Note : The views expressed by bloggers and guest writers are theirs.
Those Whom The Gods Would Destroy, They First Make Canadian
Thoughts About Canadian Identity
July 14, 2012
America’s Independence Day, July 4th, falls closely on the heels of “Canada Day”, celebrated on July 1st. Naturally, that gives rise to comparisons between the two neighbouring countries.
Two Nations Divided By Our Self-Definitions
Too often, Canadians take pride not so much in what Canada is, but what it is not—it is not America. We are told that we are different —and superior—because of our reputed “tolerance” and “diversity”, and our social programs, which supposedly evidence our ethic of “caring and sharing” and collective responsibility. We assume that government must be the instrument of these values, and that government is our friend and protector, mandated to protect us from poverty, illiteracy, poor health and “hurtful” speech—- as if the citizens of a democracy have a self-evident right never to feel offended.
America, however, was founded by people who had good reason to mistrust government. They believed, and still believe, as Ronald Reagan said, that “a government that can do things FOR you can do things TO you.” They also have this quaint notion that it is the citizens who should censor government, not the other way around. In other words, as JFK said, a government that prevents the free traffic of ideas is afraid of its own citizens.
Of course, that is just not the Canadian way. Here, we say “I am responsible for you, brother. Or rather, Big Brother is responsible for you, little brother, —and me too.”
It seems that we need to state our national differences in a more emphatic way. I can think of two ways we can do that.
A New Declaration of Loyalty To Canada—A Left Wing Manifesto of Entitlement and Non-Responsibility
Canadian author Peter Goodchild recently designed a manifesto that could serve as the Canadian riposte to the Declaration of Independence. He calls it “The Left-Wing Manifesto for an Age of Declining Literacy”. Its tenets are:
(1) I’m hard done by. (2) I have a right. (3) It’s not fair. (4) I’m entitled. (5) “They” are controlling the world. “Nobody loves me but my mother, and sometimes I think she’s jivin’ too.” (B. B. King)
I think that one day soon this Manifesto has the potential to become a mandatory declaration of loyalty to the Canadian state, a replacement for the Oath of allegiance that New Canadians must take. In the meantime, however, we can support it voluntarily until it becomes law. I have another suggestion as well.
I think that those of us who sign on to this Manifesto should be issued a set of “Poor Me” cards—- a deck of cards that demand exemption from societal expectations. Whenever you encounter someone who attempts to hold you accountable for not being courteous, civil, punctual, faithful, honest, honorable, or respectful, you can pull out the appropriate card and “play it”.
For example, you can say that as a Libran, you are entitled to be unbalanced on a particular day. If you are told that other Librans are even-keeled (so what is your excuse?), you can play another Poor Me card, such as “Poor me, I was abused as a child, so I am entitled to be abusive”. If the reply is that other Librans who were abused as children manage to be even-keeled and respectful (so what’s your excuse?), then you can play the race card : “I was bullied because I was the only black kid in the class, and blacks have been oppressed for 400 years.” If you are told that other abused Librans with black pigmentation and a lineage of oppression and slavery have nevertheless managed to be even-keeled and respectful (so what’s your excuse?), you can up the ante by playing yet another card. In fact, you will be armed with 52 cards in your deck that give you licence to be a jerk, and deal with all comers.
I was even thinking in terms of wearing a rain coat with inside pockets like Fagin (Alec Guinness) had in Oliver Twist. A pocket for each “Poor Me—I have a right—I am entitled—–I am a helpless pawn—I have an excuse to be a jerk” card. The “Poor Me Deck” could be sold with a complimentary Fagin rain coat as a package, and retail for around $200 Canadian. I imagine that this could become a Canadian fashion, converting each social encounter into a Monty Python skit like the one where two Yorkshiremen compared notes about the hardships they faced in their respectful lives and entered into a bidding war by taking turns trumping each other’s hard luck stories.
I thought about this concept while shopping at my local supermarket this past 4th of July.
I arrived at the check-out aisle precisely at the same time as a woman who had the same amount of groceries as I did. After a moment of awkwardness, I joked that since I was older, I should go first— “age before beauty”. She, with equal humour, replied that affirmative action rules require that she should go first. I replied that since my Dad’s ancestors in Ireland were displaced by the English and had to come to Canada in steerage, I am the one who should go first, “Race before gender”, I said. She replied that she too had Irish blood, so she should go first as an oppressed and displaced Irishwoman who has had to face the glass ceiling in this country. In the end, she went first because I told her that since I was an old chauvinist keen to retain my exalted station, I wanted to preserve the ladies-first tradition as a means to give women a false sense of privilege.
When you think about it, that is what Canadian society has become. A game of poor-me identity politics. A place where group affiliation and group-rights trump individual rights—something that Pierre Elliot Trudeau spent a career trying to avert. Ironically, that mentality is taking hold in America too, the home of the formerly brave, outspoken and free. So America is now a victim of Canadianization. Hey, it’s their turn. They took our comedians so now they must embrace our social engineering.
Wasn’t it Euripides who said that, “Those Whom the Gods Would Destroy, They First Make Canadian”?