Oct 13, 2008

Thoughts on Immigration and Culture Clash

FROM time to time I get to thinking about the difficulties people go through when they immigrate to countries, especially in the Western world. Radically different cultures clash, disagreements arise, and the biggest bugaboo is religion. And every new generation rebels against the old one's ways. So what do we do about this? Should the parents strictly enforce the homeland culture, or allow total integration into the new one, or try to balance the both, as they usually do?

Sooner or later, trying to enforce your own culture on your family, or even trying to make compromises and balance what you think is fairly, will backfire. The kids won't want to pray and go to the mosque, or stay strictly vegetarian, or wear the veil. And it's a matter of religion after all, you can't let it slide. Who knows where it will end. The neighbours will talk, rumours will start, and in general things will be awkward--at the very least.

How about totally integrating into mainstream society? Take your holidays when everybody else does, wish people Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas, have the wife work 9 to 5 and make the kids do chores in exchange for cellphones and computers. After all, you're in a new country for a reason--things didn't work out too well in the old country; too much corruption and unrest; no rule of law and in general, things were going to hell. And here--what a difference! The bureaucracy actually works; things are done fast, online, conveniently, and in general, with peace of mind.

So what's the difference? Why couldn't things work the same way back home? Is it because of religion, cultural attitudes, laziness, corruption--who knows--probably all those combined. So, for all their faults, these people here have been doing something right--they've built roads and highways (and managed to put a street name sign on almost every damn road at every damn intersection), skyscrapers and freight ships. They've speeded up government, maximised efficiency, reduced corruption to a minimum, and made sure people are helped with education, finding work, getting social support--even tax money back from the government.

So, if we do as they do, kind of embrace the culture and values (well, without eating pork or ... whatever), what would the end result be? Who knows? Outrageous idea--it'll never happen. People of pride and dignity, people who hold on to their ancient traditions which have served them so well, are never going to jump in the deep end and embrace the sinful ways of the Western world. But their kids....

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