Diversity Matters – multiculturalism and Canada’s world
Yesterday in Vancouver : Michael Adams, founding president of the Environics group and author of such books as Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, gave a talk about multiculturalism in the Canadian context. Alas, i was unable to attend. Did anyone out there hear him? Thoughts? Comments?
I’m interested in his most recent book, Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism – Adams takes issue with one of my key worries, that Canada is “increasingly fragmented along ethno-cultural lines”. Armed with polling data that his company, Environics, specializes in mining, Adams is a high profile “data farmer” and posits that Canadians, new and old , embrace diversity. Has anyone read this book? I haven’t yet (another “to do” on my vast reading list) but in a past life worked with clients who used his firm’s many polling resources.
When I zip around the city on transit, and walk all our neighbourhoods, I worry that here in the Lower Mainland we’re increasingly segmented by income, language and ethnicity but maybe my anecdotal “evidence” is simply wrong? As a fairly typical “middle-class” Canadian, albeit with brown skin, maybe my tendency to extrapolate generally from books such as Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Ahead leads me to see “diversity” as a potential wedge issue rather than a unifier. (Interesting to compare Jacobs with Jared Diamond). I have found it incredibly refreshing and thought-provoking that several commentators to this column have viewed Canada’s diversity in positive terms.
I wonder if being a “visible minority” in this country makes me overly pessimistic about the positive aspects of diversity – how do each of us arrive at understanding and how do we make meaning of all these terms “The Academy” uses – multiculturalism, diversity, pluralism, ethnocultural…
The folks I went to high school with, in my home town of New Westminster, didn’t necessarily use this kind of highly abstract language to define or self-analyse our community, which was extremely homogenous. I’m curious – what were the experiences of readers here in Canada and elsewhere in the world, while they were growing up, regarding cultural issues. Did anyone grow up with a consciousness of “multiculturalism”?
In France, for instance, cultural and lingustic diversity – pluralism – as concepts are sometimes viewed as dire threats to the “Republic”…one of my favorite film makers is controversial Austrian/french Michael Heneke, director of Time of the Wolf and Cache (Hidden). The latter explores several layered themes. Here’s the Village Voice, in a snippet on the movie:”The form of this unholy experience is so sublimely conceived that Haneke can rope in post-colonialist atrocity (specifically, the Paris drowning-massacre of protesting Algerians in 1961) and contemporary injustices (ever-present on Anne and Georges’s plasma TV), and make it all seem of a piece with the central issues of seeing-but-not-seeing, of bobo complacence in fragile balance with Frantz Fanon’s “wretched of the earth.”
A “dream” lecture would be to have Michael Adams give a lecture with stills of Michael Haneke’s film Cache projected onto a background screen behind the podium. If you were in the audience, what would you think?