What is the bigger picture behind using paper currency?

[1] There has been a huge evolution of the type of commodities or objects we use through time. But is it worth anything?

As I promised on my previous blog, I am writing a politico-historical article to solve a puzzle I have had for a long time – the significance of paper currency. I will discuss the development of currency throughout the ages, from the ancient times to the contemporary ages. Furthermore, I will analyse the valour and usage behind the paper currency, and its relevance in the future as a form of concluding point. Constructive criticism are all but welcome, a token of your help would be greatly appreciated.

 

1) Development of currency 

Throughout history, people exchanged goods or services amongst each other for what they wanted in forms of commodities. For example, the traders used salt, tea, tobacco, spices, cattles and shells. However, a lot of these were not the most feasible ways to trade, as these ingredients or commodities were naturally perishable. [2]

 

1.1) Coins and paper 

Another example of currencies were the coins and paper currency. In circa 1000 BC China, as the Chinese were inspired from their earlier usage of shells, which in Chinese radical terms, correlates to shells or monetary problems. They all had a small square in the middle so that it can be looped together by a string. [3] China was technologically advanced at this time, and is known to have progressed to be the first official country to use paper money as currency, as they used it since circa 960 AD onwards. [2] Moving on the other side of the world, coins were introduced in ancient European civilisations like the Greco-Roman ones, as various kinds of metals were easily available in abundance, because of its re-usability and malleability. [2, 3]

 

3) Is it worth anything? The usage behind it all 

With some currency, we often find a recurring phrase, “Promise to pay the bearer on demand.” I have been taught that in essence, a 10, 20 or 50 dollar note is not worth anything. Ever since, I have been intrigued to discover why and how.

 

In 16th century England, gold-smith bankers started to use receipts for cash, promising to pay the bearer or depositor a certain amount of money. Throughout many wars, namely those of the Seven Years’ War and the First World War, England had to tweak its monetary system. For example, in 1759, during the Seven Years’ War, there were many gold shortages. This was key, as the English bank continued to introduce notes of smaller amounts – £10 pounds to £5 pounds, then to £2 and £1 pounds, ultimately causing the devaluation of the reserve. [4]

 

Eventually, the link with gold was broken, and Britain left the gold standard in 1931. There was a huge problem of hyperinflation and an uncertainty of returning to the gold standard in the two strongest economic powers during that time – the US and UK. At first, the Sterling to gold exchange was a lucrative enterprise. However, after many affected countries felt the full force of the Great Depression of 1929, the problem of convertibility for the British world currency was left to disappear. This was significant, as this marked the period where the authorities legalised the utilisation of paper currency instead. Furthermore, this was fundamental, as this was further emphasised when these countries had high unemployment rates, thereby having inflating their prices. Thus, the devaluation of currency and more competitive edge in the global market. [5] Thus, in summary, the paper currency we use now is not of that much use. Makes more sense now. There you go, learnt something new myself too.

 

4) Is paper currency the most feasible way of spending money?

According to the documentary Zeitgest: Money Segment, paper currency is used in society due to two main reasons – debt and interest. The government and federal reserve have money requests through loan demands and reserves. In exchanging this supply and demand amongst them, they draw up values and deposit the large sum of money into a bank account, becoming legal tender or legalised money. This sum of money can vary positively or negatively as a result of inflation, debt and interest. [6] Amplifying this in our society is down to the debt used for the cost of living, where the banks which distribute the money never had the money anyway, it was from the creation of the debt between the federal reserve and government. This is key, because it resembles almost as a black market, as we would not need paper currency if we did not owe debt to one another. [6] Moreover, this is like a running circus, where the elites prevail at the expense of the poor, with loans for employment and trapped in a deeper deadlock of perpetual and financial slavery. In truth, this is a complex, eye-opening and almost frightening expression of what occurs realistically, and I would highly recommend to watch the sixth link down in the references below.

 

In conclusion, throughout history, people found different commodities and ways to trade and pay one another, which developed to coins and paper currency. In its heyday, the paper currency is made out of the gold link and standard, being a suitable way to pay a bearer on demand. Since the after-war years of the First World War, the UK, one of the two most powerful economic powers in the world apart from the US, changed its methods of payment due to the low rate of convertibility.

 

Worse still, as the Zeitgeist documentary suggested, the money we use to buy and loan amongst each other to create employment boils down to a running circus of balancing debt and interest. So then, this triggers the question, should we continue to use paper currency in the future? Many of our liquidation and expenditure has now been globalised and through digitalised format, using credit cards and mobile payments. With an ever-evolving currency strength or weakness in stock markets, isn’t it important to understand how do you draw a line between which currency is more worthy than others? Or perhaps, how do you determine the value of a currency? How is the Euro crumbling, whilst the RMB is a staggering currency on possible brink of world domination? Do we find a dominating currency as the American dollar and Sterling Area once imposed, and replace it with the RMB, or do we abandon this completely and find better ways to solve economic crises we, as a world population, are getting accustomed to seeing? In summary, this is an open-ended thesis, and countless more questions can be asked. But I hope, with the signpost questions I have used as directions, this clarifies something for you to learn, and hopefully, able to judge for yourself. Till next time, and goodbye for now! 🙂

 

References

[1] http://www.mypapermoneyworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Paper-Money-World-3.jpg

[2] http://inventors.about.com/od/mstartinventions/a/money.htm

[3] https://www.hostmerchantservices.com/articles/the-history-of-currency-from-bartering-to-the-credit-card/

[4] http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/pages/about/history.aspx

[5] http://www.gold.org/government_affairs/gold_as_a_monetary_asset/role_in_international_monetary_system/why_did_the_gold_standard_break_down/

[6] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67OmYvzr9tY

Book Profile: 1984, by George Orwell (Revised Version)

George Orwell
[1] George Orwell, the famous writer of 1984 and Animal Farm.

Welcome back. As you may know already, I write Food Profiles, mainly about different ingredients with their special properties and recipes to come with. In this latest edition, I hope to return, in a Book Profile, with my simple take on the famous book 1984 by George Orwell, a highly influential and at times challenging read. I wanted to use this opportunity to analyse a few pointers in understanding this great book, especially as a passionate student in history and politics. In case you are yet to read the book, please refrain from continuing – this is a spoiler warning to it all. Otherwise, do continue and at the end of the analysis, tell me what you think can be improved or whether you want a discussion of it. My analysis will consist of George Orwell’s angle, thoughts on the book itself and the elements that I find the most intriguing.

Background – George Orwell’s angle
George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, was a basic critique on the ideology and functioning of Communism as a socio-political way of rule. His main point, where he drew major significance in the last scene, describing the pigs to be seen by Napoleon, the main character, to enjoy themselves in the house. This was significant, as this shows that some pigs were fairer than others. Continuing with this theme, 1984 is more of the totalitarian rule that is used by dictators, who are occasionally Communist, throughout the course of history. Orwell is believed to be a Leftist politician, supporting the British Labour Party. Interestingly, Orwell is supportive of socialism, as an ideology and way of rule against capitalism. [2] However, he criticised the Far Left of being radically self-interested for their rise to power and control over the masses. This is key, as this is illustrated through references of gulags and extermination campaigns that were used extensively under the ruthless reigns of Nazi Germany under Hitler, and Stalinist Russia. The “key elements and themes” section will explain this notion further.

Personal thoughts
I will next give my personal thoughts on the book itself. Personally, I felt the book was draggy and repetitive at times, particularly with the explanation that was written by O’Brien and the re-education or torture process taken on Winston. Certainly, Orwell wanted to give his views on the world government under a Big Brother perspective, symbolised through O’Brien’s articulation and a common, revolutionary stance taken by Winston, the main protagonist of the novel. For me, the most important element is that some parts were rushed and some were seriously prolonged and unnecessary. How did Winston so easily renounce himself to O’Brien and the Brotherhood so easily? How can you trust anyone, including O’Brien, in such a dangerous world? The transition from a personal life of a radical, to the shared romantic life with Julia, to the emptiness and helplessness of a political dissident is an intelligent way to show key themes under this categories and stages.

Key elements and themes
Firstly, it is fundamental to consider the key elements or themes within the story. I picked up four main ones that kept reoccurring throughout the novella: how history can be changed through brainwashing, what is absolute truth, the notion of double-think and the use and loyalty towards Big Brother.

The first main theme is how what is the absolute truth. Throughout Winston’s elaborate re-education by O’Brien as part of the Big Brother and Ministry of Love, the reader sees a challenge of facts between the mediator, seductor and destroyer found in O’Brien’s character and the revolutionary himself, Winston. For example, one recurring line that Orwell uses to illustrate the protestation of absolute truth is through the line “two plus two equals four”, or the eventual acceptance that it can easily be three or five for that matter.This is, personally, a fair example, as this challenges an axiomatic fact that was always accepted in ontological theory, epitomised under the Enlightenment period in the mathematics and sciences. Coming to think of it, how do you distinguish between an absolute and relative truth? Is ontology and epistemology enough to achieve it? Do we not, as modern population of global democracy have natural rights to freedom of speech, expression and information? How far does and should this freedom go?

This idea of the absolute truth can be expanded widely to the theme of controlling history and knowledge. As Winston worked in the Ministry of Truth under the watchful eye of the Brotherhood, he would destroy certain evidence in official history. For example, there would be certain words that the Brotherhood would decipher to refine the dictionary. I felt the dialogue between Winston and the old man in the pub on page 113, where the rhyme, “Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement’s, You owe me three farthings, say the bells of St Martin’s” is used. The fact that it is remembered is of high importance, as the use of sophisticated language and culture is completely hindered by the Party. Another example, would be on page 182, where there is a use of “unperson”, or the dead and abolished person found in Syme. This is significant, as these twists of simpler words, limits the boundary in which the general public are allowed to fully lament the legitimacy of the party itself.

A major theme is how history can be altered through brainwashing or double-think, an invented and shortened artificial language. This is vividly illustrated through the gradual loyalty that Winston had given to Big Brother at the end of the book. At first, Winston had a strong psychological blockade against the idea of committing oneself to the divine political figure, as he frequently questioned the feasibility of the truths given by the Brotherhood and the writings by Emanuel Goldstein on page 213 onwards, a Trotsky-like figure who was responsible in constructing the ideology behind the government. [2] For example, the three short phrases “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength”, as the reader discovers, are all reversible, where slavery can easily be freedom, as this is a sense of self-fulfillment, stripping of the normal human-being of all basic desires and needs that we would want to the dead core: from love, lust, intelligence, curiosity, leisure, to simply leisure and acceptance. This is key, because Orwell shows that if a dissident is cruelly punished and showed to his deepest fears, he is a weak and helpless figure, accepting many contested truths amongst society and by the government itself. If this was expanded within history itself, Hitler’s Nazi Germany or Maoist China would be prime examples, as the young students at the Hitler Youth, together with the peasants were the main targets. When someone has little knowledge or exposure of the outside world intellectually and politically, they are easily manipulated and converted on who is the public political enemy and be despised, increasing the incentives to be exterminated as the outsiders found in the Jewish community and intelligentsia.

Finally and perhaps most significantly, one key theme is how can Big Brother be related in reality terms. Big Brother, as previously mentioned, can be a totalitarian and authoritarian figure, who can control different relative truths in order to indoctrinate the masses – be it any dictators throughout history: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco, Mao… In relative terms, Big Brother can really be any dominant country in the world, but instead of doing a tireless point of using the US or China, or indeed the British and French Empires, or any of the G8 or G20 countries nowadays, exploiting one another for resources. Drawing from recent affairs, Snowden challenging the whole American set-up in the world or the WikiLeaks mastermind found in Julian Assange. Who are we, the general population to trust who in the absolute truth? Who governs the true information? Why should we accept what we are given in a society, or should we simply not intervene in our opinions and become a robot, loyal and periodic?

Ultimately, this really depends on two factors – whether the country is in an external force, in a power struggle for world dominance or hegemony as a world police, or internally, as a totalitarian and dictatorship rule to control the masses, as a collective cause to satisfy the leader in rule. Sure, I could give the Arab Spring, the Eastern Bloc, the South American countries as examples to emphasise my point, but what I want to propose is the imprint the idea of how exactly this book is definitely relevant to many cases throughout history, or indeed the present current affairs, in understanding how many thought perceptions and de-education, is tend to be perceived or manipulated. So I end this complicated book with an open-ended answer, and leave you, the reader to draw possible connections with these rules and hegemonic powers. This book was truly an eye-opener, and did make me understand better the darker side of totalitarian rule that was once used under Maoist rule in China. Anyway, till next time – as I will soon be starting my summer job. I will try my best to update my blog in the near future – if you have not already read my other articles, do check it out on the navigation boxes on the left. Cheers and hope you liked your read once again! 🙂

References
[1] http://www.whale.to/a/orwellaaaa.jpeg
[2] Orwell, G., “Introduction”, 1984, (1954, London, Penguin Books)

Has decolonisation positively impacted former colonies in the present times?

 

[1] Franz Fanon, a renowned anti-colonial Franco-Algerian political activist and philosopher. 

Many countries across the world has been under some type of formal or informal colonial rule at one point in their history. Whether it has been a British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Japanese, German, Russian colony, a country has always been affected positively or negatively. In this article, I wish to use the three main global empires and their colonies – 1) British, 2) French and 3) Spain, as a medium to analyse the whether decolonisation process has been positive or negative within the overall economic, political and social situation. This will be discussed in each of the three respective colonies: 1) South Africa and Hong Kong, 2) Vietnam and New Caledonia and 3) Cuba. Again, I do appreciate your support and any comments for improvement with this very article is more than welcome.

Like always, before we begin the analysis, it is always important to comprehend the definition of decolonisation itself.  According to Oxford Dictionary, it is “when a state withdraws from a colony, thus leaving it independent” [2]. Furthermore, it is paramount to consider the level of improvement or faltering in a decolonised country. As you may know by now, I do always like to write controversial articles by mainly  posing many key questions to myself and to you, the reader. There are a web of questions that branch out: are the colonies still pretty much the same as it was during colonial times? Should we return to colonialism? Why should these countries stay as they are, as decolonised states? What positive or negative impacts have further emphasised this idea?

Franz Fanon 

As you may know, Franz Fanon was a political activist and philosopher of Franco-Algerian descent, who was dogmatic about the elements within anti-colonialism. Having been born and raised in the French colony of Martinique, together with the fact that Fanon had participated in the Second World War and Algerian War in 1958, this had greatly influenced Fanon’s ideals when writing his critique of racism and colonisation in Black Skin, White Masks [3].

Certainly, the title itself poses much significance in understanding Fanon’s stance. He argues that there is a relationship between the coloniser and the colonised, or indeed the black man in a ruling white class, is to be deemed as a norm. Despite initially considering himself French, the French racism had made Fanon disappointed, believing that this was detrimental to many Africans’ psychological health and well-being [3].  With this in mind, Fanon also argues that speaking French makes the colonised community more immersed into the colonisers’ culture, or indeed in the imagery, wears a “white mask” to conceal its own native opinions, almost blocking its projection of traditional opinions [3]. This is significant as by doing so, this is a negative impact of decolonisation, and prohibits the black man from having his own subjective views, as it has been already heavily influenced by the white and racist perspectives.

So how useful is Fanon’s argument in understanding the impact of decolonisation? Personally, I feel that Fanon definitely has a point, but having written his work as a manifesto, there has been some limitations into its feasibility. The colonised people who live in France and its colonies can still project its own ideas in French about its own native country. Simply because speaking a foreign and adopted language does not necessarily mean to conceal one’s identity or freedom of opinion. It is true that there are customs and traditions that the colonised subjects are to conform to within society, as the mask imagery suggested earlier.

However, this definitely depends on the period and the level of force used by the colonists. This is significant, as this is another example of negative impact within decolonisation, as illustrated through the film Entre les Murs or The Class. It shows that it can be a difficult situation with cultural identity in many adopted countries, where the colonised population or immigrants feel detached from the roots, unsure of their original footprint within the society. If you have not watched the movie itself, I do recommend you watching it to further understand my point. 

 

1) British colonies

[4] South African apartheid: the division between native blacks and the Afrikaans population caused major uproar throughout the continent and the world. 

South Africa

South Africa – imagine a bottle of old red wine, the residue never quite leaving the bottom of its container. Same can be said about what was left of the Anglo-Dutch colonialism in South Africa, and its overall negative remains of decolonisation. After many transitions in and out of decolonisation, firstly in 1934 from British rule, South Africa was finally decolonised in 1994 [5]. However, the remnants during the colonial times continued to stain the country socially and politically. This was and is still one of the richest and most powerful African countries, and yet frequent problems of corruption, racism, trailing towards extremist ideals of apartheid result in killings across the black and white population.

Decolonisation has definitely had a positive impact on South Africa, as it drove out the repressive white colonial rule by the Afrikaans and British governors. This was significant, as this meant white domination rather than having a more equal society. Despite the fact that not all racism and forms of decolonisation is eradicated, Nelson Mandela has improved the situation dramatically. Mandela was heavily involved with the African National Congress (ACN), as he fought for a multi-racial society in South Africa. This was significant, as this effort was repressed by the National Party and apartheid effort, forcing Mandela to trial and his eventual imprisonment in Robben Island prison and Pollsmoor prison during the early 1960’s onwards until his release in 1990 [6].

With such a recent process of decolonisation, South Africa has indeed come a long way in its rehabilitation. With the introduction of being included in the BRICS summit, the football World Cup of 2010 and more policies under Jacob Zuma, this is significant, as this is indeed an example of positive impact in the decolonisation process, meaning that the country is able to compete on a global scale economically and politically, whilst still fighting for more equality amongst the various races in the country.

Hong Kong 

With Hong Kong, the decolonisation process is interesting in its own right. Since the handover to China in 1997 and one of the latest British colonies to decolonise, there has been and still an ongoing identity crisis amongst the Cantonese local population – whether to return to the more stable, but regulated British government, or the more authoritarian and Communist rule of the mainland as a Chinese province.

The population has replicated many Western styles and attitudes in all three of social, political and economic areas from the British rule. For example, under the Basic Law, China has recognised the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, allowing Hong Kong to freely improve or alter any rule of law independently for 50 years since its handover to China from Britain in 1997 [7].  This is significant, as this shows a positive impact that Hong Kong is able to govern itself with its own ideals and incentives, despite having the mainland Chinese government imposing increasingly more restrictions on its freedom of speech and policy-making. This is a complicated situation, where again, many citizens are divided on the loyalty of either the British or the Chinese mainland. For more information, do check out my previous post about Hong Kong and its identity during and post-colonialism

2) French colonies

[8] Many French architectural buildings show remnants of its colonial past in Vietnam – but how does it compare now? 

Vietnam 

Since the Vietnamese victory in Franco-Vietnamese War, the country has been able to reestablish itself to secure a better politico-economic situation. It must be considered that with the combined Vietnamese effort from the Vietminh and Vietcong, this successfully defeated the French colonists in 1954 and the American effort to prevent another domino from falling, at the end of another proxy war in 1973. This was key, as Vietnam was left heavily crippled economically as a heavy consequence of the war effort [9].

However, since the late 1980s, the Vietnamese government has introduced more free-market reforms and Western styles of economy and policy, attracting more foreign investment. This has made many Vietnamese nouveau riche population confident in spending their money, particularly in big-name brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry [10]. This is significant, as putting problems of democracy, capitalism and inequality aside, this does show a positive impact of decolonisation, where the Vietnamese economy has been running more smoothly with higher expenditure from the general population.

New Caledonia 

New Caledonia is a more recent international and political affair that has caused extreme controversy within the French overseas government and the UN. Since the late 19th century, New Caledonia became an important French outpost in the Polynesian Islands, primarily to raise competition within the region against the British colony in New Zealand. There has been a divided opinion between self-independence and loyalty since the 1970s, the UN has heavily suggested a referendum by the natives of the Pacific island, offering ideals of “sovereignty, freedom and greater autonomy from France” [11]. This is another example of negative process of decolonisation, where the country is again tied between freeing itself from a patriarchal colonial power or whether to retain its much sought-after independence. As shown, many countries are too anxious about not having the protection of an overlying power, as it has become to dependent on its resources and aid to function stably and effectively. 

The French government responded with a very protective stance and argued it was a central part of its republic, much like the Netherland Antilles or the British Caribbean Commonwealth territories. There has been a complicated and prolonged process and impact of decolonisation, where many leaders within the region particularly New Zealand Prime Minister Malielegaoi, has demanded the Pacific Island to find the most suitable way to solve the problem of independence in the country [11]. The question still remains, will the island ever become independent? If so, will there be or is it necessary to have another revolution to topple the government? Only time will tell…

3) Spanish colonies  

[12] The Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898) posed another historical that weighs the feasibility of colonialism. 

Cuba 

Cuba is a negative case of the decolonising period under the American intervention in the Cuban War of Independence and Spanish-American War. With the Spanish being increasingly more aggressive in their pursuit of riches in Cuba, this had significantly handicapped the autonomy of the nation. At this particular time, the US were aiming to achieve a proper overseas empire particularly within the US Frontier and the Mexican-American War [13]. Having gotten defeated in the Ten Years’ War against the Spanish, the Cubans’ incentive for independence did not die out – instead it persevered, where it had become more and more dependent on American economic wealth and aid for their lucrative business in cane sugar production. This was significant, as this meant a rather controversial situation, where Cuba, like many South American countries was swinging from a ruling country to another, dictatorship and authoritarian rule, ultimately not retaining its independence [13].

Sure, America’s intervention and political aid had been crucial in maintaining a stable country in Cuba through the Platt Amendment. Yes, under Batitsa and Castro, there were more acts to draw foreign influence within the country particularly from America and the sugar production, aiming towards a nationalist and sovereign country [13]. However, by leaving colonial rule and foreign aid, Cuba has struggled immensely, even more so under the allegiance towards the USSR during the Cold War, for purchasing its 5 million of its sugar and subsidising the country $100 million worth of Russian technology [13]. Was the USSR not another country hovering above Cuba, not allowing itself from independence? By now, Cuba was far too reliant on USSR, a subordinate to her Cold War capitalist rival in the US, to successfully survive industrially and economically, where self-determination was still questioned until late into the 20th century [13].

In summary, many countries have been under colonial and foreign rule. I have used the British, French and Spanish empires to discuss the level of impact in their respective colonies. On the one hand, countries like Cuba and New Caledonia have been ruled so much that it has become over-reliant on its patriarchal country, thus a prolonged struggle and anxious approach towards its self-autonomy and independence once and for all. This is further hardened by many years of dictatorship driving out many intellectuals to make it consistently competitive and stable as a country socially, politically and economically. On the flip side, Hong Kong and Vietnam have been increasingly more competitive and successful, despite having driven out their respective British and French colonists. They are able to shoulder the burden many economic issues themselves, with many encouragement of the free-market and capitalist policies in the nouveau riche or the practise of the Basic Law, in Vietnam and Hong Kong’s case. This could perhaps be a showdown between the true controversial debate of the effectiveness within capitalism and socialism themselves, but that is for another day’s worth of discussion. Finally, in South Africa’s case, many social problems, unfortunately, still continue to linger on, as there are many cases of cross-racial murders every year. Certainly, the sooner this problem is completely rectified, the better. However, that being said, South Africa has seen many positive outcomes of the decolonisation process. This is highlighted in the battle for racial equality against apartheid mainly by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, which has transformed a country to become more economically and politically powerful on the global stage, particularly with its recent inclusion into the BRICS summit. Thank you for your support and do comment for anything you find needs to be improved. Till next time and all the best! 🙂

References
[1] http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_meiqlbph2G1qh48heo1_400.jpg
[2] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/decolonize
[3] http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/frantz-fanon/
[4] http://espressostalinist.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/apartheid-signs-in-south-africa-1956_jpg.jpg
[5] http://africanhistory.about.com/library/bl/bl-Independence-SA2.htm
[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/people/nelson_mandela
[7] http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/facts.htm
[8] http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I0000elVmJj0McKI/s/900/900/Woman-way-market-selling-banana-Hoi-An-Vietnam-Francis-Roux-NOI-Pictures-4141.jpg
[9] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/asia_pac/05/vietnam_war/html/introduction.stm
[10] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=3640240&page=1#.UcMUa_k3uSo
[11] http://inside.org.au/highjacking-decolonisation-french-polynesia-at-the-united-nations/
[12] http://www.spanishwars.net/img/spanish-american-war.jpg
[13] Williamson, E., The Penguin History of Latin America, (Penguin Books Ltd., London, 2009)

 

To what extent is La Francophonie a neo-colonial institution?

[1] Map of the La Francophonie – current and former participatory states.

Before I leave for Germany tomorrow on a trip, I thought I would return with a blog post about something historical and political again. This time, as you can see, I am going to be analysing how La Francophonie could be considered as a neo-colonial institution. I must note that I am not here to glorify this institution in its prestige, but I am here to discover and learn something and hopefully, by doing so, help you understand something as well. I hope you like my post and have fun reading – as usual any comments for improvement is much appreciated 🙂

I have already mentioned my love for empires before, and this is like no other topic for me. It is needless to say that when you look at the map covering the countries within this organisation, you basically see the remnants of the former ‘First’ and Second French Empires. Under La Francophonie, we have 77 participatory countries respectively, spanning from the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania. The main idea of these institutions are primarily to connect Francophone people together, tackling economic, social, political and environmental problems on a bigger, more globalised scale, promoting notions of democracy, free trade and justice. Recently, there has been a polemic about the abuse of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, thus challenging the liability of its membership in the Francophonie. [2]

Firstly, we could say that La Francophonie is purely an exmaple of neo-colonialism, as it tries to assert power over former territories. For example, the French Empire used to rule over Pondicherry in India. This is significant, as the Indian government are seriously considering to be part of the French institution, but with Canada in a similar situation of having a dual identity tugging between the Anglo-French influences, does this not equate to more competition for sphere of influence and eventual internal conflict? Would Pondicherry prosper better, because of its relatively small size, as a condominium or another federal state, sharing power ‘equally’ and constitutionally in theory, amongst national government and La Francophonie itself? If we shift our attention to another European power in India, namely Goa under Portuguese rule, has the Indian Prime Minister at its helm, but it does retain some form of Portuguese law and autonomy, within it since its decolonisation campaign around the 1960s [2].

At first, La Francophonie was once built around the idea of promoting cultural and educational similarities, say through cultural and sport competitions like Jeux de la Francophonie, where the countries would be administered by Paris. However, in recent summits amongst the Francophone countries, Guinea-Bassau, Mali, Madagascar have left the institution, feeling it was becoming too political and influential in its domestic affairs [4]. This is significant, as we could say La Francophonie is a neo-colonial institution, where France sees the importance of retaining its African members, as there are many foreseen statistics that by 2050, approximately 85% of the 750 million Francophone speakers will be of African origin [3]. With many civil and political unrest in the aforementioned colonies, this perhaps explains the tightening of foreign affairs in establishing socio-political order against the Malian rebels recently?


An example of La Francophonie not being a neo-colonial insitution could be explained through the observatory states. There are many observatory states in Balkans and from other empires – Spanish and Portuguese in Uruguay and Mozambique respectively. In these countries, poverty and post-colonial effects whether it was under the imperial powers or under the Communist sphere of influence, has drastically struck the economy. This is significant, as in Mozambique, we have an example of a country being tormented under civil war and only its recent democratic turn of government in 1994. There are many more investors from Brazil and China, who are injecting billions of dollars in its rich coal and gold resources [4]. However, with France and Britain under their respective institutions, the question remains of who is the dominant and most influential politico-economic power in the south-east African country itself.

Another example of La Francophonie not being purely a neo-colonial institution can be shown through its administration. Unlike its British counterpart which has the Queen has its main figurehead, La Francophonie has Abdou Diouf as Executive Secretary, former Senegalese president as the head, whilst Jacques Legendre is at its General Secretary. This is significant, as with the different styles of government amongst the British and French, the former having a monarchical and the latter having semi-presidential elements, this shows more equality and shift of being a neo-colonial administration.

In conclusion, La Francophonie, like other colonial powers, say the Portuguese under the Communities of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) and the British under the Commonwealth of Nations, is trying to preserve its former French colonial interests and entities around the world. It has to be remembered that French, despite being overshadowed by English, Mandarin and Arabic as the three most dominant languages in the world, remains as one of the most important countries in Europe, if not the globe itself. There were recent politico-economic alliances with some Francophone countries or regions like Québec, and at times, a more isolationist role in other former colonies, but it cannot be mistaken that France’s main political influence and area stays in the African continent due to its ever increasing French-speaking population. However, until the French government has realised to carefully divide the social and political benefits and interests for its participatory countries, there might be even more states deciding to disband from La Francophonie. Does this potentially mean a return for any of the three countries (Guinea-Bassau, Mali, Madagascar) who left the institution in the next summit in Dakar 2014? Will another civil war stir up in preventing the togetherness of the organisation itself or will stability be maintained properly and fairly? Hopefully, time will tell. Hope you had a knowledgeable read here, till next time and see you soon! Have a good easter 🙂 Peace!

References 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map-Francophonie_organisation_2012-fr.svg

[2] http://www.thelondoneveningpost.com/africa/harper-wants-francophonie-summits-held-in-democratic-countries/3/

[3] http://mmascgoa.tripod.com/id12.html

[4] http://www.fides.org/en/news/32434?idnews=32434&lan=eng#.UU8fmRzwmSo

[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/27/mozambique-africa-energy-resources-bonanza

Should celebrities get paid astronomical amounts for their talent?

[1] Gerard Depardieu, a recent example of how great amounts of money might not be the best idea…

Welcome back – if you are still to have exams, I wish you luck, otherwise be happy it is finally over. Let the euphoria begin…soon enough! In this edition, I will cover many aspects to analyse whether celebrities should get paid astronomical amounts for their talent. To do so, the importance of celebrities as a mode of meritocracy, the aspects of democracy countered by the social democratic rule in France where celebrities are protesting against Hollande’s tax policies, and perhaps a question of moral when abusing the celebrity status.

It must be understood that traditionally speaking, classic democracy has always looked at the individual as being the centre for attention and consideration. The meritocratic approach is there to reward the best out of merit and talent, the term mainly introduced by Michael Young, a British sociologist. In summary, Young had two basic arguments: 1) the incentives approach – he believed that actions maybe rewarded for good they do, which theoretically, should result in good consequences to produce better society; 2) the actions propriety – Young believed that actions are judged by their propriety rather than their results in terms of quality. [2] Furthermore, many definitions of meritocracy is heavily linked with what a person “deserves”, as Sen points out. [2] A question that does grow of this, is whether all celebrities deserve their salaries – if so, why and why not? 

In many cases, celebrities are rewarded for their achievements within a society. Certainly, people have their own types of talent, and should be applauded within a society. Take Pablo Picasso or Niall Ferguson as an artist or scholar. They both got considerable amount of money for their drawing and sculpting, or analysis and research skills. Indeed, that is a stroke of genius that must be commended for, as some people do stick out of society more than others. However, take any star footballer playing in the English Premier League or Spanish La Liga, they are receiving great sums of money for essentially scoring goals for club and country, where many spectators across the world are appreciating the sport and are sponsored by big-named companies say Nike or Gilette.But it begs the question of who exactly comes up with these sums of money, and more importantly, why are some amounts more than others? Is it really only down to talent and/or sponsors? Why should a normal person gain considerably less for their own “talents” within a society, bearing in mind it is still a talent, after all?

It must be said, obviously, there are no easy answers, and is a very controversial topic. Shedding light from Marxist theories, it does criticise heavily on the ideals of capitalism and its wealth distribution across society and its social inequality. According to ‘utopian socialists’ across Europe, there was an incentive to bring both men and women to ‘perfect harmony’, regardless of their social and household roles during the early modern period [3]. There were various theories according to a wide spectrum of Marxist, anti-capitalist and anarchist philosophers across Germany and France, all having different ideal societies.

For example, during the 19th century, French political scientist Louis Blanc believed that there should be a “reorganisation of society itself”. [3] This was significant, as this would mean each citizen would be credited according to his ability as well as to their needs, ultimately increasing sense of equality and to make the weaker and poorer receive more. Moreover, there is the French anarchist Proudhon, who believed that society should be organised and according to the principles of anarchy, where Proudhon drew inspiration from the French Revolution of 1789, that “all property is theft”. [3] This was significant, as no one could have more power over anyone else, and that no one could be sovereign at the expense of others. Moreover, this was key, as every citizen can indeed be a politician, where the society should be making decisions through collective discussion, rather than to satisfy self-ambition or interests. [3]

Keeping this ideal society that the political scientists or philosophers in tact, we can now move onto the taxation policy introduced by the French president, Francois Hollande. Under Hollande, the main idea was to tax individuals who earn more than one million euros at 75 per cent. [4] This was significant, as this was to enforce redistribution of wealth, ultimately to persuade companies to lower executive pay and to restabilise France’s economy from further suffering and unemployment. 

However, France’s economy is still stagnate and unemployment rates is still rather high at 11 per cent. [4] It must be noted what works in theory, does not work in practise – many executives are not lowering pay in many sectors. For example, if we return to the footballers in France to teams like Paris Saint-Germain, it is understood that players are paid even higher wages so that it they get satisfied after tax payments. Equally, this has forced major French celebrities like Gerard Depardieu, decided to leave to settle in the cash-rich Russian area of Mordovia, in quest to have a ‘fairer’ level of income tax under Putin and by a foreign country [5]. Moreover, according to American political scientist Milton Friedman in his speech “Equality and Freedom”, there is an imbalance when society tries to achieve equality of opportunity and outcome at the time, as only one can be achieved as a consequence of the other [6]. So which type of equality should we take? Is democracy the better cause and equality of outcome more feasible? 

One way of looking at whether celebrities should be rewarded with monumental sums of money can be, in my opinion, perceived with morals. It can be argued that celebrities do take their time to invest in charities, therefore, with so much money in tact, it can be used effectively. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a celebrity is essentially “a famous person, especially in entertainment and sport.” [7] They receive different social status and are like every other human-being inclined in self-interest, which can easily result in turmoil and corruption. But why should a celebrity have a better social status than a normal working class person? How do the organisations pay? If it is from the government where the money originates, then why should they not regulate a more clear-cut allocation of the money. This would be key, as a lot more money could be effectively used in other social, economic or political sectors – helping the general public than attaining to essentially self-fulfillment and interests.

In conclusion and in my personal perspective, I believe celebrities should not be paid astronomical amounts, but equally, should not bring this case to an extreme. Essentially, I am arguing a balancing act of democracy and socialism. This is significant, as the individual should be credited for their talent, but perhaps regulate the amount of money for each class. However, this is far too idealist and confined, as if we find equality in as argued above, this is rather controversial and complicated of a situation. Is there really a way to classify a ‘better’ social class? If you achieve equality in society envisioned by Marxist political scientists in critique of industrialisation and society, this does not achieve the flip side of the coin, which is the continuity of capital flow and industrialisation. Do we end up with a world of equality or lack of economic success in markets encouraged by neo-liberalism? Will this not end as a crisis for some?

Ideally, the middle path of finding a way to satisfy the celebrities and working class is a difficult and perpetual process that neither democracy nor socialism has yet to figured out. Despite the fusion of both ideologies in social democracy that Hollande tried to introduce in his tax policies, this article’s topic and question begs to answered, and ultimately and unfortunately, until we find a legitimate ideology to satisfy democracy and socialism or anarchism effectively in both senses, this topic remains unanswered – no matter which way we take in an argument. Thanks for reading once again, and hopefully a second article to be published soon! Till next time, have a great week and all the best! 🙂

References 
[1] http://patrickschreiner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/gerard-depardieu-08172011-09-675×900.jpg
[2] http://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=TOPoDud4WKQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=meritocracy&ots=GITB-o-LQq&sig=AmDuBwCnCc4EWuhhqiNlpk1OWjc
[3] http://marxisttheory.org/the-early-utopian-socialists/
[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/28/francois-hollande-tax-salaries
[5] http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2013/feb/24/gerard-depardieu-russian-resident-france
[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_mGlqyW_Zw
[7] http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/celebrity

How has Hong Kong maintained or lost its identity during and after the colonial times?

Home sweet home: where do we belong?  

A controversial question: should Hong Kong return to its colonial past or embrace its more traditional Chinese past?  [1]

Following on from my last article about mainly about French identity mainly in Québec with some references to French colonialism in Nouvelle France and Louisiane, as its sub-Canadian and American counterparts, I will now turn the attention to the British colonial history in Hong Kong. This is a frequently debated topic among countless Hong Kong people, regardless of their generation or age. Throughout this article, the battle for the Fragant Harbour (Hong Kong’s Cantonese name) during the First and Second Opium Wars in 1839 to 1842 and 1856 to 1860 respectively, the effectiveness of the colonial rule under the British administration, the effectiveness of Chinese rule during the return to the mainland in 1997, the comparison of many Chief Executives through British and Chinese-Hong Kong administration in general, will be thoroughly discussed. Again, thank you for your support by reading my article!

 

1) First and Second Opium Wars 

During their expeditions to extend their colonial outposts in the world, the British landed in Hong Kong in the late 18th century. Certainly, as any colonists would find is, the importance of trade between one resource for another – whether it were the British, French, Germans, Russians, Japanese or even the Dutch, within the geopolitical region in the Scramble for China. This was done through the opium found in India, plus the silver found in Britain, exchanged mainly for the prized porcelain works and tea leaves in Hong Kong. This was significant, as many Hong Kong locals grew increasingly livid with appearing to be gaining a meagre herb with supposed curing properties, in exchange for valuable pieces of art.

 

Consequently, there were more restrictions imposed on the trade allowance and trade routes that the European powers were permitted. In doing so, this was key, as this created the First and Second Opium Wars, where the Franco-British alliance eventually swept the Chinese forces aside with their technologically advanced military and naval expertise. However and more importantly, this was key because what the Franco-British alliance did not realise, was that they were about to do was to change the course of history, particularly by installing the British administration. Thus, this was fundamental, as it greatly altered and influenced many political pessimists in contemporary Hong Kong politics, questioning the effectiveness of the current local Chinese government.


2) Colonial rule under the British

After the First Opium War, the British gained control of Hong Kong in 1842. It must be considered that before this time, Hong Kong was a hard-working fishing port, ruled principally by the Qing Dynasty, the last set of Chinese Emperors to govern the country with a monarchy.  Despite commenting on a sour note, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, at that time believed Hong Kong was futile for proper trade or commercial use to the British Empire at its height. [2] However, the great magnitude of being ruled by the British asserted many benefits to mould the city into what it is nowadays.

 

It must be noted that Hong Kong became renowned as a economically prosperous port city, and attracted many Chinese merchants southwards for business and work. However, the local Cantonese people and the Europeans found it hard to integrate properly, with lack of understanding in terms of common language becoming a major factor. The Boxer Rebellion in 1911 was fundamental, because this was to some extent, a detrimental ideal that affected many Chinese locals of having to try and expel foreign influence within their country. Nevertheless, the tiny Chinese population had now to succumb itself into the British influence and by learning English, fuse into the British colonial culture, as the English colonists were gaining more status and prestige within the city. [3] This was key again, as this was where Hong Kong started to find its special colonial identity. For example, this language fusion was further emphasised in different simple words borrowed from the English vocabulary in Cantonese spoken language, such as dik si for taxi, tsi si for cheese, dor si for toast…

 

Another way in which Hong Kong found its identity was the fact that it was similar to many British colonies, where the names of former governors, British cities or important people were utilised in Hong Kong as street names. For instance, Des Voeux Road was named after one of its former governors: William Des Voeux (a British administrator of French descent), Edinburgh Road after one significant city of the colonial motherland, or Victoria Harbour after Queen Victoria like in myriad other appellations in Canada, Australia or Tanzania.  

 

As many pessimists nowadays would suggest, one of the key benefits that the British brought with them was the style of administration, which again helped Hong Kong find its colonial and political identity today. This will be discussed further in the comparison of the British Governors and Chief Executives of Hong Kong below in section 4 of this article.

 

3) Post-colonial times/Chinese return 

Being the latest British colony to have its colonial past brushed away only by administration and not by general sentiment, the return to mainland China in 1997 was hugely controversial to the benefit of the Hong Kong as a city and with its population. Hong Kong, was, however, now fully recognised as a special administrative region (SAR) like Macau, also in the Canton region. The benefits of being back in Chinese, rather than British hands will be compared in the next section.


4) Comparison between the British Governors and Chief Executives of Hong Kong  

Perhaps this should be called the nucleus of this article, as it is the most important part that I want to bring out to the reader, especially if they were from Hong Kong, as the above should be familiar to some relative extent. It must be said that instead of simply jotting down some historical facts here and there, the main idea of recognising Hong Kong’s identity nowadays is mainly political, despite its historical elements, is necessary. This will be done by a comparison and contrasting of the British and Hong Kong administration before and after the return of the SAR.

 

1) British administration in general 

Ultimately, the British created an apt civil service by using a bureaucratic system. This was significant, as this created stability rather than corruption in Hong Kong, and more importantly, respect for the conduct of law from the civilians. It must be noted that the ex-British colony had competent policy-makers from London and others across Britain whether it were Sir Chris Patten or Lord Wilson, who instilled a democratic system and despite being seen as arrogant sometimes, were considerate and “sensitive” to the colonial population when necessary. [4]

 

This, however, was and is heavily contrasted since the handover of Hong Kong back to China  in 1997. This is because many protestors have increasingly took to the streets, especially under the reign of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. With Leung believed to have lied about his estate and its size, this was significant, as this disgruntled the Hong Kong people by believing that Leung was a dishonest and incompetent ruler for the region. [5] This unpopularity is further emphasised in the anti-Beijing protests, where many people took to the streets British colonial flags with them, sentiments of toppling Leung before the election in 2017 and the corrupt politics of being supported and voted by the Communist cadres for Leung’s rule in Hong Kong.  [6]

 

2) Hong Kong administration in general 

This stable and democratic governance under the British colonial administration quickly dissipated since Tung chee-wah’s rule as Chief Executive in 1998. Hong Kong was and is still under the watchful eye of China’s authoritarian and totalitarian Communist state party. [4] The government is essentially a puppet state, a replica of China’s social, political and economic interests. One major way of economic flow is mainly by reclamation (the creation of land from mountains, hills or sea) and the manufacture of numerous residential buildings across Hong Kong.

 

With the connection back with China, Hong Kong is dependent on trade and free market with the mainland. However, with this interconnection among the two parts of China, this essentially means that a lot of immigration and cross-border goods, particularly milk powder, to and from Hong Kong have been exploited, much to the displeasure of the Hong Kong locals at Lo Wu. [7]

 

Shedding light from my previous article about Québec’s contested identity, Hong Kong is also a territory of “one country, two systems”. For example, under the Basic Law, Hong Kong must provide protection of citizens’ civil rights and maintain democratic features within the region. [7] However, it is generally perceived that Hong Kong is to become fully Communist, half a century after the handover in 2047. Subsequently, the level of personal freedom politically and economically in Hong Kong will not be fully guaranteed.

 

Another main socio-political Hong Kong that has raised major eyebrows across China, is the level of Chinese identity. Many people would prefer being called Hong Kongese, with a fetish for its illustrious 20th century film industry with many renowned action actors across the world, namely Bruce Lee, Jacky Chan, Jet Li, Chow yun-fat and Stephen Chow. In education and commerce, there has been more appreciation for the Mandarin language, rather than the Cantonese one, thus creating apprehension for the Cantonese-speaking population in Hong Kong. [7]

 

Effectively, Hong Kong had a colonial past under British administration and a increasingly more Communist-influenced outlook after its approximate 16 years of Chinese return. Under each patriarchal power, Hong Kong has flourished well, particularly in an economic sense. However, the more important question to raise is whether Hong Kong flourished more under the British or Chinese rule.
In my opinion, I believe in terms of social success and civil satisfaction, the British have proven to be more considerate and sensitive to the Hong Kong population, leaving with them an effective code of law still practised and similar in Hong Kong to this very date. Conversely, in terms of economic success, Hong Kong has blossomed, despite being controversial and heavily disputed, with its open market and dependence with China, allowing many job opportunities for a wide range of international audience to work in its society properly. Finally, politically, this is perhaps the purpose of the article: to assess the level of identity in the Hong Kong region. Does it have a British or Chinese identity, or at least willing to link itself up with its predecessors colonially or culturally? It is a very hard point to decide, as many people are left undecided: Britain had the more politically ‘correct’ way of administration under bureaucracy, and under China, the Cantonese population, although it is again contested, feel more Chinese than they were before, being a post-colonial population. Alright, that is it from me now, exams and revision mode on, I cannot guarantee the next article, but I hope you enjoyed your read and until then! 🙂

 

References 

[1] http://flagspot.net/images/h/hk-1957.gif

[2] http://www.cnn.co.uk/2012/06/30/world/asia/hong-kong-china-anniversary/index.html

[3] http://www.metropolasia.com/Hong_Kong_History_in_brief/British-colonialism

[4] http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203960804577239252005926874.html

[5] http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1101727/protesters-urge-hong-kong-chief-executive-leung-chun-ying-quit?page=all

[6] http://www.theweek.co.uk/asia-pacific/50781/hong-kongs-leung-chun-ying-hit-anti-beijing-protests

[7] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/6767861.stm

How has the French-Canadian identity persisted and struggled through to the contemporary time?

The Blue Thorn in the Four Red Roses 

QUÉBEC’S QUESTIONING OF CANADIAN IDENTITY STILL AN ONGOING ISSUE [1]

Ever since an early age, I have always enjoyed reading and researching on many empires, particularly the French colonisation in the Americas, most notably in Nouvelle France and Louisiane, what is now Canada and parts of the modern United States. I have always been fascinated with how whilst the majority of Canada is Anglophone, the East was and is still predominantly Francophone and very keen to preserve their French roots. With this sort of notion, I hope that this interest can be reminiscent in my research here. There are obviously many events that happened that has stringed themselves to make Québec the special region of Canada that it is now, and as usual I hope to understand this better through this article, both historically and politically speaking. Thank you for reading.

I will cover many things as aforementioned, from the start of the French colonisation in Canada and Québec with Samuel de Champlain’s colonial ventures, the Seven Years War (1759-1763), the decisive Battle on the Plains of Abraham in 1763, the Treaty of Utrecht and the Treaty of Paris in 1713 and 1763 respectively, the Québec Act in 1774, the overall effect of the Revolutionary War, and then into the modern era with the Patriotes’ Rebellion of the 1830s, the role of the Parti Québecois (PQ) under Levesque, and modern Québecois identity in social and political terms.

Role of the colonial expenditions – the colonial impetus 
Before analysing the French identity in Québec as a whole, let us understand initially the early French attempts at navigating and settling within the American continent. Despite many efforts during the early 15th and 16th centuries by the French kings Henri II, François I and Henri IV to encourage French navigation and eventual settlement of the North and Latin American continent. There were many expeditions in Nouvelle France principally under Jacques Cartier, Giovanni da Verrazano, Pierre du Gua and Samuel de Champlain (called Champlain hereafter), whilst France Antartique or the contemporary Brazil was navigated by Nicolas de Villegagnon. However, these were all unsuccessful with many other countries namely the English, the Portuguese and Native American forces frequently intervening and destroying the settlements. Moreover, the cold weather in Nouvelle France was significant, as it prevented the sailors to find enough warmth and nutrients to survive the brutal freezing weather when it really mattered most.Fortunately, after much struggle and meditation of the most appropriate spot to create a new French settlement, Samuel de Champlain, known more commonly as the Founding Father of Canada established Québec City in 1608. Here, Champlain persevered as a key mediator, through countless returns between France and Nouvelle France. This was key, because this was an attempt to spur denser settlement in the newly found crown colony and to find suitable alliances from Native Americans. This was also key, because these alliances brought the French and Native Americans closer together and ensured bilateral trust amongst key leaders and Champlain himself, as the new Vice Roy of Nouvelle France, under Henri IV’s perpetual compassionate delight and agreement.
1) The French settlements and its policies
The first way in which the French identity was preserved was through the early settlements and its policies. Since the French nation was embedded in bloody Wars of Religion, mainly through the Catholic Bourbons and the Protestant Huguenots, Champlain envisaged and strived for integration and accord amongst many peoples, irrespective of their religious, racial or social backgrounds. Furthermore, as Vice-Roy of the region, Champlain introduced the seigneurial system and used many propagandist ways to lure the French middle class families, military servicemen, aristocrats and merchants to inhabit in the French crown colony with many lucrative business in the fur trade and maple syrup manufactures [2]. This was significant, as this meant a type of feudal or modern day classical Communist system, which helped Champlain to proportion and distribute plots of land to a seigneur or landlord and habitants or peasant, of whom lived and worked in communes called a seigneurie. In order to fully propel this type of agricultural sector, the seigneur needed many settlers of whom were recruited from France [2].
Effect of the Anglo-French wars over Québec 
Often called the first ever World War, the Seven Years War (1759-63) turned all the colonial superpowers in a bilateral conflict, with these two main alliances vying politically and militarily against each other. Out of all the battles in Europe and America, one of the biggest battles that took places was that of the Plains of Abraham in Québec, commanded by the French generals Marquis de Montcalm and Marquis de Vaudreuil against the infamous and young British general James Wolfe.With the French government believing Québec was not as lucrative of a colony in terms of wealth as Haiti with the coffee trade, this was significant as North American colony was abandoned by the young king Louis XIV under the great influence of Cardinal Richelieu. Moreover, it is often believed that if the French administration had been more forthcoming by sending around 1,000 troops to the region, then there would have been a significant chance to fend off the British challenge within the region. However, with the passivity and indifference shown, this was also key, as this ultimately ended in many treaties, namely the Treaty of Utrecht and Treaty of Paris, between the Franco-British governments, and was important because the French lost all their Canadian colonial outposts, as opposed to other more valuable West Indian colonies in the slave trade like Martinique and Guadeloupe, and was only permitted to retain the miniscule Franco-Canadian island ofSaint Pierre et Miquelon as a fishing outpost.To the great discontent of the Québecois or Franco-Canadians, they had to flee to other French colonies within the North American continent to other Canadian regions such as Acadia, New Brunswick or further south in the United States like Vermont, Missouri and in particular, Louisiana. However, for those who remained in Québec, felt they were greatly mistreated by the increasingly frustrated and aggressive British administration.
2) Québec Act 
After countless revolts and violence used on the Québecois civilians, the Québec Act was finally passed on 22 June 1774 and came into play on 1 May 1775. The Québec Act extended the borders of the region, including the Labrador to the north, Ile d’Anticosti and Iles de la Madeleine to its eastern border, plus a small section of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to its south [3]. Moreover, the Québec Act recognised the Roman Catholic religion as one of the main theologies, apart from the Protestant religion that was encouraged by the the British colonists within the region itself [4]. More importantly, it preserved the French civil law, the early colonial usage of the seigneurial system established by Champlain and incorporated the British criminal law. This was significant, as this was the second way in which the French identity was preserved through to the present times.However, with many loyalists and Amerindians arriving from the contemporary United States after the end of the American Revolutionary Wars in 1783, there was a push for  another settlement, as they felt the Mississippi and Ohio territories belonged to them. Consequently, the Constitutional Act was signed in 1791 for two main reasons [6]. Firstly, this created and divided the Province of Québec into two regions completely, one being called Upper Canada or Ontario, and the Lower Canada or Québec. This was significant, as the appellation sparked many controversy among many Canadians, particularly of the geographical location, confusion and supposed bigotry that was imposed into which was the superior state at the time. Secondly, the Constitutional Act also aligned the administration of the region itself, with the introduction of a Legislative Council and Assembly [6]. This was significant, as this meant more stability to the region, with an proposed or apparent consideration of the intents of the Québecois people. However, to what extent was this considering the ‘lesser’ population or Franco-Canadian community?
3) Patriotes’ Rebellion 
This leads us coherently to the Patriotes’ Rebellion in 1837, where the Franco-Canadians were increasingly dissatisfied with the Seven Years War’s defeat and the creation of Lower Canada. This was key, as this created social disorder within the region. The French and Irish immigrants established the Patriotes led by Louis-Joseph Papineau, who opposed the para-military and British colonial authorities called the Doric Club [7]. Furthermore, Papineau’s role was significant, as he pressed for a more democratic government based on the American model. Moreover, as the undisputed leader of Québec by many Franco-Canadians, Papineau wanted to mobilise and organise as many types of people independently, without English interference. This was important, because this resulted in violence and trades of gunfire, which saw the British imperial forces decisively and significantly destroying the Patriotes’ cause for more independence [7].
4) Modern Québecois politics 
As Québec modernised into the late 20th century, there were many different movements that took place under different leaders from across the North Atlantic border. Firstly, the Parti Québecois under Rene Levesque, like the Quiet Revolution under the tutelage of Jean Lesage and Maurice Duplessis, the 1970’s was key in preserving strong French identity in Québec [8]. Levesque fought for sovereignty and founded the  Mouvement souverainté-association in November 1967. This was significant, as this meant Levesque was campigning for Québecois independence and a new political status within Canada. Despite initial defeats of obtaining sufficient seats and elections in 1970 and 1973, Levesque was victorious in 1976, winning in Taillon against the federal and Liberal party under Robert Bourassa [9]. Levesque pushed for referendums and the Québecois government under him established the Bill 101. This was significant as this meant that the French identity was preserved, where the French language was fully recognised as the official language in the region. However, the 1980 referendum was unsuccessful with only 40% supported Levesque in his quest for sovereignty [9]. To this date and after another unsuccessful referendum in 1995, the separatist region of Québec have continued to force referendums to enforce the main idea of sovereignty, with little avail.
Recently, there were many negotiations which have taken place between the Québecois government under Premier Pauline Marois and French President François Hollande. Under Hollande and similar to earlier presidents Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac, France has adopted a more participatory stance in Franco-Québecois political and economic ties, with claims of “fraternity and continuity”, rather than indifference employed by former French presidents François Mitterand and Nicolas Sarkozy [10]. Despite Hollande replicating Chirac’s supportive stance as saying “France will follow the same road as Quebec”, whether a separatist movement should be fully accepted and backed because of the Québecois minority government in Canada remains food for thought [10].

In conclusion, there were many different ways that the French identity was preserved through through time, whether it was the initial seigneurial system introduced by Champlain, the Québec Act of 1774 or the modern Québecois politics that still has its marks today in Franco-Canadian and between the Anglo-French Canadians within the country. Personally, the most important factor that fought for the preservation of the French identity within the region was the persistence of the Québecois civilians themselves. This was significant, because despite countless pivotal events, namely when Cardinal Richelieu influenced Louis XIV to not fully commit France to the Québecois cause during the Seven Years’ War, or the revolutions as we saw in the Patriotes Rebellion and the Quiet Revolution with the British imperial forces and administration try to quell the social uprising to a standstill, the Québecois never really gave up on their own cultures and customs. This is key, as this means that the fleur-de-lys flag flies proudly in any Québecois town, but the debate for another day perhaps is whether the nation should be anti-liberal with encouragement for a strongly Francophone region, imposing more aggressive policies on immigrants and autarky. Stayed tuned, as I hope to publish another interesting article soon enough. Till next time 🙂

References 
[1]http://xtimeline.s3.amazonaws.com/Upload/Use200902101901301470691/Elt200903032051011863544.jpg
[2] http://quebec.acadian-home.org/seigneural-systems.html
[3] http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/featured/champlain-and-the-founding-of-quebec
[4] http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/quebec-act
[5] http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/related/cqa.htm
[6] http://www.canadahistory.com/sections/eras/britishamerica/conact1791.htm
[7] http://www.marxists.org/history/canada/quebec/patriotes-rebellion/introduction.htm
[8] http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/events/quiet.htm
[9] http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/rene-levesque
[10] http://www.lapresse.ca/le-soleil/actualites/politique/201210/15/01-4583311-francois-hollande-donne-satisfaction-a-pauline-marois.php

Previous Older Entries