THE NEWFOUNDLAND QUARTERLY :: ONLINE EXCLUSIVES
Online Exclusive for #444
There are a number of definitions of "diaspora": the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland; a dispersal of people by whatever cause to more than one location; a situation where people simply settle far from their ancestral homelands. While the word itself is Greek in origin, the term hits home in this province. It applies to how the Europeans landed hundreds of years ago, and to life here ever since. Whether it's to Alberta or the mainland or to Eastern United States, for as long as we've lived here, we've been moving….migrating….dispersing….and scattering.
Are we ancestrally destined to always be in a state of diaspora? And, if so, what impact does that have on those who stay? Or is our constant moving and migrating exaggerated, no more or less than many other places in the world?
"Well I'm glad you explained to me what the word meant because I had never heard of it before. After reading your definition, though, it was clear that while we may not say the spoken word every day, it is a household concept in this province. I don't know that we are destined to always be in a state of diaspora. I think that depends on the state of the provincial affairs, the economy specifically. The better the economic times, the less likely we are to be moving elsewhere. When there are plenty of jobs and the cost of living is good, the outmigration numbers are lower. On the other side of that coin, though, is the tough times. When times are tough we move to a place where we can readily find employment, enough wages to provide for ourselves and our families. I don't think it has anything to do with our ancestors. Everyone everywhere came from somewhere else. Our state of diaspora has to do with jobs." - 24, MUN Student
"Admittedly I was a tad confused with the term at first. It's not something you hear every day. You have to explore the core of why people disperse. Why individuals unsettle themselves and their families from one place to settle into another place. Usually people do this to get away from something. Sometimes they get away from oppression, fleeing to save themselves and ensure their safety. Other times people move because they cannot economically sustain a life where they are. Without a good job, a good home life is hard. So they try to live some place else. Some will say money doesn't buy everything, [and] they're right, but money does go a long way. Another reason people move is because they are running. Centuries ago if you committed a crime and were then faced with an opportunity to jump on a boat and try your luck in a new land, it would be a hard option to turn down. Today that's a little harder but you still hear about it in movies, criminals who are looking to get across the border into Mexico. So, fundamentally, there are reasons why people move. Destiny is not one of those reasons, nor is being a Newfoundlander." - 58, Retired
"It amazes me that we are arrogant enough to believe that we are the only people who still have to move or 'scatter' to make a living in the world. Like somehow we were chosen to forever suffer [for] high-priced plane tickets to Alberta, and expensive basement apartments in Fort Mac. Ask the United States about its illegal immigrants problem; they will tell you all about Florida, California, and other states that have an underground work force, where people are paid in cash because they have not gone through a legal immigration process. People move. Sometimes it's because they have to and sometimes cause they want to. We have to get over it. We choose Alberta and we are lucky to have it." - 25, Teacher
"We exaggerate our state of diaspora. It's like that joke: "How can you find a Newfoundlander in heaven?" "He is the fella lookin to get home." I moved and I have no intentions to go back there. Here is home now. A province isn't a home, a home is where your loved ones are. The only sympathy I have is for the people who are in a place and can't leave. They deserve the pity and assistance, not Newfoundlanders who choose to leave." - 24, Nurse
"The impacts of those who stay while their loved ones leave is deep. On a provincial scale we have lost many young families because one of the parents got a job upalong. But then we have grandparents who retire and want to be closer to their grandkids. Sometime they make multiple trips for the year but sometimes they decide to move. With a significant net outmigration there is less of a tax base at home. With a smaller tax base, governments have to trim budgets, which impacts things like social programs and funding for the arts, etc. Of course outmigration is not something to brag about, so efforts are increased to steady populations either through paying people to have more children or through things like increased immigration efforts. Bringing in new people means an introduction of new cultures. How long have we had multiple sushi restaurants in St. John's? The flip side to that, of course, is that when people from here go to other places they are bringing our culture to a new place as well. Did the sale of Jiggs Dinner ingredients go up as the Newfoundland influence in Alberta went up?" - 28, Entrepreneur
"There are two groups of people who I feel can justifiably complain about being forced to disperse and scatter. Aboriginals and Jews. Aboriginals were doing their thing in North America before Chris Columbus and the bys reached shore in the late 1400s. In the next century 240,000 Europeans came over. It didn't stop there. Three centuries later over 50 million people left Europe for the New Land. If you are thinking that's a lot of people, well, you'd be right. So where did the people who were already here go? At first, some fled inland, and others tried to make relationships with the Europeans. Neither really worked. A lot of Aboriginals died, including entire tribes, either through violence or because they got colds, flus, and sicknesses. Some were sectioned off to live on x acres of land - terrible when you consider that once all the land was theirs. A lot were thrown into a constant state of moving or escaping depending on how you look at it. Some were nomads, others were desperate. Now let's look at the Jewish people. We could dig back as far as biblical times but let's not go that far 'cause I know there's only so much space in this piece. Two words: Nazi Germany. The Jewish people were busy being normal when the Nazis took power and all hell broke loose. At worst they were killed, at best they lived in ghettos, or fled in numbers that those places around them, that were not hunting them, couldn't support keeping them either. I know there are other examples throughout history but those two stick out." - 28, Accountant
"I don't know if 2012 really lends itself to the terms of diaspora. The world has never been smaller and never has it been easier to travel and move and settle from one place to the next. We go to other countries (not just provinces but countries) for vacations, education, jobs. Go to Memorial campus in September and walk around. How long before you run into someone from another part of the world? And I should have clarified I was referring to MUN's campus in this province. Not their campus in Harlow, which is in another country! You can jump on a cruise and visit multiple countries in a week. I know a couple who fell in love with the Cayman Islands on a cruise and bought a house there. They have a house here and a house there, and when they retire they'll probably sell their house here. The world has never been smaller, exploring it has never been easier. I'm thinking there's a reason we don't hear this word (diaspora) very much, it's because it's an irrelevant term today." - 26, Master's Student
"The fact that we have such a deep Irish history proves that we are a place settled from resettlement. It is believed that in the mid-1800s anywhere from 50% to 80% of Ireland's population left Ireland. They left mostly because of the famine. Having no food they left for Britain, the United States, Canada, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. Some of those people ended up on the Irish Loop but the Irish influence is not only felt here. As many as 100 million claim to have Irish ancestry worldwide. I am one of those 100 million. Almost 22% of this province will tell you they are of Irish ancestry. At least three American Presidents also have made that claim - Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton. If the reason we are here is because people moved out of somewhere else. I guess that means it's in our blood. The willingness to move is in our genes. The Irish moved to survive and prosper somewhere else. That's what we've been doing ever since." - 36, Engineer
"A bunch of people couldn't do enough in Ireland to feed themselves or had committed a crime so they were on the run. A long boat ride later people settled in Newfoundland. I don't think that is necessarily the reason that many in this province move to the mainland to this day. Everyone has their own personal reason for moving to another place. It's not destiny or anything to do with our ancestors; it's a need to survive." - 34, Trades Worker
"Interesting question. Probably a combination of both, part destiny, part circumstance. Families need finances to support themselves and their lifestyle, but when they don't they have two options. They utilize government support or they move to where the jobs are. They don't always move so that would suggest that for some it's not 'in their blood'. But there are a lot of people from this province that do. Over 100, 000 people left our province from the early 70s to the late 90s. By 2001 almost another 50,000 had left. A lot of that was due to the cod moratorium so there was the economic [reason] but they still chose to move. Their ancestors moved and it's part of our way of life - so they moved. It's probably a mixture of destiny and circumstance. Some are more eager to pack up and leave then others, some think NLers are cursed to be a province of movers forever." - 31, Federal Government Employee
"Sometimes people have to migrate - I believe we called it Resettlement. Regardless of your thoughts on Resettlement, it is an example of diaspora. At least in this case some people got paid for it. Countless people throughout history were forced to move; most of them did not get some form of reimbursement from the government. It reminds me of the line from Simani: 'Resettlement now while Resettlement pays.'" - 19, Student
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