The word ‘fernweh’ means longing for or missing a place (or time) you’ve never been – I feel this ache in my soul and my bones all the time.
When my mom was eight years old her family emigrated to Canada from Germany, and my dad’s Scottish family has been in Canada for generations. In school, we were taught Canadian history – that is, the history of the English and French settlers and the First Nations, the Hudson Bay Company to Quebec’s special status, through to a brief overview of Confederation. Some years, we were taught the history of imperial Japan, the Russian Revolution, and South America’s crop rotations. But I’m not Aboriginal, or Quebecois, and what about the histories of the other European peoples that led them to Canada? This is one of the problems with a multicultural society – who is learning their own family’s history in school? More to the point, who is determining what version of history is important, valuable, and being taught?
Earlier this year I asked my German grandmother a few things about her family and the more she told me the more I realized there were huge gaps in my knowledge (despite my university degree in political science and international relations learning about other countries) regarding my own historical homeland and that of the European continent.
What is Canadian culture? I began to think about this during my career in politics, wanting to understand what united Canadians among the division. But I still can’t come up with an answer, as I feel increasingly disconnected to this place I grew up in. Sure, there are regionalized cultures like farmers, cowboys, and oil entrepreneurs on the prairies, the Quebecois and the First Nations, even the Maritimes have their own dialects, but there has never been a grand vision for the identity of Canada since the beginning, it was always about control of resources. Former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau created the notion of a multicultural society only to admit it was a failure, half a century ago. Any overarching culture Canada may have today is a society hollowed by the focus on pointless, empty material things, where people aren’t thinking or saying anything real, and cowardice reins over courage. Life is consumerism, materialism, fake democracy/soft totalitarianism, secular structure without any sense of meaning or purpose for our existence, individuality without a real sense of family or community anymore – cultureless.
I’ve always had this feeling, too, that I didn’t quite belong, but I just chalked that up to the insecurity and overabundance of adolescent and adult Mean Girls. Now I realize culture is much more deeply set within our personalities and mindsets than can be explained by Nurture (over Nature). Who I am is simply not the same as the people around me, and they recognize it as clearly as I do.
I wanted to understand why third generation immigrants in Europe are most likely to become radicalized and commit terrorist acts, since they’re born there and supposedly integrated, so I began to research. An American sociologist was among those who found that, historically, first generation immigrants, like my grandparents, move to another country for better economic opportunities and (usually) genuinely adopt their new culture. Their children, like my mother, struggle because they feel split between two cultures and two places. Third generation immigrants, like me, begin to reject the adopted country and want to reclaim their culture and sense of ‘who they are’. The more multicultural a society becomes, the less social cohesion, trust, and democracy there is as tension between cultures for dominance rises. This occurs especially when the difference isn’t between cousin cultures, such as between and among Europeans, but cultures that are completely foreign and incompatible to each other.
We as humans evolved as part of nature in our respective lands and that’s why we have different ethnicities – our genetics are adapted to the climate, the availability of resources, and so on – therefore it’s not really natural to transplant/migrate somewhere far away. Not all plants can grow and thrive in different soil. As part of nature, having evolved with nature, we feel a physical (genetic) and emotional (metaphysical) bond to the land our ancestors lived on and those of our own ethnicity. It makes sense – why do people fight over land and home-land so much throughout history? It’s not just about territory for a king to rule over (whose legitimacy of authority only comes from his own people anyway, as the one who represents them as a people and their interests) but because we are inherently connected to that soil, those trees, and each other of that place.
Leftists, liberals, globalists, and open border proponents all act as though human nature is malleable. They even ignore the beauty in the dichotomy and duality between the light and the dark – such as what is loved, and violent means to protect that love from harm. I don’t think most Canadians are going to wake up and realize what’s been created until it’s too late – society is too fractured. Europe is waking up because they face an existential threat with replacement migration and illegal immigration. Culture is paramount to who we are individually and collectively as a society, it is inherent in our existence, outlook, and behaviour. It cannot be replaced, smoothed out, or silenced.
We don’t look out for each other or support each other anymore in this country – Canadians have this false international reputation for being so polite and helpful, when really its people have become selfish and soulless. I have spent my whole career in Canada wanting to help turn things in the favour of the greatest good, but I have repeatedly felt taken advantage of, sidelined, not valued, and essentially not respected. I feel let down, betrayed, by my own people and I’ve lost faith in humanity for long periods of time. Why should I want to stay and do anything more for a country that doesn’t feel like home, not in the people or the place? I have my ideas of what an authentic Canadian (and in a related sense, American) culture is, but that is for another post, and it’s debateable it would ever dominate North America again.
I shared all of these thoughts with a friend of my parent’s generation the other day and while the details of his story are much different than mine, he said he’s always felt uprooted and disconnected in Canada as well. He said, through my words, he finally has clues and a direction of understanding of why he feels the way he does. Maybe his home will always be a Canadian mountain range because he couldn’t find his own European homeland when he searched for it. If you, too, feel culturally disconnected then your genealogy and family history are the best place to start and may lead you to where you do feel at home.
When I’m in Germany, it feels like home in the marrow of my bones as soon as I’m off the plane – perhaps I’ll feel the same when I finally see Scotland. The electric tension in my veins and on the surface of my skin, that I don’t fully notice until it’s gone, subsides. The history of my family’s people soaks up through my feet, grounding and re-rooting me. Returning to Europe isn’t going to be an option or a choice for all of us, but thankfully it’s an option for me, and the path home to honour my roots and culture is the one I choose.