Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Nativism, isolationism and autarky

In our household a radio is always on and yesterday afternoon was no exception. Different shows are on a different times (we follow shows and hosts, not stations) and the late afternoon is time for CBC's On the Go with Ted Blades.

A regular part of the show is audience response callbacks. Yesterday there were two which reinforced each other and both were in response to this interview with Jeffrey Simpson on Wednesday, June 20th. One caller was Sue Kelland Dyer and the other was a lady whose name I missed.

In different ways, both callers disagreed with Simpson's comments taking Ted Blades and CBC to task for having him on the air offering a diagnoses to problems facing this province and prescribing solutions when there are so many true-blue, saltwater-blooded NLer's available to do that instead.

In effect they were asking What is CBC doing giving a platform to that mainlander?

Rather than giving this point of view the short shrift it deserved, Ted's response was almost apologetic. I thought that was odd. labradore seemed to think so too.

Over the last few years I have found it alarming the extent to which isolationism has taken hold in this province. Our public rhetoric is permeated with quasi-separatist nonsense like moral autonomy, going it alone and telling everyone else in the country to mind their own business.

And this comes from the very top.

The refrain gets transferred from the rhetorical to the economic and morphs into a bizarre economic autarky where the goal becomes economic detachment and self-sufficiency for political purposes. Not one spoonful of nickel can leave the province unless and until it is turned into washing machines and automotive body panels, for example. The low point of this silliness is the insistence that all electricity generated in Labrador must be kept away from Ontario (who will only pay us money for it and who wants that) in favour of keeping it all here.

The hope is that we will become an industrial power without the economic or human infrastructure available to make that happen. The assumption is that cheap energy is all it takes to make that transformation.

When was the last time you bought a manufactured good from Saudi Arabia or the UAE?

I look forward to the argument that not one spoonful of uranium can leave the province unless and until it's value-added processed into warheads.

Migrating from the economic to the social sphere, the next morph is a peculiar nativist stance where the only people fit to comment on the state of the province are the true-blue, native-born, MUN-educated, saltwater-blooded NLer's. It's bad enough when newspapers like The Independent pass off low-rent ideological leanings as news and sites like NL News of Note (AKA News We Like and Agree With) pretend to present information about the province while choosing to avoid information which disturb it's strongly-held prejudices*.

CBC should never fall into that trap nor should they ever even faintly apologise for presenting the widest possible perspectives on this province from the widest possible set of sources; mind-closing currents should be resisted.

It's ironic that just when geographic isolation has largely become a bad memory due to improved transportation, communications and population movements, some among us choose to narrow our world view to the comfortable choosing to attack anything or anyone who might disturb it rather than embracing a diversity of views.

This province was settled by people who were not afraid of the new and different. Traditionally, we have been a seafaring people to Europe, the Caribbean and the "Boston States." Our ports were the crossroads of the world where a myriad of languages could be heard. Global trade defined our economy and our policy was to expand that to have more trade, not less. Our early political leaders came from all over the British Empire and our self-image was as part of that larger whole.

We should never turn our back on those traditions. We should never choose to limit ourselves to tolerating only the smallest possible set of views. And no-one should apologise for offering a platform to broaden the scope of public debate.


*NL News of Note no longer links to Globe and Mail stories because it is just too upsetting for their audience. I'm going to assume my audience is more robust than theirs and won't object if I continue to offer those links.

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