The Psychology of Dictatorship

Can psychology deliver us from the Hitlers of the world?

Why Omniculturalism, Not Multiculturalism, Is the Solution

We need to shift focus from inter-group differences to human commonalities

 

                Multiculturalism has now become the politically correct policy for managing diversity, not just in Western societies but also in non-Western parts of the world such as the Middle East -  where bombs are once again being thrown on innocent civilians.

On the surface, multiculturalism is good for minorities. This assumption is so pervasive that minority group members often feel threatened when multiculturalism is criticized. After all, multiculturalism gives priority to the celebration of group differences and supports diversity. Through multiculturalism, children are taught from a young age in schools that they belong to a distinct group, that group differences are important, that every individual should feel pride and have confidence in their distinct group culture. Multiculturalism leads to inter-group differences being the first and main focus in socialization from an early age.

From the Middle East to North America, from the European Union to South Africa…increasingly all around the world, multiculturalism is becoming the ‘norm’, the ‘standard way to think’, and resulting in the highlighting of inter-group differences. Children are being taught first and foremost that their group is different.

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The priority being given to group differences is resulting in extremely unfortunate consequences, and negative outcomes particularly for the ordinary members of minority groups. It is ironic that a policy that is supposed to help minorities is actually harming them. The poor educational performance of African Americans and Hispanics in the United States, and minority ethnic groups in the European Union, arises in large part from the ethos of putting inter-group differences first.

The only people benefiting from multiculturalism are the political leaders of minority movements, the political elite who benefit from the politics of giving priority to inter-group differences and socializing children according to this priority. This is why you will find that multiculturalism is supported by political leaders who seem otherwise to be very different -  such as the leaders of ethnic minorities in North America and the leaders of radical Muslims in Iran. 

The priority now given to inter-group differences from the first years in education, results in minority children being sidetracked from mainstream competition. ‘Books are for whitey, we are different’: that sums are the situation. Through extremely subtle but powerful means, minority children are taught that they are different and mainstream competition is not for them.

In the Middle East, the emphasis on differences is having even worse consequences:  mistreatment of the other is justified, because the other is fundamentally different from us. The objectification of the other as fundamentally different, helps justify mistreatment of the other.

Omniculturalism provides a solution by starting the educational process with priority given to what all humans have in common. Priority is given to omni – all humans. We are all human beings and all human beings have a great deal of very important commonalities: this is the point of departure for omnicultural policy. Science is highly informative about human commonalities, and our commonalities should become the point of departure for the educational process.

At a second stage, omniculturalism includes education about group-based differences. But this is only after children have learned about human commonalities.

For a more in-depth discussion of omniculturalism and multiculturalism, see

 Moghaddam, F.M. (2012). The omnicultural imperative. Culture & Psychology, 18 (3), 304-330.
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Fathali M. Moghaddam, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Psychology and the director of the Conflict Resolution Program, Department of Government at Georgetown University.

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