Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Integration, assimilation, and the mixture of fluids

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As the recurring reader knows, one of the main political topics in Sweden this year has been immigration. One particular sub-issue (especially after Angela Merkel’s recent remarks on the German situation) has been that of integration: Should immigrants integrate themselves into the existing society or should society develop into a highly inhomogeneous mixture of different cultural groups and traditions.

I have for some time been pondering the analogy of integration and the admixture of fluids to an original fluid:

On the one hand, we have integration, as in the traditional US melting potw or a regular mixed drink, where the various cultures are mixed in with the pre-dominant culture, the immigrants adapt to society, and the result is comparatively homogeneous.

On the other, we have Multikultiw, what amounts to a layered drinkw: Immigrants keep their ways unchanged, often over generations, and society instead adapts and accommodates to allow for new niches.

Now, I am not going to state that the one is necessarily better than the other—they both have advantages and disadvantages, and the extreme versions of both are likely best avoided. (Personally, I am strongly in favour of immigrants adapting with regard to laws, etiquette, and, when in public, behavioural norms; but see religion, musical taste, behaviour in the own home, and similar, as distinctly private decisions. The border-line areas can be quite tricky.) I am, however, going to stress that the propaganda by e.g. the Swedish Left that multikulti is the only fair and workable solution is wrong: Most notably, as with fluids, it is wrong to claim that society would be unaffected by integration or that society would not be enriched by other cultures in this manner: Each new drop/immigrant subtly changes the whole, and many drops over a long time can have an enormous effect.

(As an aside, this propaganda includes the rhetorical trick of co-opting the word “integration” to mean multikulti and to attack those espousing integration, correctly using “integration”, for trying to deceive the public—the Newspeakw demands “assimilation”. As discussed above, the one-sided adaption implied by “assimilation” is highly misleading—as if the dash of lemon added to a cup of tea would magically turn into tea… Also see the etymologies of integratee and assimilatee.)

The greatest benefit of analogies is not their value as illustrations, but that observing one side of the analogy can lead to insights and ideas about the other side. I invite the reader to spend some time contemplating the mixture of fluids and whether some of the same issues are relevant for immigration policies. Consider, e.g., that integration depends on the cooperation of the “integratees”—some fluids can be mixed temporarily through external forces (e.g. stirring), but will separate again when the stirring ceases. Or: Mixing too “antagonized” fluids can result in an explosive.

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Written by michaeleriksson

October 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

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