6 Degrees Dictionary
This originally appeared in The Globe and Mail.
Where does fresh thinking come from? Often enough, from familiar words and the ideas behind them made new. Why does poor thinking persist? Because those words and ideas remain unchallenged. It is a proxy battlefield.
The 6 Degrees Dictionary, a new project of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, offers a user’s guide to inclusion. We start with 12 words, the currency of so much disagreement and misunderstanding, and recast them to provoke and inspire.
This first iteration of the 6 Degrees Dictionary was presented for consideration and conversation at 6 Degrees Toronto. Thousands of people from around the world attend our annual gathering in order to work their way to a new discourse, and to develop a language we can all share.
Adrienne Clarkson (AC), Charlie Foran (CF), John Ralston Saul (JRS), Scott Young (SY).
IMMIGRANT /ˈɪmɪgrənt/ noun. [From Latin immigrantem, “to go into, to move in,” origins in Latin emigrantem “to move away,” first used in English in 1794.]
- An individual who leaves one country to become the citizen of another.
- A noble term describing someone with the courage, decisiveness, and consciousness to wish to change their lives by changing their country.
- An individual whose qualities enrich their new society through public structures, culture, politics, and economics.
- On average, more comfortable with risk than those born in the country.
- Tends to be more ferociously loyal to their new country and its ideas of justice than those born there.
- An immigrant is to engagement what a citizen is to marriage.
[See: belonging; citizen; migrant; multiculturalism]JRS.
MIGRANT /ˈmaɪgrənt/ noun. [From Latin migrat- “to move, to shift.”]
- A bird, animal or butterfly with a regular and circular pattern of movement.
- In practice, an underpaid industrial or agricultural worker who is expected to return to their home in the offseason.
- In common usage, a label intended to exclude, marginalize, patronize, and dehumanize.
- As in, “When you’re finished picking our strawberries, go home.”
- A term that is never self-applied, only imposed on others.
- Not to be confused with expats or snowbirds.
- Used to justify withholding citizen rights from immigrants for one or more generations.
- Europe’s bogeyman.
[See: immigrant; integration; refugee] JRS.
CITIZEN /ˈsɪtɪzn/ noun. [From Anglo-Norman French citezein; Based on Latin civitas “city.”]
- Athens! The French Revolution!
- The source and guarantor of legitimacy of any nation-state, democratic or not.
- Under constant attack and denial by those with power, whether public or private.
- Not to be confused with a taxpayer.
- The opposite of stakeholder, a Mussolinian term which reduces an individual to membership in an interest group.
- Volunteerism is a manifestation of the engaged citizen, not a sector.
- The citizen cannot be a client of government services. The citizen owns the state.
[See: agency; community; democracy] JRS.
REFUGEE /ˌrɛfju(ː)ˈʤiː/ [From French réfugié “gone in search of refuge;” From refuge.]
- Someone who flees their home to save their life.
- Not simply persecuted by others, as the legal definitions insist.
- Victim of everything from war and prejudice to drought and economic collapse.
- As in, a victim of calamity, human or nature made. It could be you.
- Or an identified enemy of the state, for example, someone who speaks up. It could be you.
- In both cases, an attempt by those with power to dehumanize those without. It could be you.
- Requires courage.
- More popular than asylum seekers. Refugees may appeal to everyone’s fear of suffering, but an asylum seeker is a refugee looking for a place to live next door to you.
- One who escapes despair, walks across the Sahara, is abused, raped, beaten, used as slave labour, and finally risks their life on a boat only to be categorized by Europeans as economic migrants. A form of persecution.
- You don’t want to be one.
[See: immigrant; integration; migrant] JRS.
INTEGRATION /ˌɪntɪˈgreɪʃən/ noun. [From 1610s, to mean “act of bringing together the parts of a whole,” from French integration, from Late Latin integrationem “to make whole.”]
- Probably better than assimilation, but a poor second to inclusion.
- Unfortunately assumed to be a benign process by which someone is incorporated into a society.
- A step, once understood as the only one necessary for dominant groups to deal with others.
- Assumes a list of adjustments that newcomers must make to become acceptable.
- Views societies as static and brittle that will crumble upon contact with difference.
- Provokes fear under the guise of stability.
- Discourages innate human curiosity.
- Denies happy human complexity.
- Totally wrongheaded.
[See: inclusion; migrant] AC.
INCLUSION /ɪnˈkluːʒən/ noun. [From 1839, to mean “that which is included,” from 1600s, to mean “act of making a part of,” from Latin inclusionem “to shut in, to enclose.”]
- The act of including, the state of being included, with unhelpful Latin roots.
- Actually, the process of creating an authentic space for belonging, regardless of who you are or how long you have been here.
- Once established, best left to grow on its own and shape itself.
- Dead in the water if reduced to government policy.
- Complicated by realistic expectations on an unrealistic timeline.
- Essential for gauging a society’s fairness and spiritual health.
- Ultimately, about learning how to live together.
[See: belonging; community; integration] AC.
BELONGING /bɪˈlɒŋɪŋ/ noun. [From Old English langian- “to go along with, to pertain to,” from late 14th century, meaning “to be a member of,” Germanic origin.]
- The fundamental human need to be a part of something larger.
- Once understood as a necessity for survival, now a sign of psychological well-being.
- Thrives on cooperative sharing and balanced relationships with others.
- A necessary ingredient for social, cultural, political, and economic resilience.
- I belong, therefore I can.
[See: community; migrant; refugee] AC.
MULTICULTURALISM /mʌltɪˈkʌlʧərəlɪz(ə)m/ noun. [From Latin multus “much, many” + cultura “growing, cultivation.”]
- An Indigenous concept that balances difference with belonging.
- A policy devised to explain how people from culturally distinct and diverse backgrounds can live together.
- A Canadian invention supporting – in theory at least – notions of equal rights, recognition, and opportunity for all regardless of their roots.
- An example of how confused and blissfully optimistic policymaking can become a strength.
- Misunderstood, to put it politely, by Europeans and Americans. And some Canadians.
- On paper, the opposite of interculturalisme. In practice, identical.
- An important step on the road to pluralism and inclusion.
- A rare unapologetic Canadian mic drop.
[See: citizen; community; democracy; inclusion] AC.
POWER /ˈpaʊə/ noun. [From 1300s, “ability to act or do, authority, strength,” from Anglo-Norman French pouair, from Old French povoir, “to be able,” from Latin potis “powerful.”]
- The possession of control, authority, or influence over others.
- An incontrovertible fact, present in all human interactions.
- Can be found in right hands and wrong hands alike.
- Historically housed in states, governments, armies, and religions.
- Now being challenged by new actors who seek to wield their own power to affect their desired outcomes outside these institutions.
- For all that, still predominantly held by white men.
[See: agency; democracy;] CF/SY.
AGENCY /ˈeɪʤənsi/ noun. [From medieval Latin agentia “effective, powerful,” from 1650s to mean: “active operation,” from 1670s to mean: “a mode of exerting power or producing effect.”]
- Action personified. A grand aspiration of young Westerners in the early 21st century.
- An ethical belief that the misdistribution of power must be corrected.
- The determination to let silenced voices be heard.
- An ability limited or amplified by structural factors, including class, age, gender, religion, education, and ethnicity.
- Often burdened by high expectations.
- Frequently used by frustrated individuals driven to fury by political orthodoxy.
- Tends to underestimate the power situated in legislatures, global institutions, corporations, and their bureaucracies.
- Claimed, not given.
[See: democracy; power] CF/SY.
COMMUNITY /kəˈmjuːnɪti/ noun. [From Old French comunité “community, everybody,” from Latin communitatem “society, fellowship,” from communis “common, public, shared by all.”]
- A group of individuals with shared commonality.
- A self-declared body with collective religious, political, professional, social, or even national affiliations.
- A way to belong.
- The experience of empowerment, legitimation, solidarity, and security.
- Gone wrong, a force of atomization, largely unintentional.
- A term so overused it has triggered skepticism about its intentions.
[See: belonging; citizen] CF/SY.
DEMOCRACY /dɪˈmɒkrəsi/ noun. [From French démocratie, from Medieval Latin democratia, from Greek demokratia “popular government,” from demos “common people” + kratos “rule, strength, power.”]
- In trouble in 2018.
- An expression of the citizen as the source of legitimacy of the state.
- An idea that has steadily expanded to enfranchise all adults, including women, people of colour, and Indigenous peoples.
- A system once naïvely declared to be the endpoint of humanity’s political evolution.
- Not as parochial as many believe, with roots in many places not named Greece.
- For some, merged and acquired by private interests over the last half-century.
- For others, pace Churchill, the least bad of all systems.
- A form of government built on credible institutions but dependent on engaged citizens. One requires the other.
[See: agency; citizen; power] CF/SY.