What does ‘integration’ mean, really? (This was a question brought up in my coursebook for learning German).
Integration, in the most general sense, may involve bringing together and uniting two or more economies, cultures or religions. We talk about racial integration, economic integration or regional integration… Unification implies collaboration.
So, but what does ‘integration’ mean when it is used on its own?
The word on its own can be rather ambiguous and carries prejudicial overtones, as far as I’m concerned, because when used in the context of the relationship, say, between an individual or family towards a nation or state, it tends to reflect ‘reformation’ which can only bring a greater divide. “Like attracts like”.
It is useful only in as much as it serves to show a degree of respect on behalf of the ‘foreigner’ for local customs. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Being aware of certain local customs (aside from tax laws and abiding by an x amount civic laws), for instance, can save slight embarrassment, where perhaps some gesture (or sound) for instance might bungle a message and lead to a misunderstanding.
These encounters are really trifling once we consider that, from the standpoint, say, of two individuals whose mutual interest it is to share, trade, procreate, etc. carries a certain basic instinct that is not with an innocence, or gentlemanly courteous, intention towards one another, else perhaps simple curiosity, which is incomparable to the rather more harmful outcome brought about by a national pride, which generally stems from a narrow, ignorant perspective and is not without a degree of cynicism and envy.
Sadly, integration as we have come to see it, will ignore the wealth of knowledge and culture coming from those having to integrate. (In the case of my German book, those wanting to immigrate to Germany).
In social circles, the term ‘integration’ on its own has become commonplace (as is the word ‘control’). It is as useless and ambiguous as putting a plaster on someone who has been afflicted by a prejudicial sarcastic remark which has its roots in a wound from a societal conflict.
Integrate what exactly, anyway?
Nationalism? Indeed, nationalism with a capital N only helps to justify the need for “integration”, except, for all the aforementioned wrong reasons. After all, ‘integration’ automatically implies ‘outsider’ and ‘tolerance’ and so therefore ‘insider’ and ‘intolerance’.
But what we forget is how much locals can learn from those individuals and families wishing, in all good intentions, to immigrate, and eventually to ‘integrate’. And so when this aspect of kinship gets lost in the process of integration there breads a certain unhealthy prejudice, which counteracts the original purpose of the word.
What is the opposite of integration, anyway?
Separation? Segregation? Whatever it is, by its integration into our lexis, it overtly implies it has an opposite.
Wait! Before integration can even begin, we expect foreigners (refugees, immigrants, etc.) to learn a new ‘modern’ language first. (Universities also tend to refuse degrees earned in other countries, but that’s another story). This will then also mean slow progress in other areas, namely that of having to learn to survive on just two things: verbal communication (in this case German) and monetary gain (in this case, well, the Euro). Basic survival is compromised by an overkill of bureaucracy and false nationalism, backed by media manufacturing consent, programming predictable outcomes which all but rarely promulgate philanthropy, not to mention, increasingly, rapid fluency in front of a computer.
And manmade laws only restrict, further instilling a divide. Ultimately the current judiciary systems further the growth of poverty rather than encourage a loving, motherly nature in humanity, that which naturally binds us in a brotherhood.
It is education, exchange, trade, interbreeding, and marriages notwithstanding, that spell an openness and incentive to unite.
Dare I say…to integrate?
The very fact that we will define and distinguish one language’s grammar from another is as harmful as are religious sects who yield to alternative views of (human and godly) existence. In times of the great trade routes (whether it be the Asian trade route from Beijing to Kazaksthan, or between Scandinavia and Constantinople, or Arkansas to Kansas), wherever trading took precedence over all else, there was a delightful indulgence of a very important facet of human life: Languages and dialects could mingle freely. Here, we would have witnessed a symbiosis (for lack of a better term) rather than an ‘integration’.
Finally, I think the term we could be using in place of ‘integration’ is Syncretism. Look it up! Having said that, if we began to understand and accept Life as being a symbiosis, where every being is interdependent and/or complementary of each other’s existences, just maybe there would be no need for the term integration, or any other term for that matter.