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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Canada: A Place to Belong

And then I encourage you to push, once and for all, for real and meaningful change.  Because, until we do, we will never be a real country.

What is a country?  What constitutes a nation?

We - as humans - tend to blur the lines between ethnicity and nationality.  An Italian is an Italian, the Chinese are Chinese, etc.  The further removed we are, the more generic we get - Africans as a people for instance.  Meanwhile, the more localized we get, the reverse happens - Northern Italians are distinct from Southern ones.  People from Piemonte is distinct from Lombardia.

And, throughout history, there has been a sense of "local" people and "non-local" people.  A non-Italian living in Italy is a non-Italian, for instance.  The stranger-in-a-strange land perspective persists through generations.

Except in truth, all these labels are prescribed, subjective, and dismissive of the complexity within any community and the commonality that bonds all of us together.

Within the "us v them" mentality, though, there's a kind of simplistic logic that resonates - people from a place are people, entitled to the benefits of the place, and people who aren't from that place are not.  Easy, right?  Takes an existing, comfortable model and kinda keeps things from changing.  

That's stability, right?  Not this complex, messy, risky change stuff.

The big challenge is that while we look at the world through a lens of stability, and simplicity, and a tribalistic social model, it's not what the world looks like.  As human societies (plural) increasingly merge into this more complex, somewhat integrated global community, however, the traditional fault lines are shifting.  The frames that we have become comfortable with are morphing in real terms, whether we are consciously adapting to them or not.

Which leads to a conundrum, a societal burning platform - at what point does the model we are comfortable with become so clearly not what's actually happen that we're forced to abandon those preconceived notions and redefine what it means to be... whatever we are?

For reasons of history, geography and circumstance, I feel like Canada is different.  

Canada is a country that was forged through treaties, transactional agreements with Britain, with First Nations, between French and English.  100%, we have done a bad job at this, and 100% that our history is replete with human rights atrocities, abuses of power, systematic discrimination, etc.  These facts are part of who we are.  At the same time, there is an ethos, a "national" mythology that people buy into in different degrees, but is recognized.

Canada isn't a nation; it's a social experiment.

Can people of completely different origins, beliefs, legal frameworks and cultural biases live together and function as a community?  Can the wounds inflicted of the past inform a better future rather than define blood feuds for eternity?

Can we collectively be more than the sum of our parts?  What would that look like?  

And what's the readily discussed and socially relevant "hook" that rests at the centre and draws us together?

It's mental health.  It's the impact of context.  It's how we view the world - and understanding the world others live in, that exists in parallel to ours, can even be in the exact same physical space, but is different.

We're circling this elephant; there's talk of change as being a buzzword, and meaningful transformation a pipe-dream, an opium for the masses.  

Except it's really happening.  A social consciousness is emerging that humanizes, and takes ownership, and ever so slowly even creates agency.

I see a Canada emerging - not without friction - that is the embodiment, the exemplar, the fertile ground on which a new form of identity is taking root.  Not as a nation, but as a community.  Not a homogeneous tribe, but a conscious society.

We aren't there yet.  Not by a long shot.

But we are getting there.  

Ultimately, it's not about the destination - the destination is us.  It's about leaving no one behind.