THE OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1991-92
shouldn't mean new oppression
politics has begun to lull us like summer's biggest movie: more plot
twists than a soap opera, more violence than a Schwarzenegger double
bill, and yet performed in the Frank Capra spirit - democracy and
self-determination winning out over the bully boys. Most of the time
Canadians react to it like a summer movie, too: passively. We chip
in a bit of money, cheer on the heroes, wait for the happy ending.
It's easy to think we have no greater role to play.
But think again. In the new world taking shape, democracy could
still be outshone by its strange new companion, ethnicity.
Tomorrow's globe will contain more and smaller states, but only
because large, multiethnic conglomerations are breaking apart: the
Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, maybe Czechoslovakia too. (Only in Germany
and the Koreas are old states coming together.) It isn't the
democratic spirit that's redrawing these borders. Soviet republics
aren't declaring independence because the union's too big to be
democratic - they're doing it because they are tired of overbearing
Russians. The Grand Truth of 1991 is that no one likes being in an
Trouble is, the new world will have just as many minorities as
the old one. If Croatia becomes independent, it will liberate
Yugoslavia's 20-per-cent Croat minority only to produce a
12-per-cent Serb minority in Croatia. Latvians made up one half of
one per cent of the Soviet population; now Russians make up a
40-per-cent minority in Latvia. All the gerrymandering only mixes up
which groups have the ability to oppress which others.
The people involved see all this and they're choosing their
remedies quickly. Serb enclaves in Croatia struggle to break free
and join Serbia (which would just leave behind smaller minorities in
both regions). Some countries write minority rights into their new
constitutions, others don't - but even the best constitutions don't
take away the second-class stigma of minority status. Perhaps no
words on paper can.
The telling example is that old ethnic state Israel. There,
Jewish idealism built an exciting culture with democratic laws.
Arabs within Israel can vote, hold office, demand protection in the
courts. But they can't expect equality. Zionism was never racism -
but it is a passion for ethnicity like those of Ukrainians and
Slovenes. And so, a Jewish-Arab country becomes a "Jewish state."
The union of ethnicity and state is the way most of the world
thinks. But it isn't the way Canada, the United States and a few
other countries think. Here we aspire to treat the newest Sikh
immigrant and the oldest Macdonald as equally Canadian; full
membership comes not from bloodlines but from living within the
There is no magical alternative: This is the only way all
citizens of a state can be equal. It is an insight we ought to be
proud of. And one we ought to shout about more loudly from our
housetops. We owe that to the new minorities, all over the world.
is Canada's, too
already have the Eurobeat, the Eurobond market and, in living rooms
from Copenhagen to Palermo, Eurodesign chairs and tables. The
Eurotunnel is under construction, and ink is drying on a draft
Eurocurrency accord. If things go well at a summit meeting in
Holland this week, people in a generation or two may list
fish-and-chips cordon bleu as an example of Eurofood, and
lump Goya with Albrecht Durer as precursors of Europaint.
Watch this process carefully, for the homogenization of Europe is
like an architect's model of our own future world. When Canadian
trade ministers talk about "globalization" and "competitiveness,"
they are really talking about doing to Canada what Europeans have
done to themselves: that is, throw whole chunks of national
sovereignty willingly into a blender for the economic benefits that
will accrue from it.
Canadians have tended to debate the effects of freer trade in
narrow terms - jobs, wages, social programs. But experience has
taught the European Community nations that each step down the free
trade path leads to unforeseen kinds of integration.
Back in 1957, they just wanted to form a simple common trading
zone, but they soon discovered that, to keep the competition fair,
they would need agreements on social, agricultural, tax and labor
market policies. Eurocrats in Brussels began to harmonize Europe's
standards with zeal, so that today it's a real issue whether French
people should be required to place the ashes of dead relatives in
urns, because that's the way it's done in Belgium.
At the same time, U.S. and Japanese competition prompted EC
countries to form multinational businesses, like Airbus, and
multinational cultural events, like the Eurovision song contest. The
upshot is that today Germans and Spaniards, Greeks and Danes live
more of their lives under European logos and standards, absorbing
Europe-wide ideas and engaged in Europe-wide debates, than anyone
When the 12 EC leaders meet tomorrow in the Dutch city of
Maastricht, they will hammer out the pragmatic details of complete
economic union, a common security policy and a larger role for the
European Parliament in Strasbourg. Countries like Germany openly say
these are just steps on the way to a federal government of Europe.
The goal's drawbacks are obvious. Government is growing bigger
and farther away. Already powerful lobbyists have flooded Brussels
to influence the Eurocrats; ordinary Dubliners and Athenians will
have a harder and harder time protecting their interests. Small
cultures are getting squeezed: The Dutch fear that their language
and customs will vanish as Eurobusiness does its work in English,
French and German.
And yet the EC (with the exception of Britain) continues to head
gladly down the path. Strange in Canadian eyes, such a surrender of
sovereignty is old hat in Europe.
When the next round of GATT world-trade talksk begins (if the
current one ever ends), several countries are poised to push for
worldwide environmental standards, a trade issue that few people
thought of as a trade issue just a few years ago. Close your eyes
and you can almost foresee a future in which Montrealers and
Calgarians study Canadianism in schools, and tune in to Question
Period in a Parliament of the World.
Ireland: Will Mayhew hit right key?
wastes human talent as if there were an inexhaustible supply. Take
the case of Peter Brooke, Britain's most promising Northern Ireland
secretary ever - a man who, through even-handedness, discretion and
a sort of phlegmatic charm managed to gain unprecedented trust among
Catholics and Protestants alike.
In two years, Brooke patiently put together the first all-party
peace process in Ulster since 1973. But now, just as another round
of talks is coming, Prime Minister John Major has replaced him. The
probable reason? In January, Brooke allowed an Irish talk-show host
to prod him into singing a song, only hours after the IRA had killed
seven Protestant workmen.
Brooke's faux pas, of course, was an accident; it did not
make him any less sincere, fair or qualified as a negotiator. Still,
negotiators are supposed to be accident-free. Protestant Unionist MP
William Ross announced that Brooke's "very, very foolish mistake"
had done him "irretrievable damage" and numbered his days as
secretary. Such a ringing vote of no-confidence made the prophecy
Last week, Brooke's job went to Sir Patrick Mayhew - a less
obliging man, who may not sing on inappropriate occasions, but who
as British attorney general antagonized Ireland over extradition of
IRA suspects, and refused to prosecute Ulster police for an alleged
"shoot to kill" policy.
His record stuck out immediately, like a sore orange thumb. Ross
rushed to praise him as just the man to find "a reasonable solution,
and one which is not loaded against the Unionists"; Catholic
Nationalists reacted as constructively as they could, but without
much warmth. The outspoken priest Denis Faul asked what many others
were probably wondering: "How is he going to win the trust of the
minority community with that sort of reputation?"
It's a very good question. Mayhew - the only man ever to request
this thankless job - is enthusiastic, and who knows, he may be as
fair and talented as Peter Brooke, too. he says he'll put his past
baggage behind him. But if he can't, or the Irish won't let him, it
will be a terrible pity.
All the social trends in Northern Ireland - things that don't
depend on one man's history or his mistakes - point toward great
progress. Electoral support for moderates has grown; support for
Sinn Fein, which won't renounce violence and join the talks, has
fallen. People want a solution; all they need is a fair man or woman
to smooth the way.
They had one, but they let him go - for a song.