’Renewal means either starting anew without neglecting the past – the sure way to create the present and the future – or a restructuring of what has already been – the renewal of the past so as to ensure its continuation.‘
By TONY SEED*
Mac-talla editorial, Volume 8, Number 44, May, 2003
SHUNPIKING is a broad metaphor for discovery of Nova Scotia, of Canada as well as of the world. We continue this voyage with the newest Mac-talla – the most extensive Gaelic supplement ever published, and much of it in Gaelic itself.
Why is Shunpiking magazine doing this?
For two simple reasons.
What one historian calls “a silent people” in Nova Scotia, who have faced humiliation and marginalization for the past two centuries, is issuing a dignified appeal for help.
Secondly, people want to know why this community has been so marginalized? What is its struggle and its aims? And what must be done so that history does not repeat itself? What must be done to open the door for progress of the nation and society itself?
Renewal means either starting anew without neglecting the past – the sure way to create the present and the future –or a restructuring of what has already been – the renewal of the past so as to ensure its continuation.
Through the different Mac-tallas we have wanted to provide you with a variety of very definite material concerning the historical origins of the problem, the reality of a people in their own terms, their ancient language and history, their traditions and most importantly – Gaelic today.
This particular edition brings forward new and very definite features:
- Gaelic Nova Scotia and its place in the international context (see p. 12-20);
- Self-determination of communities to ensure that they have institutions and organizations which reflect and implement their views;
- Gaelic orthography (how the language is written/the visual structure of a language);
- Gaelic humour in anecdotes and modern short stories, as in Joe MacKinnon’s tale of “The Fleas” (p. 32) or Monica Mac-Kinnon’s story “The Deaths” (p. 20);
- Gaelic in the collective memory of the people (p. 4, 9 and 33);
- Minority language rights and the case for Gaelic, as for all languages (p. 15);
- Personal witness; testimonials from Gaelic learners – people with names, with faces, with hopes and aspirations, who are not mere census statistics (p. 6-9); and
- A profound concern and love for an ancestral language, and an anger against a terrible ‘folklorization’ that threatens to further reduce its culture and existence to a mere remnant of the past (p. 4-5).
In a similar spirit, Shunpiking has developed annual supplements on Afro-Nova Scotian/Black History and Mi’Kmaq/First Nations History, which bring their rich historical and contemporary experience into the mainstream of the society, making it accessible for all those interested.
In my view, democratic rights for Gaelic and other languages have serious significance for renewing the Canadian nation. We must consider the Canadian people to be all people living in Canada. They should all be granted equal rights regardless of their background, rather than the present-day hierarchy of rights based on the chauvinist myth of two “founding nations.”
A final point. In this context, what can we say as to the role and social responsibility of the media? Every day they celebrate “diversity,” with non-stop features reprinted from the U.S. “entertainment“ turnpike.
A senior editor told this writer there was “no space for Gaelic” in his daily newspaper.
The Halifax Daily News recently proclaimed, “The Gaelic language (is) gone in Nova Scotia, and never shall it return.” (“Debunking the Gaelic Myth,” 22 August 2002)
The media and their smugness were noticeable by their absence from last fall’s ten consultation meetings on developing the Gaelic language, and from the Halifax Forum on Language Rights (see p. 15), despite a prominent ad on page 3 of the Halifax Chronicle Herald newspapers just two days before, placed by the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia.
If Shunpiking, with all its limitations, can provide space for Gaelic, for the First Nations and African-Nova Scotia, how can the media monopolies, which have all the resources at their finger tips, justify their actual policy?
What will they say next?
These questions – media, nation building, culture, and democratic rights – are serious.
I strongly feel that the stand against such out-of-date media is decisive.
I hope you find this edition enlightening.
*Tony Seed is editor of Shunpiking magazine, and a member of the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia