Monday, February 18, 2008

Independence and Multiethnicity

Kosovo's declaration of independence today raises a question. On the one hand, the idea of a group receiving the right to self-govern seems to be intrinsically good. Autonomy and self-determination are an important part of a full recognition of humanity. To be ruled over, especially if one is part of an oppressed minority or, in some cases, an oppressed majority, is to have personhood not fully appreciated. On such terms, independence of any gorup of people thereby appears to be something celebratory.

On the other hand, the meaning of independence is contextual. If we are talking about decolonization like we saw during much of the 20th century, that is one thing, but now, the independence movements we see in Europe with the Kosovar Albanian, Basque, and Kurd movements, the Tamils in Sri Lanka and the freee Aceh movement in Indonesia, the trouble Kenya and Sudan, just to name a few are often the result of multiethnic societies pulling apart at the seams. Instead of a people getting freedom from a foreign dictator, independence now is the result of our inability to maintain fair and just working governments that rule over different groups of people. The contemporary independence declarations are a sign of failure, the sad result of our inability to meaningfully embrace morality and equality, a lack of caring and imagination for the humanity of all. Unlike the decolonization process that followed the world wars, the independence of peoples is not a move towards a unifying the world, but a step in politically isolating ourselves from ourselves.

Kosovar independence leaves me unsure of my own feelings. On the one hand, it is wonderful to see a people free, on the other hand, we should worry about what it is that they have to free themselves from.