I started to respond to one of the comments in Ralf’s entry, but it got out of hand. Besides, that savage Anglo-Saxon capitalism has me working my flabby butt off and I haven’t been posting.
There is no reason to doubt that the Muslims will successfully integrate, given the chance. The US had its own “unassimilable” religious minority; poor, ignorant, violent, and superstitious; resistant to the civilizing norms of society; an alien culture that could never be compatible with ours. I am speaking, of course, of the Irish Catholics who arrived in great numbers after the famines of the 1840’s. Their gangs and their riots inspired widespread fear. They were suspected, with some reason, of forming a potential fifth column. In reaction, a nativist political party gained power in several states and cities, which is more than Le Pen has been able to do. Among others, there was a Know-Nothing mayor of Chicago, Levi Boone.
Americans have a bad habit of lecturing the rest of the world on the virtues of assimilation. In doing this, we are demonstrating the blessings of pragmatism and a short memory. We learned to assimilate because we had to, and have forgotten that it ever was otherwise. Now it seems perfectly unremarkable, at least as far as past successes are concerned (there are several incomplete projects, of course). My own ancestors got here some 300 years later than the Pilgrim Fathers, but they are my Pilgrim Fathers now, too. Sooner or later, France will have to raise a generation of French Muslims who will speak without irony of “nos ancêtres les Gaulois.”
25 thoughts on “What Ralf was Saying”
Unless they can’t get over making fun of ‘mo….
“We learned to assimilate because we had to…”
But the point is that we did learn and have done so to a greater degree than any other political entity or culture has done.
Just because we are bragging doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
One thing many people overlook is that assimilation takes decades. The Irish began immigrating in 1840’s but arguably they reach assimilation until the 1920’s. Other groups have similar time frames. Europe has seen large scale immigration only since the 1960’s. In terms of experience, they compare to the US circa 1820 or so.
The real question for developed nations is how the welfare-state distorts the immigration and assimilation process. I think the distortion significant. The larger the welfare state, the slower assimilation.
“the Muslims will successfully integrate, given the chance.”
And the french will move to some other place, given the chance.
“the Irish Catholics who arrived in great numbers after the famines of the 1840’s.”
The Irish are Europeans !
“Their gangs and their riots inspired widespread fear.”
I don’t think the Irish were less civilized than the English. The English have done much more killing in Ireland than the Irish maffia in Chicago. Who caused the starving in Ireland ?
“a nativist political party gained power in several states and cities, which is more than Le Pen has been able to do”
Le Pen has shown repeatedly that he is not interested in taking power. He just likes to provoke and show off.
“We learned to assimilate because we had to”
You didn’t have to. It would have been more fun to preserve the variety of European languages. Anyway, it is not difficult to assimilate between Europeans.
“a generation of French Muslims who will speak without irony of “nos ancÍtres les Gaulois.”
It doesn’t make sense. Anyway, most Europeans do not want the Arabs. The Arabs do not want to lose their own identity. So, why do you want them to be together ? Who thinks people will be happier once every identity has been destroyed ?
By dropping the history of Irish Catholics into the discussion of Muslims’ failure to assimilate does the entire issue before us a disservice. As I perceive things, as they are, Muslims seek to convert their newly adopted societies. I don’t believe the Irish Catholics had that premise in mind when they sailed away from their disgustingly, oppressive homeland. Aside from that, the Saint Patrick’s Battalion appears to be a separate issue, indeed.
I feel free to use the Irish as an example because that is my ancestry. It was mainly the western counties that were most afflicted by poverty and famine in the 19th C. Many spoke only Irish Gaelic; many more were illiterate in any language. William J. Stern has a great piece on how the Irish came back into civilization in New York.
MB, don’t underestimate the degree of anti-Catholic feeling in 19th C. America. Here in enlightened Boston, the Carmelite convent was torched in a riot. The forgeries of Maria Monk were widely read, and even more widely believed. That the Irish were European was of no significance. Even into the 20th C., Catholics were a target of the Klan (along with the equally European Jews). As Shannon points out, it was a long time before they were accepted. Now they dye the Chicago River green every St. Patrick’s Day.
Enoch, MB, it only looks easy and obvious in retrospect.
MB, one other thing: we are not Europeans! I thought we settled that over 200 years ago.
Whatever the Irish suffered at the hands of the English, there was never a movement among the Irish to subvert and destroy the Englilsh in England or America. The same cannot be said of the more radical elements of the Islamic population in Europe. Indeed, the fact that Islamic populations today probably suffer LESS from prejudice than the Irish from anti-Catholic prejudice makes their fanatic elements even more disturbing. It also renders your analogy moot.
Islam has always been a religion of assimilation.
Sort of like the Borg.
Those who say that Muslims can’t be integrated or lived with should consider what they are really saying. There are 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, and we have to come to terms with them somehow. Telling them that we don’t want to have anything to do with them isn’t a good start.
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You didn’t have to. It would have been more fun to preserve the variety of European languages. Anyway, it is not difficult to assimilate between Europeans.
As Mitch pointed out, we’re not Europeans. I don’t know why people from outside the US have so much trouble with this.
Anyway, most Europeans do not want the Arabs. The Arabs do not want to lose their own identity. So, why do you want them to be together ?
Doesn’t look like anyone has much choice, considering how we’re talking about 2nd generation French citizens at this point. Unless they decide to move to Italy, say.
Who thinks people will be happier once every identity has been destroyed ?
Seems to be a rather fragile cultural identity if learning to speak the official language and getting a job will destroy it.
Besides, the problem doesn’t lie with the culturally sensitive French. The problem lies with a minority who insist that everyone convert to their ways or else. In fact, it was the PC attitude that made this present crises inevitable.
Much like your attitude, I might add.
” we are not Europeans! ”
Yes you are ! And by the way, not all Europeans are the same. There are English people, Germans, Italians, Russians, Americans… Although sometimes, the English claim they are not Europeans.
Well, I don’t think it proves anything and was generally pretty ineffectual, but some Irish groups did indeed give help to the Nez Perce to distract the British in Canada and side with the Germans during the war.
Does MB live in America or know much American immigrant history?
MB, consider purchasing a globe. Mine still has the Belgian Congo on it, but even so it illustrates my point. We are thousands of miles from Europe. As far as ancestry is concerned, you might as well call us Africans or Chinese. Come to think of it, there are probably more people here with some American Indian ancestry than there were when Plymouth MA was settled. And that other coast? Yes, we are a Pacific Rim nation as well.
Overheard in London: “Is she really Chinese, or just American?”
At the dry cleaners in my town: the proprietor was talking with her grown children in Magyar, while the seamstress talked to her husband in Vietnamese on her cell phone. Everybody there was American.
Until recently, immigration to the US was overwhelmingly European. The culture is European. It is only in the last decades, that immigration from outside Europe has been massive in the US. But Europe has done the same.
I live in Brittany which is french occupied territory. For many generations, some of us kept some hope of achieving independence, democracy, saving the language. But with the changes in the population, I think all of this has become irrelevant. Nobody cares about Brittany anymore. This is what immigration does to cultural diversity !
> Until recently, immigration to the US was overwhelmingly European.
Hint – folks happy with European ways don’t leave Europe. We left because we didn’t want to be European.
> The culture is European.
Not really, as Euros are fond of pointing out whenever they’re trying to insult us.
BTW – If American culture is European, why are Euros so damned upset about American culture (TV, movies, McDonalds)?
“We left because we didn’t want to be European.”
It is not so easy. You cannot escape from yourself !
If you are not European, are you Chinese, are you Martian, are you another species entirely ?
Can you give me the name of one country on the earth, that is culturally closer to the USA than Europe is ?
“why are Euros so damned upset about American culture”
How come the french are more interested in watching American movies than English, German or even French movies ? Maybe the French are closer in their tastes to American audiences than they are to the french intellectuals in Paris.
(the last post was from me)
The biggest mistake that Europeans make in thinking about America is believing that Americans are culturally European. Americans evolved from predominately European roots but we have diverged radically.
America is a trans-ethnic (trans-national in the original sense of the word nation) entity whose identity is rooted in political ideology. European states are ethnic-states whose principle identity is cultural.
America has been defined by bottom-up, individual driven, self-organizing communities. Europe has been defined by a top-down, collectivist, elitist imposed order.
Europeans suffer from an arrogant provincialism which holds that the experience of Europe form the template for all of humanity when in fact, Europe is largely a special case in human affairs.
America and Europe are just enough alike that we can successfully miscommunicate without realizing it.
[ America is a trans-ethnic entity whose identity is rooted in political ideology. ]
Since the 1789 revolution, the french governing “elites” have been saying the same thing about france, and they have deliberately destroyed every language other than the french. Now, they think they can change the population and still make it work. The European Union is about to do the same, by accepting Turkey.
But in fact, both the Americans and Europeans are deeply worried about losing their identity. Most Europeans do not want Turkey in the EU. And most Americans would like the border with Mexico to be kept under surveillance. So I would say we are pretty much in the same situation.
[ America has been defined by bottom-up, individual driven, self-organizing communities. Europe has been defined by a top-down, collectivist, elitist imposed order. ]
Exactly! The Europeans, when they arrived in America, had more freedom to express their European character than they had under the old stifling regimes.
[ Europeans suffer from an arrogant provincialism which holds that the experience of Europe form the template for all of humanity when in fact, Europe is largely a special case in human affairs. ]
Exactly! On both sides of the Atlantic, many Europeans think that way. For example, they think that every man in the third world should come to America. They don’t understand what is the point of living anywhere else.
> If you are not European, are you Chinese, are you Martian, are you another species entirely
Why is the possibility that America is different so threatening to Europeans? They spend so much of their time telling us how much better they are – don’t they know that they can’t be better if we aren’t different?
> It is not so easy. You cannot escape from yourself
Culture is genetic? Wrong.
Few Americans are actually direct immigrants, so they’re not “escaping” from anything. They grew up American. The ones that did come over left for reasons. Some try to maintain the old ways, but many work at rejecting much of the old.
One of the cool things in life is seeing a Thai-Texan tease a Irish Red Sox fan by calling him a Yankee. (Actually, a Thai-Texan is pretty cool all by himself. One of the things that Euros don’t see is in America is the linguistic variation, and it isn’t ethnic, it’s geographic.) Then they’ll gang up on a Minnesotan.
> Can you give me the name of one country on the earth, that is culturally closer to the USA than Europe is ?
Europe isn’t a country. More to the point, being close doesn’t make it the same.
And, you’re missing the not-European influences. (I work with a lot of Indians, but the next group over is almost all Russian. I could work with a lot of Chinese, or Mexicans.)
I think you are mistaking decent for destiny. Just because most Americans are of European decent doesn’t mean that we are culturally identical (or even close). It is historical experiences that shape a people and the experiences of America and continental Europe have been much, much different.
It is a matter of evolution and just as in biological evolution where common ancestry doesn’t mean that two species end up in a similar form after the eons have passed, major difference emerge between sub-cultures as the experiences of the two populations diverge.
As it touches on immigration, the cultural relationship between an individual, his ethnic identity and the state is radically different in America than in Europe. Americans have no concept of “blood and soil” or father/motherland. Even the very idea of American culture itself is highly amorphous compared to the idea of the cultures of the various European nations.
> The Europeans, when they arrived in America, had more freedom to express their European character than they had under the old stifling regimes.
I didn’t catch that the first time. Europeans had to come to America to be Europeans? Americans are the true Europeans?
That’s not how it works. European is defined by what happens in Europe. It turns out that things are different in America than in Europe, even if there are some things in common.
This whole thing is really weird. It is like this is 1750 and some European (who has no sense of demographics or history or the ideas that define our sense of who we are) is tellimg Americans what an American is and offers the options of being Chinese or European or Martian?
I’ve been throwing up & maybe I am not thinking clearly but this seems a pointless exchange.
That the French prefer our movies may be because they have good/bad taste; it really has nothing to do with their culture (except in its effect in the long run) or ours (that makes us European?). So the Brits liked Chinese pottery
& the state boards for nail salons are in Vietnamese in Texas. That doesn’t mean that in the end the salons aren’t American and the people within them as well.
Andy: “Europeans had to come to America to be Europeans?”
What I mean is that it was easier for a European to express himself and achieve his potential in the new world than in the old one. In the United States, I think the popular culture has shown more vitality than in most European countries. Even now, in most European countries, I think cultural activities are more institutionalized than in the United States.
Sh.L: “Americans have no concept of “blood and soil” or father/motherland.”
I am sure people feel exactly the same way about immigration in the United States than in Western Europe. Most people feel their identity is threatened, while a minority is asking for more immigration. What you have been told at school about the United States being a melting pot and a nation of immigrants is not the whole truth. Until recently, the melting took place exclusively among Europeans. (Calling you European is not an insult).
> What you have been told at school about the United States being a melting pot and a nation of immigrants is not the whole truth.
Yawn. MB is yet another Euro who has been fed some “exposes” by folks playing to Euro prejudices. (Anyone want to bet that MB is looking for an opportunity to post some book cites?)
Sophisticates are the easiest folk to con but at least those of us who actually live this stuff get a good laugh.
> Until recently, the melting took place
> exclusively among Europeans.
> (Calling you European is not an insult).
Actually, it is. It’s also inaccurate.
I do wonder why it’s so damned important for MB that Americans be Europeans. Is he trying to take credit for some American accomplishments or just trying to spread the blame for some Euro failures?
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