Saturday, 22 February 2014

Competition Makes the World Go Round.....But Not in Canada

At the heart of freedom, capitalism and democracy is competition and the right to choose.  But unfortunately in Canada, this is all too often not the case.  In the Great White North, various levels of government, big corporations and powerful interest groups are out to make sure you don't get to make the choices that you deserve to make on everything from booze to what you watch on TV.  And personally, I'm sick of it.

You don't have to be an avid follower of politics or current events to know when someone high up is trying to dictate the choices that you make.  For example, any person who has ever purchased a case of beer or a bottle of wine in Ontario, the country's most populous province, knows that he or she can only get that case of beer or bottle of wine from the Beer Store and LCBO monopoly.  Any suggestion of allowing other sources, such as supermarkets or convenience stores, to sell alcohol to the Ontario public is quickly quashed by the usual suspects: the left-wing Liberals and NDP and their big union friends who cringe at the idea of competition, because as long as Ontarians can only buy their booze from one source, the source that only employs their members, the union coffers will be full and the union bosses can continue to pig out at the trough financed by the average Ontarian.

Oh well, if we can't choose where we buy our beer and wine, maybe we'll have better luck choosing what to watch on TV....FAT CHANCE, Joe Canadian.  Every one of us who has cable or satellite knows that when we pick the channels we want to watch, we don't usually get to pick and pay.  Nope, the big wigs at Rogers, Shaw, Bell or Telus present us with "bundles" of channels that we have to choose from.  Are you a big hockey fan who just wants to watch hockey on TV and nothing else?  Tough luck, because not only will you be paying top dollar for all that hockey, but you'll also be paying for a bunch of other channels that you'll never watch.  The folks at the big cable and satellite companies don't mind this arrangement because they know they'll never see competition from the likes of Time Warner or DirecTV (at least on a legal basis) since their friends in the federal government will never open the Canadian market to non-Canadian competition.  It's pretty much the same with cellphone service providers.  You have the big three companies, Rogers, Bell and Telus all selling plans and contracts at some of the highest rates in the industrialized world.  Good luck to upstarts like Wind Mobile trying to break into the Canadian market since government red tape and foreign ownership restrictions pretty much guarantee that the big Canadian companies will continue to gouge us.

But before we blame the federal government and big cable and satellite companies for our high-priced telecommunications, we should first look at some of the interest groups that are also making our bills skyrocket.  Do you think that you have to pay for channels you don't want to watch just because Rogers makes you?  Think again!  Government regulations require TV providers to force you to pay for channels you don't want.  Why?  Because powerful lobby groups, like the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting want to make sure that the folks in this country who make TV series, films and music don't have to compete with their fellow entertainment providers abroad.  These folks say they're out to promote and protect Canadian content, or Can-Con for short.  The problem is that they don't care how good or bad that content is, nor do they want to have to compete with content from the U.S. or any other country that might be more appealing to consumers.  That's why instead of watching Comedy Central, we're stuck watching an inferior, Canadianized version called The Comedy Network.  Want American channels, like the USA Network or TNT?  Good luck getting them legally as long as the Can-Con watchdogs are on patrol and as long as people in government are beholden to them.

Of course, this kind of useless protectionism is not unique to the film, TV and music industries.  For instance, chances are that when you have to do your banking, you'll be doing it with one of this country's big five banks: TD Canada Trust, the Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Scotiabank and Royal Bank of Canada.  And as long as these big five monsters have control over the Canadian market, you'll continue having to pay outrageous fees to access your own money.  Granted, we should all be thankful that our laws prevented the type of banking crises that have recently occurred in the U.S. and Europe, but I'm pretty sure that keeping the Big Five almost immune from competition was not part of what saved us from such dire circumstances.

The fact of the matter is that Canadians are sick of being gouged and having their choices limited when it comes to how they bank, watch TV or use their cellphones.  So what do we do about it?  Well, as in any democratic country, our first inclination is to use our hard-won right to vote to elect leaders who will bring about changes so that our bills will be lower and our choices greater.  Unfortunately, it's not so simple because even our electoral choices are severely restricted by a system that discourages principle-based politics and encourages one-party government.

For those of you who don't know about how our elections work, we have what is called a winner-take-all or first-past-the-post system in which whoever gets the most votes in any riding wins the right to represent the riding in parliament, and whoever wins the most ridings gets to form the government.  As for the folks who didn't vote for the winning candidates in each riding - well, their votes basically don't count.  And since our system rewards parties who can manage to win the most ridings rather than the most votes, what we get are manufactured majority governments.  Yes, that's right.  Stephen Harper and his Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons, but only because they won the most ridings.  The majority of Canadians did not actually vote the Tories into power.  In fact, Canada is one of the very few countries in the modern, democratic world that still uses this antiquated electoral system (the other two prominent examples are the U.S. and U.K.).  Most other industrialized democracies use proportional representation or some kind of system that mixes proportional representation with geographical representation.  I won't go into details about how these other electoral systems work.  What you really need to know is that in these systems, every vote counts and the popular vote is represented fairly and accurately in national legislatures.  They also produce multiparty systems with many different political groups on both ends of the political spectrum.  Here in Canada, we've historically had to choose between either the Liberals or the Conservatives.  Basically, it's like choosing between dumb or dumber, and it's up to you to decide which is which.  Yes, the NDP is there too, but they've never taken power federally and they never will unless they water down their principles or merge with the Liberals, just like the folks in the Reform Party did when they merged with the Progressive Conservatives to form today's much less principled Conservative Party.  The point is that our electoral system discourages real choice so that we only get to choose from what amount to different shades of the same colour.  Sound familiar?  If it does, it's probably because we have to make the same kind of choice when it comes to how you watch TV, do your banking or use your cellphone.  In other words, whatever choice we're making, we always have to choose from among a few fat cats that at the end of the day are all pretty much the same.

Now I know that lately, the folks in both the government and opposition parties have talked about doing things to alleviate the lack of choice that Canadians have to deal with on several fronts.  Hence, for example, new regulations putting an end to those annoying 3-year cellphone contracts.  But these kinds of changes are merely cosmetic.  What Canada needs is more competition so that we have more, better and cheaper options for how we watch TV, use our cellphones, do our banking, buy our booze or elect our politicians.  The question is, will this ever happen?  Will there be a freer market for goods, services and ideas in Canada any time soon?  Not unless we take action.

I wrote this because writing is my way of taking action.  There's no reason why many other people can't do the same thing.  And if writing isn't your thing, there are other things you can do.  For instance, if you don't like government, special interests, or big cable and satellite companies telling you what to watch on TV, cut the cord and stream your TV programs and movies from the internet.  Don't like paying a fortune to the cellphone providers?  Use free or cheaper services, like Skype or WhatsApp.  And if you don't like bank fees, there are a growing number of outlets providing banking services without them.  The point is that there are ways to get around the restrictions placed on our choices.  Do some of these ways involve breaking the law?  Perhaps, but as the great philosopher, Plato once said, those who are just disobey unjust laws, and in my mind, any laws that limit the choices of Canadians without a good reason are clearly unjust.    


Monday, 17 February 2014

American Jewry Not Going Anywhere, So Stop the Panic Attacks Already!

I recently came across an article in an Israeli publication saying that American Jewry could cease to exist within a generation:

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4488219,00.html

The headline is very unnerving, especially if you don't go on and read the whole article, which doesn't actually say that U.S. Jewry won't exist within the next generation, but rather that the majority of U.S. Jews will not be considered Jewish under the Halacha, or Jewish religious law.  This law requires that a person have a Jewish mother for him or her to be considered Jewish.  My immediate reaction to this impending reality is this: so what!?

Now, you may be asking why I'm so dismissive of this issue and why I'm not worried about the fate of U.S. Jewry (or Canadian Jewry for that matter).  One reason is simply that the Jewish communities in both the U.S. and Canada have never been stronger and more vibrant.  Only Israel has a larger Jewish community than the U.S.  In fact, it was only a few years ago that Israel's Jewish population eclipsed that of American Jews. 

Another reason is that in this day and age, I don't think we need rabbis telling us who is a Jew and who isn't, and I think there are many American (and Canadian) Jews who will agree with me on this.  Unfortunately, there are still quite a few people that still think that there is only one way to be Jewish.  This is particularly the case in Israel where Orthodox Judaism continues to retain a monopoly on the personal status of the country's Jewish citizens.  I am Israeli myself and I honestly can't stand the fact that my country gladly accepts the moral and financial support of Diaspora Jews, but then says to these Jews that the State of Israel does not consider them Jewish because they belong to a non-Orthodox congregation.  Such hypocrisy is beyond me.  In fact, all non-Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora could conceivably withhold their support for Israel based on the fact that the way they practice Judaism is not accepted by the Jewish state, and this withdrawal of support would be legitimate.  But of course, neither I nor any other person who values the continued existence of the Jewish nation would advocate such a boycott because we know how important Israel is to the present and the future of the Jewish people, despite its shortcomings.

Yes, I understand that many Jews are concerned about preserving Jewish identity.  All peoples of the world are concerned with maintaining their identities, especially peoples whose very existence has been historically threatened.  I still contend, however, that as Jews, we need to be less rigid about who we consider to be members of our community.  So I reject the notion that to be Jewish is to shun everything that is not Jewish.  Such intolerance and rigidity leads not to the continued growth and prosperity of a people, but rather to its demise.  I point to the dwindling Samaritan community in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as a case in point.  Because of their refusal to welcome others into their community and their refusal to be less rigid about who they consider to be members of their community, their ability to grow and replenish their population has been extremely impaired, even to the extent that birth defects among their people are becoming more and more common since the members of the sect refuse to intermarry.  This is certainly not the future that we want for the Jewish people.

For those of you who are having a panic attack because you hear about growing rates of intermarriage and Jews with Christmas trees in their homes, your extreme anxiety is unwarranted, and I'll explain why.  Some of you may be old enough to remember the when you were forced to say the Lord's Prayer in school and when saying, "Merry Christmas", was a lot more common than the more politically correct "Happy Holidays".  Ask yourself, did saying the Lord's Prayer or partaking in the celebrations of another religion's holidays make you any less of a Jew?  My mother recited the Lord's Prayer when she went to school.  In fact, she even allowed the nannies who lived with us during my childhood to have a Christmas tree in our home, and she didn't have any issue taking me or my siblings to the mall during the holidays to sit on Santa's knee.  Yet, my mother is a strong advocate of preserving Jewish traditions, whether that means celebrating Jewish holidays, like Passover and Rosh Hashana, or simply remembering to light candles on Friday nights.  My point is that being immersed in other cultures and traditions does not have to make you less Jewish, unless of course you allow it to.

Also, contrary to what many Jews still believe, I do not feel that it is necessary to belong to a synagogue to maintain your Jewishness in the Diaspora.  Yes, the synagogue is still a main focal point for Jewish communal life, but it certainly isn't the only one.  There are countless Jewish clubs, societies, associations and other groups throughout the U.S. and Canada that Jews can be participate in if they want to feel part of the greater Jewish community.  Hence, it is not necessary for a Jewish individual or family to spend a small fortune every year to be members of a synagogue. 

In fact, I even think it is possible to be a Jew without being one from a religious aspect.  Yes, that means I think it is possible for someone to be a Jew while adhering to another religion or without adhering to any religion at all.  For those of you who are familiar with Jewish history, you know that in ancient times, Jews adhered to other religious traditions aside from their own and yet remained Jews in an ethnic and cultural sense.  I should also mention that intermarriage was not shunned, even by our greatest leaders. King Solomon, for example, married the daughter of Egypt's Pharaoh to cement an alliance with his kingdom's southern neighbour.  And let's not forget his famous love affair with the Queen of Sheba.  Coming back to our own time, we should remember that many leaders and organizations in the Zionist movement shunned religious traditions and preferred to focus on the cultural aspects of being Jewish.  So if our ancestors, both in the ancient and near past, could define being Jewish as something other than observing religious traditions, why can't we?

Don't get me wrong, I think being concerned about the continued existence of the Jewish people is perfectly reasonable.  But the threats to our existence come from dictators who talk of wiping our country off the map and from terrorists and antisemites who attack us and our cultural and religious institutions, not from people who aren't going to synagogue enough or who marry non-Jewish spouses.  


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

De-constructing Multi-Ethnic States and Creating Real Nation-States: My Personal Take on Redrawing International Borders

After World War I, the victorious Allies decided to do some tinkering with the map of Europe.  They dismantled the Austro-Hungarian Empire and created the new, largely homogenous nation-states of Austria and Hungary.  This was a smart move on the part of the Allies as they erased from the map of Europe a country that was united only by the imperial domination of several different peoples, Austrians, Hungarians, Serbs and so forth.  Unfortunately, Europe's great powers, Britain and France, did not apply the same treatment to their newly-acquired territories in the Middle East, not to mention the colonial territories that they already held throughout the rest of the world.  Britain and France divided the territories of the former Ottoman Empire amongst themselves, creating what would become the artificial states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan while holding onto their colonies in Africa and Asia.

Today, most of the territory in Africa, the Middle East and Asia are beset by armed conflict, poverty, hunger and hopelessness.  As I stated in my last blog, Multi-Ethnic States: Disasters Waiting to Happen, the best possible outcome for countries made up of many competing groups is very likely the partition of territory amongst those groups.  Hence, part of cleaning up the mess that European colonial powers made of much of the world is de-constructing the artificial borders that they drew and creating nation-states composed of stable majorities of like peoples.  Below, I outline my own vision of what I think should take place in various countries and territories.

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Africa:

A new Tuareg Nation-State

The Tuaregs are a people spread far throughout western Africa.  Their territories include much of southern Algeria, northern Mali, northern Niger and a small part of southwest Libya.  So I would propose that a new Tuareg state be created and comprised of all of these territories in which they are the majority.

Nigeria

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has countless different ethnic groups, but it is three particular groups, the Yoruba, the Hausa-Fulani and the Igbo which are largest groups in the country and together make up the majority.  In this case, I would propose a three-way partition of the country: Yorubaland in the southwest, Hausaland in the north, and Biafra in the southeast.  Hausaland may even take what is left of Niger, Nigeria's northern neighbour, after the Tuaregs have taken the north of it as part of their state.  By the way, I did not just create names out of the blue for these three new states.  Yorubaland and Hausaland are the traditional geographic names of the southwest and northern regions respectively.  Biafra is the name that the Igbo people gave their newly formed country as they tried to break away from Nigeria in the 1960s.  But of course, the Nigerians eventually crushed the revolt and Biafra no longer exists - accept in the hopes and dreams of Igbo people who still yearn for independence.

Sudan - A Partition Still in the Making

Sudan's long civil war ended only once the country's government, dominated by Arab northerners, finally allowed the predominantly black, Christian and animist south to break away.  Unfortunately, however, conflict is still raging in both Sudan and South Sudan.  The former must be partitioned even further to allow the Beja people of the country's coast the right to independence.  I would say the same goes in regards to the Fur people of the western Darfur region and the Nubian people who live in the north of the country and across the border with Egypt, however, I am unsure if states that are viable from an economic standpoint could be created for these two groups.  In the new country of South Sudan, the two main ethnic groups, the Dinka and Nuer, are fighting each other, both under the leadership of two men jockeying for control of the whole country.  To the best of my knowledge, a partition of South Sudan between these two warring groups is not possible because they are both scattered in different pockets of the country.  Finally, the border between north Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan is still in dispute and the people living along the border should have the final say on which country they want to be part of.

The Horn of Africa: Somalia and Ethiopia

Somalia has been without an effective government for the whole country since the early 1990s.  Somalis in the northwest of the country have declared their independence in their own state that they call Somaliland.  But although Somaliland has a government that is stable, at least by African standards, the international community refuses to recognize it.  This, I believe, must change.  The international community and the West in particular should give up the illusion of a united Somalia and accept the right of the people of Somaliland to independence.  As for Ethiopia, although it is the only country in Africa whose borders were not drawn up by European colonial powers, it is still a multi-ethnic empire that should be dismantled should the people desire.  The Oromo, Afar, Amharic and Somali peoples that are all seemingly united under the Ethiopian flag, should all have the right to self-determination.

Morocco and South Sahara

Spain should return the remaining enclaves that they have in Morocco back to the Moroccan people.  South Sahara (the former Spanish Sahara) should be granted independence. 

The Middle East:

Kurdistan

The Kurds are as far-flung in the Middle East as the Tuareg are in western Africa.  Kurdish territory comprises southeastern Turkey, northeast Syria, northern Iraq and parts of northern Iran.  All this territory should become part of the new nation-state of Kurdistan.  Again, this is not a name I invented, but rather the name given by the Kurds to all the territory in the Middle East in which they are a majority.

Iraq

Under Ottoman rule, what is now Iraq was divided into three provinces: the northern province of Mosul, the central province of Baghdad and the southern province of Basra.  I would propose that Iraq again be divided three ways so that northern Iraq would become part of Kurdistan, central Iraq would become an independent Sunni Arab state, and southern Iraq would become an independent Shiite Arab state.  Ideally, I would also like to see an independent state of Assyria in northern Iraq for the Iraqi Christians, but I doubt that the Christians in northern Iraq have enough numbers and territory to form their own state.

Iran

Iran was once called Persia, but despite the name change, the Persians still dominate the country even though they are not an overall majority within it.  Northern Iran is dominated by Kurds and Azerbaijanis, so I would recommend that the part of it that is mostly populated by Kurds go to Kurdistan and the other part dominated by Azerbaijanis be allowed to unite with their kinsmen across the border in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan.  In southwestern Iran, Khuzestan is a province that is predominantly Arab and should be given the option of independence or a union with their fellow Shiite Arabs in what is now southern Iraq.  Another possible candidate for independence is the mostly Arab province of Hormuzgan along Iran's southern coast.  Lastly, the Baluchi of the southeastern province of Baluchistan must be given independence and the chance to unify with their fellow Baluchis across the border in Pakistan; not as part of Pakistan, but as part of a nation-state of Baluchistan that is free of both Iranian and Pakistani domination.

Syria

The current civil war in Syria is about more than just a fragmented opposition fighting a ruthless dictator in Bashar Al-Assad.  Assad's power base is the Alawite Muslim population that dominate the Syrian coastal region of Latakia.  The rest of Syria is divided amongst Kurds in the extreme northeast, Druze in the south and Sunni Arabs in the rest of the country.  It is along these lines that Syria should be broken up - an independent Druze state in the south of the country, an independent Alawite Muslim state in Latakia and an independent Sunni Arab state in the rest of Syria's territory, except for the Kurdish territory of the northeast which would be part of Kurdistan.  I left out Syria's sizable Christian community, but only because they do not form a majority in any significant part of Syria's territory that would allow them to create a state of their own. 
  
Palestine

I believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still achievable and is much better than the alternative bi-national, one-state solution proposed by radicals on both sides.  The Palestinians will obviously get to keep the entire Gaza Strip as part of their new state and receive most of the West Bank as well.  I believe that any deal over the new borders in what is now the West Bank should include the biggest Jewish communities in the disputed territory.  In exchange, the Palestinians should be given the so-called Arab Triangle adjacent to the northwestern part of the green line where Arabs are the dominant population.  It's basically just a matter of swapping territory so that Jews live in the Jewish state and Arabs live in the Arab state.  Such a land swap has already been proposed and discussed.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen

Ultimately, I believe that the people of South Yemen should be given the right to decide whether to remain united with the north or be independent as they once were.  In Saudi Arabia, the Shiites along the northeastern coast of the country also deserve the right to self-determination.

Asia:

China

If justice is served, the peoples of Tibet, East Turkestan (now the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang) and Manchuria will all regain their independence.  Inner Mongolia must have the right to break away from Chinese rule and reunite with their kinsmen in the republic of Mongolia. 

Sri Lanka

The Tamils of the north and eastern parts of Sri Lanka should be given their independence in a new state of Tamil Eelam.

Thailand

The south of Thailand was once an independent Islamic sultanate and should be allowed the opportunity to regain its independence.

Indonesia

West Papua, the Indonesian-controlled part of the island of New Guinea, should be given its independence or the chance to unite with their fellow Papuan kinsmen in Papua New Guinea.

Philippines

The southern, mainly Muslim island of Mindanao should be given the right to independence from the Philippines, which is overwhelmingly Catholic.

Europe:

Western Europe

Regions like Catalonia, the Basque Country, Brittany, Corsica and Alsace should be given the right to self-determination and the chance to be become full member states of the European Union.  Gibraltar is occupied Spanish territory and should be returned to Spain.

Kosovo

Serbs are still the majority in the northeastern part of the country and should have the right to reunite themselves and their territory with Serbia.

Ukraine

As long as the Ukrainian speaking west and the Russian-speaking east remain united, there will never be a peaceful solution to the problems in this country, so it would be best that the Russian speakers of the east be allowed to choose independence or a union with Russia.  The Ukrainians of the west would then be free to pursue European integration.

Russia

In my humble opinion, Russia is not justified in holding any territory east of the Ural Mountains.  It is conquered territory and the peoples of these lands should have the right to self-determination, as should the peoples of the Caucuses.  The northern region of Karelia should be returned to Finland.    

North America:

Canada and the United States:

All aboriginal nations in both Canada and the U.S. should have the right to self-determination, whether that includes limited self-government or outright independence.  I applaud Canada for twice allowing Quebecers to vote on independence.  This is a model that should be followed throughout the world.

Mexico

The mainly Mayan south should have the right to secede from the rest of Mexico and create an independent Mayan state.  Poverty is rife all over Mexico, but more so in the Mayan-dominated south than in the north.  The latter controls the economy and is dominated mainly by whites and people of mixed ancestry. 

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What I have outlined above is obviously limited by what I know about the different peoples of the world, as well as my knowledge of autonomy and independence movements.  I am simply making suggestions, so if you, the reader, have any problem with what I've recommended, or you believe that I don't have all my facts straight, I hope you will tell me.  It is ultimately up to the peoples concerned to decide their fate - or at least it should be up to them.  My overall point is that a world made up of nation-states composed mostly of like peoples would probably be a much more peaceful and prosperous world than the one we live in today, full of artificial countries where competing groups jostle for power and leave carnage in their wake.  It is these internal quarrels that comprise most of today's armed conflicts, so instead of trying to keep countries together that were never meant to be in the first place, perhaps we should try asking the peoples of those countries whether they would like to continue living together or would prefer to live apart.  I believe that people need to learn to live separately in peace before they can learn to live together in peace.
    

     

Monday, 3 February 2014

Multi-ethnic States: Disasters Waiting to Happen

For any nation-state to endure and succeed, it needs a sense of identity and purpose.  This is much easier to establish if the people in the nation-state in question have certain things in common, such as language, history, religion, values and customs.  I would argue that most nation-states that have most or all of these common characteristics are usually successful, while nation-states that have few or none of these characteristics are usually doomed to fail.

If you look on the globe at the countries where most violent internal conflicts occur, you will notice that most of them are multi-ethnic states - in other words, states in which there is no one ethnic group that forms a majority of the population.  For the most part, states like these are usually not the product of popular will, but rather the product of imperialism, colonialism and conquest, mostly done in the name of European colonial powers who would routinely carve up the territory that they conquered without regard for the local population.  The ultimate result after the colonial era had ended was the creation of countries composed of several, often countless groups of peoples who had no affinity for each other and who were never meant to live together in the same nation-state.  Today, many of these countries are what are sometimes referred to as "failed states" - countries without effective governance beset by armed conflict, poverty, disease, famine and destitution.

Ironically, however, the most successful nation-sate in today's world is itself a multi-ethnic state.  I speak, of course, of the United States of America.  What began as a loose federation of British colonies eventually became the vast empire that it is today.  It boasts the greatest military in the history of humankind and its economy has been the dominant force in the world for the better part of a century.  Yet, the U.S. may suffer the same fate that befell its former rival, the Soviet Union, or other empires before it, simply because of its multi-ethnic character.

Like most multi-ethnic states, the U.S. has what I like to call a "core group".  That is, a certain ethnic group that does not make up the majority of the population, but does hold most of the power in the country.  In the U.S., the core group is made up of white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants, or WASPS as they are often called in a derogatory sense.  These are the descendants of America's "Founding Fathers", the people who broke away from their fellow countrymen in Britain to form their own nation.  Today, this core group continues to be the dominant sector in American society, but its dominance is slowly waning in the face of America's growing multiculturalism, which has seen and will continue to see groups of visible minorities become the majority in many parts of the country.  These visible minorities, specifically blacks, Latinos and native Americans, form the majority of America's underclass.  Hence, in the future, I would not be surprised if these groups, having had enough of being exploited and dominated by the core group, try to break away from the American empire, eventually leading to a situation in which the U.S. is broken up into ethnic and racial mini-states and fiefdoms - a situation that would be similar to the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

The situation in Canada is similar though different in the sense that there are two core groups, namely Canadians of British descent and those of French descent, which have fought each other for supremacy since European settlement began.  This struggle was further complicated when under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada adopted the ideology of multiculturalism.  Trudeau meant to create a more inclusive Canadian identity with his new policy of multiculturalism.  Ironically, however, he may have given Canada a death sentence, because although the new ideology has made it easier to accept anyone as a Canadian regardless of their race, religion or cultural background, it has also been increasingly used as an excuse for not integrating into Canadian society, not learning the official languages and not conforming to certain values that are consistent with a modern, democratic country.  The philosophy of multiculturalism has also given a new sense of urgency to the Quebec independence movement.  From Bill 101 in the late 1970s to the recently proposed Charter of Values, Quebec nationalists have done everything they can to prevent the Quebecois nation from being diluted into Canada's new multicultural mosaic.  There is, however, some good news.  If Canada does come apart, it will probably not do so violently.  Quebec will simply break away from English-speaking Canada, leaving the two solitudes to go their separate ways in very much the same way Czechoslovakia split into two states in what was called the "Velvet Divorce".  As for the rest of Canada, it may yet survive if it can hold onto its democratic values as well as its social values that will keep it from being absorbed by the United States.

Just to be clear, I do believe that people of different races, cultures, religions, languages, etc. can live together in the same country, but this is conditional upon building a national identity that is based on common values and interests rather than ethnicity, religion and so forth.  Switzerland, for example, is a multilingual federation that has existed for centuries because the Swiss have come together and stayed together based on shared interests and values.  And believe it or not, any nation-state that manages to forge a national identity that isn't based on blood or some other primordial characteristic has a chance to survive and thrive.  This includes countries like the United States and Canada.  The problem is that creating a sense of identity that doesn't involve the colour of one's skin or the language one speaks is extremely difficult.  It requires a lot of time, good leadership and the ability to educate the populous so that they buy into the national identity that the country's leaders strive to create.  Unfortunately, I cannot see this happening in most multi-ethnic states.

For the vast majority of countries that do not have a national identity based on ethnicity, religion, language, etc., the best possible outcome is probably a partition amongst the competing groups in question.  In Iraq, for example, there does not appear to be anyone or anything that can unite the people of that country, who were only united forcibly under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.  It would be best, therefore, to partition the country into three separate states; one for each of the three main competing groups: Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs and Kurds.  I would not think for a second that doing this would solve all the problems in the area, but I believe that it is a necessary step. 

This kind of partition is possible in many multi-ethnic states, but unfortunately not all.  There are cases where partition is simply not possible because in some countries, different competing groups are not concentrated in specific places that make it easy to draw borders between them.  Lebanon, for example, is a country rocked by divisions between competing religious sects.  But unlike Czechoslovakia, which was neatly split between the Czechs and Slovaks with clearly defined borders, Lebanon does not have clearly demarcated, contiguous territories controlled by its different sects that would allow a tidy partition of the country.  In other words, the country's people are simply too mixed up to allocate a territory to each competing sect.  This leaves Lebanon with no other option but to allow the violence within its borders to continue until someone or something can facilitate the creation of a new national identity that overrides sectarian divisions.  Unfortunately, I don't see this happening any time soon.

As for the United States, its collapse would probably bring about an upheaval that would rival the fall of the Roman Empire.  I believe that the country can avoid this upheaval, but first, the American people have a decision to make: do they want to alleviate the grievances of the country's underclass even if it means that they will no longer be a global superpower, or do they want to remain a global superpower even if it means that the American underclass could rise up and bring about the fall of the American empire and the country itself?  If the American people choose the former, they may yet save their beloved republic because tending to the grievances of the underclass, which as I said is dominated by the black, Latino and native American racial minorities, will bring about a more inclusive American identity.  But if they choose the latter, their country could soon resemble the killing fields of the former Yugoslavia - on a much bigger and more brutal scale.