My Country Is No Nation, Jamming, 06/01/2016

A couple of posts ago, I called Canada one of the first countries to become post-national. It’s not just empty rhetoric about the warm fuzzies of multiculturalism. It’s a concept with a lot of detail and depth. 

While I was publishing that series of posts criticizing the nature of nationhood, my old friend Da the Miner sent me an article about the nature of the Canadian nation by Ujjal Dosanjh, former Liberal Party cabinet minister from back in the Chrétien years. 

I’ve linked the article, but here’s my short version of what Dosanjh has to say: social progress and cultural integration in Canada has been paralyzed because of white men’s fear of being labelled racist.

Modern anti-racist movements,
seen here in vest form, aren't
about political correctness, but
educating people about the
nature of systemic causality
and injustices, and how to
repair them.
Oy gevalt.

On the bright side, Dosanjh’s article lets me make a point about one of the more subtle dangers of the Liberal Party’s culture. This hidden but pervasive aspect of their political philosophy* puts the lie to the notion with which Justin Trudeau won last year’s federal election, that the Liberals are historically Canada’s party of real social progress.

* Or philosophies, since the Liberals are an actual political party, with all the ideological diversity this implies, and not a strictly defined ideological school or tradition.

First, let me get to the basic flaws and blindnesses in Dosanjh’s post. He cites several examples of improper, illegal, or corrupt practices among non-white ethnic groups, and says that these activities went uncorrected because of white people’s squeamishness at being called racists, or their fear of stirring up racist sentiment.

A condo association conducts their meetings in Mandarin only, with no though to English-speaking residents. A network of corruption in Richmond’s construction sector exists among Indian-Canadian businesses. These go unremarked, he says, due to whites’ fear of racism accusations.

Does he analyze this claim? No, he simply makes it, without explaining any of the larger context around these examples. Then comes the philosophical point, when he quotes our latest Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent interview with the New York Times.

Trudeau said Canada had become a post-national country, and in the context of his interview, he meant it in a similar sense that I did.

The historical conception of the nation is that a nation is an ethnic, linguistic, and cultural unity. It’s a homogeneous culture that dominates a particular territory. 

Each nation will only be fully free when it controls its territory with a state’s administration, and articulates its culture through the state’s institutions. The nation-state forces cultural homogeneity on its citizens, which this philosophy considers a path to unity and peace.

John A MacDonald was a fierce believer in
and promoter of the English national vision
of Canada. With the problems and cultural
you'd likely expect.
This conception of nationhood did inform Canada once, where English-speaking Canada was an expansion of England’s national expression. That conception of nationhood still informs a lot of Quebec politics, particularly its separatist movement, which often expresses racist and exclusionary priorities.

The conception of nationhood that makes cultural homogeneity, ethnic unity, and the dominance of a single language and religion its ultimate political goal leads to everyday racism and the constant possibility of ethnic cleansing. It says that there can only be one cultural identity in a territory.

Canada is post-national in the sense that it has overcome this. Canadian unity is a function of our strength in diversity, and our ongoing process of diversification – the cultural trajectory of real freedom.

Dosanjh ultimately confuses this point when he says that a nation without a mainstream is a nation of many parallel streams that never contact each other. He says that a culture must eventually conform to a common identity. 

And that in the name of anti-racism and “political correctness,” we’re diverging from that common identity and oppressing white men through the pervasive fear among whites of the accusation of racism.

Dosanjh articulates an old conservatism that Canada has a single identity. It’s a progressivism, or at least it was once, because it’s an identity that leaves out ethnic and religious homogeneity. But it still presumes to forge everyone into a single kind of Canadian, a single kind that will remain the same.

Canada’s mainstream today is a process of constant, unending cultural flux. The only thing that stays constant in that flux is the democratic spirit that we can each work out the best way to live, as long as we accord all others the same freedom. 

That democratic spirit is the condition for cultural flux to exist and continue.

Not everyone in Canada accepts that spirit. In many cases, they come from autocracies where there is no true democratic culture, a pervasive security apparatus, or a state-enforced culture, morality, and religion

Those are the new Canadians that we democratic Canadians will have to work on. We must do the hard work of embracing these new, undemocratic Canadians and leading them to leave their conformities and absolutisms behind to embrace true democratic freedom.

To become a nation without identity, and instead a fantastic, and wonderful flux. They and we will never be the same. We must never be the same.

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