I find it fascinating that the only responses that I seem to receive with any depth tend to revolve around these articles on whether or not we should accept other people into the nation, and tend to be universally opposed. Fascinating, but sad.
The answer to your response is, largely, that context is important and no nation’s fate is defined by a single trait. So please, allow me to respond empirically, and in detail.
Firstly, Japan and Brazil are separated by vast troughs of history, resource necessity, and colonial legacy. Comparing them is not just apples to apples, it’s baseball to giraffes.
Japan was never colonized. Forced into openness, yes, but never colonized. Brazil was, and like most South American countries it continues to struggle out from under the legacy of feudal culture imparted by the Portuguese and the resulting challenges that imparted to its economic and social systems. Japan had the advantage of having things Europeans wanted, but was able to ride the wave and emerge as an imperial power. Brazil was not. They accordingly had radically disparate experiences over the past couple of centuries.
Japan was rebuilt primarily by American assistance and American industrial best practices (well, Deming best practices, anyway) after WWII. It had the advantage of having already been an industrial power, and it was in an excellent position to challenge the complacent US steel, tech, and auto industries in the 80s. Brazil was until quite recently a predominantly agrarian and resource extractive economy. That changed in the mid-20th century, but required extensive reforms that did not stabilize until the late 90s.
Japan is a homogenous culture, yes. Brazil is very much not. Despite that, Brazil is arguably the most powerful country in South America, in the top 10 world economies, and they have been quietly on the ascent for the past thirty years. Japan, on the other hand, is becoming moribund and slowly greying out. They’re having trouble convincing their citizens to breed. Brazil is not.
Both nations have problems, but arguing that Japan is better than Brazil because they’re a homogenous culture is to ignore virtually the entire history of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries in favor of a simple answer.
Moving on to America, we do not have terror attacks because we are multicultural. We have terror attacks because we started scattering military bases across the Middle East following the Persian Gulf War, which irritated the locals, and because we supported the Shah in Iran in the face of a popular revolution.
To answer your question specifically on the 9/11 hijackers, please note that they were flying airplanes. Their mode of attack did not actually require that they gain entry to the US prior to the attack. And in the post 9/11 world, you are literally more likely to be murdered by a relative than to be involved in a terrorist incident. So no, restricting Muslims from accessing the US doesn’t make me feel safer.
As far as actually fighting the war on terror, it’s very difficult to make the argument that multiculturalism hasn’t helped us. We have benefitted from translators, connections, cultural knowledge, etc. from US citizens and, more importantly, people who would like to become US citizens or who could be bribed with US citizenship. Our lead negotiator in Afghanistan is not named Adam Wilson or John Smith, he’s named Zalmay Khalilzad.
Regarding Native Americans, there is a difference between multiculturalism and invasion, but yes, quite a few Native Americans found Europeans very interesting indeed. More for the guns, horses, and ironwork than the food, of course, but that reinforces the point. The tribes who adopted European innovations had a much better ability to defend themselves than the ones who did not, even if that capability was ultimately futile.
The lesson to learn from the Native American example is that there is a difference between someone seeking to integrate with your community and a foreign invasion seeking to displace it. Which brings us neatly to Israel. It is manifestly true that Israel, whatever you think of it, brought most of its current problems on itself. The Zionist movement was heavy on establishing the nation, less heavy on doing so in partnership with the current occupants at the time. That’s not any commentary on anything other than history, by the way, so please do not play the anti-Semitic card. I am not now, nor have I ever been anti-Semitic.
The Palestinians were responding to a foreign invasion, by any metric, and the blood-soaked past sixty years are simply the history of one long, futile guerilla campaign to oust an occupying power which possessed superior military might. The parallels with the US Indian Wars are telling and tragic.
Last but not least, the discussion of multiculturalism and the discussion of Swedish welfare systems has some crossover, but once again context is king. Specifically, if you’re talking about welfare systems you’re talking about a very careful balancing act of budgets vs. population. Unless you have a large budget to work with, adding a lot of people to the population can unbalance the system. In the short term. In the long term they become tax-paying citizens and it all evens out.
There’s also the key distinction of “refugees” vs. “immigrants.” Depending on the refugee policy of the nation in question, refugees can be either a boon or a burden to the economy of the host nation depending on whether or not they are allowed to work or gain access to citizenship. If the latter two variables are in the “no” response, they will be a burden. If “yes,” they will be an asset. It’s all in how the host country responds.
It’s also an interesting point that the Scandinavian countries are having issues with racism and xenophobia right now. Arguably, they haven’t had a lot of experience with immigrants wanting to live there up until recently. Probably that has something to do with winters that last half the year; few enough people wanted to live there before their societies became internationally famous for high standards of living. People are pretty much the same everywhere, at least in some ways, and one of those ways is that any given population will be racist under the right (or wrong, I suppose?) circumstances. The far-right is on the rise everywhere these days, and they’re very good at dominating the news cycles with their preferred message.
In any case, I can understand why you felt that the article was a little light on specifics, and I’ll take that criticism as constructive. It was a more theoretical and philosophical article. Fortunately I wrote a different article on xenophobia to go ahead and offer counters to most of the arguments I’ve heard which are opposed to multiculturalism, and that article is a bit heavier on citations. Feel free to check that one out and find all the ways I was wrong there!
And with all that being said, thank you for your response. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do hope that these articles at least inspire thought.