Friday, February 28, 2014

The DP pecking order

Of the various DP tribes, all of them naturally assumed that they were at the top of the pecking order.

And depending on where you went in the land, they might have been right.

Once you got west of Thunder Bay your Bohunk peoples pretty much ruled the roost. East of Thunder Bay it was the Germans who had primacy. All across the land the Pollacks secretly believed that they were in fact the most important immigrant group, but they kept it secret for fear of getting beat up by the Krauts in the east and the Bohunks in the west.

Relations among the DP populations were smoothed over largely because that rising tide of post-war prosperity was indeed lifting all boats. That's what enabled every new wave of DPs to take root in the promised land.

Persons displaced from Viet Nam and Laos and Ethiopia and Somalia, to name just a few.

Canada has been a veritable riot of DP immigration.

It is standard modus operandi for the groups already settled to shit on the latest wave of newcomers.

The most virulent racism against immigrants from India and Pakistan back in the 60s came not from the anglo population but from the Krauts and the Wops and from Bohunks of all stripes.

Hey, at least we were white!

Over time, and due at least in part to that rising tide, ethnic divisions eventually gave way to class divisions.

Many a DP labourer from whatever ethnic background found their way into one of the construction trades. I'm told that to this day it helps to speak Portuguese if you want to prosper in the cement finishing trade in Toronto. Ditch diggers morphed into excavation contractors. Excavation contractors became infrastructure providers. A few of them became billionaires.

As the little guys became big people, they realized they had more in common with other big people than with the little people of their own ethnic group. And that's a beautiful thing. That's why the Toronto Star can now regularly showcase the children of immigrants in its flattering coverage of Toronto's fund-raisers and philanthropists. You'll see the second and third and fourth generation spawn of Jews and Germans and Italians and Iranians and Hungarians and you name it who all reaped the manifold blessings of life in the new land.

Proving yet again that an Italian billionaire has more in common with a German or an Iranian billionaire than he has in common with an Italian labourer.

But that's not news.

Nor is the fact that every DP making their way in this land, no matter where they stand on the socio-economic ladder, has at least one ethnic group they can still look down on.

The Canadian Indian.

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