We in the ‘western world’ pride ourselves on how we’ve alowed free thought and tolerance to flourish, with enough personal responsibilites and laws in place to prevent our societies from becoming chaos. To what degree have we succeeded? To what degree are we kidding ourselves?
We do have the best system in the world, with one vote per person, individual freedoms, and a sense of relative personal safety. It’s not perfect, but it’s as good as we’ve got. Personally, I think we still have a ways to go. Prejudice remains in many forms. Black curtains of censorship still exist, and self-interest causes corporations and individuals to try to limit competition. In itself, competitiveness is not necessarily a bad thing–it helps each of us to strive for self-improvement and that of our society. The problem comes when it pervades leadership.
Canada, for example, has things like ‘minimum Canadian content’ policies in place. The explanation is that they exist to protect Canadian identity and interests. (Sorry, no comment here on cross border tarifs and the like–someone else can tackle that.) Supposedly, the minimum requirement of Canadian content in magazines sold in Canada is not meant to exclude American content, but to ensure Canadian content is present. The end result is that some American content has to be excluded. Who gets to choose which point of view gets left out? I don’t know, and worse, I don’t know who to ask.
The fear that Canadian culture will be swallowed up by American ideals must puzzle the rest of the world, since the two countries are very similar in culture. Oddly enough, one of the most Canadian things a person can do is become wildly successful and move to the United States–or become rich and famous by moving to the US. A lot of time and effort is expended, insisting that Canadians are ‘not American.’ Yet we consume a lot of American cultural content, even as we gently make fun of our US neighbors.
Beyond this is the international publishing industry. I was priveleged to hear a webcast (on my cell phone, so no actual picture) of Julie Andrews the other day. One of my Internet contacts brought this to my attention, whereupon I was left wondering, ‘when did Julie Andrews ever write a book?’ It turns out she has written several, and co-authored some with her daughter. Who knew? (They’re children’s books, but who’s going to pass up a chance to hear an interview of Julie Andrews?) I think most Canadians would be absolutely ignorant of the fact she’s a well established author of children’s books.
Unless an author goes way beyond the norm, including getting on the best seller list, with at least a potential movie deal, it’s unlikely anyone outside of the country will ever know the author’s name. Traditional publishing houses have seen to the business of printing books within their own countries. While this is immensely practical and hardly falls into the category of conspiracy, it has a similar effect to prohibiting the publication of an author with foreign citizenship.
North Americans are lucky on this point, as ‘the longest undefended border in the world’ allows many creative endeavors to pass back and forth. My books for example, Been Blued and Martian Blues, were both printed in the United States. Since I’m Canadian, they would both be considered a Canadian product with Canadian content. The fact that my publisher is based in the States would not be considered relevant, nor would my usage of American spelling, although it took me a while to convince my computer to use the US version. (Many Canadian words follow the British spelling.)
In comparison to the Canadian market, the American market is huge. One professional revealed that the Canadian pubishing industry accounts for three percent of his business. Movies can be made jointly with filming locations in either country. I’m assuming those doing so have access to all the legal ramifications involved, since it’s been happening for years.
It is possible that Internet access has the greatest potential for eliminating the black curtains of censorship and silence some try to hide behind. The fear of the past several decades has been a monopoly of information, with a one-way street leading to government control of expression and thought. Fortunately, even an ordinary person is capable of being extremely clever when given computer access, and the Internet tends to lead in many directions, including the vital two way lanes of communication. Perhaps we can look forward to the day when black curtains and conspiracies fall prey to responsible freedom of thought and expression. At the same time, let’s eliminate crime and evil intentions. 😉
Thanks for reading.
Phyllis K Twombly