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Sunday, February 29, 2004
Migration and culture

If you get the chance between now and Wednesday evening, do listen to this week's Moral Maze, which has a fantastic debate on migration, integration and culture. Melanie Phillips and Michael Gove really do make some excellent points, and it is striking too just how feeble their opponents were at answering those willing to put a conservative case so fearlessly. Once you delve a little into the unthinking rhetoric about ethnic or cultural "diversity" being somehow an end in itself - a view both inimical to the ideal of colourblindness and deeply offensive to such proud and successful mono-ethnic nations as Japan - there is generally very little thought behind the slogans.

For those who don't listen to the programme, here are three great quotes from the debate.

"British society is rooted, for example, in the values of equality and liberty. The equality derives from Protestantism, the liberty derives from a particular liberal contract based on the rule of law going back to the Enlightenment. Now these are particular to British society - and one could say Western civilisation, but let's limit it to Britain. Now if you're not able to teach that history because not enough people can actually identify with it at any stage, then you're in trouble, aren't you?" - Melanie Phillips

"I think there are pockets of the country where there are many cultures and where there any many ethnicities, but I think that overall the numbers of different cultures in this country is still extremely small. But there are people who wish to make it multicultural against the views of the majority.

I think there are two distinct paradigms now. One is the paradigm that we are all used to which is that our primary duty is to our family, our locality and our nation. The other paradigm which is now the sort of dominant view among the political chattering classes is that we owe an equal responsibility to the entire world, that the nation is somehow illegitimate and that instead of the nation we should have supranational laws and institutions, and this is a direct threat to liberal democracy." - Melanie Phillips

"[P]eople who want to dissolve shared values and dissolve the notion of the West use migrant communities and ethnic minorities as conscript armies to make that argument, and say, for example, that the shared narrative that we might understand needs to be deconstructed in order to take account of these sensibilities.

... [T]here has been economic benefits and other benefits that have come about as a result of migration. The one thing that I am uneasy about is saying to people 'These benefits have come. Now shut up and accept it' and that comes from Northern Ireland. It seems reasonably clear from our historical perspective that Ulster benefitted from the economic modernisation of the Protestant plantation of the 17th Century. Most historians would agree with that. But because of that plantation, ie. because of mass migration from Scotland to Ireland in the 1700s, we've got a huge ethnic problem now. And you thought you were being clever, Ian [Hargreaves] - and you were being quite clever - in bringing Ulster up, but Ulster is actually on Melanie's side of the argument not on yours because it proves that migration can lead, hundreds of years hence, to all sorts of social fracture." - Michael Gove

Probably no more posts until Monday afternoon, I am afraid. Until then, I shall be doing this.

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