Archive for June 2011
The previously announced news that I reported last month, claiming that William and Kate might visit Prince Edward Island as part of their visit to Canada, (perhaps because of the Duchess of Cambridge’s reported fondness for Anne of Green Gables) has been fulfilled. According to this news source, they will be spending time visiting Charlottetown and Summerside, flying over Green Gables House (putative site of Anne Shirley’s homestead), and spending considerable time at Dalvay by the Sea, an inn on the fringes of the Prince Edward Island National Park. Hello! Magazine has the Dalvay-by-the-Sea segment down.
Their private secretary, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, has revealed that, as part of their official North American tour, the royal couple will be taking part in a race against each other across a lake on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
“Their Royal Highnesses will team up with Dragonboat racers, taking a boat each – although I hasten to add, not themselves paddling, though probably steering – and they will race across the lake to the opposite bank where crowds will be gathered,” he said.
“After congratulating the winning team, the couple will be welcomed by First Nations people with a traditional “smudging” ceremony.”
The royals will then sample some local delicacies, which are said to include raspberry cordial, chocolate covered potato crisps and Prince Edward Island’s famous lobster.
From there, the pair will head to the beach, where “young people will be engaged in a range of beach sports, and the couple will start one of the games and present prizes to the winners of various competitions”.
I’m intimately familiar with that inn–some of my favourite beaches are just a couple of minutes to the west–but non-Islanders are most likely familiar with Dalvay-by-the-Sea as the stand-in for the White Sands Inn described in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous work. (The raspberry cordial that Hello! mentions, incidentally, is a locally-produced carbonated raspberry juice)
All this highlights an interesting sort of paradox. Prince Edward Island is a province that has promoted itself as a tourist destination on the grounds of its traditionalism, its vibrant folk culture and its well-tended rural landscapes and its scenic fishing villages and its continued sustained difference from the rest of Canada and the Island’s other tourist-sending countries. That’s fine; that’s a not-inaccurate reflection of the past and even the current reality.
Prince Edward Island is also a province that has plugged itself thoroughly into global popular culture and global economic trends and global everything. Premier Robert Ghiz is quite right to note that the visit of William and Kate will be “Prince Edward Island’s shining moment on the international stage” and that it will be the “largest media event in our province’s history.” Extensive global media coverage is only a mild exaggeration of previous trends, with Anne’s exceptional popularity in Japan (along with the use of Prince Edward Island tuna for sushi) connecting Prince Edward Island with Japan in an unexpected but rather lucrative fashion. Closer to home, Prince Edward Island has taken in very large numbers of tourists not only from North America and Japan, but globally. At tourism’s peak pre-9/11, a million or so tourists visited Prince Edward Island; the province’s total population at the time was in the area of 140 thousand. The sheer intensity of this flow belies any notion of the Island as being fundamentally aloof from the rest of the world. Increasingly, it’s a mere pretense.
Ironic, isn’t it? The anti-globalized identity that Prince Edward Island claims helps connect the Island quite intimately to the outside world, making its nominal cultural traditionalism and economic future subordinate to the whims of global popular culture. Prince Edward Island globalizes its ideal self, and in engaging in globalization changes its actual nature.
I was reminded of Thomas M. Eccardt’s 2005 Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe by a post that Hans Connor made over at Nissology, linking to an essay by UPEI professor Henry Srebrnik describing microstates and their ascent to viability.
In the past considered too tiny to be full partners in the international community, these countries were viewed as anomalies, merely the leftover quirks of history.
When the League of Nations was founded after the First World War, none of them joined. And when the successor United Nations was formed in 1945, again none were among the original 51 signatories to its charter.
However, post-war global decolonization resulted in a wave of sovereign microstates, most of them small islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, and South Pacific. Today’s Commonwealth (of which Malta is a member) is largely a collection of such countries.
This paradigm shift allowed the European microstates to take their rightful place as full members of the international community.
[. . .]
No longer is size an impediment for countries wishing to make their mark in the world.
The limits of sovereignty in the modern world are amply demonstrate by these polities’ survival and relatively improved position; microstates are cool. As the sovereign microstates of western Europe pioneered this category of statehood, undertaking a comparative study would make sense.
Eccardt argues that despite the widely differing particulars of the history of the seven microstates of Europehe chose for his study–Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican City, and, giant of the category, Luxembourg–they share certain characteristics in common. They have recently evolved into fully sovereign states as determined by the international state system, for intance, moving out just far enough from under the shadow of a patron, but their development of such and even their survival is almost entirely as a fluke, a consequence of great power rivalries allowing very small polities a chance, and frequently not complete (few have their own militaries). Their economies, Eccardt points out, are driven by their ability to exploit their sovereignty, frequently offering financial services including both above-the-board banking and tax sheltering. They’ve frequently had traditional, pre-democratic systems of government survive long into the modern age, with Liechstenstein’s prince having so much power to cause some to question the country’s status as a democracy and the Vatican City–of course–being run by the Roman Catholic Church. Each microstate has tried to preserve its cultural heritage to varying degrees, most arguably being at least more successful than comparable nearby regions, but the economic development driven by their exploitation of their sovereignty certainly plugs them into the international system (Luxembourg and Malta are European Union member-states in their own right, and the others are closely associated with the EU) and incidentally attracts relatively very large numbers of immigrants.
The utility of Secrets of the Seven Smallest States of Europe lies in its detailed exploration of the similarities shared by the oldest microstates in the world, answering the question “What is a microstate?” quite well. The parallels brought forward by Eccardt can easily be used to study other, non-western European microstates, highlighting their similarities and perhaps making predictions about their future development. In a world marked by the changing nature of sovereignty generally, illustrated by the continued development of new microstates may continue to develop (the Faroes, perhaps?) and compromises over sovereignty that other microstates must make (post-crash Iceland’s European Union bid is an example), makes the study of the microstate more universally relevant that one might think. If you’ve ever been interested in very small countries–hey, even if the only thing you know about the microstate is the Grand Fenwick was a great background for funny stories–you wouldn’t do at all badly to read Eccardt’s tome. “Everything counts/in small amounts.”
The passage of legislation authorizing same-sex marriage in New York City came just a day before the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City that, mythologized to whatever degree, helped catalyze the gay rights movement that eventually led to same-sex marriage. WNYC’s news blog had a great photo of a crowd of celebrants proud of their identity taken outside the Stonewall Inn itself that was hosted the riots.
There’s a nice circularity to the above paragraph: two circles, in fact, processes coming to their completion. (Symbolic, at least, if not quite actual. Much remains to be done, even if much has been done.)
The problem with these circularities?
I’ve no experience of the first half of the circle. It’s not just that Stonewall is removed from me geographically and I’m more familiar with the local Bathhouse Riots of 1981. (Good article, by the way.) I’ve recently written a [FORUM] post about what I feel to be my grace of late birth in having come to age just in time to not worry about being imprisoned or dying in an epidemic or not having access to legally sanctioned relationship. Even two decades ago, I find it difficult to imagine everything working out as very positively as it have. (Seriously, it was a good thing; had I been straight, all things plausibly being equal, I’d probably have the physique of the Comic Book Guy and be living in my parents’ basement. Things worked out so much better.) I imagine that I could be a binge-drinker who eventually had a fatal car accident on a confusingly linear road, or maybe someone who died of pneumonia compounded by “cancer” with family who never liked talking about the whole thing, or just someone repressed who’d never try to disturb the universe and would never been disturbed in return. A life fragmented and shortened by the compartmentalization and stigma forced on me would seem inevitable; the best I could do would be to limit the fragmentation by cauterizing uncomfortable extremities. I’ve no relevant experience. (I think. I hope?)
Partly because of Jim Parsons’ starring role (I like Big Bang Theory), I’ve been paying some attention to the success Broadway appearance of seeing playwright/activist Larry Kramer‘s 1985 AIDS-themed play “The Normal Heart”. In an interesting New York Times article the unexpected similarities and surprises that a young gay audience felt, recognizing some cultural elements that survived from 1985 to 2011 despite all the changes (20-somethings being interviewed as out, with photographs, even). And for me, yes, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been something I have experienced at a remove, time and law and medicine and the rest ensuring that. The restaging of The Normal Heart, and Kramer’s anti-AIDS activism, did us all much good.
Just last month, one writer’s asked Kramer to “shut the fuck up”. I kind of get that impulse, actually: in the Salon interview that inspired the previous writer to anger, Kramer doesn’t seem to think much of my generation for having gone through Will & Grace and Ellen DeGeneres instead of horrific epidemics and imprisonment on the grounds of sexual orientation. Leaving aside the cross-generational gap that I’ve seen bridged fairly regularly, is that attitude actually going to encourage people to engage with an uncomfortable history that detracts from an increasingly comfortable present? I read his speech/text from 2005, The Tragedy of Today’s Gays, and I don’t get it. Things aren’t perfect and the younger generation isn’t perfect so we are all doomed, doomed, doomed, despite whatever progress has been made or is continuing to be made because we’re all aparthetic and insensitive to our elders and barebacking on tina and … ? Thanks a lot, Larry, for all that respect.
There is a gap between the two perspectives, of Kramer and his sort against his critics: real, emotional, operating in multiple dimensions, solvable only in part. There may be others in my life, but this is likely the most important gap applying to a community (aggregate?) of which I am a member. There will not, I repeat, be a general solution; too much separates us for everyone to come together. The community will remain divided.
That’s one of my divided communities? And yours?
Mayor Rob Ford is continuing to face criticism for his refusal to take part in Toronto’s pride festivities.
Why the mayor seems to be shunning occasions involving homosexuals is being debated in many corners of Toronto’s gay community as the huge signature Pride festival gets underway.
Rob Ford’s office flatly denies that’s the case. But his decision to head to his cottage rather than the July 3 Pride parade — with no explanation for the festival’s nine other days — coupled with years of brow-raising comments and council votes, has many jumping to conclusions.
“He’s the mayor of a huge metropolis with a big gay community,” said Casey Oraa, chair of the Political Action Committee of Queer Ontario.
“His campaign was all about respect for taxpayers. Where’s his respect for us?”
[. . .]
Asked if he will attend any Pride events, the mayor said: “I’ll take it one day at a time. My family comes first.” Asked if he is homophobic, Ford looked away and mumbled something unintelligible under his breath.
Ford’s Pride decision follows his rebuffing of a half-dozen other similar overtures since last fall. His singular engagement with the gay community — signing the Pride Week proclamation — was done privately, with nobody from Pride present.
“Clearly it’s an ideological position,” Oraa said. “I’d respect him more if he would own up to his homophobia — say ‘This is what I believe.’”
Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, called that accusation insulting “nonsense.”
[. . .]
Mel Lastman was once in Ford’s shoes. The former mayor at first resisted going to Pride, afraid of news footage of leather and nudity and the prospect of being jeered, but relented in 1998.
“I didn’t know how I’d be treated. But everybody was so receptive, everybody was having a good time and here were people proud of what you are,” Lastman said. “I told a kid: ‘Who’s better than you? No-o-o-body! You’ve got to feel that way about yourself. That’s what Canada’s about.’ That’s pride.”
He urged Ford to get past his gut and go, saying he was convinced by his son Dale telling him: “You’re the mayor of all the people.”