Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Display:
One thing that makes the US different (at least until recently) was the huge number of different ethnic groups in the general population.

During our history these groups have had their ups and downs. For example during the Irish immigrations they were considered a different "race". After a generation and their getting control of power in some urban cities, attitudes changed and now they were proud to be seen as "Irish-American". A similar thing has happened with Indians. The number of people self-identifying as of Indian decent has risen over the past several decades as their social position has improved (and economic from casinos).

We are seeing a similar situation with Hispanics. Several public figures are now playing up their Hispanic side wheres in the past they didn't make a big deal out of it. Bill Richardson is a good example.

An interesting case has arisen recently due to the large number of Asian children being adopted by non-Asian parents. Some of them have started up groups to help these children learn about their "culture". Given that most of these children arrived as infants and have no knowledge of their home country or of their native language is it the parent's role to impose a foreign culture on them? Are they somehow being branded for life and thus aren't free to become non-hyphenated Americans if they wish?

This problem is not unique to the US. We see the unwillingness of, say, Germans to let Turks lose their cultural identity, even those who have never been to Turkey. In the middle east Jordan regards its "Palestinian" citizens differently even though they have lived in Jordan for decades. Part of the reason for not absorbing the west bank is the fear that the "Palestinians" will become the majority in Jordan and thus it will lose its cultural purity.

It seems that others are unwilling to let people chose their own cultural affiliation. This leads to never-ending conflict.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 12:09:34 PM EST
the notion of the US as a unique country of immigration? France has an explicit tradition of immigration (and flows of pretty strogn intensity as well) for just as long as the US, even if integration did not take the same route.

And as has been discussed in earleir diaries, many European countries have long had fairly intense immigration flows, even if there was not any explicit integration policy, and a universalist, values-based integrationist message as in France and the USA.

But the USA are not unique today, and they were not a century ago in that respect.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 01:57:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You both make good points, but in fairness to rdf, I'd like to point out that while of course many countries have large immigrant populations, America's entire population -with the exception of the native peoples we tried very hard to exterminate- are immigrants or descended from immigrants, a few generations removed. And unlike, say, France - and here's where I think the crux of the matter lies - America is a relatively new country.  So most Americans' cultural identities are just as closely linked to some far away land as the country they live in.  

It's not the immigration flow that is unique, but the 1) absence, outside of museums and reservations, of a national identity preceding the immigration of vastly different groups and 2) the fact that this nation was founded - settled by immigrants who killed off the natives almost entirely - and founded only a few hundred years ago.  So for the most part, being American means being from somewhere else, by definition.  Whereas you can be 10th generation French and it means being French but you can be pro-immigration and eat ethnic food but when people ask you "What are you?" you will say "French."  An American, when asked that, will say, "Irish, German, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc etc."  Does that make sense?

We're not the only country of immigrants.  We're the only country with basically no native population.  Not left in tact, act any rate.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:30:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also the US does not seek to preserve its (or any) culture the way France does, with, IMO, both countries representing the extremes of either approach.

To get all idealistic, I wish people would start thinking of themselves as human rather than as some sub-identity, because all this cultural badgering has been a fantastically successful tool for the elites to manipulate the masses for millenia.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 04:02:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, I was trying to avoid going there.  And that's why I didn't want to talk about assimilation...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 04:05:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just repeat: I am a citizen of Earth. That's how i've felt for 15 years maybe? I guess once we mean real-life sentient aliens (assuming they exist), we'll have to revise that attitude. :)
by R343L (reverse qw/ten.cinos@l343r/) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 05:44:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US is unique because it has an explicit narrative of assimilation. In Europe we're more wary of the idea that immigration is good, and not quite sure how to go about making assimilation happen.

The US believes explicitly - or likes to pretend it does - that immigration is good, probably for the obvious reasons that it's a good source of cheap labour. Even though in practice communities seem to stick together even more than they do in Europe.

This proves how useful it is to have narratives. Even if they're nonsense, they make people behave in reliable and useful ways.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:35:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that the term "assimilation" is a difficult thing to work out.  I seem to perceive it in a much different way than I have seen it used in reference to Europe.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:43:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In Europe, assimilation is understood to mean stripping the immigrant of all traces of their previous identity.

Still today, in countries around Europe you see that dynamic at work, or at least advocated by a sizeable political minority.

I think in the US you're starting to develop some of the same, with the "English Only" movement, and so on.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:29:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly.  But I don't think the situation in America is nec. new; it seems to be the first chapter in all waves of immigration.  Although, given the size of the latest wave of immigration, it might be stronger.  Still, the same people who want English to be the official language will shoot you if you try to take away their nachos...  It's the jobs, not the culture, they want the immigrants stripped of...

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:34:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It might have something to do with the fact that the US has not only reached its maximum geographical extent, but also is commands a decreasing fraction of the world's resources and power. As long as you're expanding you can absorb immigration more easily because there's less competition for the existing resources.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:44:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France has a nexplicit narrative of assimilation, that's precisely my point.
France also believes that immigration is good, despite the temporary reactions.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 06:45:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not quite what I mean. If the French narrative is anything like the British one, it's going to lack the overt cheerleading 'It's all a melting pot' advertising that the US narrative has.

The key difference seems to be that patriotism is still a mainstream value in the US. We're much more suspicious of it in Europe. Aside from the racists, hardly anyone in the UK considers themselves patriotic, except in a negative 'At least we're not European' sense.

I'd guess - based on speculation - that France and Germany are mid-way between the two.

Without patriotism there isn't really anything to be assimilated into.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 08:14:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's really no patriotism in Germany as in France. When there's no World Cup around, you won't see any flags - and there's no general feeling of pride to be German. But it's a different thing about the integration of immigrants, we just don't get that right. But these two things don't seem to be directly connected.

/ After 9/11, Gerhard Schröder declared "We're all Americans now" and I was like "Huh? I'm having enough trouble with being German, thank you."

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu

by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Wed Jul 18th, 2007 at 02:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a) I qualified my description of American "uniqueness". Of course if you want to argue the Chopin and Marx were immigrants in the 19th Century, fine.

b) I also spent a good deal of time discussing the lack of absorption in European states, although I didn't mention the UK or France explicitly. I did mention Germany. My list wasn't meant to be exhaustive, just representative.

c) My main point was about allowing people to chose their own cultural identity which can be hampered by well-meaning parents, or prejudice or other factors.

If Europe wants to join in the list of culturally biased states, don't let me stand in the way...

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Tue Jul 17th, 2007 at 02:54:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Display:

Occasional Series