Monday, February 7, 2011

An attempt at a personal definition of the word 'multicultural'; or Why I Do Not Agree with David Cameron

  • Stories, diverse stories, of people from different backgrounds, different cultures.
  • Languages, so diverse, that can express in a single word things that I struggle to say in many.
  • Ways of looking, beautiful faces of so many different colours and hues and shapes.
  • Ways of seeing.
  • Ways of being.
  • So many different ways of thinking about a single thing and bringing to a problem ways of seeing, understanding.
  • A celebration of difference.
  • Music. Songs from cultures, from distant lands, hot, cold, desert and forest. And from different ages too.

( One of my favorite books is The Ink Dark Moon by Shikibu , 1000 years old, Japanese)

When I left home I began to learn about how different people lived. I learned to make a little sense of the world through the myths of Aboriginal people, from America to Australia to Sami and Innuit. I learned about world music, folk music and I loved the richness that this wove into my life. I learned the roots of mathematics did not lie in dusty books but in faraway lands, that the world did not centre at all on the white people of Europe. And I loved this and I still do.
So, more power to multi-culturism, and I wish I wish I wish that I could express a clearer vision in words of this truth that I hold in my heart.


  1. It's a great pity that your definition of the 'multicultural' isn't one that is universally understood, we try so hard to do it in primary education.
    I think on many levels (with young children specially) there is a greater acknowlegement of the wide world out 'there' and that as you say (as in my day) the world does not centre on white Europeans. They are happy to embrace 'difference' - all is not lost !

  2. Doesn't this link with the whole library thing as well? Where are children going to learn about the richness of other cultures but in books-- on TV they see a distorted view of hatred and violence, but from a book they can learn that people have the same loves, fears, worries, pleasures all over the world.

  3. I think your definition is beautiful Jackie. I agree with everything...I wonder how some people cannot see the wonder and beauty in difference...just the breadth of variety in music alone is enough to make me feel awestruck. I love love LOVE suddenly hearing something I've never come across before, a sound, a type of music or singing that is unlike everything I know. And it's the same with ideas, and language and everything you mentioned. What a poor, poor, poor world we would live in if everyone looked, and thought and dressed and felt the same. We need people to challenge the way we think, we need to see others living perfectly normal happy lives that are different from ours, so we know that change is possible, that our way is not the only way. And how insufferably BORING would the world be without difference?!

  4. I love all of the points you gave regarding the definition of multicultural. One thing I enjoy looking for as well are the many ways we are not so different at all. From one end of the earth to the other... at first glance the clothing, the homes, the language, the faces might be different but then suddenly you see a spark of your own family... your neighbors... a shared type of humor that crosses all languages. The way babies are played with, the affections given to our loved ones, the protection of our homes. There are some basic human behaviors that we all share and that gives my heart joy.