Thomas Naylor of The Second Vermont Republic has outlined in a previous issue of Vermont Commons why secession is such a difficult sell. Although the marketing hurdles raised by Mr. Naylor warrant considerable reflection, it can be argued that secession, as a political philosophy and act, is a difficult sell because it is the wrong "widget" and/or "better mouse trap" that is being sold. It is even more so the case when at the preliminary stages of "missionary sales" with related brutal cold-calling. It also applies not only to the dynamics and logistics of secession, but also to its labeling and packaging. A product feature that frightens and/or alienates the "political consumer" is not about to generate any great political returns. It simply will not sell. Holding to a business analogy, the "secessionist business venture" stands to be bankrupt before it is even out of the gate.
It is put forward for consideration that secession is merely a symptom of a larger historical dynamic. In and of itself, secession is not a primary historical driver, one of the major fault lines of social and political transition. It is an element and reflection of the latter. To focus political strategy and tactics on a symptom, as opposed to focusing on the cause, is a mistake that will generate a plethora of self-defeating consequences.
That secession is not a driver in and of itself is the position taken by The Novacadia Alliance. In particular, it is argued that the primary social and political driver of our age is the collapse of industrial civilization, as is made starkly evident by the descent onto the Post-Peak Oil slope of reduced energy availability. This energy descent will transform our social, economic and political institutions inside out, the social institution of the large industrial nation-state inclusive. This message is neither alarmist nor negative. The message is deceivingly optimistic and sellable. It is: Be conscious and prepare, prepare, prepare!
By employing a re-adjusted (value-added?) premise for secession, the secessionist political initiative is transformed from a subjective grasp inside a philosophical vacuum to an historical inevitability with proximity to scientific certainty. Civilizations are born, they live, they die. Within a historical context, we deal with secession-by-default and adapt to such accordingly at local and regional levels. The fringe and marginal constituency currently supporting secession is reinforced by a beleaguered middle class searching for answers to a crumbling financial reality. Furthermore, the middle class is identified and targeted as the historically designated and legitimate social agent to carry secession to fruition. We shift from the finger painting of a limited rebellion to the canvass of a revolution in perception and crafting of political will.
Massive and cheap energy flow-through has been the direct source and collateral for the growth of the industrial nation-state, the growth of the American Empire inclusive. It stands to reason, from a thermodynamic and entropic interpretation of events, that maximum institutional and ecological disorder pushing against a closed system, i.e. the earth, will result in implosion and collapse. The large nation-state, as a redundant institution, will implode because it must implode. If a balloon is blown up to its maximum limit, it bursts, leaving behind shards of rubber. The analogy to large nation-state devolution and implosion is that simple. The actual parameters of the shards, i.e. determination and governance of negative entropy, will be open for human re-invention.
As such, an alternative "marketing strategy" for North American (NAmerican) secessionist initiatives might be along the lines of:
The perception and acknowledgement that the immediate 100-year era of Post-Peak Oil is the actual secessionist "widget" that needs to be sold.
The social and political benefits of secession are features inherent in the "product" of Post-Peak Oil acceptance, i.e. secession equals survival.
Secessionist devolution and implosion on the NAmerican continent will follow along regional lines, as opposed to individual state/provincial secessions, the New England and Maritime designation of Novacadia inclusive.It is likely that the third point nudges the VC reader onto new intellectual territory. The balance of this article deals with a preliminary introduction to the notion of Novacadia in particular, and to the merits of regional secession in general. It is a beginning, but a beginning happens to be the only place where one can make a start.
It is put forward for consideration that by the end of the current century the two nation states of America and Canada will be displaced by several regional and autonomous eco-states. This is the position that has been brought to the secessionist table by the Novacadia Alliance. Those secessionists who maintain that 48 independent nations, plus Canadian equivalents, on the NAmerican land mass is reasonable merely hamper and subconsciously sabotage the forging of a sound and marketable political analysis. It is imperative to address the issue of secession with a 2009 analytical microscope, complimented by systems theory and thermodynamics, as opposed to one that peers myopically and longingly out onto a romantic political landscape of either 1776 or 1865.
For secessionists the fundamental issue lies with the most proper, the most reasonable, and the most balanced size of the jurisdiction to be governed, primarily as relates to population size and only secondarily as relates to physical size. The most reasonable and most balanced size, in turn, translates into reasonable rights and liberties, reasonable safety and civic integrity for its citizens, and the reasonable functioning of a free market economic system with like financial infrastructure. This principle of reduced size is the bedrock of secessionist philosophy. Reduced size will be the consequence of nation-state implosion.
Novacadia is the region that consists of the Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and the American states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Vermont retains its status as the secessionist flag ship within this bioregional distribution channel; it is the political nucleus attached to both the development of regional identity and the weakest link in the American federal state (complimenting Quebec in Canada). That Vermont is leading the secessionist charge in Novacadia is simple fact.
The secessionist designation of Novacadia borrows from the bioregional model. Within this model, a political designation based solely on geographical factors such as mountain ranges, watersheds, prairie land, rivers, etc. quickly becomes convoluted for practical political purposes. Although the evolution of events and political context over the last two decades have largely made bioregionalism (and attendant Green politics) as a concrete political tool redundant, it is not necessary to throw the baby out with the bath water. From wherever it is possible to realistically borrow and most effectively aid secessionist goals surely does no harm.
The identification of Novacadia as a future autonomous eco-nation remains an element of conjecture. But all secessionists are currently constrained by conjecture. They tread on uncharted political territory. There is no secessionist crystal ball. There are no maps, no charts. Secessionists are pioneers; they are the mapmakers.
The combined population of the three Maritime provinces and the three New England states of Novacadia is approximately five million people. This is a reasonable population size for civic conduct and administration. More importantly, it is an optimum population size to house, feed and employ within greatly reduced economic parameters and expectations. Economic self-sufficiency will be at a premium. Within this regional population of five million, the three largest cities are Greater Halifax with a population of 370,000, Saint John at 122,000, and Manchester at 108,000.
The vast majority of Novacadia's population is rural. With a pre-determined economic shift to a predominantly agrarian economy complimented by small-scale secondary industry in a Post-Peak Oil world, this is crucial. An agrarian economy, coupled with a small population and compact channels of distribution, makes the economic challenge of self-sufficiency that much easier to attain. Novacadia is novel in that political power already resides in the country, and not in the city. This is a political opportunity of extreme importance.
Novacadia is endowed with ocean coastline which directly implies a seafaring nation. The natural resources to support this industry are in place. A serious development of tidal energy, as opposed to corporate posturing, could make Novacadia energy self-sufficient. The shared coastline more than compensates for a rough, but useable, highway infrastructure. Upgraded and new rail lines would be welcome. Most importantly, the sea is a cultural tie. It is a common point of identity. This cultural tie highlights a bioregional social dynamic that a people "are of place." A regional identity is innate; it evolves naturally. It does not have to be artificially hammered into minds beginning at kindergarten age and relentlessly reinforced with gaudy symbols and social spectacles for the duration of a lifetime.
In many ways, the economic possibilities for Novacadia are merely a return to the pre-industrial, pre-tariff economies of New England and The Maritimes when natural north-south trade relations existed. These economies were primarily agrarian and, due to seafaring capabilities, mercantile in nature and in practice.
As a region that has largely been bypassed by industrial development, Novacadians share a relatively undamaged natural environment and a shared history of hardships, of living within material means, and of a condescending arrogance displayed towards them by the "more developed" metropole.
In a Post-Peak Oil world, social and economic relations and institutions will be turned on their heads. What once was a liability becomes the richest of assets. Underdevelopment becomes an asset; a rural political base becomes an asset; traditional community ties become an asset; small population becomes as asset, and so on. There is almost a poetic justice, a long overdue karma of sorts, to identifying the Novacadian secessionist adventure on the very soil where European settlers first stepped to embark on continental expansionism.
It is imperative for Novacadians to acknowledge the historical conditions for secession as they exist in the present, conditions which were not created by secessionists and which quickly approach a crisis and, as such, call to be acted upon. To undo the institutional construct of the large industrial nation state, an artificial imposition that has been in place for two centuries, is no small task. It is the historical condition abetted by political synergies that will unravel the artificial identity of large-scale nationalism. Secessionists need merely to perceive the opportunities afforded by societal implosion and adapt accordingly. This is the unfolding of history; it need not be taken personally.
No one yet knows how the hybrid secessionist initiative of "radical right meeting radical left" will actually present and play itself out. However, the political hybrid slowly begins to come into focus. The future already exists; it's just not here yet.
Most of the work to be undertaken over the next two decades will be to agitate and to educate, as the revolution that is proposed is largely a revolution of thought, a revolution of perception. As a people are "of place" a contemporary ownership of identity is more a matter of acceptance than it is a matter of needing to be crafted. Although covered by layers of a fawning and false patriotism, a regional identity already exists. This is easily verified by walking over to the nearest mirror and saying out loud, "I am an American. I am a Novacadian. I am a Vermonter." Which statement feels right and carries the greatest challenge of responsibility within the context of global civilizational decay and collapse?
During times of crisis, one looks to one's neighbors. This is as true on the regional level as it is at one's immediate community level. The social motivators inherent in a Post-Peak Oil world will drive political intellects and imaginations towards perceptions that currently are barely imaginable. One could venture a reasonably safe guess that at this time the notion of Novacadia is yet such a perception. What requires building is the organized notion, the spark of political imagination with relative features and benefits.
As a simple woodworker, I can only conclude by saying that before it can be built it first has to be imagined. As for the actual marketing once it is built, that is simple: Build it and they will come.
These are early days. Welcome to the womb of political imagination.