Analysis Of The Multiculturalism And Diversity Cultural Studies Essay

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Living in the 21st century, we are more connected to each other than ever.   With that being said, there is a necessity for us to maintain our cultural diversity as we merge into such a multicultural world.   Multiculturalism is, in essence, the study of how individuals from different ethnic, minority, or rural backgrounds receive, analyze, and respond to information that is presented to them. The principle of cultural diversity takes multiculturalism a step further, changing the mainstream approach so that the different ways of receiving, analyzing, and responding to information are all seen as being culturally aware.   In the world of today we are all directly or indirectly involved in the cultural socialization and globalization. At times one is so much engaged in trying to blend in that one forgets to be a real "self".

Individuals are in the presence of dozens of new and unfamiliar cultures as a result of increased travel, international trade and foreign media contacts. Many people welcome this new diversity as stimulating and enabling while others find it unsettling and are fearful of losing indigenous cultures that is the basis of their livelihood. These feelings have been articulated in various outlets and have been the focus matter of administrative organizations. As a result, many governments in countries scattered around the world must decide how to respond to this situation.

Self is the consciousness of one's own identity, an essential quality that make a person distinct from all others.   In a multi-cultural global society, it is this "self" or diversity that must be maintained even at a cultural level.   There are so many influences upon the world from Western societies, digital entertainment, merchandise, food companies, etc., that individual rituals or customs of lesser nations begin to fall to the wayside.   Along with this is the demise and complete destruction of indigenous groups around the world.   This is the problem; throughout all of this globalization and modernization we need to hold onto individual and cultural grass root traditions.   It is the loss of indigenous individuality that is instigating the lack of or struggle to maintain diversity in this world.

Over the ages, distant merchants have landed upon the shores of new nations and either claimed it as their own or created large settlements. These new pioneers have spread their principles and ideas either intentionally or not with no remorse or thought in respecting the indigenous cultures where they have forced their cultures. This has led to the struggle in indigenous people trying to maintain their identity and way of life against that of the new settlers.

As a result of foreign trade, globalization has given rise the increased stream of assets. Foreign ventures in oil, gas and mining has risen four to five times between 1988 and 1997. Subsequently, there happens to be an abundant supply of natural resources in regions populated by indigenous people.   These bands of indigenous people are greatly affected by this influx of outside investment and the foreign cultures that accompany it. The cultural uniqueness and socio-economic justness of indigenous people are being threatened in several ways. There is insufficient acknowledgment of the cultural importance of the land and territories that indigenous people inhabit. Mineral removal undertakings lead to extensive dislocation of communities and loss of their farmlands and it affects both their sense of cultural identity and their source of sustainable livelihood. On top of this, Indigenous people are excluded from decision-making processes involving the farm and properties that belong to them.

Information gained by indigenous people is also easily misappropriated. Traditional knowledge about plants with medicinal value, food varieties that consumers demand and other valuable knowledge is quickly picked up by capitalists, who apply for patents on these knowledge. Forero (2003) concluded that seven thousand patents had been granted for the unsanctioned use of traditional knowledge or the misappropriation of medicinal plants. Developing countries, as well as individual indigenous groups, seldom have the resources to challenge these patents in foreign jurisdictions.

The number of people living outside their country of birth has increased from seventy-six million in 1960 to one hundred and fifty-four million in 1990 and one hundred and seventy-five   million in 2000 (The Guardian, 2001). Scientific advances have made travel and communications extremely fast, inexpensive, and reliable. Based upon this mixing of cultural groups, people are living amongst new cultures and rituals on a daily basis.

"In the spring of 2007, 1,651 residents participated in a random-digit-dialed, computer-assisted telephone survey about a wide range of social and civic issues facing Los Angeles. The dataset also includes the census tract number corresponding to each respondent's place of residence, enabling us to consider the demographic context of respondents' views of racial issues. Census tracts are unlikely to correspond perfectly to residents' mental image of the ethnic and racial mix contained in their "neighborhood," but the tract identifiers provide a useful starting point to consider the consequences of multiple dimensions of diversity in local areas across Los Angeles. (Cohen-Marks & Faught, 2010)"

The study concluded that there were consistent patterns based on race or ethnicity and that African Americans tend to have more negative perceptions of race relations than other ethnic groups in Los Angeles.   This could have an impact regarding enhanced flow of investment, knowledge, cultural goods and people give rise to problems in cultural adjustment and issues of conflict management and control. While some countries oppose migrants from settling and invading their culture and taking up their jobs, others are more open and try to integrate foreign cultures into their own. The Human Development Report (2004) argues that societies and governments must not choose either extreme, but must chose a middle path whereby they can design country specific policies that widen choices by supporting and protecting national identities while also keeping borders open for choosing newer ways of life.

Indigenous people are increasingly being drawn into global networks. In the long term, cultural isolation is unlikely to be a viable although sometimes desired option (Smith & Ward, 2000). Global flows of goods, ideas, people and capital can seem to be a threat to national culture. It can lead to the abandonment of traditional values and practices and dismantling of the economic basis on which the survival of indigenous culture depends.

A global culture is not about the English language or global brand identities - it is about universal ethics based on universal human rights and respect for the freedom, equality and dignity of all individuals. The aim of multicultural policies is to protect cultural liberty and expand people's choices - in the ways people live and identify themselves - and not to penalize them for those choices. For instance, women in India usually wore saris at work in the 1980's while they now feel free to wear blouses and trousers to work. People should not be bound to maintain an immutable box called "a culture" (Human Development Report 2004). One must understand that cultural identities are heterogeneous and evolving and they are subject to dynamic change due to internal inconsistencies and conflicts that drive them.

For that reason, a strategy of multiculturalism is supported by the following four principles. First, defending tradition can hold back human development. Cultural conservatism can discourage or prevent people from adopting a different lifestyle which is concurrently followed gainfully by a different society. Although there might be much that is consonant with universal values and practices, much else might be inconsistent. Such inconsistencies can be removed by learning from other cultures. For instance, a community that is traditionally lazy can learn how people of other societies are more productive and are able to enjoy their life to a greater extent. Second, respecting diversity and differences is essential to becoming a global citizen. The fear of a loss of national identity and culture comes from the belief that cultural diversity leads to conflict. In fact, it is the suppression and opposition of cultural identity and social, political and economic exclusion on the basis of culture that can spark violence and tensions. Third, diversity thrives in a globally interdependent world. Today's intensified global interactions can function well when these are governed by bonds of shared values, communication and commitment. Societies can develop cultural freedom by developing multiple and complementary identities as citizens of a state and members of a cultural group as well as being a global citizen (Human Development Report, 2004). Differences and diversity must be respected to avoid morbid mistrust for all things foreign resulting in policies that shut them out. Multiple and complementary identities are a reality in many countries where people have a sense of belonging to the country as well as to a group or groups within it.   Lastly, addressing imbalances in economic and political power can help to forestall threats to the cultures of poor and weak communities.

Shutting out ones' culture from external cultural interactions is not feasible in the face of constant change. However, governments and international institutions can form policies such that traditions consistent with universal values can continue while giving people the choice to change over to newer lifestyles while discarding ineffective ones.

The current necessity is to launch pro-poor public and corporate governance, effective social and environmental policies and respect for human rights though discussions with governments, indigenous people's organizations, industry, labor unions and academia. Many private companies and indigenous people are working together for development. The World Intellectual Property Organization's General Assembly established an Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore in October 2000 (Human Development Report, 2004). Intellectual property rights are being extended in countries like Australia to protect traditional knowledge of indigenous communities. The essence is to include and integrate indigenous people in a globally integrated world.

States and international institutions need to take the following measures in order to incorporate the concerns of indigenous peoples into the flow of investment and knowledge: explicitly recognize indigenous people's rights over their physical and intellectual property require consultations with indigenous communities and their participation for the use of any resource, thus ensuring informed consent, and empower communities by developing strategies to share benefits.

Whether to treat cultural goods like any other commercial good or to make them an exception has become a highly contested issue in international trade negotiations. Some people consider products like films to be commodities with others feel that these are cultural products conveying values, ideas and meaning and therefore deserving special treatment. Accordingly several groups like those of film directors have led measures to insert "cultural exception" clauses into trade rules, thereby excluding cinema and other audiovisual foods from their provisions. The cultural exceptions touch people's concerns that their national cultures might be swept away by the economic forces in the global market, threatening their cultural identity.

Many people fear that foreign films and television programs will spread foreign culture and eventually obliterate local cultures and traditional values. However, free flows of foreign products widen cultural choices and do not necessarily weaken commitment to national culture. Teenagers the world over listen to rap but that has not meant the death of classical music or local fold music traditions while attempts to shut off foreign influences might only lead to smuggled access to such products.

Some countries, like Hungary, protect their productions through a quota of fifteen percent for national programs on the national television channel (Cohen, 2004). Once again, protection would involve reducing or blocking imports thereby decreasing expansion of diversity and choice. On the other hand promotion can help in maintaining healthy cultural industries while also keeping trade links open. In Hungary, six percent of the television receipts go to the production of Hungarian films. The 2001 Declaration on Cultural Diversity of the UNESCO set the stage for a number of international initiatives to encourage cultural diversity and biodiversity.

The emergence of cultural industries can be supported by local governments. Local infrastructure can be created to export cultural products as well as build business incubators to encourage small and medium sized companies to market their products. International funds can also be mobilized for the same. Cultural tourism and partnerships with the World Trade Organization can disseminate advice to host communities on ways and means to protect and promote indigenous cultures. A number of creative methods can be undertaken to enhance the choices and enriching the changing culture.

It is extremely common for more and more immigrants to be living in foreign lands while maintaining close ties with their country of origin through low cost travel and communications. There are polarized solutions to this issue. Some would like to acknowledge the diversity and promote the inclusion of immigrants, while an alternative advocated by anti-immigrant groups would be to close countries to flows of people reversing the trend of increasing diversity.

Those fearing that immigrants threaten national values make three arguments: that immigrants reject the core values of the country; that immigrant and local cultures clash inevitably leading to social conflict and fragmentation and that immigrant cultures are inferior and if allowed a foothold would undermine democracy and retard progress, a drain on economic and social development.

Accommodating multiple cultures is not an easy job and requires blurring the boundaries that separate "us" and "not us". People easily feel the dangers of having to accept those that are "not us" into their own groups in the future with possible accompanying degenerations. Although accepting multiple cultures is difficult, history shows that it does happen. Contrary to popular beliefs that immigration can lead to cultural degeneration, immigration actually supports economic growth and development. Seventy percent of the foreign born students who get doctorates in the USA stay there and contribute to the country's development.

The way forward to this dilemma would be one of cultural recognition and socio-economic and political inclusion. Traditionally, there have been two approaches towards immigrants differentialism and assimilation (Human Development Report, 2004). Differentialist polities help maintain clear boundaries between groups and respect them as separate communities, while assimilation policies seek to make immigrants become "more like us". Both these approaches are inadequate for societies that respect diversity and differences. Culturally diverse societies are not predestined to disintegrate or to lose their national cultures and identities. Immigrants can in fact become full members of their adopted countries and still maintain ties to their countries of origin. The challenge is to craft polities that integrate the objectives of unity and respect for difference and diversity.

Multiculturalism has recently become a third approach to integrating immigrants into the mainstream, one that recognizes the value of diversity and supports multiple identities. It began in Canada in the early 1960's, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau articulated the idea in response to the challenges of a diverse population of indigenous people, French and English settlers (Human Development Report, 2004).

Multiculturalism is not only about recognizing different value systems and cultural practices within society - it is also about building a common commitment to core, non-negotiable values such as human rights, rule of law, gender equality, and diversity and tolerance (IOM, 2003). Australia and India describe this as "Unity in Diversity" or Vasudevaya Kutumbakam - the world is a global family. Such a policy emphasizes not only the freedom of individuals to express and share their cultural values but also abide by mutual civic obligations.

Throughout this paper, the topic of globalization has been looked at through its effects on indigenous cultures. Indigenous cultures are affected by the flow of investment and knowledge, flow of cultural goods and the flow of people. It was argued that a multicultural approach must be followed while respecting the diversity and differences of various cultures. None of the flows should be shut off in order to protect the indigenous as this can only lead to myopia and lack of informed choice. Cultures are naturally changing due to inherent inconsistencies and there is much to gain from diverse cultures.

Indigenous people must be included in the decision making process related to their physical and intellectual property in an interconnected world. Cultural products can be promoted through creative funding without shutting off trade links. Immigrant populations are capable of nurturing multiple identities, which can be enriched through a multicultural policy based on respect for differences and diversity. A globally interdependent world needs a multicultural strategy for native residents and immigrants that incorporate the fundamental principles of human rights and duties that benefit everyone. Complementary identities, or one's "self" can evolve across national boundaries under these circumstances and identity and freedom can then flourish in a culturally diverse world.