For those frustrated and even frightened by the West’s current unseemly rush back to the supposed comforts of nationalism and tribalism, and for those who, like me, don’t wish to restrict ourselves to single identities, national or otherwise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent re-orientation of Canada as a ‘postnational’ society offers some hope, and even joy ( Theresa May wouldn’t like it, of course: ‘if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere’; as neither would the Ukippers, who have just stolen the European part of our identity away from us; or most of Trudeau’s neighbours south of the 49th parallel. But for us cultural hybrids it’s like a breath of reason and enlightenment, and a glimpse of a better world.

Canada is rapidly becoming the other, ‘good’, side of the American coin; the shiny obverse to the US’s rusted reverse; the Dr Jekyll to the latter’s Mr Hyde. (Here’s something I wrote on it earlier: Which must vindicate all those American ‘loyalists’ who rejected independence in 1776, stuck with the Empire, and made their homes in ‘British North America’, as it was then. It illustrates what the United States might have become if they had remained under the British colonial yoke – which was gentle enough, after all – to develop culturally and politically in more British ways. (Only joking.) (Well, in part.)

Thanks to my postnational friend Marie Clausén for putting me on to this; and for her own excellent and moving FB commentary on it:

“Is this the world’s first ‘postnational’ country?” Oh, I do hope so.

It would mean that even people like me would finally be given the chance to belong somewhere without that nagging sense of imposture that we have come to know all too well. People like me with parents from different countries; people born in one country, but raised in three others; people who on growing up feel the need to move to a fifth country and after that to a sixth country, where they live with passports (and a driver’s licence) from countries they no longer reside in, and reside in a country in which they don’t have citizenship (or a driver’s licence); people whose most meaningful affiliations continue to be situated in a country they neither reside in nor have citizenship in; people who in spite of these complications do not subscribe to the notion of being multicultural, since they perceive themselves as complete, single, whole individuals and not bowls of broken-off, jumbled bits of various (presumably national) “cultures” maladroitly stuck together.

The more the nations of the world pull up their drawbridges and insist on making a Big Thing out of ethnicity and nationality and heritage and “where, oh where, are you FROM?” the more people like me, the root-weak internationalists, the cosmopolitans, the in-betweeners, the “third-culture kids,” who just want to get on with living our lives, such as they are, will be left out in the cold.

So, well done, Canada and Justin Trudeau, for embracing the possibility at least of acknowledging that there are other ways of thinking about, seeing, and organizing us human earthlings than by “national” “identity/ies.”


About bernardporter2013

Retired academic, author, historian.
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