"Our country must not become a mosaic of communities, no one else should ever wear a yellow star," "
So spoke Fadela Amara, the French junior minister for urban affairs, when asked about a new proposal to collect data on the ethnic origins of French citizens.
It's a statement that on the first and too fast reading, I wouldn't have agreed with; various times on here I've pointed out that for its long-term future, the best model for a truly United Kingdom is the mosaic format, bringing together in one picture the many ethnicities, religions, histories, "cultures" that are located in our nation. I was also initially surprised that it was Fadela Amara who made this statement; after all, she is of North-African origin herself. But on closer investigation, it's obvious that her problem is not the existence of the various differing strands of Frenchness- she is alerting her fellow countrymen and women to the danger to national unity posed by the development by the mosaic of "communities", not that of the individual peoples.
"Community" is most definitely now a vogue word within the UK political lexicon. We have, of course, the "Muslim", "Hindu", "Jewish" and Sikh "Communities". Over the last few years the "East European" "Community" has greatly expanded and joined its place amongst others, such as the earlier established "Afro-Caribbean", "South-Asian", Chinese and "Irish" "Communities" in our towns and cities. In Northern Ireland, we have the protestant/Unionist/Orange/British Community living jowl to cheek with its Roman Catholic/Nationalist/Irish counterpart.
Except we don't. Despite what The Newsletter might tell you, there is no homogeneous "protestant" community who all to a man vote DUP, wear the Sash and support Rangers. Trust me, some even would describe themselves as Irish. We're all individuals and this should be a basic, self-evident truth, but it's a point which even seasoned observers of the scene like Tom Griffin sometimes completely miss.
Similarly on the mainland, why on earth do we continue to persist with the belief that all people who share the same metaphorical church, mosque, temple, synagogue on Friday, Saturday, Sunday need necessarily also share enough of their political, cultural, social and yes, even religious beliefs to build up an autonomous "community". To talk about a East European community which will comprise, in all probability, of at least a dozen nationalities and more than three versions of Christianity (never mind any other religion) is also quite clearly a nonsense. As is the case with the "Afro-Caribbean" "Community", the "South Asian Community", the Chinese Community etc.
The reason we persist with the "community" concept is threefold and covered by three words now synonymous with the term "community" in the UK: "spokesmen", "funding" and "politics". Show me a self-described "community and I will show you very soon afterwards its self-described community "spokesmen". Very shortly after will follow the community "funding" to, well, fund the "spokesmen" or those ever helpful "workers" (in Northern Ireland, for some peculiar reason,both of these groups tend also to be convicted terrorists of one stripe or other...how very communal). Most importantly for the integrity and cohesiveness of our unified nation and most definitely bringing up the rear is community "politics".
The "commmunity" "politics" expressed more often than not are the politics of those afore-mentioned "community" spokesmen. The problem being that these community guardians are rarely (if ever) aware or caring about the bigger picture beyond their own little powerbase. Their target is not for their community to be one of those small, interconnecting pieces making up that bigger picture that is our joint and shared society in the United Kingdom. Their target is to find enough space for their community to "develop" (ie expand) its interests and influence and, naturally, as a side effect for them personally, to simultaneously "develop" (ie pull in more power and finance). As Mme Amara has intimated in the case of France, such a growth of autonomous and often conflicting "communities" most likely will prove to be disastrous for the overall cohesiveness and unity of a nation.
I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a British multi-culturalist of the laissez-faire, libertarian variety. I'm not only comfortable with the fact that the United Kingdom is a multi-cultural nation, I positively welcome the fact. Jacques Chirac once said that France's strength lay in its diversity- I believe the United Kingdom can also gain a great strength and benefit from the diversity of its various peoples- but that diversity has to be one which is not derived from the independent growth of separate and separatist groupings or "communities". The necessary diversity must come from individuals having the right to enjoy and express their identity and the responsibility to respect the identity of others within the widest legal parameters afforded by the state.
Chekov had something relevant on this topic here a couple of weeks ago.