One World Week in the anti-multiculturalism era

In a world as the one invoked by Dave Cameron in Davos, Warwick’s One World Week would be welcomed with an awkward moment of silence. Don’t get me wrong: David Cameron would not want OWW to be obliterated from the history of our University. More simply, he would like to  have it multiculturally double-checked.

Here’s the scenario. Forget about the old Islam = fundamentalism = terrorism clichés. To obviate the sense of uneasiness in the audience, the coordinators for the Asia Day will draft two speeches on a very thought-provoking and politically neutral topic (is Cantonese Cuisine actually good?), which the Student Union will duly double-censor.

Rebels, beware. Meerkats and desert lizards starring in the Africa day will be replaced by stuffed foxes and tanks filled with young cod. Europe Day’s “make-your-own-pizza” stand will apologise for having run out of ingredients, exhorting the crowd not to despair and join them in a “make-your-own-Cornish-pasty-day” instead. And at next year’s screening of Slumdog Millionaire watch out for the initial message: “The views expressed in this video do not represent those of British citizens – not suitable for easily persuadable audiences” (alternatively, edit the ending scene, get rid of _Jay-Oh_ and get the Indian cast to dance to some Cheryl Cole’s repertoire).

If Cameron regards multiculturalism as a virus, then building up new barriers against its epidemics is tantamount to fighting a disease with tons of antibiotics. You are not defeating the virus, you are giving it new inputs for it to evolve and get stronger.

In a society where multiculturalism is already deeply embedded, choosing rhetoric is a risky option, especially if your speech coincides with an EDL march and if it is stuffed with highly flammable contents as the linkage integration/terrorism.

After all, Cameron is just asking for a more genuine sense of integration, right? No more laissez faire policies and guaranteed visas; on with the mantra “keep calm and carry on”.

The issue here is that Cameron’s rhetoric may cause a puzzling mixture of awkwardness and social tension which is at odds with the Western values whose cause he is said to champion. Isn’t a forced integration an oxymoron? A contradiction in terms?

Here’s an idea to all OWW staff: get Cameron to be the new OWW president.

You think it’s a stupid idea. But think again. Warwick would have the sensational, world-exclusive opportunity of experiencing one week of Davos regime. Get Cameron to come to the piazza dressed up as Robin Hood, give out toy swords and set up a new battle of Hastings gathering Rootes, Whitefields and Tocil to invade Westwood. Give him paintball guns, the Latino community and a bunch of Brits and you’d see him start up a revival of the Falkland War by Gibbet Hill’s woods.

Next thing you know, we’ll all be chanting some Vera Lynn. Most likely, _There’ll Always Be An England_. I can’t work out whether that’s a show I’d actually come to. But it would be unique. Admit it.

The problem is I have a feeling Cameron would cope less well with areas outside British land. New Zealand, for instance, or the Far East. I just cannot see Cameron dancing the haka. Or giving a lecture on Confucianism.

That’s the risk, you see: Dave would be a hell of a coordinator for the UK day but would find himself in a muddle as he gets beyond the Channel. British culture could practically pop out anywhere (see paragraphs above for a sample scenario).

So maybe you are right and my idea is doomed to failure. But it would be worthy of a try. If anything, to realize the Davos World would be utterly futile, or at best, slightly awkward.

Cameron may well be right in saying state multiculturalism has failed. In fact, this is no news as Mrs Merkel came up with the same pessimism about a month ago. But the idea of forcing integration would either lead to an exacerbation of the problem or to a very messed up conception of cultural diversity.

Once the banter dies out, a Davos-inspired OWW may well turn out to be extremely dull.


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