Inter-cultural versus multicultural dialogue

Retrograde politicians constantly wave the phantom of immigrant invasion under the shadow of multi-culture. They pretend that immigrants organize themselves in our countries in ghettos where they impose their culture, their religion and traditions that could clash with the social rights recognized by our laws. In this aspect, people who arrive at a country must respect the laws that protect basic rights, which are the cause of the development and well being that seduced these immigrants to abandon their countries of origin. Let us not be naïve: no developed country can accept the segregation of women or children in any way, nor their mutilation nor that they are forced to marry against their will. These are fundamental rights recognized after long social battles. A very different thing is the respect to immigrants’ customs and traditions in their food, their dress, their parties and their religious practice as long as they don’t alter the established order. That’s how inter-cultural dialogue enriches citizens of diverse origins. Deep inside, only the stubborn ignores that we all are a mixture and that we belong to a same race with different tints. Starting with the respect to the host society, an attitude of respect, of interest towards the other and of mutual help towards the one who arrives is needed to foster his integration without losing his signs of identity.
I often say in my classes that immigrants are very educated people who return the visits that us Europeans have made to their lands during 500 years. They already know the path: it is enough for them to repeat the one the conquerors, preachers and colonizers followed while they exploited their lands, uprooted their traditions and beliefs and subdued them under the myth of the three C’s that Leopold II of Belgium invoked during the Berlin Conference in 1885: “Civilization, Christianity and Commerce.”
But immigration is a sociological phenomenon that exerts a basic right since “things do not belong to their owner, they belong to the one who needs them,” like a farmer of Chocó, Colombia, taught me. The fact that immigration needs to be regulated by the host country and by the visiting country does not give anyone the patent to prepotency, to commiseration or to abuse.
In the sociological North, the politically correct thought is the orthodoxy that the market governs and the government administrates what the market dictates. It is the apotheosis of the conservative revolution of the eighties along with a rampant liberalism that proposes the maximum economic benefit, no matter what the material or human cost is. These are the theses of the savage capitalism elevated to the category of development model whose products are: less than thirty rich countries over more than 150 poor countries, which finance the economic development of the North. The numbers cry out loud: since the eighties, the money fluxes from South to North are three times larger to the disappearing investments that Northern countries do within themselves in 80 percent of the cases. It is precise to end the opposite mirage.
The dominating globalization promotes the expansion of a society of information, the worldly unification of economic changes, the growth of international financial webs, the emergence of new industrialized countries and the economic and military hegemony of the United States.
One of the great paradoxes of globalization is that it does not reach the mobility of the world labor force. It is paradoxical because economic globalization de-nationalizes national economies while it re-nationalizes politics. It is a given that border controls that weigh upon capital, information and service fluxes must be lifted. But when it is about immigrants and refugees, rich countries impose their right to control the borders.
Fifty years ago, neither Africans nor Latin Americans emigrated with the actual rhythm. Meridian Europeans were the immigrants: Spaniards, the Portuguese, Italians, Greeks and the Irish.
The one who emigrates has a feeling of rupture and integration can imply uprooting. The host society considers itself a society of arrival more than it considers itself a society of welcoming, while North is a society of consumption more than it is of the well being that their media presented us. Finally, the return turns into a myth because it has more to do with the moment than with the place: you cannot go back with empty hands because you are the dreamt hope of the family that sent, sustains and awaits you.
The most fearful threat for humans is demographic explosion. The Summit on Population and Development, celebrated in Cairo in 1994, highlighted that the increase of education in female children and women reduces fertility rates and mortality numbers. It is proved that in all countries where women have access to education and to responsibility positions that belong to them, the demographic curve has gone down to extremes that make the aid to immigrants to guarantee the payment of retirement money through their participation in Social Security. All this while they do jobs that many local people don’t want to do and guarantee the social and economic development.
It is evident that the immigrant invasion psychosis that certain retrograde politicians wave is senseless and suicidal because it undermines economic development and the social development of many countries. Spain supported itself with immigration to Latin America during centuries and sent millions of citizens during decades to other European countries under the conditions other immigrants live with today and of which people they are so scared. The negative impact that is attributed to foreign workers on unemployment and productivity has no solid base.
Any immigration policy will fail if it limits itself to work on the conditions of the destination place and does not question what happens in the source. Europe, a land of emigrants, has to recognize the natural right to emigration and favor the most generous legislation to convert this land into a land of shelter, like simple reciprocity in the welcoming of those who one day not far away from today received tens of thousands of Europeans.
It is possible to favor that integration without any absorption. It is precise to respect and to pact the future to make the present a feasible one.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 05/23/2005