Sunday, August 02, 2009

Cultural Conflict - Migrants

A nation needs a strong unified culture to be viable. When two opposing cultures are present, the nation will tend to fall a part. This is a serious issue for migrant to a new land.

When a people with a strong culture migrate into an area already occupied by people with a different culture, the migrating people have five options, if they want their culture to shape the society in their new homeland.

  1. Dominance
    During the 19th Century, the most common approach was to dominate the people occupying the land using military force. The British uses this method in all their colonies. The military dominance of British Empire spread English culture throughout the world. The first American settlers used same method to deal with the Red Indians.

  2. Reservations
    If the native people persist in rejecting the new culture, they can be pushed into reservations on the sidelines of society. Plentiful alcohol can be used to keep them quiet. American governments used reservations to shut down the culture of the natives who resisted the settler advance. This method was also used by the Afrikaners in South Africa. Until apartheid collapsed, most of the natives were pushed into reservations called Bantustans.

  3. Ethnic Cleansing
    A more extreme solution is for the arriving culture to wipe out the people already in the land. This has been the norm through most of history. When the Roman Empire collapsed the people of Europe were defeated and destroyed again and again by peoples migrating from East.

  4. Capitulation
    If the migrating people are few in number they will have no choice but to accept the culture of the people already occupying the land. For example, refugees arriving in a western country may try to persevere in their religion and culture, but because they arrive in a position of weakness, they are usually swamped by the host culture. If they do not give in, their children generally will.

  5. Conversion
    The people migrating may persuade the occupiers that their culture is superior and the latter may agree to convert to the culture that has just arrived. This is what Christian apostles do. They move into a new village and stay there until some people in that village see the benefits of the gospel and freely convert to Christianity. The gospel can transform the culture of a nation. When English missionaries came to New Zealand the Maori were very receptive to a more peaceful culture. Many Maori converted, but when the land wars betrayed their trust, they rejected the warrior Christian religion.

  6. Covenant
    New Zealand is the only colony where the British did not use military force to dominate the local culture. Here they made a covenant called the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori leaders agreeing that they could preserve their culture, provided they accepted the British presence. This approach worked for a while, but once the settlers became desperate for land, they switched to the dominance method. The urban migration of Maori in the 1950s and 1960s brought the covenant back to light and it is now being honoured more fully. We now have an interesting strange situation where the trappings of Maori culture function within a western culture.

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