Monday, 22 October 2007

Guess what? Canada is actually a social experiment and not really a country at all

Or so says Alidad Mafinezam in a piece in the Toronto Star but he doesn't call it a social experiment. Canada is more of a "think-tank for the world." Whatever they call it our nation is not really Canada and Canadians do not exist.

Our diversity makes us a think-tank for the world

Oct 22, 2007 04:30 AM

Alidad Mafinezam

The Quebec hearings on the Reasonable Accommodation of Minorities, chaired by distinguished scholars Charles Taylor and Gerard Bouchard, have necessitated similar discussions of the challenges and opportunities of diversity in Canada's other provinces.

Yet in Quebec and elsewhere, a key aspect of Canada's diversity has gone largely unnoticed: the opportunity afforded to Canada in the international arena by its multiculturalism and diversity.

Diversity can no longer be seen as limited to domestic affairs, as it now shapes, more than ever before, Canada's international relations. Diasporas and "transnational communities," the human bridges and bonds between Canada and dozens of countries, are the new themes we need to focus on.

In the past generation, almost all discussions of diversity and multiculturalism in Canada have focused on the domestic implications of the pluralistic makeup of our society, and the need for promoting mutual respect and tolerance.

While the importance of this line of thinking is indisputable, it misses the idea that Canada's success at integrating its diversity has effectively transformed the country into the global crossroads. Thus, Canada can and should serve as a global think-tank focused on finding solutions to some of the world's most intractable problems: ethnic and religious strife, urban poverty and pollution.

I don't recall Canadians ever being consulted on this. Has anybody ever asked Canadians that they should surrender their culture, identity, languages, history, and country to become a "think tank for the world"?

Why are Canadians being asked, hell forced even, to let their country to become something no one else in the world would allow? How many immigrants to this country would agree to let their home countries endure what Canadians are being asked to do? I doubt many would.

This commentary, and others of its ilk, is effectively saying that Canadians do not really exist at all. We are all guinea pigs in some elitists’ social experiment designed to satisfy their utopian ideals of the “just society” and to convince them that such ideals are feasible.

Sorry pal but this is Canada. You want a “think tank of the world” then I suggest you make one in your ancestral home land and make guinea pigs of them. You prefer others to bear the burden of your experiments? Then how about Yugoslavia? Oops, forgot about that. That country doesn’t exist. I wonder why?

Canada and Canadians do not exist: the Belgium example


Empedocles said...

All countries that have attempted to integrate racial minorities have ended up with persistent segregation and its resulting social problems. To understand why integration has failed we must understand how it was supposed to work in the first place.

Western nations are founded on the Enlightenment view descended from Descartes that each individual is a distinct separate substance. This substance was essentially rational, and could over time acquire various beliefs, desires, etc. In this way it was believed that everything about an individual—sex, race, height, weight, religious and political beliefs—everything except for its rationality was merely contingent upon accident and/or personal experience. Specifically, the individual was born basically a tabula rasa (although Descartes thought there were some innate ideas) that could be provided with experiences that would form ones beliefs and character. It was presumed that if two individuals were provided with the same experiences, they would possess the same beliefs and character. Acting on these premises, the civil rights movement thus had two aims: to remove segregation on the one hand, and foster integration on the other. Integration was supposed to work by providing equal experiences and removing the differences that resulted in a lack of equality and thus prejudice and segregation. After all, on the Cartesian model, by giving all individuals identical experiences, or as closely identical as possible, we would remove cultural differences and result in an integrated culture. For example, bussing was an attempt to provide all citizens with the same educational experiences, a well as exposure to individuals of different races, in order to dispel prejudices resulting from ignorance due to a lack of experience of others. If all citizens were brought up in similar neighborhoods, going to similar schools, with similar exposures to others, given the same opportunities, we would achieve a society where racial differences no longer mattered since race and identity would no longer be linked. Whereas bussing was an attempt to repair educational inequalities, affirmative action was an attempt to integrate the work force so that professions were not racially determined and that racial disparities would be erased resulting in an integrated workforce with a common culture. Over time, with academic achievement equalized, cultural differences removed, and economic inequalities erased, we would move to a society where race no longer played a factor in determining personal identity, professional achievement, economic class, or cultural differences.

Why then has integration failed? Conservatives claim that integration has failed because ethnic and racial groups insist on self-segregating and refuse to integrate, liberals claim that persistent racism has kept integration from working. It is crucial to see that both sides accept the premises of integration, that the way to achieve it is to provide equal experiences. Since the theory on integration is correct, it is argued, if it has failed the only possible explanation is that it must have failed for moral reasons; someone is behaving immorally and thus preventing integration from succeeding. The validity of the theory of how integration was supposed to succeed is accepted by both sides, and if the theory is correct, then an explanation must be offered on why integration has failed to occur. The offered explanations are moral in character: either people are self-segregating, or people are racists. And so most of the civil rights movement has abandoned integration and embraced multiculturalism. It is my contention that neither explanation is correct, and that integration failed because it was based on a faulty conception of personal identity.

Personal identity:
One of the enduring philosophical questions is the question of what makes an individual the individual they are. What makes me the same person I was yesterday, or last year? What differentiates me from all the other people? If my memories could be transplanted into another person, would I be that person or the previous? The dominant theory of personal identity over the last several centuries was that of Descartes. For Descartes, one is individuated by being a separate spiritual substance. This substance acquires individual beliefs and desires through experience, and these can differ from individual to individual, and within the same individual over time, but the underlying substance remains constant and this is what constitutes the identity over time. Descartes’ views have largely been discarded as they give rise to all sorts of philosophical difficulties—primarily due to the mysterious nature of this spiritual substance and our vastly increased understanding of the workings of the brain. Others have taught that it is ones memories that constitute ones identity, but this likewise gives rise to all sorts of insoluble riddles over memory transplants, lost memories, changed memories, etc.

The truth is that what separates one from all other individuals, what “individuates” is ones history: the one thing that you can share with no other being is your history, no two beings have the same history. Even identical twins have different histories, even from the moment their cells separated. And even if ones memories were implanted into another person, your histories would therefore differ. The main import of this discussion is that, as a result, to understand oneself, what makes you who you are and makes you different and unique from all other beings, is to understand your history. For example, if you want to know why you have the political beliefs you do, say why you believe in democracy, you need to know American history, why America is a democracy, what ideas lead to the political system we have today. But in order to understand this you need to understand the political disputes of the Enlightenment. And in order to understand this you need to know the political theories of the pre-Enlightenment that the Enlightenment was reacting to, etc. In order to understand why one has the religious beliefs you do one would clearly need to know ones personal history, how you were raised and any influences in your life that lead to your current beliefs. But to understand where these ideas came from would require one to know the various religious traditions, their history, the disputes that were involved in their creation, why they ended up the in form they have, and the history of how you ended up with these beliefs. To understand why you are where you are, you need to understand your personal history, why you moved from place to place through your life. But to understand this fully you need to know the history of your ancestors as they emigrated across the Earth even as far back as the original emigration out of Africa. Actually, you would need to know the history going even further back as to why the first humanids were in Africa in the first place, and the whole evolutionary history of life on earth. Race is the result of history as well, it records the migrations of people around the world from the original migrations out of Africa—in your race you wear the history of your ancestors on your sleeve as it were. The same could be said of any taste, desire, preference, aspiration, or conviction one has; to understand why you are the way you are you need to understand your history. Even to understand why one likes something as inconsequential as the taste of strawberry ice cream would require an understanding of history, in part your personal history and your various reasons for liking it, but also in part evolutionary history and why we developed the preference for sweets that we have, as well as the biological processes in play in the perception of sweetness.

In summary, you are the way you are, and different from every other being (although sharing much with them) because your history is different from every other being. If this is the case, as I think it is, integration, i.e., the adoption of a new culture, is the process of dropping one history and adopting another as ones own. Historically, immigrants come to the US and they soon (in a generation or two) more or less forget their history and the culture that results from it and adopt their new one. Soon they're proud of how "we" defeated the British, the Nazis, and the Communists, even if they're in fact British, German, or Russian and it was their ancestors that "we" beat. Cultural practices are also the result of history--the traditions, mores, rituals, and celebrations of each culture are the result of historical events and adaptations. In integration the previous historically derived cultural practices are dropped in favor of the also historically evolved cultural practices of the US. However, one can not drop their race the way you can drop other aspects of ones identity. For example, when the British celebrate “our” great naval history, Asian and middle-eastern immigrants know that that "our" does not include them—that British history does not include them--but white immigrants to England--after a generation or so--can drop their true background adopt a new history and blend in with the rest of the "we." Caucasians living in non-white countries come to feel the same thing, that they can't drop their history/identity and become fully part of the culture. African-Americans can never and should never drop their history the way European immigrants have been able to and see the country as a land of opportunity and freedom when the fact that "they" had no freedom and opportunity is always staring them in the face.

This tension between being pressured on the one hand by the political push for integration to adopt the “mainstream” or “white” history and the resulting values, politics, and identity, and on the other hand by the obvious fact that “our” history results in a very different lessons, values, and political beliefs-- leads to the feeling of alienation that minorities universally express, and finds its way into different political beliefs, social mores, artistic expressions, etc. The cognitive dissonance between the pressure to adopt an alien history, and the impossibility of doing so when ones race and its attendant history is ever apparent, results in the widespread alienation and its attendant social ills. The facts of slavery and Jim Crow can not and should not ever be dropped for the adoption of an alien history, but since integration requires the adopting of another’s history, integration is impossible. However, the failure of integration is not a moral failing on anybody’s part, it is the result of the adoption of a faulty theory of identity giving rise to false beliefs, and was bound to fail for this reason. Given the fact that history is essential to ones identity, one of the worst things you can do to a person is force them to abandon ones true history/identity and adopt a false history and resulting values of another race, ethnic group, or religion whose history results in very different values, and cultural identity (as was attempted with native Americans). This is, if I may coin a phrase, “identitycide” and is one of the worst forms of racism imaginable. And yet identitycide is the basis of America’s educational system, and much of the alienation that plagues African-Americans and other racial groups.

I would argue that the solution to this problem is to abandon liberalism and adopt communitarianism.

PaxCanadiana said...

Thanks for the post.

From what I can gather from what you wrote history is important to integration and I agree. However, Canadian history is a casualty of multiculturalism because Canadian history excludes immigrants of non-European ancestry. For example South Asians and Muslims have no real history in Canada and have made no significant contribution to the founding and establishment of Canada. That's why they are absent in Canadian history books. Canadian history is a history of Europeans.

But as the Canadian populace becomes less "white" and South Asians and Muslims, among others, continue to constitute increasing segments of the population much of Canadian history will be expunged, forgotten, and told as a fleeting footnotes to make room for the histories of South Asians and Muslims whose histories have almost nothing to do with Canada all in an effort to be more "inclusive".

A national history is a good tool to unite a people which is why I believe, firstly lower immigration numbers, and, secondly, giving importance to European immigration (albeit in limited quantities) and introducing policies to raise the birth rate in Canada is best for Canada. This is in opposition to Canada's current immigration policy which is more akin to population replacement than it is to population growth since the vast majority of immigrants to Canada come from non-traditional/non-European sources (India, China, Pakistan, Philippines) and they displace established populations by turning once familiar surroundings (i.e. Canadian) into representations of foreign lands. This segmentation of Canada’s public spaces and lands into what are effectively ethnic and religious colonies (euphemistically referred to as communities by a politically correct establishment) will also fracture Canadian history into competing and parallel national narratives instead of an encompassing one. Fracturing of this kind is not good social policy and it is detrimental to nation building and the establishment of a common Canadian identity.

The communitarism you espouse cannot be achieved by multicultural means feed by an immigration policy such as the one Canada has now.