Is independence an effective way to protect the culture?
by JordanL on May 15, 2014 - 10:57am
Achieving independence is the goal of many nations across the world. Being a Quebecker myself, I was very interested to learn more about the issue and to see whether or not independence is an effective way of protecting the culture of a nation. For that purpose, I studied three scholarly articles focusing on cultural, nationalism and Canadian studies. Ultimately, I learned that independence is indeed effective in protecting the culture of a nation, but only if the nation clearly defines itself and if it understands the importance of its works of art.
Throughout the ages, nations have fought for their independence. The United States, Kosovo, Serbia and India are good examples of that. Sometimes, their fight would end in a violent war and, some other times, it would end peacefully. Some were successful and some failed to achieve their goal. But why would those nations ask for their independence? Why would they risk being annihilated? The main reason has always been the same : protect their culture. They want to ensure its survival for the generations to come. Now we may ask ourselves whether or not independence is an effective way to protect the culture of a nation. Personally, I think it is. It will also be shown in the text through journal articles from the disciplines of cultural, nationalism and Canadian studies.
This first article, by Anthony F. Delia, discusses the book "Cosimo De'Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre" by Dale Kent. The book treats the Renaissance era of Florence and the influence of Cosimo de' Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence at the time, over the arts and culture of the period. As it turns out, the Florentine population had good schools and high literacy, thus allowing to have a better appreciation of arts. Cosimo de’ Medici himself was known as supporting artists and wrote some poetry himself. He organized competitions in which artists competed and the best were distributed. He also united Christian devotion so as to provide people with religious education. People were then shown to use their minds and not their eyes when viewing works of art, especially religious ones. Patrons also allowed much freedom to their artists. Although they could be harassing at times, they would not try to inhibit the talent of the artist and instead ensure they would surpass themselves every time. It is for that reason that Florentine arts are so highly regarded today. Florence, back in the Renaissance era, was a city-state, which is an autonomous entity with a territory consisting of a city. It was thus independent from any other authorities, allowing it to have a greater freedom in terms of taking decisions. Cosimo de’ Medici was a noble from the time, who used his money to control the Florentine government. While it is true that he had too much power, it must be remembered that he was behind the flowering of the Florentine arts in the Renaissance period. The freedom he had to make decisions allowed to give a greater focus on the culture. In my posts, I talked a lot about nationalism in many other countries around the world. Scotland, Quebec and Catalonia are probably the best examples of the moment. All three are currently trying to achieve their independence so as to protect their culture. However, unlike Florence, they do not have the freedom of making their own choices. They do have some form of power (Quebec and Scotland both have their own parliament) but they do not have full control over their politics. Every decisions they make will bear the influence of their government. For instance, when, in Quebec, they tried to make French their only official language, the Canadian government immediately tried to make the bill unconstitutional. In Ukraine, the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk are both trying to reattach themselves to Russia because they feel their culture is more similar to that of Russia and they do not like the Ukrainian government taking decisions that they feel may harm it. Should they be reattached to Russia, the population would probably feel like their culture would be respected. In the end, a nation who has the power to decide is in a better position to preserve its culture. If Florence did it in the past, it makes sense to think that another country could do it in the future.
The second article, by Graham Knight, discusses the book "Nationalism and Literature: The Politics of Culture in Canada and the United States" by Sarah M. Corse. The book treats the subject of how nationalism is defined by the works of art of a nation. We might tend to think that literature no longer plays an important role in defining a culture in favor of movies, for instance. It would be wrong, however, to think that. The author creates two categories : high literature and popular literature, mainly focusing on the latter. She says that canonical works, which are books that are widely recognized and accepted, show the difference between a nation and another. The values and themes promoted by those books show the particularities of a nation. This article is quite important to my research as it shows the importance of arts in the culture of a nation. Nations are defined by their culture and works of art are very much at the core of it. They are the reason people are willing to fight for their independence. As I said previously, in my news summaries, I discussed the issue of nationalism in Quebec, Scotland and Catalonia. I did not talk about their culture but more about their struggle against their respective governments. It must be noted, however, that their culture is the very reason they fight. They wish to preserve their works of art. If a nation wishes to preserve its culture, it must first understand the importance of the arts and take the right measures to do so.
The third article, by S. Dale Standen, discusses the book "Canada, Quebec, and the Uses of Nationalism" by Ramsay Cook. The book treats the subject of nationalism in Quebec and its uses. The author first begins by saying that nationalism is a hard concept to define. It cannot be said to be based on ethnicity since this would mean excluding minorities like anglophones in Quebec. Nationalism is used as a political weapon by those who are wishing for a certain advantage. Brian Mulroney, for instance, tried to use this to rally Quebeckers to his cause but ultimately made them unite themselves against him. When he tried to make an arrangement between Quebec and Canada, the term “distinct society” was left undefined even though the whole point of the accord was to find a definition to it. In his conclusion, he says that a nation should be defined by its culture and not on its ethnicity. This article reinforces the belief that culture defines a nation. We cannot say that a Quebecker is defined as being white. Many non-white people who live in Quebec can be considered to be Quebecker since they speak French, for instance. Culture is what should be used as a way to defined the boundaries of a nation. In Quebec and Catalonia, not only is the culture different from the rest of their respective country, but their very language is. For Scotland, while the language is the same as in England, their antics are different. If a nation wants to achieve independence, it must first defined itself. And if the culture of a nation is well defined, its chances of survival can only be increased.
In conclusion, independence is probably a good way to protect the culture of a nation. If the nation has clearly defined its boundaries and if it understands the importance of arts in its culture, achieving independence can certainly allow it to better keep its culture alive. By having the power to make decisions, an independent government can take measures to protect its culture, like Florence did, without the influence of a superior authority. Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland have the chance of already being well defined. They all have an homogeneous culture within them and, should they achieve independence, they could certainly continue to live on while avoiding assimilatation.
D'Elia, Anthony F. “Cosimo De'Medici and the Florentine Renaissance: The Patron's Oeuvre.” Canadian Journal of History 37.1 (2002): 114-116. ProQuest. Web. 5 May 2014.
Knight, Graham. “Nationalism and Literature: The Politics of Culture in Canada and the United States.” Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology 36.1 (1999): 129-131. ProQuest. Web. 5 May 2014.
Standen, S. Dale. “Canada, Quebec, and the Uses of Nationalism.” Canadian Historical Review 79.1 (1998): 150-153. ProQuest. Web. 5 May 2014.