SpruceRoots Magazine - April, 1999

Hey, are you a local?

by Dan Adamson

Hey Dan, do you consider yourself a local? My face went flush, and I thought, "what the !" Why do they want to know that? Is this a test? Maybe if I say the wrong thing, I'll never get into "the club." You know that exclusive club of "locals." Hey, I've worn my gumboots into City Centre - doesn't that make me local? Guess not.

It bothered me to be confronted with this question and I didn't know why. Perhaps they wanted to know my loyalties, my interest in the community or my commitment to staying and forming friendships and getting involved. Maybe there are good reasons for asking, but I still felt defensive. Why?

Then it clicked. It's the idea of being labeled. The nature of the question makes me feel as if I am being directed into a group or pigeonhole. If I don't call myself a "local," what does that say about me, and then what am I? If I do call myself a "local," what does that imply? Does it mean I commit to staying 'till death do us part? Are all "locals" the same?

I started thinking about how author John Raulston Saul describes the "corporatizing" of society. There seemed to be a connection with this "local" thing. We humans seem to have this need for putting people into groups. It seems innocent, and many times it is, but it's what grouping and labeling can lead to that can be troublesome. Saul shows that we have all become members of one "interest group" or another. In order to legitamize a group, members talk the same language, dress the same way, form common ideas and ways of expressing them - a clique of sorts. By doing this it becomes easier to exclude members from a group, it becomes harder to communicate between groups, and society becomes increasingly fractured and divided. To take it a step further, it can lead to demonizing people who belong or don't belong to a certain group.

On a personal level, I didn't want to be labeled. I feel people are too complicated to be grouped like that. I appreciate that some people have lived on-Island a few months, some many years and others their whole life. Some people want to stay put; others want to keep moving. Neither is right nor wrong, just different. Really, isn't there merit in appreciating diversity and what do we loose when we rush to attach a label?

So, what's wrong with asking if someone is local? Well, nothing really on the surface, but the next time I am asked if I consider myself a local, I'm going to ask, what do you really mean?

SpruceRoots Magazine - April, 1999