So this week I write my final essay on Canadian literature.
While it has been a learning experience literature wise that’s not the greatest curveball I’ve found within this subject.
Canada has a fantastic mix of nationalities, socio political issues.
and literary and artistic tradition.
One of the struggles that has been encapsulated is the relationship between the indigenous community of Canada. When we see the excerpts from early Canadian settlers the worlds could not be more polarised. The indigenous inhabitants are ‘brutish’ and formidable. It is not until the work of Emily Carr’s exceptional paintings vanartgallery that the indigenous population had a champion.
We see how new migrants are a ‘othered’ in Fred Wah’s work on his experiences on being 1/8th Chinese and feeling ‘white’ enough to be accepted socially but never quite feeling totally accepted into a group of society.
So why are these subjects curveballs? I live in Australia. Where we have our own struggles with national identity. We have been guilty of the same sins against the indigenous population as the Canadian communities have in first settling, admittedly with varying degrees. But the degrees of difference don’t cover up the culture of white privilege and fear that existed for many decades. And they don’t change our Xenophobic attitude to new migrants that that has until recent years also been a feature of Australian culture.
The beauty of literature is it’s ability to capture a moment in time. These moments reflect more than an authors message. They capture social, economic and language issues that represent that moment in time whether it be set in the past, present and future.
Some people call new attitudes of racial equality ‘ political correctness gone mad’. I disagree. It’s not that we wish to ignore cultural differences these days, but rather treat these people no different from a Australian that has many generations of Australian heritage. If a newly settled migrant is willing to make a new life here I want him/ her to experience every opportunity without prejudice or fear. We can’t get there by embracing colonial ideals.
Perhaps there will always be cultural issues and there will always be authors brave enough to write about them. But maybe by embracing equality we get to see a society favouring talent and drive and no thought whatsoever to their origin is given.