Immigration and Assimilation

Culture’s have a limit to the rate at which they can absorb new immigrants. And I’m not saying this because of some prejudice against new comers. Rather, I think it’s a matter of common sense – backed up by simple empirical observation.

And this ‘rate’ is not a constant. It varies with how similar the immigrants are to the culture they are joining.

Close cultural analogs like say, Canada and Britain, could absorb large numbers of each other’s people without much distress.

But when the receiving and donating cultures are significantly different, then concerns about what rates are supportable should come into play.

When new comers, who are significantly different than the receiving culture, immigrate into it at too high a rate, they will tend to collect into small insular communities based on their previous culture. If these insular communities grow faster than cultural assimilation can dilute them, the result will eventually be two distinct cultures living where one used to be and a type of cultural schizophrenia will result.

When a country’s culture is essentially cut from one cloth, one can say that the culture of the country ‘owns’ itself. One can say that ‘it’ can rightfully decide if ‘it’ wants to let immigrants in and in what quantities and from what sources. It is within its power to decide whether it wants to allow high rates of immigration and risk cultural schizophrenia – or if it wants to hold the rates low enough to make genuine assimilation by the new comers into the original culture probable.

But, once the immigration barn door has been left wide open for awhile and a large secondary culture is present, then this power of the original culture to decide its own fate erodes and eventually disappears – because the fate being decided is no longer exclusively its own. From that point forward, there are other voices who also have the power and the right to have a say about the country’s decisions and directions.

The central take-away idea here is that the point-of-power for the original monochromatic culture is when it still ‘owns’ itself. Then it still has the right to decide how things will evolve for itself. But once the culture has allowed itself to become multicultural, then the original culture no longer has the right to decide for everyone in the tent – much as they might regret their earlier enthusiasm for multiculturalism.

I said that a lot of this is based on common sense and empirical observations. Look at the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Holland just to name a few cultures which are now multicultural and somewhat schizophrenic as a result of it.

Ask yourself if the original German culture in Germany can and should be able now to make sweeping decisions about further Turkish immigration?

Perhaps they physically could, since they still outnumber the Turks, but the question runs a lot deeper than having a simple majority now. The Turks are there in sufficient numbers and for a long enough time that they have, or should have, a seat at the table when decisions are made in Germany about immigration. And, if the Germans don’t like it – well , the irony’s on them since they were the ones who originally invited the Turks to come. The same could be said of the U.S. and the Mexicans or France and the North Africans.

The following attributes of immigrants are important to think about when a country considers the rate at which they can allow immigration to proceed without Balkanization occurring:

– Do the immigrants speak the local language fluently?
– Do the immigrants share many of the same cultural assumptions?
– Do the immigrants share the same religious traditions?
– Do the immigrants have respect for the receiving culture?

As more of these attributes end up being answered with a ‘No‘, then the rate at which such people can be assimilated into their new culture without Balkanization occurring drops proportionally. In other words, the more different they are, the longer it will take for them to be assimilated and the fewer of them that can be dealt with at once.

Language is a tough one. It is very hard to feel at home, feel accepted and be accepted when you don’t speak the language of the new culture.

When the culture assumptions are different, it also makes assimilation more difficult. The way one dresses, the kinds of food one eats, the way business is conducted, how men and women interact publicly. All of these and more are mine fields that have to be navigated by the new immigrants if they are to be assimilated. The things that are familiar to them must be partially set aside and the ways that are foreign to them must be adopted if they hope to really assimilate into their new culture.

Neither of these barriers (language and culture) are easy to get by. And if, when you arrive in your new country, you find ready-made enclaves there of people speaking your language and practicing your cultural assumptions, then how likely is it that you are going choose to go through the hard work of assimilating into your new culture by living outside the enclaves and struggling to learning a new language? A few will – but most won’t.

Religion may or may not be a factor. Mexicans are culturally quite different than Americans or Canadians but they share the same root Christianity in their religious beliefs. But that’s not to say that a Buddhist from Southeast Asia or a Hindu from India would have a harder time being assimilated in America than a Mexican because they are Buddhist or Hindu. Frankly, I don’t think they would have a harder time because their religions are not essentially antithetical towards Christianity and western culture. But, in the more conservative variants of Islam – that’s another matter. Some conservative Muslim’s fundamentally believe that western culture is corrupt and that their mission as Muslims is to convert the world to Islam.

So the point really isn’t about religion but about whether or not the new immigrants have respect for the culture they are joining or if they’ve just decided that they can tolerate it in exchange for the other benefits that will accrue to them by living there.

I’m sure that there are those who will read what I’ve written here and think that I am a prejudiced and bigoted individual.

If you feel that way, I am sorry, but I must respectfully disagree. I think all I’ve done is point out the obvious mechanics that come into play when cultures are mixed.

The most important point I want to make here is directed at those countries who are still essentially composed of one culture; those countries who still essentially ‘own’ themselves and rightfully have the ability to decide how they wish their own future to evolve for the good of the people who live there now.

Unless you want to be split into multiple competing cultures at odds with each other, you must limit the rate of your immigration to levels that will allow the new comers to be genuinely assimilated into your dominate culture. You must select immigrants who speak your language fluently to optimize their probable success. And, you must select immigrants whose cultures and religions are not antithetical to your own; immigrants who will willingly accept being assimilated into their new culture because they can respect its values – rather than immigrants who disdain its values and will simply tolerate it until they can amass sufficient force to subvert it.

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