Never has the world experienced greater movement of peoples from one country to another, from one continent to another. These seismic shifts in population have brought about huge challenges for all societies. In this year’s Massey Lectures, Canada’s twenty-sixth Governor General and bestselling author Adrienne Clarkson argues that a sense of belonging is a necessary mediation between an individual and a society. She masterfully chronicles the evolution of citizenship throughout the ages: from the genesis of the idea of the citizen in ancient Greece, to the medieval structures of guilds and class; from the revolutionary period which gave birth to the modern nation-state, to present-day citizenship based on shared values, consensus, and pluralism. Clarkson places particular emphasis on the Canadian model, which promotes immigration, parliamentary democracy, and the rule of law, and the First Nations circle, which embodies notions of expansion and equality. She concludes by looking forward, using the Bhutanese example of Gross National Happiness to determine how we measure up today and how far we have to go to bring into being the citizen, and the society, of tomorrow.
Clarkson (Heart Matters), former governor general of Canada, traces the history of citizenship from ancient Greece to modern Canada in this transcript of her 2014 CBC Massey Lecture. For Clarkson, society is more than just a group of individuals; it is shaped by people's desire to belong. Her analysis stresses the interdependence among people, who are at their most human when they commit to their community. One of her key messages is acceptance: people need to acknowledge that there are other citizens with backgrounds different than their own, and these differences need to be included in citizenship. The great strength of Clarkson's work is the range of examples that she cites. Her discussion includes a tribe in Uganda, Icelandic chieftains, black loyalists in Nova Scotia, and many other groups. One weakness of the book is Clarkson's tendency to idealize Canadian multiculturalism, which is not always as welcoming of immigrants as she claims. Despite these occasional flaws, Clarkson presents an engaging account of the human desire to belong; her work stretches across time and countries and will inspire further debate and discussion.