real economic pressure to do so?

I submit that you probably would not assimilate and neither would you try. On the contrary, you and the other immigrants would leverage whatever political power your numbers gave you to change Saudi culture to more closely match your values and practices. That’s what large groups of related people (tribes and nations) do.

Mass migration is conquest by other means, and history records such events as invasions, even when actual warfare is infrequent. Just ask the Celts or the Khoisan or the Ainu or the Australian aborigines or the Dravidians or the Maori or the first nations of the Americas. It is a political and cultural truth that none of us can escape.

As a libertarian humanist, I would celebrate the free movement of people and ideas … but as a historical realist, I also have to recognize, however grudgingly, that a borderless world is a last-order freedom. Only when other liberties and responsibilities are firmly in place or adequately protected by institutional safeguards can we safely open our borders to welcome anyone who would come. To do so now—with our massive, irresponsible welfare states—is to finance the diminution or destruction of our own egalitarian cultures.