Sadly, political correctness afflicts much of the world; in particular the Western world. At its inception in the counterculture of the sixties and beyond, it was a force for good. It moved us to examine our hatreds, prejudices, values and words.
It reminded the British and the French that their prosperity had been driven and depended partly on the plunder of their colonies. It brought home to the Americans that their reach in the world wasn't always benevolent; sometimes it was born out of their economic dominance of the world and exploitation of the resources and peoples of the world.
The U.S. blacks and the counterculture made the world pivot towards a fairer, more just and compassionate understanding of the inequality and unfairness in the world. The world began to understand gender equality, freedom for gays and lesbians to be themselves, the ugly reality of racism in the world and how North America had oppressed and marginalized the indigenous peoples and the rampant unfairness in international relations.
That extremely timely and necessary overhaul of our approach toward others made us change our language, expressions and how we addressed and viewed people who were different, and possibly weaker and poorer than us. Minorities became bolder. Equality became the buzzword underpinned by longing for social justice.
In Canada that hunger for social justice and equality manifested itself in Trudeau's just society, the egalitarian foundations of which found themselves enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter justly included a constitutional right of self-government for Canada's historically abused and exploited indigenous peoples.
Canada continues to make important strides toward more equality.
But there are storm clouds on the horizon that endanger the continuing pursuit of true equality.
What started as a legitimate change to bring about equality and transformation of how we viewed, treated and spoke about each other has now ossified into a rarely breached wall of silence, a silence reinforced by the onset of the West's indifference to its own good, bad or ugly -- but distinct -- societies, their values and norms. Call it white man's burden or guilt, a guilt for the sins of the past now manifesting itself in the white man's fear.
This fear has habituated many Western leaders in their frailty to speak the unvarnished truth about the need for the refugees and immigrants welcomed into these societies to fully integrate in them. It is not about changing one's religion or bleaching one's skin to make it paler. It is about learning the moral, ethical, social and political anchors that, in this case, Canada is rooted in.
Is Canada perfect? No. It has its own past shame of the indigenous cultural genocide, Chinese head tax, concentration camps for the Japanese-Canadians, turning away in the middle of the Second World War a ship full of Jews from the Atlantic coast and much more. But Canada has confronted many of its demons and continues the important task of reconciliation with its indigenous peoples.
But the real need for equality and social justice for all has also spawned the much despised political correctness preventing us from being honest with each other. Politicians afraid of "ethnic backlashes" revel in silence policed by the so called multiculturalists who might be more appropriately called multicults -- the practitioners of a fierce brand of exclusivist multiculturalism that ought to be renamed multicultism. Under the circumstances when politicians do speak, they utter non-sequiturs, simply bromides.
"On matters of race, religion, culture and national identity of Canada the white men are reduced to either silence or non-sequiturs."
Amongst the Western leaders Angela Merkel has been an exception. She has welcomed close to a million refugees into Germany in 2016, more generous indeed than any other Western country. At the same time she told them to integrate into German society by learning the German language and values, calling multiculturalism a sham that creates parallel societies. We can debate her position but I would caution that the parallel societies she speaks of are quite discernible in many provinces in major urban centres in Canada, too.
But out of fear many of our leaders continue in their silent bliss.
This guilt cum fear was quite evident in Premier Kathleen Wynne's broad-brush swipe at those who had sought assurances of thorough security checks on the refugees to be let into Canada. Instead of arguing we must welcome refugees but after proper security checks, her words implied that these security concerns were a mask for racism.
Such remarks stultify and intimidate honest debate. Many voices are unnecessarily compelled into silence.
A recent study by Andy Yan looked at multimillion-dollar mansions on Vancouver's West Side that are being bought with foreign money. He argued it was about recent foreign money, not race. Yan, an urban planner and adjunct professor at UBC, was hurriedly excoriated for fanning racism.
Another study of multimillion-dollar mansions on the West Side of Vancouver showed that a significant portion of owners declared incomes as low as the residents of Canada's poorest postal code --Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The transnational migrants who buy these mansions refuse to report their global income at tax time, resulting in tax unfairness.
The question asked by the Vancouver Sun columnist Douglas Todd was who will pay taxes to support the social safety net all of us use? Not many voices from the public leadership joined that debate to ask that or similar questions. And we continue to sell Canadian citizenship to the highest bidders without debating whether doing so builds the kind of society we want.
On the other hand we continue to bring in temporary workers without a real stake in the country. They are abused and used to drive down wages for Canadians; no way to build a caring, inclusive and socially just society. But sadly we can't and don't debate the kind of society we are building out of fear for being called racists; anybody such as Andy Yan who dares to speak risks inviting our wrath.
Several years ago a report on the front page of the Vancouver Sun stated that close to a billion dollars of unaccounted and undeclared money was circulating in the construction industry in Surrey. Such massive fraud did not elicit even a peep from the usually loud public voices. It was well-known that almost all of the residential and a portion of the commercial construction was in the hands of Indo-Canadians. Complete silence reigned in the political sphere.
Fear had won again; building a better Canada lost out.
Recently there was an incident in Richmond, B.C. where a strata council executive ordained that its meetings will be conducted in Mandarin only. No English was to be allowed. At least 30 per cent of the residents of the strata in question didn't speak Mandarin. This shocking episode landed in the midst of the already hot controversy around the Chinese only signs of various commercial establishments in Richmond. The Richmond Council has failed to show any real leadership on these unnecessarily isolationist signs.
The fear of being branded racists has paralyzed the Richmond politicians.
I had been thinking about the many such instances when I read our prime minister declaring to the New York Times Magazine, "There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada... There are shared values -- openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first post-national state."
On matters of race, religion, culture and national identity of Canada the white men are reduced to either silence or non-sequiturs.
Does that mean anything goes in Canada?
"Some of us have so thoroughly shamed the white men into complete submission regarding our misplaced belief that Canada has no core identity or core values."
That there is no mainstream means there are many streams. It also implies that the streams never merge and mingle; the streams live in parallel to others, isolated and apart from each other. If so, how do we build a society with high degree of social solidarity and cohesion?
How do we develop shared values that the prime minister claims we have if all the streams do not at some point merge to create the mainstream?
If Mr. Trudeau was right about the absence of Canadian core identity and mainstream, we wouldn't have any shared values.
The truth is we have a core Canadian identity. That is the reason we have the shared values that Mr Trudeau so justly and proudly speaks of.
We are not post-national -- whatever that means. But we are a country of the world. Our core identity and core values make us so. If we do not defend that core identity and the core values that define us, they will wither away. Canada will be diminished -- a tragic loss to the world that, according to Bono of U2, needs more Canadas.
It seems some of us have so thoroughly shamed the white men into complete submission regarding our misplaced belief that Canada has no core identity or core values; so much so that even our Prime Minister won't defend what was so dear to his own father -- what he had fought so hard for.
My three children and six grand children born and raised in Canada know no other country as their own. They have a great stake in a healthy, humane, socially just and prosperous Canada.
If the white men of Canada can't overcome the fear of rebuke from the enforcers of fear, Canadians can't ever have an honest debate about the state of equality, race, culture and the place and space for religion and other languages in Canada.
These are important questions that need frank debates unless we want to live in our silos, isolated from others.
Fear, shame, silence or non-sequiturs do not build great nations.
They are built by frank, fearless and honest men and women!
P.S.: Perhaps I should have anticipated the totally non-serious assertion that not all white men are silent. The silencing of most good white men has provided an opportunity for the Trumps of the world to rise. That is what happens when we suffocate or silence rational debate.
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"You don't need to go into full confessional mode, but have fun with it, if that helps. Or be perfectly honest," Author Jonathan R. Miller said. Miller pens e-books with multi-ethnic characters and themes. You don't have to talk about all the nuances of your family tree every time you're asked about your background, He said. That can be exhausting. Find something that works for you personally.
"I like the word 'mixed' because it's a messy word, and in my experience growing-up mixed is exactly that," Miller said. He suggests that it's important to allow yourself to truly wrestle with questions of identity in environments you consider safe.
If you are struggling with your identity, you don't have to tell the whole world, but confide in a friend that you trust. Having someone to confide in is important. "If you can, find someone who you can talk to about your most honest, ever-evolving, often-messy answer to the question, "What am I?" Miller said.
"Maybe you don't have anyone trustworthy to talk to honestly about your experiences. Write about them. It helped me, sometimes, to get those out," Miller said. It may not make a lot of sense initially and it might feel uncomfortably personal, but write. Keep a journal, write short stories and rename the characters, try your hand at poetry -- whatever feels best.
"You are likely being told at different times, more or less, to hurry up and get off the fence, pick a side and get on with it," Miller said. It's not necessarily a bad thing to be unsure of who you are, even if your peers seem to have their acts together, he said. Teenage years are discovery years. Miller also quoted author Rainer Maria Rilke: " 'Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. ...live in the question.' That's good advice. Difficult to follow, but good."
When it comes to mixed heritage, "you don't have to be 'both' or 'other' or 'all of the above' all of the time. Sometimes the only way to figure out what you are is to choose one thing and be it for a while," Miller said. Explore how it feels to fully embrace a single aspect of your identity, for short period of time. See "what stick and what slides off." It's simply learning, Miller said.
"I can't tell you how many multi-racial people I've met who have chosen a single race or ignored race entirely and been perfectly content with the decision. A biracial friend of mine used to tell me, 'I'm black and white, yes, but I'm black. Period,' " Miller said. He said he knows many people have chosen to identify with only one aspect of their multi-background, while others have embraced the blend.
Find creative ways to occupy your time, Miller said. Join a group or do an activity (with others) where you are empowered to be who you are, instead of having to act how others think you need to be in order to fit in.
Take pride in your ethnic (culture, colour or religion) heritage. You have no control over your heritage, and you can't change that fact that this is who you are. So embrace it and learn as much as you can. "You may feel like it would be an insult to your heritage to embrace one aspect of yourself above the others, but trust me, it wouldn't be. This is important: it is not your job to uphold, with perfect equity and grace, all of the elements that went into your making," Miller said.
"Often they're the 'gatekeepers' that decide whether you're 'in' or 'out.' But what you can do is have a ready answer for the 'charges' they level against you. Whether you use humour, earnestness, or self-righteous anger, it helps to have your defense lined up and ready," Miller said. Sometimes people think all the "members" of their cultural or ethnic community must behave, dress and think a certain way. But as an individual, you can do whatever you want and find your own identity.
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