Morality and Multiculturalism

The world is changing!!!

Despite the excited punctuation, this is not news: Change is the one constant mankind knows.  Countless millennia ago some venturesome animal stood up on its back legs and stepped out into a new life, never to be the same again.

Today, I sense that my world is poised to plunge again onto uncharted ground.  No longer do different peoples live relatively isolated from one another.  I lift my phone and connect with a friend in a different culture, as easily as if she lives next door.  

Safe in my own surroundings I build my own life.  I accept what my society says about what is good and what is bad.  The morality which charts my life is set.  I strive to follow it, believing that others around the globe are on the same path with me.  To my surprise, I find that often this is not so.  Morality codes vary between cultures, sometimes in minor ways and sometimes with extreme differences.  This can make cooperation between cultures difficult and, sometimes, impossible.

As one example, about seventy years ago I made a trip as a social worker, visiting a remote area in Northern Alberta with the district nurse, to investigate some rumours.  The area was populated by people from a backwoods district in Eastern Europe.  Cut off geographically from other people, they had developed their own rules for living as good people:

  • Marry only within the clan
  • Follow a patriarchal system
  • Produce large families

The last point was important as their numbers were few.  This problem produced their last rule.  A daughter was not eligible to be married until she had proven that she was capable of bearing a child.  This was accomplished by having her father or brother be the parent of that first child.

Apparently this worked well until they moved to Canada.  Then the police and the law moved in.  Their choices: drop these practices immediately and submit to monitoring as a check, go to jail, or return to Europe.

An extreme example?  Surely.  But today, more than ever, a multicultural world is a reality.  Canada is home to many different people and cultures.  What are some of the advantages?  Do the difficulties outweigh the benefits?  I don’t know.  I do know that the future is facing me.  Best I do my homework and be ready to travel through this complex and unpredictable, yet wonderful and beautiful world.


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12 Responses to Morality and Multiculturalism

  1. Susan McCalla

    What a fabulous post, Marjorie!
    I believe these are some of the most important questions and issues …how do we learn about one another, how do we learn to live with one another in a peaceful and accepting way? How do we respect and accept our differences? Are some differences impossible to bridge?
    Thank you for your stimulating and wonderful posts!

    • Marjorie

      Thanks, Susan – Luckily the three of us can continue exploring these questions on the 10th!

  2. “apparently this worked well . . .” but then why did they move to Canada? Some of the customs of our culture need to change and some of the customs of other cultures need to change. Tolerance is not the only option. Digging deeper into the effects on individuals of some cultural practices reveals terrible, unnecessary suffering. Surely we are seeking to learn from others, but also to teach for good reasons we have plumbed to their depths.

    You have kept your readers wondering how these folks chose among their options. We look forward to the sequel!

    • Marjorie

      Laurna – You said it, the old saying about “no solution fits all”. Accommodation and understanding and give-and-take are only part of the answer. In our multicultural world we should welcome people who are of different cultures. If, the great if, we can work at it everyone will benefit. Perhaps the person wishing to become a citizen should be warned, in advance, that some parts of our culture are non-negotiable. Polygamy and honour killing are two very familiar ones. If the laws of Canada cannot be observed they should not become citizens.

  3. Jim Taylor

    Marjorie, purely by coincidence I was reading a book about how people build character. The author had this to say about moral choices: “Moderation is based on an awareness of the inevitability of conflict. If you think that the world can fit neatly together, then you don’t need to be moderate. If you think all your personal qualities can be brought together into simple harmony, you don’t need to hold back, you can just go whole hog for self-actualization and growth. If you think all moral values point in the same direction, or all political goals can be realized all at once by a straightforward march along one course, you don’t need to be moderate, either. You can just head in the direction of truth as quickly as possible.”
    Best regards to you,
    Jim Taylor

    • Marjorie

      Jim – Could you send me the name of that book? I can’t quite grasp the writer’s viewpoint.

  4. Judith

    Wow, a very provocative piece. I want to hear a bit more from you, perhaps over a dram of Scotch (well, you and Blair can have the Scotch).

    • Marjorie

      Yes Judith, I’ve got a lot of thinking ahead of me, searching for possible answers. As it looks as if I have bitten more than I can chew, the “dram” might help.

  5. Robert McFetridge

    Wow. That is a shocking story Marge. Do you remember the outcome from this episode?

    • Marjorie

      Bob – Nice to hear from you. Regarding your query, no – I do not know what happened. There was outrage and hostility from neighbours who were not in that “clan”, and the authorities were after them too. My guess is that they left that area, and maybe even went back to where they came from.

  6. Doreen Tischer

    Marjorie, you are so special. You are so full of great informations, but more than that… You are such a great writer. Boy I miss you at the Lodge. ❤️

    • Marjorie

      Doreen, you might be closer to reality if you said I am full of questions, not information. Thanks for the compliment, anyway!