Are bowl of fruit or a fruit salad? Multiculturalism does not necessarily make a nation from a country. A country is only a nation when its able to define itself by adopting the best elements of the cultural practices of its people. To do this we would need to make a clear distinction between cultural integration and assimilation.
So this morning I wake up to watch the start of the rugby season, with the All Blacks of New Zealand playing England. As has become the practice, the predominantly white (race) team of New Zealand with a sprinkling of a hand full "black" Maori men started the match with a rendition of the traditional Haka.
This really got me think. Why? What have these men adopted what is clearly not their culture unlike their counterparts in the post colonial world.
There is something biblical about having 15 odd men who are descendants of the white English settler population standing side by side with the descendants of the Maori native population. These men stand as brothers in war with their gelled military hair cuts, Maori tattoos as they passionately perform a traditional Maori war dance.
These white men, whose grandparents first landed on the shores of the native land of the Maori's in 1831 have come to embrace the Ta moko, the traditional Maori tattoos, and the Haka as their own. Today the haka constitutes an integral part of ceremonies serving to impart a sense of the importance of the occasion.
There is something unique about the New Zealand colonial experience. There is something special about New Zealand that sets its apart from other English colonies of a "special type", like America, Canada, Zimbambwe, South Africa, Australia. These colonies of a special type, are characterized by having a permanent settler population. However this is not to say they act of settling has been harmonious and respectfull of the ways of the native people.
In Australia and America, the settler population spent the best part of their time literally hunting down the native inhabitants (the Aboriginals and Americans) to a point of extinction. The approach of the New Zealand settler population, is in stark contrast to that of Australia, South Africa, and that of American colonies.
These groups, our South African experience has shown, made no effort to learn from the native populations. In fact they embarked a systematic program of ethnic and cultural genocide. The experience of the native American people is the best example. Native Americans have become practicaly whipped out from the face of the earth. The enjot no cultural or economic status outside of being romanticised in Disney cartoons.
This begs the questions, why have the New Zealanders been able to be integrated, and not take the condescending approach of assimilating the locals into their ways of life?
The New Zealand experience is particularly interesting since the white population is the majority, with the Maori only making up 5% of the population. Here is a people who in spite of being in the numerical majority, still opt to adopt the cultural practices of a minority.
In South Africa we have a settler population, which in spite of its numerical minority, still does not see any value in learning the languages and cultural practices of the native population who have and continue to make up the numerical cultural majority.
We project the image of being a rainbow nation. This is far from the truth. A truly integrated nation is one which promotes cultural plurality and mutual respect. Besides the game of rugby, I believe we can learn a lot from the islanders.