THE MULTICULTI TANGO
Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist (Random Walks)
and author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and
Identity. His editorials appear regularly in FRONTPAGEMAG.COM
speaks about his latest book, Hear,
O Israel! (Mantua Books), at frontpage.com.
takes two to tango, goes the cliché, a truth so evident
even the cliché must blush with embarrassment for expressing
it. But what is true of the tango is no less the case for the
complex immigration dance in which the newcomer is expected
to partner with the cultural norms and usages of his adoptive
country—or, to be precise, was expected to do so before
the terpsichorean disaster of multiculturalism introduced the
scrum we see daily enacted before our eyes.
successful integration of the immigrant into society demands
a series of intricate, syncopated steps: he (or she, as it goes
without saying) must learn the language well enough to function
in the marketplace and the public square; should acquire a familiarity
with at least the rudiments of the country’s history;
needs to seek employment so as not to become a burden on an
overextended welfare system; and must abide by his oath of loyalty
and assimilate peacefully into the life of nation.
conventional metaphor regarding optimal immigration is what
is known as the ‘melting pot,’ the paradigm developed
in the United States, not the ‘salad bowl’ model
prevalent in Canada and Europe. The melting pot works, more
or less; the salad bowl, with its fragmented ingredients, plainly
does not. A nation composed of immiscible elements is asking
for trouble. To revert to my controlling metaphor, immigrants
must learn to dance chest to chest and hip to hip with the partner
they have agreed to tango with.
too often, the synergy does not “take.” Indeed,
an alternative form of tango has become popular in recent years.
The tango nuevo, as it’s called, provides for an open
embrace which permits the ‘leader’ to perform all
manner of figures and evolutions of his choosing. Similarly,
the immigration dance has become ‘heteronormative,’
that is, the “lead” falls to the arrivalist who
creates a kind of hyphenated space in order to impose the motifs
he prefers on the other.
tango nuevo is fine and dandy on a Rioplatense dance floor,
but it does not belong in the multicultural ballroom. This means,
of course, that there is no room for the separating hyphen in
forming one’s national identity. Responding to the current
events in Egypt, an Egyptian-Canadian interviewed on CBC radio
affirmed, without the slightest awareness of the discrepancy,
“I am proud of my country.” The question that naturally
arises is: which country? For this particular individual, who
has been long settled in Canada, the answer is dismayingly clear.
He is not dancing to Canada’s tune, but to the exotic
strains of another cultural and political world.
recalls, too, that during the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war, the Canadian
government repatriated, at taxpayer largesse, several thousand
Lebanese-Canadians caught in the midst of the turmoil. After
hostilities had ceased and a year or so had passed, most of
these hyphenated beneficiaries of what they considered their
entitlement as Canadians returned to their sunny Mediterranean
billet as native Lebanese.
we are observing in all too many cases is not a dance in which
two partners agree to enact the proper steps, but a razzia,
a raid by one party upon the generosity of another while retaining
what amounts to an alien and often parasitical identity. Canada
is especially prone to such depredations. As Canadian Minister
of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney,
points out, “Canada has the highest relative level of
immigration in the developed world” and is, additionally,
saddled with a judiciary that is soft on refugee claims. Again,
this is asking for trouble, and there has been plenty of it.
Our position requires excessive caution and stringent rules
of admission, both in the protocols governing the reception
of illegals to our shores and the vetting of legitimate applications.
who are proud to be Egyptian should be . . . Egyptian. Canadians
who flee Lebanon at government expense and then return as soon
as the coast is clear should be . . . Lebanese. Canadians of
Muslim descent who attend radical mosques and plan jihad against
the country that has welcomed them, and who have no compunction
profiting from its social, medical and fiscal services, should
not be tolerated but deported. They have no place in the dance
hall. As Hungarian-born and National Post columnist George Jonas
said somewhere, he came to Canada because Canada needed more
Canadians, not because Canada needed more Hungarians.
European politicians have declared, however tardily, that multiculturalism
is a failed social experiment. Whether they will act on their
belated discovery or not is another issue, but Angela Merkel,
David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy appear to have heard the beat.
Certain rules apply if chaos is to be avoided and a measured
harmony to prevail. You dance with the one who brung you and
you dance to the music that is playing. There is a rhythm to
the history, customs, practices and civic expectations of a
country—what is loosely called the “national character—that
needs to be honored in the observance and not in the breach,
even if one is not,” to cite Hamlet, “native here/And
to the manner born.”
is not to say that the newcomer must slavishly adhere to every
single cultural demand and practice or that he or she cannot
lobby for change and amelioration. Canada at one time refused
women the vote. Before and during WW II, Jews were not welcome
in this country—“None is too many,” advised
a minister in the Mackenzie King government. Such aberrations
should be—and were—addressed, and nothing prevents
an immigrant from participating in the social discourse to bring
about needed reformations.
the point is that Canada, like other Western nations, comprises
the sort of political environment in which gradual and meaningful
improvement is possible and perhaps even inevitable, within
the framework of the larger cultural parameters established
by the tradition of parliamentary democracy, the rule of law,
and the intellectual breakthroughs of the Enlightenment. And
it is these traditions and advancements to which the newcomer
must adapt and remain faithful, irrespective of the discrete
imperfections that pertain at any given time. The orchestra
may hit wrong notes or one’s native partner may stumble
from time to time, but the pattern is discernible and needs
to be followed.
short, it takes two to tango; it takes only one to wreak havoc
on the dance floor, especially if he is new to the dance and
decides to cavort as he sees fit. The conclusion is obvious.
The multiculti tango needs to be abolished or at the very least
reconfigured, and the open space where the hyphen inserts itself
closed. Will Canada’s leaders have the courage to adopt
the necessary steps?
the eventual sequel does not seem especially promising. Last
tango in Canada, anyone?