Opinion Editorial
Multiculturalism and the Overturning of Traditional Loyalties
By Peter Ahern

(AINA) -- Feature films often provide a valuable insight into social trends. Two Australian films about the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War illustrate the point.

In the case of the 2014 film "The Water Diviner", directed by Russell Crowe, the change of social attitudes in Australia in recent decades is reflected in the starkest of ways. This becomes clear if compared with the 1981 production "Gallipoli" directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson and Mark Lee.

In the period between the two films, Australian society changed dramatically. This period witnessed the sixfold increase in Australia's Muslim population, with one of the largest Muslim minority communities in Australia today being the Turkish community, numbering around 70,000 and clustered in particular suburbs in Sydney and Melbourne.

Moreover a policy of multiculturalism asserted itself as the default over the decades since the 1980s. This is a policy where great attention is paid to minority community sensitivities, to the point where traditional majority community values, attitudes and loyalties are relegated to a secondary position.

So in the 1981 film, produced in the transition period prior to multiculturalism, when traditional identities and the confidence of majority communities in the West was still in evidence, there is no doubt who are the friends and who are the enemies. The perspective of the film focuses very much on the hopes, joys and fears of Australians --Anglo Australians. The Turks are portrayed as the enemy, one who is respected and in some ways grudgingly admired for their tenacity, but the enemy nevertheless.

By 2014 such loyalties are turned upside down in "The Water Diviner". The Turks are portrayed as the good guys -- victims of a foreign invasion by alien allied forces. Traditional loyalties are discarded. So while the church and its clergy are portrayed with scorn, Islam is painted with a generous brush. Lead character Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) insults the Irish priest, his church and his beliefs, but is rendered speechless with admiration by the beauty of Istanbul's Blue Mosque. Reference is made to Australia having lost 10,000 men at Gallipoli, but this is immediately trumped by the Turkish general lamenting that their losses were 70,000.

The film reportedly received very good reviews in Turkey, which is little wonder given the almost hagiographic portrayal of the Turks and the unsympathetic portrayal of the Australians -- with the even more unsympathetic depiction of the British.

Multicultural sensitivities no doubt play a significant part in the process of upending traditional loyalties. This film is the latest step in a changing public narrative in Australia over the Gallipoli campaign that now more consciously represents Turkish perspectives. This no doubt wins Turkish votes but comes at some cost to Australian self-belief and self-confidence.

In another striking example of changing loyalties evident in "The Water Diviner", the Greek-Turkish war of 1919 -- 1922 is given a blatantly Turkish spin. Relevant scenes depict Greek soldiers as little more than bloodthirsty barbarians, with the Turks noble and innocent victims. No reference is made in the film to the fact that the Turks -- one of the greatest land-grabbing groups throughout history -- expelled Greeks by military force from their traditional domains in what is now present-day Turkey during a 1000 year period up to the 20th century. What is even more curious is the fact that Australia hosts a much larger and older Greek minority community whose sensitivities do not appear to have been considered in this particular film.

If these films open a window into Australia's changing society, these observations hold true for other Western societies which have embraced well-intentioned but debilitating policies of multiculturalism. For example, while Britain rethinks what it means to be British -- somewhat cringing for the days of empire and Rule Britannia -- the United States is regularly at pains to provide a far greater voice to minorities than their numbers deserve.

Such is the fruit of multiculturalism. Traditional identities and loyalties are discarded in pursuit of an elusive multicultural utopia. In fact, it leads to confusion and loss of confidence among majority communities built on democratic values, and the gradual subversion of those democratic values by some groups for which such values are alien.

Peter Ahern is a British freelance writer on religion, politics and society.


Views and opinions expressed in guest editorials do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AINA.
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