The results of yesterday’s election in Québec are in. And thanks to vigorous English avoidance and baby-kissing skills, Pauline Marois and her separatist Parti Québécois are back in power.
We’ve been thinking a lot about nationhood and sovereignty around the office. This week Monocle 24 is running a series on the separatist groups determined to break free and shift around some imaginary lines. Vast quantities of blood and treasure have been spilt and spent. Armies march in mud to nudge a flag a few kilometres to the north. Attrition sets in around resource-rich valleys or ethnic enclaves past a mountain that’s just out of reach. This is the history of humankind. And despite the supposed flattening effects of globalisation, our location on the map still matters. Borders have always joined money, power and class on that list of intangible things that somehow govern our lives.
Who gets to be a state? Who doesn’t? These are reasonable enough questions with a million answers. The chance that one is happy with their geographical lot in life is fairly slim, though most accept their luck, for better or worse, and make it work. Some bound by shared religious or political values but divided physically, seek activism or arms to remedy their situation. The most ambitious of the less content, and there are many, test the hardened system of sovereign states and push the limits of self-determination.
The number of international movements is mindboggling. Spin the globe and place your finger. Assuming you’re not in the sea, it’s highly likely there’s a party or region or group of people who are feverishly working to abandon that flag for their own, from Bilbao and Mombasa to Jakarta. And their politics and tactics vary wildly. The peaceful and nomadic separatist sentiments of the Sami in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Russia, couldn’t be more different than the partisans of the island of Corsica, where the mountainous beauty is periodically interrupted by bombings and attacks on French-linked targets.
Even though there’s obvious passion for an independent Québec, polling shows that support in the province for actual independence still hovers near thirty per cent.
As one Canadian academic, Pierre Martin, explains, “everyone wants to go to paradise, nobody wants to die.”