I hope some day I will write a dissertation about Levinas and intercultural contact. I don't have time now, but at least I can express my thoughts on this blog. Levinas says that a relation becomes ethical when I meet another person. The image I create of the other can never coincide with the real person. An individual is unique, he can't be reduced to the (supposed) characteristics of his group. So I should have an open mind for the real person and let go of my prejudices anytime.
Totalisation in the street
Yesterday I read in the newspaper that Verdonk invented another ridiculous plan, doesn´t she have anything better to do than inventing crazy measures as a Minister of Immigration? She proposes to create a code of conduct that people in the street should only speak Dutch. I thought the street was still from us, a place where we can do what we want as long as we don´t break the law, a public space which isn´t totally controlled by the state. So this rule is a pity then, for all the tourists in Amsterdam who ask for the way. So this is how we should treat strangers in the Netherlands according to Verdonk: we refuse to talk to them. Of course it´s good to promote that everybody living in the Netherlands learns to speak Dutch well enough, it´s good if there´s one language in which everybody can communicate with each other. To stimulate that Dutch is spoken at schools and in community centers, I can imagine, but why on the street? In this time of globalization more and more different languages are being spoken at different locations. The first aim of communication is that people understand each other. Everyone should be a bit flexible in that, that you search for the best language to understand each other, also if it´s not Dutch. According to Levinas language is one of the best tools to bridge cultural differences, because people who are totally different can understand each other through language, they can come closer to each other and have real contact without the necessity to reduce the other to the same. We don´t have to give up our own culture and identity, we can use a different language temporary, a common language which doesn´t need to refer to a common culture. Why would you restrict these possibilities of language as a bridge between people with different backgrounds, why wouldn´t you use all the advantages it can offer?
And the next time Verdonk will say that weblogs in the Netherlands should be only in Dutch and then I loose more than half of my audience here ;)
Why do you mention Muslims only? In the big cities half of the population consists of immigrants indeed, but they are not all of them Muslims by far.
I agree that there is no way back from multiculturalism (different cultures living together in one society). I like the idea of a global language and I wouldn't really miss my Dutch. I always like to speak other languages because of the association with traveling and discovering other places and cultures.