do nations grow up or just grow old

Canada will celebrate its 139th birthday tomorrow. This is in its early middle age by nation state standards.

Canada will celebrate its 139th birthday tomorrow.

This is in its early middle age by nation state standards.

When Canada signed the United Nations Charter in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, only 49 other nations joined it.

Of the 192 current members of the UN, the majority didn’t exist in 1945.

Beginning in the late 1950s, a great wave of nation-generating decolonization swept Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Caribbean regions.

Earlier, Napoleon’s invasion of the Iberian Peninsula in 1807, and the disintegration of the Spanish overseas empire following it, generated a burst of nation building in South and Central America during the 1810s and 1820s.

Actually, most European nations date only from the 1800s when assorted principalities, ducal and electoral states finally coalesced into the countries we now know.

Luxembourg actually shares Canada’s birth year. Italy just made it onto the European map a few years earlier, in 1861.

France and Denmark can claim status as seniors among nations. They cite 843 and 940, respectively, as their birth years.

Thailand and Spain, with starting dates of 1438 and 1479, are relative newcomers.

Of course the national consolidation and reformulation process is still going on.

Earlier this week Montenegro joined the United Nations becoming its 192nd nation.

I suppose the raising of its flag there, a double golden eagle on a red field, could be regarded as its national christening of sorts.

A narrowly won independence referendum on May 21, (55.5 per cent) provided the legal framework for the separation of this small country of barely 650,000 citizens from its former nation-mate, Serbia.

Of course, Montenegro and Serbia had both been part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Before then, Montenegro had been both a conjoined and separate kingdom, part of the Ottoman Empire, the Principality of Zeta, and so forth, back to its days as the Roman province of Illyria.

Montenegro has had a rich yet troubled history. But the auguries at its current national rebirth seem positive.

“In achieving its independence through a non-violent and democratic process, conducted in a fair and open way, Montenegro showed the entire world not only its patience, but its political maturity,” noted UN secretary general Kofi Annan in a press release.

“The people of Montenegro demonstrated that adherence to democratic values and the rule of law offer the most effective way to achieve political goals,” wrote Annan.

“And they showed that even the most difficult and sensitive problems can be resolved peacefully. These are especially important messages given the violent past in the Balkan region.”

Earlier this week, The Onion, a satirical, on-line news service ( offered insights on the dyspeptic nature of the United States as it approaches its birthday.

“In its adulthood, the US displays all the classic tendencies of a nation that was repeatedly mistreated in its infancy — difficulty forming lasting foreign relationships, viewing everyone as a potential enemy and employing a pattern of assault and intimidation to assert its power,” said Howard Drexel, the report’s lead author.

“Because of trust issues stemming from the abuse, America has become withdrawn has not made an ally in years, and often resents the few nations that are willing to lend support — most countries outgrow this kind of behaviour after 230 years,” the fictitious Dr. Drexel continued.

Canada, though, “which was raised in the very same continent by the same mother country, only exercised small-scale resistance, remaining loyal well into its maturity.

“Though some see Canada as cold and remote, it has, unlike the US, managed to lead a peaceful, reasonably healthy existence.”

Satire and pseudo-psychology aside, a nation’s citizens determine whether a nation can maturely meet the multitude of global challenges that lie ahead.

This is as true for Montenegro as it is for the US or Canada.

Hopefully our global community of nations will grow up not just grow old.

 Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.