Perpetuating Difference: A Response to Multiculturalism & Democracy


First, let us establish that multiculturalism refers not to cultural diversity within a country, but to the policies aimed at managing that experience. Now, at the risk of inciting the fury of the regressive Left, the placid indignation of the Right, or even worse, the triumphalism of the far-Right, I proceed by saying that the two are becoming incompatible.

In the context of an ever-globalized world, the nuances of people’s identities are become ever more complex. One need only look around to see that nationalism, ethnicity, faith, sexuality, gender etc. are becoming much more complex than ever before as they interact with one another. In many cases, this is entirely and absolutely a good thing. The problem is that multiculturalism demands public affirmation of these identities and corrals all into neat little boxes, thereby ignoring their subtle nuances. In effect, multiculturalism requires that cultural diversity be stratified in the public sphere and thus, structurally reinforces difference.

And so, when the far-Right see difference, they see more of it, and they fear that the mechanisms of democracy will give the ‘other’ power. This is what invokes their ingrained perception of what the state should look like, precisely because of multiculturalism’s internal logic.

Pauline Hanson, for instance, claims that Australia is a Christian nation to justify her demonization of Islam. The typical ‘progressive’ response is to simply insult this as unintelligent, laugh it off as crazy Hanson, and then continue life eating halal snack packs. This is problematic because they haven’t asked themselves why Hanson thinks Australia is a Christian nation. They simply say to themselves “Separation of Church and State” and dust their hands. But this is not the whole truth.

Australia still permits interaction of the State with the Church – provided that the State does not interfere in Church affairs, or vice versa, and that it does not favour any one religion over another. This is a multicultural approach to secularism, but it also shows the gaps in multiculturalism. By allowing this interaction (e.g. the funding of religious schools) the State actually allows people like Hanson to associate Australia with Christianity and therefore, to ludicrously suggest we are under threat of invasion. By allowing this interaction, the State, whether knowingly or not, is reinforcing differences within the public sphere.

While this is only one way that multiculturalism is stagnating, it is arguably the most relevant.

Overall, in order to protect itself and the citizenry, the State must stop its practice of boxing people up and stratifying difference in the public sphere.

Secularism, not multiculturalism, should be the order of the day.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.