Multiculturalism. October 29, 2010

During her recent speech at the days of the Young Union – the congress that brings together the new generations of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Socials (CSU) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that German attempts to build a multicultural society had It turned out to be a total failure.

In what is a nod to the most reactionary sector, he justified his words, as is customary for many politicians and citizens, commenting on the worst side of immigration (forced marriages, people who do not speak German, girls who stop going to the school etc.). However, it also left a small space for self-criticism. For a long time, he said, successive governments had not stopped to think that immigrants not only went to Germany to work and leave (the well-known term Gastarbeiter – guest workers), but that they were willing to stay.

It follows from his words that he now intends to rectify. It remains to be seen in what direction.

Without agreeing with the German Chancellor, I do believe that, unlike other European leaders belonging to the same political family (European People’s Party) such as French President Nicolás Sarkozy or Italian Sílvio Berlusconi, she is thinking of other formulas a little more elaborate than the simple expulsion or persecution to which these two leaders are accustomed. In his case, it seems more a difficult game of balances to satisfy all the militants of his party.

It must be recognized that he supported the words of the German president – Christian Wulff – who had said a few days before his speech in Potsdam that Islam was part of Germany. This is a sensible and logical statement – given the large number of Muslim Germans – but it has its political cost, a cost that the German Chancellor has borne. This is not a small thing considering that in much of Europe the anti-Muslim discourse, previously reserved for the parties of the extreme right, is now part of the parties of the center-right.

Despite the fact that soccer is a sport that I follow, albeit in a dispassionate way, I will not tell you about the skilled Turkish-German footballer Mesut Özil, a member of the Real Madrid squad and a symbol of the integration of immigrants in Germany. I’ll tell you about the other symbol, Fatih Akin. My admired filmmaker.

Virtually all of his filmography is an honest and well-meaning uncompromising foray into the complex world of dual membership. His shocking film Gegen die Wand (Against the Wall) –awarded as best film at the 17th edition of the European Film Awards– is a rich sample of the stumbling blocks of two people in which this double belonging (Turkish and German) coexists fragmented form. Both, after extremely painful experiences, end up in Turkey looking for a part of themselves that they lack. And in another of his films, Auf der anderen Seite (On the other side) –LUX prize, awarded by the European Parliament–, he once again tackles the subject masterfully. This time with a polyphonic narration, slower in rhythm but equally intense in content. This time it is about the search for the origin of someone who could well be considered an example of integration. A Goethe-loving German of Turkish descent.

I have thought of Fatih Akin and I am glad I had the opportunity to show my admiration for his work, because his films tell us about the irremediable search for who we are, about our roots and the complex multiple and mixed identity. In short, how people need to know where we come from to be more clear about where we are going. Integration should never mean disconnection with the origin. On the contrary, true integration also requires critical loyalty to it.

The multicultural, intercultural and integration are part of all cultures. Every culture is at the same time many (multi) cultures that contaminate, dialogue, discuss and mix (inter) and end up forming a new complex and diverse culture (integration). It is worth remembering here that the meaning of the word integrate is precisely this: to make a whole or a set with different parts.

So I am not going to dwell on academic discussions about the concepts of multiculturalism, interculturality and integration. Time is short. Coexistence is possible, among other things, because we have no alternative. The person who cannot integrate his different voices into his personality becomes ill, withdraws into himself, becomes depressed, or breaks down and fragments (psychosis). Something similar happens to society. Different people, with different origins, different cultures (which in turn are multiple and complex) must be able to share the same social corpus. Otherwise society suffers and becomes ill.

I allow myself to change my focus. It is not by looking at cultures that we will solve the question. It is by guaranteeing non-exclusion and full citizenship (which does not mean anything more original than the famous recipe: rights and duties). In other words, closing the doors to the exclusion that prevails in the weakest (especially migrants and their children) and opening the doors to active citizen participation along with the application of civil law (the same for all) . This is, in my opinion, the only way.

Paternalism, xenophobia, fanaticism, machismo, exclusive nationalism are scourges that must be fought. Culturalist shelters are not worth it.

How easy it is to see the road and how difficult to travel it!


Saïd El Kadaoui is a psychologist and writer

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