January 20th, 2006

[BRIEF NOTE] Two sorts of Canadian Gaels

I was quite familiar with the existence of Canadian Gaelic. Personal experience, mainly: As Michael Kennedy observed in 2002 writing for the Institute of Island Studies, "[t]wo thirds of the immigrants to [Prince Edward] Island were Celts and more specifically Gaels." The only reason my late maternal grandmother didn't learn the language--she said--was that her parents didn't want her to be able to eavesdrop on the neighbourhood gossip.

Until recently, though, I knew nothing about the existence of Newfoundland Irish, even though thaty language was and is of comparable vitality to the Scots Gaelic. I wonder why this is. Did I just not pick up on this? Does Newfoundland's late addition to the Canadian confederation mean that certain of its attributes weren't picked up by non-Newfoundlander Canadians? Was the Irish language less prestigious than Scots Gaelic? I've no idea.
  • Current Mood

[BRIEF NOTE] Where Canadian celebrities go at the end

I caught eTalk Daily at the laundromat this morning. I ignored the intro to read an article in Flare about co-host Tanya Kim’s style. My attention was piqued when the other co-host, Ben Mulroney (yes, you know who his father is), introduced Tom Green’s video diary segment. Apparently Tom Green has resumed his rapping career; the video diary focused on a show in Banff. Green looked so forlorn as he delivered his shtick that I felt sorry for him.

[BRIEF NOTE] Niall Ferguson's Apocalyptic Misreadings

I'd like to thank the participants in this discussion on USENET's alt.history.future forum for pointing me in the direction of Niall Ferguson's recent essay in The Telegraph, "The origins of the Great War of 2007 - and how it could have been prevented". Ferguson gets a lot of things wrong, in his overestimation of the demographic differential between Europe and the Middle East, his misreading of the willingness of Iranians to fight, his passing over the force-multiplier effect of advanced technology in war, quite probably the willingness of the Iranian government to fight a nuclear war with Israel, and the survival of Iran as a functioning state after encounting the Israeli nuclear arsenal. A nuclearized Iran, Abiola Lapite argues convincingly in the comments to this post, does indeed pose a serious problem to the world. It isn't such an immediate problem, though, and it certainly doesn't need to be so luridly described.

[BRIEF NOTE] Might the future be Francophone?

Elsewhere on alt.history.future, another thread reacts to the news of the ongoing French baby boom. Noel M., an occasional commenter, made the point that if all things remained equal, France's weight in Europe would rise considerably. I'll quote him now:

A fun for giggles future history takes the new U.N.
population projections for 2100 (which have much
more realistic migration assumptions, although they
still assume it halts by 2050, and assume that TFRs
decline and then modestly increase) and combine
them with a more realistic French projection of 108
million people.

The numbers are kind of fun.

EU-14: 271m.
Russia: 80m.
Germany: 73m.
Italy: 34m.
Spain: 29m.

Further down the thread, james_nicoll pointed out that the sheer number of African countries where French is used and their high rates of population growth also suggests that French is going to remain a significant world language for some time to come.

Both of these projections assume that things will remain equal, granted, and expecting things to remain stable for a century is a fool's calculator-equipped meanderings. Mind, these meanderings do make for an interesting future.

[BRIEF NOTE] On Communism

I'd not intended to insult anyone with my post yesterday about Communism. Truth be told, I hadn't that my conclusion of Communism's unacceptability would be that controversial considering the parties involved. The Communist Party of Canada followed Stalin's line closely, with its purge of Trotskyists and opposition to Canadian participation in the Second World War until the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist), for its part, supported Maoist China and Hoxha's Albania before going on, in the post-Cold War era, to boost North Korea and China. None of these polities and none of these policies are especially respectable, whether one talks of the CPC's implicit support for the Soviet invasions of eastern Poland, the Baltic States, and Finland, or the lionizing of a Maoist regime in the era of a Cultural Revolution that even the Chinese Communist Party denounces.

Probably the most successful Communist society sensu strictu was Yugoslavia, which despite the current trend to spin ethnic warfare as a pre-modern trait was a modern society indeed, complete with mass culture, mass consumption, and mass migration (from rural to urban areas, from Yugoslavia to western Europe). I'd go so far as to say that Titoist Yugoslavia came as close to western European standards of living and norms of constitutional government as Francoist Spain. Yugoslavia's dissolution was promptly partly Communism's economic policies, that a Yugoslavia seventy years old was simply a less durable construction than a Spain dating five centuries by the time that Franco died. Yugoslavia did work; Yugoslavia was also comparable to Europe's last Fascist dictatorship, with its history of post-war massacres and prison camps, its stern repressions, its monopolization of political power.

Communism, with its long history of failures and its even longer list of names, really doesn't work. It can be at least as efficient as Fascism, and its promises of human rights and actual involvement has--as Amartya Sen noted--played a key role in accelerating human development and the passage to various forms of democratic policy-making, much more so than most of the various fascisms we've seen, in Germany and Japan and Mediterranean Europe and Videla's Argentina. That said, it has such a long list of crimes--as I noted, the murder through forced collectivization of a quarter of the Kazakh population, to name a single example from a single but most central Communist regime--that it doesn't strike me as workable. That doesn't mean that certain elements of Communism aren't shared by other democratic ideologies, or even that key elements of certain variations upon Communism shouldn't be revised--perhaps Kardelj's theory of workers' self-management might be effectively revised for a 21st century world concerned with the weakening of workers' positions?--but the ideology as such doesn't work and does so badly indeed.

This isn't a brief for unfettered capitalism of any kind. It shouldn't be forgotten that the Congo Free State was a capitalist paradise, at least for monopoly capitalists. Ideology as such, it seems to me, tend to divert people from the more-or-less benevolent hedonism that seems to be the least harmful/most beneficial way to maximize the happiness of the maximum number of people. The problem with ideologies taken strictly is that they tend to be resistant to subversive readings and criticism, to play in its truest sense, and that their proponents demand that these ideologies be tested.

Perhaps it's best to rid ourselves of them before we get deeper into the 21st century. I don't think I'm a moral authority of any kind, but the early signs of the impending arrival of some kind of global conflict on the scale of the world wars trouble me. I'd like to make it to the 22nd century.