Definitions: Integration, assimilation

First published in Tulay Monthly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 1, no. 2 (July 1988): 3.

Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran is for cultural integration and political, social and economic assimilation. What is the difference between integration and assimilation?

When these two terms are used by non-technical people, they are more or less interchangeable. They are affirmed of people or groups in contact with each other. The groups are not clashing or competitive but getting along without conflict. And they are doing more than simply co-existing, adjusting superficially, or accommodating reluctantly to one another concessions for the sake of peace.

Groups integrating with one another form, a harmonious whole. They communicate, share, and work with one another, as a single team with a common goal, united by a common spirit and oneness of purpose. The parts of a clock are integrated to form one mechanism that is useful; we can speak precisely about the integration of a machine, but the term will have loose edges when it is applied to persons or special groups living and working in solidarity. They sink the differences that disturb their teamwork for the common goal. The stress in this concept is an effective organization and on elimination of friction. Rightly understood, we cannot have too much integration in an organized unit.

Groups assimilating are becoming alike, similar to each other. Assimilation is an appropriation and incorporation into the substance of the in taking body, as food is assimilated by the one who eats it, and as a community assimilates persons from many nations and provinces.

The physical figure called to mind by the term is the conversion or incorporation of nutritive material into the fluid or solid substance of the body. The figurative sense of the term applies to a minority or immigrant groups which is brought, through contact, within the cultural pattern of an established majority.

One set of cultural traits is relinquished, and a new set is acquired through communication and participation. In human relations there can be too much assimilation.

When a lion assimilates a lamb, the lion is fed and content, but the lamb is devoured and loses its identity. Assimilators who want to absorb the assimilated entirely are of course disliked by the assimilated. The Muslims and the national minorities dislike to hear of assimilation policies, though they are open to integration and organic cohesion.

Absorption is a swallowing up entirely. In it the object disappears and loses its own being. It is the substitution of all one group’s native cultural traits by the acquisition of all the original traits of another group. A sponge, cotton wadding or a blotter absorbs and sucks up liquid.

A smaller tribe is absorbed by a larger. The absorber may be nourished and enriched by what it takes in, but at the sacrifice of the absorbed’s very existence. Sociologically, simple absorption of one people by another is rarely possible, or desirable. Valuable, colorful, interesting traits are extinguished, whereas they could enrich the new whole.

It is not wrong to call for, and strive for, a good degree of assimilation while making it clear that one does not demand dull and total uniformity, on blind and passive conformity. Assimilation connotes a melting pot, a becoming like some established model… of conduct, beliefs and values.

Whereas social integration is attained, assimilation will in the course of time follow; but to force it would seem unwise.