‘Tribalizing Canadian Politics’

“The slow and steady ghettoization of Canada’s urban political scene is gathering pace. Ethnicity, religion and tribalism are being promoted as a tool…instead of debating competing visions about Canada’s future.

“Political commentators in the media, academics in universities and vote-hungry politicians may have become numb or blind to what is unfolding, but the rest of the world — and most immigrants like me — are watching our democracy being used to promote religious hatred, ethnic division and extremism overseas.

“…A leader of India’s opposition Congress Party, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh, lambasted the Trudeau ‘Liberal’ government over “its overt and covert support to the Khalistani movement”, demanding New Delhi “seek UN sanctions if needed” against Canada…

“To gain insight into what Amarinder Singh is talking about, one needs to take a peep into the city of Brampton just northwest of Toronto, which is a microcosm of all that ails urban Canada, and how the federal ‘Liberal’ Party plays a role in unwittingly {?} inflaming racial and religious minority community divisions.

“All five ‘Liberal’ Party candidates in that city are Sikhs, the party effectively shutting its door to the myriad of other citizens who just want to be Canadian and are not bound by religious ties to a Temple, Church or Mosque. This has led to Brampton’s Hindu community throwing their weight behind the opposition ‘Conservatives’.

“The role of religious and racial identity is of such significance that the ‘Conservative’ candidate in Brampton East was previously identified as Ramona Benson and will now appear as Ramona Singh on the ballot, seeming to have dropped her WASPish last name and adding Singh. I asked Ramona why her name changed, but she insisted that Singh was her last name all along.

“What has Canada become? Who could have imagined the name ‘Benson’ or ‘Jimmy’ would become a liability for a candidate in a federal election in Canada. Sad.

“Elsewhere, on June 21 in Toronto, many prominent ‘Liberals’ appeared alongside a group called ‘Canadian Muslim Vote’, where Justin Trudeau himself implied opposition ‘Conservatives’ were ‘Islamophobic’ and ‘racist’, sending the partisan ‘Liberal’ Party Muslim tribe into thunderous applause.

“Notwithstanding Minister Maryam Monsef’s shout-out at the event that “Muslims are rocking it in Canada”, Trudeau’s remarks were disgraceful, as was the conduct of his Muslim vote bank who gave their…leader a thunderous standing ovation.

“Ostensibly, the event was ‘non-partisan’. Of course, it wasn’t. Two Muslim candidates running on the People’s Party of Canada ticket – Tahir Gora from Mississauga-Malton and Hazar Alsabagh from Mississauga-Erin Mills – were not invited, nor was their leader Maxime Bernier, though Jagmeet Singh of the N‘D’P did fall for the trap and accorded the event an undeserved degree of legitimacy, as did ‘Conservative’ Deputy Leader Lisa Raitt, who described the moment Trudeau implied ‘Conservatives’ were racist as “shocking”.

“’Canadian Muslim Vote’? What next? Imagine a ‘Canadian Jew Vote’? How about a Canadian Catholic or Buddhist Vote? Why not Hindus, as well? Shouldn’t they too rally their troops and get prepared for a medieval showdown with Muslims in our cities to rival the horror of the 1947 Partition?

“Now the head of the ‘Quebec Council of Imams’ Hassan Guillet has also joined the ‘Liberal’ bandwagon from the Montreal riding of Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel. He told Postmedia
the Muslim community is as big as the Italian community. The demographic changed enormously.”

“O Canada, who stands on guard for thee?”

–‘Dividing Canada Into Vote Banks One Tribe At A Time’,
Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, June 25, 2019
“The greatest danger to democracy comes from tribalism.

“In most of the world, democracy usually fails as a direct result of tribalism. People divide up into tribes based on ethnicity, or religion, and vote exclusively along tribal lines.

The result is that it doesn’t matter what the issues are, or who the candidates are. The result is foreordained

“Whether we’re talking Shiites in Iran, or Xhosa in South Africa, northern Italians or Japanese nationalists, tribalism covers up corruption and makes free institutions difficult to sustain. Issues don’t matter, the candidates don’t matter, charges of corruption don’t matter. What matters is power, what matters is tribe, and you follow along.”

Dana Blankenhorn, May 2013

“The history of progress in the world is the history of ‘detribalisation’, and the race or ethnic politics that goes with tribalised societies.
We see enough of these in today’s world to know better than to romanticise tribalism – or do we?”

“The case for ‘co-governance’ between the government and “iwi” {aboriginals} is justified, according to cultural recognition and ‘social justice’ beliefs. However, that is to make a fundamental error — one that ignores the dangers of including ethnicity into the political arrangements of a democratic nation.

“‘Ethnicity’ refers to ‘race’ – that is, the concept that a socio-cultural group is defined in terms of its genetic ancestry. This doesn’t, of course, mean that ethnicity/ race is a scientific term. We are in fact 99.9% the same, with the remaining 0.1% being differences between individuals, not between groups.
But some groups like to define themselves in terms of their genetic ancestry, as do New Zealand’s ‘retribalists’…

“Interestingly, ‘ethnicity’ has nudged race aside only recently. By the beginning of the 1970s, almost no one used the term ‘ethnicity’. By the end of the decade, almost everyone did. If our ‘Race Relations Office’ had been established even one year later than it was, it would have the ethnicity title.

“But changing a word doesn’t change the concept signified by that word. Ethnicity still means race; still means a genetic criteria for membership.

“Earlier this year, the Herald and the NZCPR published a piece I had written about the incompatibility of tribalism and democracy. Recently, I discovered that the ‘Nigerian Observor’, in referring to my article, had used my conclusion – that there is a fundamental incompatibility between the two sociopolitical systems – to say this:

“There is urgent need for robust public discussion, review and referendum—if needed—on the democratic and political systems in Africa, with focus on the re-introduction of parliamentarism. We need to move forward.”

“What is fascinating is that progressive discussion in Africa is advocating moving towards parliamentarianism while in New Zealand {and Canada} we, or a significant number of the politically influential, are seemingly unaware of the jewel that we have in our own parliamentary system… In that innocence, they are unaware of the threat to that system.

“From the 1980s, the rather benign idea of recognising Maori culture in the wider society became a political biculturalism that has enabled a small but extremely influential group of ‘retribalists’ to capture the moral high ground of ‘social justice’ — but in their own interests.
(It shouldn’t be forgotten that the numbers of Maori in poverty has actually grown during the bicultural decades.)

“On the way to elite status — with its associated political power and economic wealth — the retribalists have successfully manipulated the rather naïve belief that social justice comes from cultural recognition– a belief which got support for biculturalism in the first place.

“Biculturalism has a new political meaning but its ongoing support lies in the old cultural one. It now means that two so-called ‘ethnic’ groups have different political interests, which should be recognised institutionally.

{The widely-discredited ‘Separate But Equal’ nonsense. ‘Indigenous’ racism is forcing Western nations to retrace their steps…}

“This institutional recognition — beginning in education and health — began a veritable march into the heart of government. The re-interpretation of the Treaty as a so-called ‘partnership’ {just as in Canada} is providing the mandate for the march into the institutions…
We see this in recent months, with the assumption that ‘co-governance’ is the natural next step…

“But what is the nature of the group that will be ‘co-governor’? What are the implications for New Zealand’s parliamentary democracy?

“The justification for this elite’s power is its claim to represent a tribal people — so, such a people must be created and maintained — hence, the aggressive retribalisation {‘decolonisation’} that we have seen in recent years.
Access to Treaty settlements requires individuals to belong to a tribe… Educational scholarships require applicants to name their tribe…

‘Detribalisation’ is described as the problem, so ‘retribalisation’ is to be the solution — a slogan that assumes tribalism is a progressive form of social organisation — that it is worth having, that it should not have been destroyed.

“So, let us look at what the tribe or clan is.

“It is the oldest way to organise a social group. The cement is kinship. As the group gets larger, it becomes a race or ethnic group.
The group’s distinctiveness is the result of a shared history which may be very long, as with Australian Aborigines, or relatively short, as with Maori. However, a shared history does not mean that the tribe, or any group for that matter, should have a distinctive political system that never changes.

“If there is no change, then those people are locked into a kin-based political system for all time. There can be no modernity, no progress, no future.

One of the benefits of colonisation, and there are a number, is the destruction of tribalism.

For slaves and lower caste people, it was liberation.

Of course, the chiefly caste did not agree and today we see the resurgence of those who would be their inheritors.

“The new elite is a self-proclaimed aristocracy, justifying their ambition in romantic appeals to an Arcadian past.

Tribalism must be destroyed for democracy to exist. Democracy’s superiority as a political system is that it is the final stage in the separation of the kin/race character of a socio-cultural group, from its political character.

It has achieved this separation by creating the secular public space where politics takes place, and by creating the citizen as the political subject for that space. The separation has not been easy, even in its final stages, as the turmoils of the 19th and 20th centuries remind us.

“We get fascinating accounts of the beginnings of the social-political separation from historian Peter Munz and anthropologist Alan Macfarlane. Munz describes how the Roman invasion of Europe allowed three intertwined movements to weaken European tribalisation so successfully that the pre-conditions were established for new non-kinship forms of governance — although democracy was still a long way into the future.

“The Romans brought Greek civilisation, Roman law, and Christianity. This was a heady combination that undermined tribalism and laid the pre-conditions for the break-up of kin and race-based political structures.

“In his ‘Making of the Modern World’, Alan Macfarlane…also traces the rise of the modern world to the early break-up of tribalism. He refers to the legal right of women in Anglo-Saxon England to will property outside the kin-group, to show the weakening of kinship as a public political organising force by the 8th and 9th centuries.

The history of progress in the world is the history of ‘detribalisation’, and the race or ethnic politics that goes with tribalised societies

“Tribal politics is necessarily undemocratic because of the criteria for membership and the system of leadership… This suits those who would lead the tribe because it guarantees a population that only they can represent. Leadership is also undemocratic because there is no clear separation of kin status and political status.

“So, the question for us is not why the ‘iwi’ elite is using retribal strategies to gain increasing political power and economic wealth – any emerging elite that chances upon a direct and easy means to get its way, will take it.
The intriguing question is how has a population with 161 years of democracy under its belt allowed this to happen.

“Whatarangi Winiata, the Maori Party’s ideologue, was the ‘brains’ behind the division of the Anglican Church into three racial groups in the 1980s. He must be good because here was the ‘Universal Church’, one that had played a major role in the break-up of kinship organisation since the first centuries AD, meekly accepting a return to race-based division. Winiata has said that the Church’s three-party model is the model for New Zealand. ‘Co-governance’ is the current step…

“As an academic, I find the skill of the retribalising elite’s manipulative strategies fascinating. As a New Zealand citizen, I despair for our country when we do not know the value of what we have got.”

–‘Democracy and Tribalism’,
Dr. Elizabeth Rata, November 17, 2013

From Kenya:
“Whenever I meet people who…are celebrated ambassadors of tribal idiocy and who find solace in the smallness of such a cocoon, I realize that tribalism can never be killed by policies… If such can ever be achieved, it must be an individual odyssey, and from such pilgrimage we can find purpose in mutual coexistence.

“Debates…have been reduced to matters of tribes. How awful that we reduce and make of great discussions an absurd theater of small-time tribal thinking

“For the record, I take no pride in tribe. I have gone to school, I am ordinarily well-groomed and I have food on my table for my stomach. None of these things have been given to me by the tribe.

“Of course, politicians are the greatest-ever known fertilizer of tribalism. They harp at the tribal strings every so often — and during election — merely for personal gain. Whenever they are caught in an antagonising intricate web of corruption, they claim that the law is after the tribe.

“Sadly, during campaigns, politicians, their strategists and political parties only look at Kenyans along the lines of tribal arithmetic. Looking back, even political leaders have taken no lessons from Kenya’s tragico-political miseries suffered by our body politic. It is not in dispute that the Post-Election Violence of 2008/09 was fueled and sustained by tribal yearnings.

“Successive government regimes have fed tribalism, to my chagrin. It is sad that 90% of presidential appointments are made on the strength of the tribe…

“The tribe has no soul, it never works hard and it has never paid my school fees, or bought me food, or fueled my car. The tribe serves no purpose other than the fact that it is a social construct that should serve to make people relate across culture, do common business and share a heritage.

“The tribe should not serve to set us apart, make us hate, or make us think we are superior and that others are lesser earthlings. If that is what it is supposed to serve, then I reject it as useless…”

–‘Of Tribalism and the Poverty of Progressive Conscience among Kenyans’,
Javas Bigambo, ‘Governance, Human Rights and Development in Africa’, Nov.23, 2013
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