22 July 2013

The Imaginary Nation #nlpoli

Look at the shelves in any bookstore around town these days and you will likely see endless copies of Greg Malone’s book Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders

The piles of books show that few people are actually interested in Malone’s malarkey.   Well, very few people beyond the crowd who – like Malone and open line regular Agnes – already had swallowed the load already, without question.  Malone’s book contains the sort of crap Malone and others have been getting on with for years.  Back in 2009, for example, the Canadian Press gave their  fact checker a day off and asked Greg some stuff about Confederation in time for a piece for the 60th anniversary of the momentous event. 

Drew Brown, he of the recent paper and public talk on nationalism, has a piece in The Scope this month that has a go at the conspiracy theory.  Not surprisingly, he trashes the notion completely. 

Take the time to read the whole piece.  There is a lot in it.  This bit, though, is especially worth noting here:

But worse than being lazy history, conspiracy theories are a depressive politics. If we buy the line that the Newfoundland nation was forsaken by Anglo-Canadian manipulation or ‘ignorant and avaricious’ outporters, we are buying a story where Newfoundlanders are the eternal victim. Pathologically fixated on an imagined past, we are cut adrift in a very real future and can never move forward. It’s an emotionally exhausting worldview. That these ideas are a political dead end is obvious in the fact that no ‘sovereigntist’ movement has ever enjoyed even marginal success in the six decades since our ‘annexation’.

Let’s make a minor correction to that.  Malone and his ilk aren’t just lazy historians.  They are not historians at all.   If you want the view of a professional historian,  go look at what Jeff Webb had to say in 1999 on the whole conspiracy idea.  We’ve pushed that link a lot because it remains the most concise and readable dissection of the idea of a Confederation conspiracy.

On the second part, your humble e-scribbler can only applaud.  Anti-Confederates like Malone push a view of local politics in which we are all victims of one sort of another.  The history they rely on is not merely imagined, it is almost completely invented

The ideas Brown discusses are ones that are familiar to regular readers of these e-scribbles.  For all that,  the recent discussion by Brown and others make it worthwhile to take a look not just at the issue of Newfoundland nationalism but at the interpretations of it.

That’s what we’ll be doing intermittently over the next few weeks.  Hopefully, that discussion will be as insightful as Webb and Brown.  They have set the bar high.