Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Richness of Diversity


Belgium’s statistical agency, Statbel, released the first official study on the diversity of the Belgian population. The picture that emerged is one of an increasingly diverse and heterogeneous society. The study revealed that while Belgian citizens of Belgian ancestry make up just more than two-thirds of the country’s population (67.9 percent), the rest is comprised of Belgian citizens of foreign ancestry (19.7 percent) and foreign nationals (12.4 percent).

 The Belgian far right used the results of Statbel’s study to spread misinformation, distort reality, demonise immigrants and stir up racism,  expressing consternation, fear and outrage.

Tom Van Grieken, the head of the anti-immigrant Flemish nationalist political party, Vlaams Belang, tweeted a the comment “Omvolking. It is going fast”.

The Dutch word “omvolking” has its origins in the German word “umvolkung”, which was originally used by the Nazis to describe the perceived dilution of the superior Germanic race through assimilation with other, inferior races.

 Vlaams Belang doubled down on their claims that the Belgian population is currently subject to a so-called “ethnic conversion”. Vlaams Belang MEP Tom Vandendriessche described “omvolking” as a strategy utilised by so-called “cultural Marxists” in a supposed “cultural war”. “This is a deliberate policy,” he claimed, “if we continue with mass migration, we will become a minority in our own country.”

 Vlaams Belangallude to conspiracy theories, including the “great replacement” and its more extreme variations “white genocide” and “Eurabia” which are becoming increasingly popular, a belief that multiculturalism is a smokescreen for a global plot to dilute, weaken, replace or wipe out the white race. They  combine elements of classic anti-Semitism and anti-leftism with more recent elements of Islamophobia. According to the far right and neo-Nazis, a global cabal of either “cultural Marxists (Jews and leftists)” or “globalists (rich Jewish capitalists)” are conspiring to destroy white civilisation by “importing” millions of brown and Black people, especially Muslims, to the West, reflecting anxiety and a sense of inferiority at the heart of contemporary white supremacy.

That these “theories” enjoy currency and are given credence reflects the credulity of those who believe in them, as well as their ignorance of science, genetics and demographics among other things. The growing preponderance of these theories is also testimony to the far right’s skilful manipulation of social media to spread misinformation.

There is no “great replacement”, let alone a “white genocide” in progress anywhere in the world, including Belgium. The very idea is preposterous. So-called “white people”, ie people with pale skin, are in absolutely no danger of dying out – neither through immigration, nor interracial mixing.

Despite decades of large-scale movement, native Belgians still make up the overwhelming majority of the population, and whites are the overwhelming majority everywhere in Europe. The immigrants and people with immigrant backgrounds living in Belgium are not the dark-skinned non-Europeans that the far right claim are “invading Europe”. They are actually white Europeans from neighbouring countries who have taken advantage of the European Union’s freedom of movement.

 The most radical changes that have swept Belgian society, like elsewhere in the world, have little to do with immigration. Scientific and technological progress, as well as autochthonous social and cultural developments, are responsible for the lion’s share of change.

This will come as a shock to those who have been told for decades by the right that immigrants are nothing but spongers but not only do immigrants provide essential manpower in the medical and care sectors, among others, they also play a pivotal role in keeping Belgium’s healthcare and pensions system afloat. Without the taxes and social security payments coming from immigrants, Belgium’s welfare system may well have collapsed by now. In light of falling birthrates, demographers have long been warning that Belgium’s population would decline, with dire consequences for the ageing population. Luckily, immigration has made up the difference.  Judging by the large numbers of children with a mixed or foreign background currently making their way up through the school system, Belgium will become even more reliant on immigrants and their taxes in the near future.

Beyond the economic imperative, diversity is a beautiful thing in and of itself. Contrary to what anti-migration activists and politicians claim, a multicultural society is no more prone to conflict than a monocultural one. But it offers the additional advantages of dynamism and cultural richness. That the next generation is even more diverse than ours fills us not with fear but wonder and hope for the future. 

Humanity provides us with such a delicious range of cultural choice to feast on that it is a pity to stick to the same set menu. Rather than trying to stamp out multiculturalism, bigots should give themselves the chance to savour its delicious diversity.

The fictional menace of multiculturalism | Islamophobia News | Al Jazeera

No comments: