This is my personal thoughts, opinions and musings place. I will also rant about things, especially politically-correct things that irritate me. And sci-fi. Did I mention sci-fi? There'll be lots of sci-fi stuff here. And movies, too. Mmmmm... Movies

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Canadian Identity

What is the Canadian Identity®? In the past, the Canadian identity included a great deal of pride in the accomplishments of the Canadian Armed Forces during WWI, WWII and other conflicts. Pride in being part of the British Commonwealth was also a large component. Even when I became a citizen in the 1980s, it was still required to accept the Queen as Head of State and to swear loyalty to her.

These days, the Canadian identity seems to include a large dose of what our previous Prime Minister called “Da Canadian Values”, a vague, unidentifiable mass of platitudes all centered around universal health care(it isn't), heritage(hockey, it's on our five dollar bill), soft power(unarmed peacekeepers, they're on our ten dollar bill) and multiculturalism(it isn't).

There is one more aspect to the modern Canadian identity that is sometimes covered up, often worn proudly and always so self-destructive that most people don't even realize it's poisoning them. I am, of course, talking about the two drugs called Anti-Americanism and Anti-Bushism. Both drugs are highly addictive and destructive to the users, very seductive to those not yet caught in their grip, and extremely useful to the ruling elite to divert the populace's attention away from them.

So, in order, then.

Universal Health Care. The bane of Canadian politics and those caught in its grip. Responsible for the initial spread of SARS in Toronto, chronically over-burdened and under-funded, it survives merely because governments, Federal and Provincial, will eventually dump enough money into it to make it seem like it's working, and because those with money will simply go to the US to have tests and procedures done there, then bring the results home for their own doctors to look over. What, exactly, does Universal cover? Well, basically only hospital stays and doctor visits. Drugs prescribed outside a hospital stay or doctor visit, dental, and vision are not covered.

Heritage. Is there nothing more to being Canadian than hockey? CBC, a government propaganda organ, would like you to believe there isn't. It wouldn't do to remind the commons of the time they might have been proud of their country and its accomplishments, it would only give them ideas about their station. For those not familiar with hockey, it's basically boxing with skates and body armour. Sometimes you can even sneak up on an opponent from behind, put him in hospital and cry about it on TV. It's often said that “I went to a fight and a game broke out“. Don't believe it? In Canada, we can buy videos of the greatest fights in hockey.

Soft power. Basically, soft power requires its wielder to live in an illusury world, a world populated exclusively by people who are all nice and decent and law-abiding and striving to make everybody happy and if they do something bad, all it takes is for you to ask them nicely to stop and they would. Sometimes you have to bribe them with a carrot while telling them you have no stick, but that's only as a last resort. Soft power also grants you the ability to ignore, in any meaningful way, the arrest, imprisonment, torture and murder of your own citizen in another country, especially when assurances are given.

Multiculturalism. This is the belief that all cultures are basically equivalent, and all deserve the same chance to flower. This, of course, is despite the fact that those cultures have fled their own countries.

Anti-Americanism. This is the belief that America is always wrong, populated by ignorant unwashed Texan cowboys who all hunger to convert everyone to radical Christianity.

Anti-Bushism. This is the belief that Bush is an uneducated lying moronical Texan warmongering cowboy who wants to convert everyone to radical Christianity, which also leads into Anti-Americanism because how can 57 million Americans be so stupid yada yada yada. Both Anti-Americanism and Anti-Bushism are now integral part of Canadian political and social landscape.

Why is this bad? After all, it doesn't really hurt anybody, other than Americans' feelings because they can't understand why somebody they consider a friend would act like that. For one thing, it weakens national character. Do you really want a government acting like it's got Tourette's Syndrome? But leaving aside the government for the moment, why is it bad when people indulge in that sort of thing?

We all do it. When we see something silly on the news about a particular country, we roll our eyes and say, with a knowing smile, something like “Oh, those Italians!” or “Oh, those Germans!”. But what I see directed towards Americans is something of a different order. It's not just Canadians, many other people do it, too.

The world is happiest when Americans can be shown to be dumb, ignorant or cowboys, and preferably all three at the same time. When America fails at something, even temporarily, there're smiles all over. “Look at that, ha ha! You big dumb old Americans! You can't do that because insert reason du jour here.” When America succeeds at something, even temporarily, there're frowns all over. “You big dumb old Americans! You think you won a great victory here? Now they'll hate you three times as much.”

Much of this is attributable to cultural jealosy and envy, plain and simple. It is the most successful nation on the face of the Earth, militarily, socially, politically and economically, and other peoples, including Canadians, hate it for that. Most of our trade is with the US, but we're willing to irritate our closest neighbour and largest trading partner with trivialities. We watch their mopvies and claim they have no culture. We flock to Broadway and claim they have no love of theatre. We drive to their national and state parks and claim they have no love of the outdoors. We build the Canada Arm, and completely overlook the fact that Americans then strapped that baby on a spaceship, launched it into space and then used it to repair and launch satelites and whatnot.

Our movie industry is non-existant, even when funded by federal tax dollars, yet we complain about theirs. Our TV shows are produced with government funding and in the majority of cases can't make it beyond CBC, the government propaganda organ, yet we complain about theirs. Our doctors and nurses flock to America, yet we're proud of our Universal Health Care. We laugh at the antics of some of their soldiers, yet overlook the fact that Somalia was as much a disgrace on a much, much larger scale for our forces, as Abu Gharaib was for the theirs. A discussion about the weather in Canada provokes a comparison between having to put up with Canadian weather here, or with George Bush in the US, followed by grumbled when it is pointed out that even if it can be said that the US has to put up with G/B, we have to put up with our weather for eternity(global warming's starting to sound much better now) while the US less than four years.

Countries, and people, that matter, that are accomplishing something now, and are capable of accomplishing something into the future, have no need for this kind of behaviour. People that are proud of themselves, secure in their own societies and confident of the future are not likely to look down the rim of their glasses at an entire society of 300 million people and sneer. For all its much-publicized lack of socialized medicine, the US did not suffer 44 casualties due to SARS the way Canada, which is to say Toronto, did, nor did it allow thousand of its elderly citizens to die of a single heat wave.

This is not to say that the American society and culture is without problems, that it is perfect. Of course it is not. On the other hand, no society is perfect, and those that strive for perfection invariably end up as hell-holes that their entire populations would flee at a moment's notice, if only they could.

I hope that Canada will soon grow out of this fascination with putting down the US, if not for altruistic pro-American reasons, then at least for selfish pro-Canadian ones.

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