Sovereignty and Consumerism

South Africa - Cantons
The shift of power and people to the megalopolis, the global market, and consumerism, brings with it psychological, emotional, and social, changes. Changes, of which the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and the marriage statistics of the United States, are integral parts. Changes, that are obvious in the megalopolis.
The megalopolis powerfully attracts people of all backgrounds. The multi-racial melting pots of Los Angeles and London testify to a worldwide drift of people towards the prosperous urban centres. A drift composed of those who seek to join the specialization in that centre, and economic migrants.
Those who seek specialization move towards a community of interests. Economic migrants often seek a cultural community, such as the Korean or Mexican ghettos in Los Angeles. Those cultural communities represent two competing forces - consumerism and nationality. A Korean moves to Los Angeles to enjoy affluence; and lives in a ghetto to enjoy the familiarity of Korea. The ghetto is a colony of Korea or Mexico -an outpost of nationalism in a tide of consumerism. For economic migrants, the consumer society is more important than nationality.
The urban centre ghetto is a diluted portion of a nation. It exists based on the fear that the marketplace will swamp a particular culture, for example, that Mexican culture will be lost in Los Angeles. The same fear the inhabitants of Quebec have of English Canadians. There is also the Canadian fear of the Americans and the Estonian fear of being swallowed by the Russians. It is not a fear easily assuaged.
This fear is part of the societal trance. Those who break from the trance become attached to tribalised communities. Those who are strongly attached to their culture seek a ghetto.
The fear of loss of cultural identity through economic homogeneity is not always borne out by experience. The United Kingdom, a combination of English, Welsh, Scots and Irish has existed since 1707. Despite the passage of almost three hundred years the people are still English, Welsh, Scots, or Irish. The persistence of a geographic or social culture is remarkable. For over one hundred years there has been one official language, English. The Welsh were officially English speaking as of 1536. However, when the compulsory English education system was introduced in 1870 it was found that 90% of Wales was Welsh speaking. The Scots lost their sovereignty in 1706 but the Gaelic language faded only after the 1872 Education Act based education on the English language. Assimilation of outlook has not occurred despite a common language and economy.
A similar situation exists in Belgium. Belgium became a sovereign nation in 1831. The North part of Belgium is occupied by Flemings, who speak Dutch and the South is occupied by Walloons who speak French. It remains two cultures with one government. The Belgium government in 1962-3 fixed a language frontier effectively recognising two cultures and allowing two languages to exist within one nation. Diversity of culture was accepted within the larger national economy.
A different situation has occurred in the United States. There, people of Scots, Irish, Welsh, Fleming, or Walloon, ancestry have exchanged their original cultural identity for an American cultural identity. It is questionable however, that cultural identities will be swamped to the same extent by a global cultural identity. The unifying global factors are consumerism and the marketplace. In such a situation an indigenous culture becomes a selling point, valued for its unique qualities. Global art will be a wide melange of styles and tastes, each respected for adding depth and width to human knowledge.
Economic migrants, with their culture, interlace themselves with the economic and special interest communities of the megalopolis. The essence of a culture is concentrated in the arts and it is through the fostering of art and ritual that cultural communities thrive. A Korean in her cultural community studies the martial arts and also belongs to the accounting community in downtown Los Angeles drawing tolerance and understanding from both.
Cultural diversity, where it is a fostering of the arts, enriches societal diversity. Ghettoes are temporary way stations for those who cannot adapt to the consumer society. On leaving that way station, the economic migrant brings into the larger society a wider range of art, food, and traditions. Within the last thirty years the megalopolis has had a tremendous increase in diversity of culture. For example, in Los Angeles in the last thirty years there has been an explosion of restaurants catering to Thai, Korean, Indian, Ukrainian, Iranian, and many other tastes.
The megalopolis no longer belongs to a national culture. Every megalopolis is becoming global in culture although they remain ruled by national governments. The effect of this increased cultural diversity, and the movement of economic migrants, on political structures, can be seen in South Africa.
South Africa
Initial changes usually occur on the fringes of a system. The fringe of the representative electoral democratic system supporting a modern industrial complex is South Africa. It is a microcosm of the problems of the modern industrial state and nationality on a small scale. In South Africa, many cultures, grouped within a geographic area, share a common economic trading area. It is like Europe or North America without borders.
The black people of South Africa are as diverse as the Walloons and Flemish in Belgium. They are not all just native black people as the popular press would have us believe, just as the Scots and Welsh are not English.
South Africa has operated on a dominant class or caste system. The composition of the society in order of dominance is as follows:
Race Population
White Afrikaner 3.0 Million
English speaking White 1.6
Asians 0.8
Coloreds 2.7
Zulu 5.8
Xhosa 3.0
North Satho 2.4
South Satho 1.8
Tswana 1.4
Shangaan 1.0
The dominant power is the Afrikaners and they have restricted political rights to the Afrikaner and the English speaking whites. The third category, the Asians, have been given limited sovereignty powers. The fourth category, the colored, have been given limited sovereign powers in the Cape Province, but not outside that province. The categories below the colored have been given `homelands' on which they have sovereign rights and power.
The black tribes are supposed to restrict their political activities and exercise their democratic rights within the homelands. Most homelands do not pursue the democratic model but prefer the autocratic tribal chieftain model. This has resulted in enough corruption, nepotism, and blatant abuse of power to reinforce the white belief that the blacks are incapable of running the modern industrial economy. The whites own the economy and don't intend to give it away. The same situation occurs in North American where Americans restrict Mexicans to their `homeland' by immigration policies. The Americans are more successful at keeping the Mexicans out because of a political border. That option does not exist for South Africa.
South Africa is a nation with one central government controlling the purse strings. If the purse were a miserly one, there would not be much interest in the political process. South Africa is, however, the richest nation in Africa and there has been violent political discord for a considerable period. Black politicians are aware of the possibility of unifying the black vote and gaining economic power. South Africa is now moving in that direction.
People do not live in South Africa because of tribal loyalty or white supremacy. The reason neighboring people are eager to exchange their full political rights to live in South Africa is the desire for a higher standard of living. Consumerism is the dominant reason for moving from Malawi to South Africa, or from Sri Lanka to Canada, or from Haiti to the United States.
On a world wide level the South African experience is closer to political reality. Germans, for instance, have no intention of allowing Ugandans to come to Germany to enjoy a higher standard of living. Germany can, and will, keep out Ugandans because of political sovereignty. In 1986 almost two hundred Tamil `refugees' from Sri Lanka landed by boat in Canada. In 1987 Canada changed the immigration law to turn back such `refugees'.
Every nation with a high standard of living uses immigration laws to deny the entry to people of less developed nations. The Afrikaners within South Africa cannot do that. They deal with a problem that developed nations have partly avoided. The mentality is the same whether it is Afrikaner and black or Canadian and Tamil.
The gap in South Africa between economic and political reality can be plainly seen. The blacks want political power and may resort to force to get it. People from areas of marginal economic productivity want to move to economic centres. The `homelands' of Transkei, Sri Lanka, Guatemala or Indonesia do not have the conditions for a consumer society and people are moving. Consumerism is a demand for which people are prepared to fight for in South Africa. They will smuggle themselves into Canada by boat, or they will illegally cross the border to the United States, - all for one purpose, to join the consumer society.
The South African situation in North America would mean that Mexicans, flooding the lower paid jobs, would climb the economic ladder. American business would flood Mexico demanding better services. The Americans would complain of lower wage rates and the Mexicans would complain of being owned by Americans. That is the South African problem; there they may fight about it. The United States and other industrialized nations only drift towards the problem; unable to control their drift, and unable to find a new vehicle for a different society.
A new political and legal structure has to accommodate not only communities of specialists but also the cultural needs of economic migrants. It has to realign power to reflect not only the needs of individual consciousness, but also the motivating interest of groups. The natural economic flow of the global market is of political and legal power devolving to communities and bioregions.
The present size, and political structure, of cities and states are illogical. They make no sense except that of historical political movement. Is there any reason that the Los Angeles basin is divided into two counties, Los Angeles and Orange County? Apart from historical political reasons there are none. A structure that does make economic and cultural sense is the canton.
A canton is the name used to describe a subdivision of a country, particularly in Switzerland. Cantons there, divide the nation into 26 divisions based on geographic and linguistic peculiarities. Each canton possesses, in effect, sovereignty, that is, it is master of its own house. However, in Switzerland, each canton has assigned to a national government in Berne the right to issue currency, fix international tariffs, maintain a defence force, and enter diplomatic relations. The idea, expanded, can be used so that a canton reflects geographic, linguistic, cultural, historical, and economic, peculiarities. For example, in the United States, the computer tribalised community would be in the Silicon Valley canton.
The canton concept can bring together the consumer concerns - what the community produces - with its natural geographic area. A natural geographic area, such as the Okanagan Valley, would have within it an apple growers tribalised community, the ranching tribalised community, and others. It is a move away from the political design of banding together as large a number of people as possible to enlarge political power. It partitions power under an economic umbrella and directs competition away from nations to a lower level, similar to inter-city rivalry.
This devolution of political and legal power accommodates a confluence of historical and cultural interests, such as the French Canadian cultural interests of Quebec, and the racial divisions of South Africa.
The idea of using cantons to express local characteristics has been put forward, in a different form, by Leon Louw and Frances Kendall in their book, SOUTH AFRICA, THE SOLUTION. The cantons envisaged in that book are based on 306 magisterial districts. They would allow an area smaller than a nation to develop politically or racially as it wishes. The big difference is that all cantons belong to a free trade area without immigration or customs laws.
It is on the cantonal level that culture has its strongest ties. The persistence of cultural ties, the Basques of Spain, the Highlanders and the Lowlanders of Scotland, the Geordies, the Yorkshireman, and the native populations of North America, show them to be a potent organisational force. The physical characteristics of a district, or a culture, or a combination of both, breed a sense of belonging that persists within a community. And the strength of that cultural community is not lost despite sharing an economy, or language, with people in a continent wide area.
The Salish, the New Yorker, the Zulu, the Walloons, the Croatians, and the Basques, all have a cultural identification with an area that is familiar to them. It is on the community level where the greatest emotional impact of daily living and loving is felt. The canton concept envisions a free trade area where matters of historical, social, and environmental ‘politics’ remains a local concern. It is where, economically, all compete on a level playing field.
The ideas of bio-regions and congruent tribalized communities acting as cantons produces a more responsive and rugged legal and political milieu. They embody the emerging social trends, - small is beautiful, de-centralization, community control, and living in place.
The movement towards smaller communities stems, in part, from the problems inherent in larger political areas which often allow the individual to escape responsibility for the consequences of his or her acts. Attachment to a tribalized community or a bio-region results in a closer identification with the effects of environmental damage. Excessive logging will result in the bio-region being unable to sustain employment and this in turn will force the individual to feel responsible for a sustainable economy. Polluted rivers affect the quality of life and within a bio-region tends to force the individual to take responsibility for recycling garbage and reducing the use of toxic chemicals.
Small areas, self-governed, and only limited by global issues changes the present pyramid of political power to a myriad of organizations operating through interconnected agreements.
To some extent these ideas are now before the European Community where heavy industrial areas no longer dominate smaller areas. There is a dispersal of power with voting and governance on a European scale, not the restricted concerns of the Rhur valley or the British farmer. The separate cultures within Europe will continue to exist but their separate political and economic power is ending.