Questions of self-determination

It has been an interesting past 24 hours…

Last night after completing my shift at Starbucks, I was spontaneously invited for a quick impromptu supper at my co-worker’s apartment.

Augustin was a warm and welcoming host.

I was fed well and drank well and the conversation was very interesting.

We, of course, discussed issues of great import…

Travel, women, politics, women, work, women…

You get the idea.

Talk turned more serious as alcohol entered the bloodstream.

We talked about our homelands, inevitably comparing them to our new home of Switzerland.

He talked about his homeland of Algeria, about how difficult it was to be a Berber in northern Africa, how dictatorial and discriminatory the present Algerian administration is, how he can never go home again because of his politics being objectionable to the powers that be.

Berbers cannot teach their language and are discouraged to speak or write their language.

Algerians are schooled in Arabic and the colonial language, French.

Berbers are unwelcome in their own traditional lands.

They struggle for employment opportunities and are denied basic rights and services other Algerians take for granted.

North African Berbers and northern Spain-southern France Basques, the Kurdish in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, Muslims in Macedonia and Christians in the Sudan all suffer under regimes that enforce their discriminatory policies, even in some cases, past and present, mass genocide.

What Nazis did to Jews was not a new type of behavior in history nor is it an old type of behavior either.

Berbers and Basques long for their own land, as do the Kurdish.

Some groups seek not a revolution against the princes and powers ruling them but only want to be left alone to speak their own language, follow their own customs, practice their own religion.

But those in power either to show their force or claim resources in all lands under their sway tend not to be the “live and let live” type.

On the home front, a horse of a different color but the same theme of self-determination…

The wife and I are frustrated with one another.

She is not happy that I choose to go to Geneva, even though She will be away in Zurich 4 out of 7 days.

Teaching work in St. Gallen and Thurgau Counties has been for me over the past two years an exercise in futility at best and a lost cause at worst.

Back in May, I visited Geneva and was positively received by a few schools I interviewed.

But going away to Geneva means risk.

I might fail and uselessly spend my savings on this risky endeavor without seeing the return on investment I am hoping for.

But being independent, achieving a sense of self-reliance, is worth the risk, though it threatens the status quo, though it shakes the roots of the rules and routines previously in place.

I long for more parity and equality with my wife rather than being dependent upon her.

On the train from St. Gallen to Geneva, I met a wonderfully warm and welcoming woman from Eritrea, waiting tables in the restaurant wagon.

Her country is now in its 24th year of independence from neighboring Ethiopia.

Eritrea suffered religious and ethnic persecution under Ethiopian hands.

Though it still struggles for self-reliance, it prefers the struggle rather than being dominated.

East Timor was almost erased in massive genocide by conquering Indonesia.

Today they are proud and independent countries.

So, what should determine a person’s / a place’s right to declare independence?

In my home province, argument has raged for decades, (Some would argue, centuries.) about Quebec’s right to its own sovereignty.

I think before the Quiet Revolution of the 60s and 70s, the French Canadian in Quebec had legitimate grievances against the Anglo of Canada.

Though the British conquered Canada from the French in the 18th century, the French Canadian far outnumbered the invading English.

To prevent insurrection but to maintain control, the French Canadian was allowed to keep his civil law, his Catholicism and his language, but was not allowed to determine his own destiny or wield any real power over decisions that affected him, like conscription.

And this linguistic apartheid continued even as late as the year of my birth, 1965.

A French Canadian living in the world’s 2nd largest French-speaking metropolis, Montreal, would not be served in a store if he did not speak English.

After the Revolution, English Canadians resident in Quebec began to realize that payback is a bitch.

Children living in Quebec cannot attend an English school unless their parents did so before.

One can have any language on any sign in Quebec as long as the dominant language is French.

But English is strictly forbidden.

Even the department store Eaton’s had to drop the apostrophe from their name to satisfy the tongue troopers of the language police.

Every election separatist parties once again cry for more freedom for the Franco while simultaneously suppressing the freedoms of the Anglo still remaining in Quebec.

Should they have it?

My answer: could they truly survive independently surrounded by an Anglo North America on its borders?

Or are they actually stronger as a group within the Canadian framework?

Should the Berbers have their own homeland?

Should the Kurdish have a Kurdistan?

Or is harmony possible in the existing frameworks?

Should a husband be allowed to work away in a far-off city and struggle?

Or is it necessary for him to remain at home unfulfilled?

Difficult questions all.

We roll the dice.

We take our chances.


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