Multiculturalism: the new new

By Moe Marjani

March 21, 2016

What is a culture and what makes it? Generally it is defined as set of ideologies, customs and beliefs shared by a group of people or society. To some extent, it shapes our values, behaviors, and experiences to make up our identity. Not a physical entity but it demonstrates roots like the origins, norms of folks, and history by artifacts, cookery and arts.

Of all the forms of communication used, language is the basic of transmitting culture but sometimes it can be arbitrary because some experiences are too personal or intimate to be described. In fact language may be a barrier to some, because to an extent it is a form of expression. If one were unable to accurately depict their inner thoughts, would it then make their feelings less valid because they are unable to express it? Would the person’s feelings be more valid if they were able to adequately convey it then? Arts, Literature, and other forms of expression may be more accurate forms to depict such sentiment and displacement of values.

In 1516, Sir Thomas More published Utopia. It is an imaginary social structure in an idealistic society in which everything is ultimately equal. Everyone works, everyone eats, everyone sleeps, and everyone dresses the same. It is equivalent in the sense of free choice of religion, freedom of work, free education-job placement, and free healthcare (although Utopians dislike atheism because they think that one must give thanks). Politically, Utopia is a proposed “democratic” government, where officials and administrators are voted into power. No outsiders discuss these matters in order to not create rebellion in Utopia. It may seem harsh, but it applies to all Utopians.

On the other hand, promiscuity is looked down upon because Utopians think they would not have the urge to wed. Slaves may be pardoned but slavery still exists, along with the death penalty, because criminals are prosecuted and deterred. Traveling is not easily permitted in Utopia because most cities are alike. This creates a mixture of freedom and repression; there are rules to maintain order but it seems to become meddlesome or obtrusive in Utopia.

My Anschauung is that with all the diversity of things that makes up our cultures and ideologies, some may agree that we are all unified under the same blanket that later may influence our not so different identities. The idea of modernity forces traditions and previous values to be rethought because of present-day diversity and migrations affects life to create the new culture we are living in as we move forward.

More’s fictional Utopia seems to be more of an irony and exaggeration rather than a proposal of a “perfect” egalitarian society because of some of the restrictions. To individuate uniquely in such societies is almost impractical because of the monopoly, constraints and likeness of everything. The satire of Utopian culture is apparent but it also has positive qualities like free healthcare and education, which some modern countries have. To some extent, there must be some form of order to keep and deter serious offenders. People would want to individuate and feel different in order to have a sense of some free will and identity.

Culture influences and affects reality. But the real question is what makes up a culture? And how to transition from one to another successfully as Cosmopolitans do? You integrate into the new culture but do you keep or develop some of your old values or traditions? Aren’t we then creating our own sub culture by mixing the old and new? Some traits need to be unified all across continents, such as acceptance and freedom of choice, social and spirituality. In the end, we are all the same race and need to accept the basis of diversity. 

This dynamic journey of migration and nurturing culture is endless, perhaps inevitable. We don’t have to throw out our old identities to define a more modern one, instead we should be able to bring the new and mix it with the old. As Homo sapiens we must appreciate and acknowledge former values, and understand how we’ve developed to what we define our current culture roles to be, with the question in mind to where we are heading for, and what is to be changed. Art draws this depiction sometimes by showing satire or truth of the worst or best of what our society has to offer. We must break loose of stigmas and leave our current places to look at ourselves from the outside to get a clearer image of us before it’s too late to appreciate or work on what we have to offer to humanity.

Moe Marjani is a second year English student at Simon Fraser University. He is interested in Humanist and early modern literature, learning about different cultures, food, and creative writing. If he is not sipping tea and bouncing between used bookstores, then most probably shooting moving images or cooking.