The Last Separatist

The following bit of prose goes way back to the early 1990s. It's interesting to be able to look back on these things and reflect; partly to see how you've grown and where your opinions have changed. In the piece, there are many references to various political events here and around the world as they happened or were happening as the time (happy hunting). By and large, I still feel much as I did back then. The only change I would add has to do with the concept of countries. If you manage to read to the end of my piece, I'll tell you what that change is.

My original comments follow.

For this one, it helps to be a Canadian, I suppose. I don't know how exciting the whole Québec referendum thing is anywhere else in the world, however, the market watchers would have us believe that the world is VERY interested. This piece is unusal for me since I rarely write anything that resembles poetry, but right around the Charlottetown accord, (or was it the provincial election in which Parizeau rose to power?) I was so sick of the separatist talk that I sat down and composed The Last Separatist. You see, I am proud of my heritage and my country, but I honestly believe that the time for countries is past. The world I envision is a complex organism with numerous and diverse entities all working toward a common future. That we should still be seeking to create ever smaller states baffles me. But, that's just me.

The Last Separatist

Around the world, elated voices cried,

"Freedom!" as the spectre of red doom was
Exorcised in the birth of disparate states.

Untainted by the heralding gloom,
Of economic collapse and civil war,
Committees of individuals defined their uniqueness
And thereby several new nations sired.

The walls came tumbling down.
The two are one again.
But some are more equal and some are bad.
It's time to clean up.

"Here's to ethnic purging, and the birth of a nation!"

Dictators were devoured in the arena.
In dying colour. In your living room.

After much talk and fear of cultural death,
A united Europe was rejected as a bad idea.
"We are Europe's distinct society," the Major said.

These stories and more; news at eleven.

But that's all far away, so don't worry.
All we want is self government. Oh…
And our own country. No. This province will do nicely.
Thank you.
Oh, and veto over anything we don't like.
And use of your currency, armed forces and postage.
Oh, and…

Then the west cried "What about us?"
We want all those things too.

The states having already fallen, fell further.
"Too much individuality is bad," they said.
"Let's outlaw this and outlaw that. Can't have
these sick and depraved among us."

Those left behind created their own societies
since they could not share those who declared them

Then came the cities who declared their individuality.
And the suburbs who felt their distinct flavour being
swallowed in low income housing.

Fences rose higher.
Borders grew more defined.
Better make it electric.
Can't trust anybody.
Look out for number one.

Each by each the distinct societies grew.
First Joe on Park Ave, then Horace on Main.
Ellen, Maria, Jacob, Pedro, and Ted grew walls,
But Gloria's were nicer. She used real brick.

Until there was only me.
I did not want to separate.
I believed in unity and freedom for all.
Yet I gazed at the fences that surrounded me
and by process of elimination, the last
separatist became himself distinct.

And alone.

At least I will be able to preserve my individuality.

And now we return to 2012 and where my views differ from my 1992 self. I still believe that no state should be allowed to act as though it can do whatever it damn well pleases. Much as I am sometimes unhappy with what goes on (or doesn't) at the United Nations, I believe that something like the United Nations does need to exist. But central control on a global scale is, I now feel, a naive concept at best. But just as no man is an island, no country stands alone and each nation must understand that what it does has consequences, not just for themselves, but for the world. And since what each nation does affects the rest of the world, the rest of the world does have a right to respond. It's messy, but as a species we're still young and we still have a lot to figure out. Growing up, however, will mean casting off some of the things of youth and those things that divide us. What that all means is going to take a lot more space to explore than my quick single-paragraph update. So stay tuned . . . 

— Marcel Gagné (August 2012)

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