Brent H. Cameron is a Senior Advisor with Concierge Strategies, and a local councillor in Ontario, Canada. The second edition of his 2005 book, “The Case for Commonwealth Free Trade: Options for a new globalization” is available on Amazon worldwide – both in paperback and in Kindle e-book formats.
I want to tell you about a guy from Connecticut. His name is Samuel Peters. The political situation both in his state and beyond has gotten quite tense, and on too many occasions has descended into violence. He has his views but he doesn’t feel safe in expressing them. Too many neighbours in the surrounding area would be quick to hurl a rock through his window or set his house on fire. He knows that if he’s too open with his opinions there will be a mob that gathers on his front lawn and threatens to rough him up.
But it’s gone past that. Even the government won’t protect him. His opinions could lose him his livelihood and his standing in the community. He has no confidence that either the police or the courts will protect his interests, so his family decided on leaving it all behind and moving to Ontario.
Of course, Samuel made that move in the 1780s and it was called Upper Canada at the time. He was my 5th great grandfather.
Those who identified as supporters of the Crown during the American Revolution were called “Tories” by their enemies and “Loyalists” by their friends. In either case, the penalties for holding those political views in the fledgling Republic were not insignificant.
Peter C. Newman, in his book “Hostages to Fortune,” wrote that “The hundreds of Loyalists who…opted to remain faced the wrath of the Americans. More than a hundred Loyalists were arrested in Charleston and put on trial for treason, while dozens more were terrorized.”
He includes the first-person account of a James Collins, who had served in the South Carolina militia:
“Whenever we found any Tories we would surround the house, one party would force the doors and enter sword in hand, extinguish all the lights [and then] commence hacking the man or men that were found in the house, threatening them with instant death…There were none pf the poor fellows much hurt, only they were hacked about their heads and arms enough to bleed freely.”
Newman details various civil actions put in place after the Treaty of Paris in 1783. In New York, there was the Confiscation Act, where the state could seize Loyalist owned property and redistribute it; and the Citation Act, which prevented a Loyalist from being able to collect debts owed by Patriots; and the Trespass Act, which was the Confiscation Act in reverse – allowing Patriots to collect from Loyalists to compensate for war losses, even if the Loyalist in question had no part in the loss.
None of this is meant to denigrate the United States or its people. In a diverse and varied country of over 300 million citizens, it would be foolish to generalize on its character – individual or collective – nor is an airing of grievances two centuries later likely to yield any tangible benefit.
But the United States does go through these paroxysms and their gravitational pull is hard to resist. My ancestors, along with tens of thousands of others, removed themselves to beyond its borders to – for better or worse and not entirely without their own issues – establish a different political paradigm in Canada. Of course, in an analog world you can do that sort of thing – territory and sovereignty are synonymous, and your jurisdictional influence begins and ends at your respective borders.
In the digital world, it’s a lot more complicated.
Right now, hundreds of millions of people are drawn into a political conflict where they are bystanders. People who hold no American citizenship or the right to vote, and who may have never set foot on American soil, have been arrested in protests halfway around the world related to a killing at the hands of police in an American city. They have no clue who represents them in Parliament, and have not expressed the faintest bit of curiosity, but they know both Joe Biden and Donald Trump and will express their views in the most heated and animated of manners.
A person in London wants to connect to a relative in Sydney, or a former classmate in Toronto. Their ability to do so on Facebook and Twitter is subject to the oversight of a handful of millennials in the San Francisco area who will decide whether or not it offends their sensibilities, all the while their corporate bosses wondering whether Senators from Texas, Alabama, New York or Ohio will amend an American law that offers them immunity from certain legal consequences related to content.
If you are the citizen of a CANZUK country – or any country beyond the United States – you have become a digital American, subject to its laws and jurisdiction but lacking a voice. Ironically, it all comes from the same people who gave us the phrase “No taxation without representation” and fought a bloody revolution to emphasize the point.
Flipping from Twitter to Parler or Gab or some other platform matters little as the issues of governance and control do not change. You are still like a spectator along a stretch of unguarded track at a Formula One race. You may get a good close-up look, but it’s only a portion of the action, with the added risk of having a tire fly off a car and veer toward your head.
So what is the answer?
Well, the easy part of it is to support an alternative to Facebook or Twitter that is based in a CANZUK country, where one maintains a high level of respect for freedom of expression but a minimization of the tendency of pushing every person on the planet to declare themselves to be either Democrats or Republicans.
The hard part, of course, is money and infrastructure. It is all well and good to say “build it and they will come,” but building ‘it’ takes a lot of cash and technical know-how. And yet, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go on a social media platform where you weren’t pulled into internecine squabbles where you can never aspire to be more than a bystander winged as collateral damage?
Yes – you may have to suffer through things like Leave versus Remain, or Alberta alienation, or CCP influence in Australia, but I would rather deal with those than the drama in Washington. At least we have some influence and stake over the former. Indeed, for many of us, we might prefer another month of Brexit redux over the current soap opera in the US Capitol!
Samuel Peters made the physical move from American politics over two hundred years ago. It was an untenable situation, of which he and his family wanted no part. I feel the same way, and I’m prepared to make the digital move. Today, if I could.
If we could only find a 21st century Lord Dorchester with a degree in Computer Engineering and a room full of angel investors…