Multiculturalism for me

‘Nation l’arc en ciel’– rainbow nation is the place I hail from, most affectionately called so by itswell wishers. A view not necessarily shared by those living there who are byday, discovering their many mitigated differences, a strong pawn played by ruthlesspoliticians.

Living for years now ina cosmopolitan United Kingdom, I am still discovering new cultures which keeps oncoming in this land mass of 243,000 km2 for its 64 millions heads. In itsfabric, the country still remains reserved in areas mainly inhabited by itsnative people with pockets only in certain suburbs of main cities andtowns. The term cosmopolite would subtlymean multicultural, if not a positive way of viewing the changing fascia ofmany of these quarters. Where the streams of theworld’s cultures merge together to form new currents of human interaction.Though superficial and only a manifestation of the shrinking of the globe, eachsuch vignette is a symbol of the mingling and melding of human cultures. Localphenomenon within my area as observed, would be a church turned into a Hindutemple or better into a Yoga center. Here, I would not miss the suddenopposition of the Club of Christians asking the Yoga classes be stopped sincethey ‘have got nothing to do with Christianity’. Well, this is only an oddissue. Local, of course.

However, coming back to our beans, For good reason. Nation, culture, andsociety exert tremendous influence on each of our lives, structuring ourvalues, engineering our view of the world, and patterning our responses toexperience. Human beings cannot hold themselves apart from some form ofcultural influence. No one is culture free. I mainly travel for work in theHumanitarian sector, if not doing home based assignments. Interacting in a widefabric of the world’s population, hence feeling very ‘at home’ having beenbrought in a multicultural environment of various ethnicities, speaking a fewlanguages. However, many a times I have questioned what the term‘internationalist’ means, defined as ‘a person who trusts other nations, iswilling to cooperate with other countries, perceives international agencies aspotential deterrents to war, and who considers international tensions reducibleby mediation.But in each new situation, people went on a visual connectivity first,and employ the psychoanalytic profile of differences to decide if one isfamiliar or not. Which means that each time categorization plays a huge part indefining a fist lapse in human interaction. The second attempt is to measure the world-mindedness of individuals by exploring the degreeto which persons have a broad international frame of reference rather thanspecific knowledge or interest.

However broad or wide, the multicultural individual, per say, isuniversal, and timeless. As such it consists of someone who does not at alleliminate culture differences. Rather, he or she “seeks to preservewhatever is most valid, significant, and valuable in each culture as a way ofenriching and helping to form the whole. A similar sample is seen in theevolving smaller nations which are easier to contain. One like Mauritius, forexample. It is only after living away in a different culture, face to otherculture that I can understand the pathos of the people of my native islandbetter. I know that switching from one language to another is not consideredrude, but just an effort to make oneself more explicit. Entertaining with avaried menu life a Chinese starter, with an Indian main, a French dessert andlocal rum and beer alongside is absolute socially correct, and not a faux pasof your ignorance in how to entertain, nor to cook. But rather guarantees greatcheer. Likewise, choosing to wear an Oriental Cheongsam in a Muslim weddingparty is perfectly acceptable, if not attracting envy as to who your designeris or where you got the brocade from; whatever the manifestation, orcircumstance, I have observed similarities in interaction between differentcultures on a single platform. Which sends us signals that the technologies ofcommunication of our age had perhaps bridged the gap of many generations.

Whichmakes us think that the multicultural person is a radical departure from thekinds of identities found in both traditional and mass societies. He or she isneither totally a part of nor totally apart from his or her culture; instead,he or she lives on the boundary. One thing remains common to the individual, though : he/she keeps the inherited pattern of behaviour and continue living in the same manner adapting to new cultures and races. Likewise, am a happy goose eating ‘Injera’ (Ethiopian/Eritrean flat bread) for breakfast with my Mauritian rougaille (tomato sauce with provencal herbs) and feast on a very Welsh cake for tea. Totally, unfazed by this myriad of cultures I churn in a daily basis, I still have time for more …