Abandon Tolerance, Dissolve Multiculturalism


By Chris Lamerton:

I am positive that throughout this special publication of this volume, aimed at celebrating diversity, there will be a number of calls for ‘tolerance’, to allow the other to exist peacefully. This call for tolerance does two things. First, it creates a distance over which people exist and yet politely ignore and avoid any direct experience of the Other. Second, signification of the tolerated party, as it is eventually designated under the gaze of its Other, creates a tolerator. A deconstruction of this distinction reveals divisive axiological categories, which only serve to further the distance between a subject and its Other. Remember, this works both ways: The tolerator can be tolerated by its Other in any instance. This allows situations to emerge in which the tolerator’s tolerance is tolerated. Besides being confusing, this creates further distance. This has to stop.

Multiculturalism must be thought of less as a policy, and more as a process in which the coming together of cultures leads inevitably to a synthesis of a richer, more complex paradigm, combining the best elements of those that have congregated in the same space.  Multiculturalism should be a progression through which cultures do not merely exist in the same space, but encounter each other, sublating the most compromising elements and carrying on and synthesising the best.

We do however, exist in a world which is constantly calling on us to define ourselves and many of us do so by retreating into religio-cultural identities that we have no concrete claim to outside of our being thrown into the world in proximity to them. We all have been (are) guilty of this.

This is not a call for people to abandon their cultures completely, nor is it a call to adopt another. This is a call to encounter and be encountered.

It is time that we critically analyse the categories of division that we perpetuate and the distinctions on which they are based. Moreover, it is time, through this critical analysis, to evaluate their usefulness outside of some stage for a vain playing-out of identity politics.

We must stop tolerating and being tolerated and begin experiencing and being experienced. It is only through such encounters that we can synthesise an Australian culture that not only becomes conducive to the existence of its human element but also becomes our own.

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