To: Linda Smith
I appreciated your comments and your analysis, and I think that
I agree with pretty much everything you said in your letter.
My own feeling is that while I feel most comfortable with face-to-face,
small scale communities and activism, and while I believe in decentralizing
and abolishing power to the greatest extent possible, I also believe
that larger-scale decision making is necessary. For some kinds of
things, we simply have to make decisions and set standards that
apply regionally, nationally and internationally. Rather than pretend
that isn't so, I'd rather acknowledge it and try to figure out how
to get such decisions made as democratically and accountably as
possible. Otherwise those with the most power, be it multinational
corporations, or the International Monetary Fund, or George Bush,
will continue to make them.
On the issue of free trade and the existence of the Canadian nation,
my attitude is that I am in favour of moving to reduce barriers
between nations - nationalism being one of the most important of
them! At the same time, it seems obvious to me that if a country
like Canada, living next door to an aggressive superpower, unilaterally
drops all barriers, this simply amounts to inviting foreign domination.
Being taken over by the U.S. is not what I have in mind by internationalism.
You suggest that the insistence on so-called free trade (by the
Green Revolution people) has more to do with a refusal to
acknowledge the existence of nations than with a claim to know what
is best for other countries. That may be true, but I'm not sure
that those two things are actually terribly different. I think it's
typically the attitude of people - including progressive people
- living in a powerful nation. I was in Germany this fall and I
encountered a similar attitude: German leftists were impatient with
nationalist preoccupations of any kind, while those from countries
which had been historically threatened and invaded by Germany felt
that the preservation of some form of distinct national identify
was crucial. Similarly, American radicals are always telling Canadians
that nationalism of any kind is anachronistic, while Canadians,
who have a keen awareness of pressures from the U.S., including
two military invasions, are typically concerned with retaining the
power to decide ourselves what is best for us.
I do know, as you say, that the attitude of the country is not
necessarily the attitude of the people. Some of the people I like
and admire most are Americans. (Yes, some of my best friends are
Americans!) However, in the same way as even the best-intentioned
men still retain some unconscious sexist attitudes, so many otherwise
admirable Americans still suffer from imperialist attitudes. But
in the same way as I strongly believe that men and women need to
work together (as well as separately at times) to create a new non-sexist
society, so I also believe that Canadians and Americans need to
make every effort to work together toward goals we can share. But
much as I want to join together across the border, I want to make
sure that border stays there too.
Thanks for writing, Linda. I enjoyed your letter.
December 13, 1990