When Cultures Meet and Clash

A question that dominates most minds is that of illegal and uncontrolled migration. The problem is said to be “insolvable” by those domiciled in a gated community. These folks advocate solutions that are unacceptable to the majority. To the regret of those that mismanage the problem, this silent majority is becoming vocal. It does so not only as a mass of complaining individuals, but by supporting parties that articulate protest. Revealingly, “protest party” is as much a curse as is “populist” to left-liberal circles that see their once docile followers drift away.

According to the political class, the meeting of cultures by migration is a process with beneficial results. The claim expresses a political agenda well served if it sells. What the contention does not do is to fit the record and attain confirmation by “history”.

Those that plead for uncontrolled and unlimited migration, exercised as a fundamental “human right”, abuse history, or “precedent” if you prefer.

Migration has a checkered record. The migration of Germanic tribes into the Roman Empire expressed a military decline. It resulted in the smashing of advanced political structures, stunted growth, and created the misery of the “Dark Ages”. That those could be overcome only after centuries undermines the claim of “enrichment”. This is so, even if we add that often the invaders hoped to partake in Rome’s system even if they did not fit into it. That created a china shop in which they played the role of the elephant. Let us skip the case of the Mongols who demolished the advanced Kievan state, a setback that figures among the causes of Russia’s backwardness.

Often cited to prove the use of the merger of cultures is pre-Reconquista Iberia. However, that came about by conquest, and with alternating phases of benign rule and repression it is, at best, an occupation that made submission pay. There is no need to list here the benefits of the encounter the Incas had with their conquerors.
Lastly, to the interaction through Islam’ penetration of Southern Europe between the 14th and 19th centuries. After a prolonged contest, the conquest of then great power Hungary, the invasion took the Ottomans to the gates of Vienna; between 1526 and 1683, the possibility existed that the rest of Europe might fall. Although Suleiman the Magnificent built beautiful mosques, that meeting of cultures resulted in the decline of a thriving region. Today’s backwardness and the length of Turkish rule correlates.
The point has been made that the idea of transferring the Middle East and Africa to Europe –and Central America to the USA- by promising benefits for the hosting countries is, kindly put, an exaggeration.

Nevertheless, migration can bring advantages for the migrant and his host. The record in America, Canada, and Australia is good. Also rich in achievement is the trek to Europe’s “east”. However, as with the Peace Corps, the attempt to modernize resistant societies failed. Japan’s modernization (Meiji Restoration) is an outstanding example of the creative consequence of a cultural encounter. Therefore, a question emerges; under what conditions will migration be beneficial or destructive.

If a wave of migration threatens the institutions and the identity of the hosting entity, then, obviously, it is a negative event. This is a scenario once the entrant’s culture is, -due to the utility of its values in a modern order, – backward relative to the one into which it inserts itself. This can, but must not be the case. Immigration can import skills, knowledge, and values that are advanced compared to what prevails in its new setting. However, this case is presently only a theoretical postulate, while the first condition applies to the migration faced now by Europe and the US.

A failed migration, -it might express the host’s errors or of the misplaced efforts of the migrant, – can, indeed, imperil both parties. To this writer, this is the threat that stems from our time’s unrealistic handling of the movement of peoples.
We need to differentiate between migrations. One can be the outcome of individual decisions to participate in an exodus. Even if its participants’ originate from the same country, their individual settlement is generally followed by the integration into majority society. (As happened in America in the case of the Poles, Italians, and others.) Participants will quickly fit into their new milieu, a new language will be learned, and new know-how will be acquired. (When his college allocated to the writer a roommate with a shared background, both parties asked for a reassignment as neither wished to be part of a “cell” and preferred to become a part of America.)

More problematic is the alternative, which is collective migration. Trouble brews when a community defined by low education, religion, and a culture that is antithetical to that of the host is set up their tent. In this case, parallel systems emerge –exemplified by the “no-go” areas in tolerant, left-liberal-ruled European countries. When “nations” settle as units, parallel societies emerge. Once states-within-the-state form, the host’s sovereignty suffers. A number of Europe’s current borders mirror the negative outcome of permitting such an occurrence. This is the experience behind Hungary’s constitutional provision that forbids the settlement of “nations”, that is of cohesive, culturally distinct, therefore integration resistant, therefore ghetto-seeking groups.
Not migration in itself, but the traits of the actual one explains why several countries detect a threat to their way of life emanating from the masses that demand admission. When a people’s collective future seems to be threatened, the reaction will lack the nicety advocated by the unconditional tolerance of multiculturalists.

A brief criterion for accepting or resisting a wave of migration can be formulated. It considers the ability to assimilate and to integrate. That involves the host’s will to accept, and the entrants’ inclination to respond to the gesture of welcome. Several conditions must be “right” regarding a migration’s destination. One is the relative volume of admission seekers. Small peoples with little land cannot do what large countries can. Furthermore, the size of the inflow should be considered. Are entire countries in motion or only genuinely persecuted individuals? The answer matters. In extreme cases, the indigenous of entire regions –not unlike some villages along the “Balkan route”- are in peril and become degraded to a pushed around minority.

Beyond such quantitative considerations, qualitative factors also play a role. Cultural compatibility is one of these. Compatibility does not mean identity, it does, however, demand that the involved cultures not express their differences through hostility. Not liking your host’s language, religion, and way of life might be a right -if it is practiced on the immigrant’s home turf. Demanding protection from a nation that is despised is more than unfair; it is illogical. Granting such a request takes the form of suicide as it precludes integration and leads to separatism.

“Way of life”, as used, is a general term that contains numerous specifics. Do the political ideals mesh? Can the concepts of justice and decency connect? Does the “pursuit of happiness” imply correlating efforts? Is there a link between the imported work ethic and local needs? Is the newcomers’ skill in demand?
Of overriding importance is the cognizance that successful immigration implies much learning. Thus, crucially, the migrant must be a good “cultural learner”. Fitting in can be facilitated by imported values, or these can hinder the adjustment to a new way of life. The carriers of some value systems have failed on that score. Having to learn will either prompt tuning in to the host’s ways, or it provokes resistance. In that case, the religion, traditions, even if they are a hindrance, will be points of identification in whose name the felt “submission” to the “despicable” locals is resisted. The natural result will be collective and individual failure expressed by the inability to participate in the harboring society’s success. The upshot is to attribute programmed failure to discrimination. The result is resentment, ultimately a justification for “war”. An example of such a resistance, failure, flight into homeland values, and then hostility, is the case of three generations of Turks in Germany. They vote more jingo and Islamist than their ilk at home. Oh, yes, they also vote for the German reds.

To conclude, it appears that the management of immigration demands more than a desire to do good under the assumption that, as the victims of something, migrants are virtuous and that they will appreciate help. In the real world, not every claimant is a victim, and not every real victim has become one due to his virtues. Additionally, those that wish to resettle under their own terms demand to continue within the confines of a culture that is out of tune with the modern world. If that is the case, the migration will bring failure, then disappointment, and that frustration will mutate first into criminality and then become social dynamite. Therefore, treat migration as a process that is to be controlled before it happens because its problems can prove to be unmanageable after permissiveness is allowed to create facts.

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