Learning to Live Together (Confederation)
Throughout all of history, mankind has shown that they are “social animals”, that is, they prefer to live with other people in a group. In earlier times, when the world had more empty spaces than it has today, this was especially true. There were many good reasons then for a person’s strong wish to stay within a group or society. Loneliness, fear of the unknown, the need to share the same language and the same way of life – all these things kept people together inside closely-knit groups, and widely separated from others.
Yet, many forces were at work to break down the separation gradually. You have already learned about some of them. Groups discovered that there were advantages in learning to understand each other and in working together. Small states found that they could often join together to form a larger and more powerful unit, as the Thirteen Colonies had in forming the United States of America. Once they stopped fighting among themselves, they were better able to protect themselves against still larger groups. Often they discovered, to their surprise, that some problems were the same for all groups, and that they could learn from each other.
As the empty spaces filled up, people even began to enjoy moving freely from place to place and from group to group. Some grew wealthy by trading their extra goods for goods that other groups had.
Of course, while nations learned these facts, they did not always behave as if they knew them very well. They continued to suspect each other, as they do even today, and to try to keep most of the good things for themselves. Sometimes they were more anxious to do things in exactly their own way than to solve their common problems. They found it hard to admit that someone else’s way might be as good as theirs.
This business of learning to live together, as whole countries must do, will probably go on long into the future. Therefore we all need to understand the difficulties it brings, and the ways some groups have managed to do it successfully. Every Canadian should learn, above all, how the British North American colonies united to form the country we call Canada. Perhaps by examining this great undertaking, begun by just a few, we can learn how to make our vast and complex country a better place for everyone.