Sunny Hundal is a TV presenter and writer
In typical light-heartedness, Britain’s first Hindu and non-white prime minister became less ostentatious. Most Conservatives applauded him but said his background was irrelevant. Many on the left cautiously celebrate the broken glass ceiling, but say he’s too rich to be an agent.
However, there is an important global context missing from this debate. Rishi Sunak has been tasked with leading the country, despite her brown skin and Hindu beliefs, because Britain is increasingly comfortable with being a multicultural democracy. We are becoming a nation where different races, creeds and gender identities are accepted. We still argue about our differences and have many biases to address, but our diversity is increasingly seen as a strength.
Some people on the left see this as trivial, but it really isn’t. Most of our ideological brethren across Europe and East Asia value diversity but are vehemently opposed to it in practice. Worse still, about 70% of people worldwide live under dictatorships. Multicultural democracies are a minority within a minority.
In fact, most of the world is rejecting these ideals. They see us arguing about our differences and getting repulsed. They argue that social diversity leads to paralysis and political decay. Furthermore, they resent us for pushing our values on them.
One of the leaders of this movement is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been open about his feelings for many years. “In many [western] countries today, ethical and moral standards are being reexamined; national traditions, national and cultural differences are being erased,” said Mr told a journalist several years ago, adding that more and more people are coming to Russia’s “protection of traditional values”.
When Russia’s anti-gay law was passed a few years ago, he say The country’s “traditional family values” are the foundation of greatness and a bulwark against the “so-called tolerance – genderlessness and infertility”.
Putin’s crusade against social liberalism has attracted many of his followers around the world. “It is time to wake up from blind faith in the Western system,” said a 2020 commentary in the state-run China Education News. “Fierce partisan fighting has worsened in some Western countries, social rifts are deepening, and a serious social crisis is brewing.” Another well-known US conservative asked: Will Russia become the new moral leader of the world?
Modern dictators believe that diversity leads to conflict and decay. They want nations to put their tribe first. For Putin, this means white heterosexual Russians, for the Chinese Communist Party it means protecting and enforcing Han culture and language. For Muslim-majority countries it means putting Muslims first, while for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party it means putting Hindus first .
Multicultural democracies are a unique social experiment and we care about making them work. At some point, Americans will have to end the vicious cycle of polarization in their country. Canada and the UK have so far avoided that fate but we cannot assume our project will be successful or that the presence of a minority leader represents a broader truth about society.
It is important for us to accept that multiculturalism is not easy. Maintaining social cohesion is hard work and prone to derailment. Our social media-driven environment – which rewards exaggerating differences and focusing on small differences – makes that even more difficult.
There is no reason why multicultural democracies should be the norm. But this is the world I want to live and fight in. So yes, Sunak’s leading position is hugely iconic in the global scene. One day, we may look back and see it as a sign of a nation confident in its own skin. Or we can lament it was a failed experiment. I very much hope it is the old one.