Canadian nationalism has changed in two distinct ways. One of these changes is a long term product of my generation coming of age. The other has developed in the last five years, the same amount of time as Stephen Harper’s conservatives have held a minority government.
But what is Canadian Nationalism?
When I was a little boy, in the late 70's, I became aware of the cultural differences between the United States and Canada. I understood how it took longer for movies to make it to our cinemas, records to our music shop, and magazines to our stands. I saw the differences between American and Canadian television illustrated by “The Bionic Man” vs. “The Beachcombers.” I began watching news programs by ten, (I was a serious boy) and I noticed how our news was “the American news plus Canadian,” while their news was only American. I heard the jokes about how Americans’ thought we all lived in igloos and ate seal meat. (None of this particularly affected me as it was explained to me early that people are not their nations and ideas are not necessarily reality.) I guess I’m particularly well suited to discuss any differences between these groups as I have a Canadian Father and American Mother, both intellectuals.
I can recall my parents discussing “the easiest way to tell the difference between an American and a Canadian is to suggest to each that there is no difference, whichever one complains is an American.” I can’t recall who said it and I’ve been, so far, unable to prove that it is even a quote at all. In my teens, when one has to begin deciding one’s stance on certain internal questions, I realised my definition of what it was to be Canadian. I believe this definition would be considered fair by any Canadian, except perhaps for those who believe there is no distinction in the philosophies of the two nations, (which is a growing minority.)
It used to be that a Canadian was meek compared to our boisterous neighbours. Known for our politeness, the humble Canadian that my Generation was raised to be seems to be revolting. For we, as individuals, want attention and the only way we’re going to get it is to make noise. Unfortunately, what we are failing to realise is that “the way it was” before things changed is “the way it should be.” The things that used to make us distinctly Canadian were what everybody loved about us. We were respected, even honoured by our reputation. When an American college student went backpacking in Europe, in 1986, he or she would be well served by sewing a Canadian flag on their pack. Our position was deserved. We were meek, we were polite and our pride was that we were proud quietly. We we’re gentlemen and ladies.
I certainly don’t wish to convey the message that Canadians are weak, we are not measuring the courage or even the psychology of the Canadian mindset, one only need to look at Canadian sacrifice in world war two to find these things. By addressing nationalism we only address the pride in our identity as a collective. Indeed, just living in Canada requires an individual physical and mental toughness deserving of respect. Perhaps it was my Generations realisation of this fact that contributed to our philosophy that “to be Canadian is to be not American.” At any rate, the humble, apologetic Canadian is becoming extinct. We have been replaced by the shouting, aggressive, flag waving pride of a Molson beer commercial. Such as it is, individuals are encouraged to build their nationalism upon principles of competition rather than cooperation. This is the argument responsible for everything that is going wrong on the planet, under your own roof, in the movements of government, on poppy fields in Afghanistan.
At least part of the reason for this shift is the changing appearance of our identity on the world stage. Siding with Americans in the interest of business during the Bush years is a marriage of convenience between neo-conservatives. The difference being that, with Bush gone and Harper not, our shame continues. We, like America, will not sign environmental treaties and have become the laughing stock of forward thinking nations, such as in northern Europe. We, like America, will ravage our own lands and waters to squeeze out every last drop of oil using even the most ineffectual and damaging methods, such as evidenced by the Alberta tar sands project.
If you doubt the validity of my argument that Conservatism is, at least, partially to blame for the Americanization of Canadian nationalism, consider how we are perceived now as compared to during our previous Prime Minister’s term. Just prior to Stephen Harper’s minority government, Liberal Canada was the darling of the planet: Green, forward thinking, economically sound and socially responsible. Mr. Martin had even the ear of hip, cool and conscious pop icons such as Bono. This hipness has been replaced with cutthroat capitalistic concerns and our coolness has become cold indifference.
What can we do to turn this around? How can we restore proper, deserved Canadian nationalism? How can we be the country we can be proud of again? Simply put, we must remember who it is we used to be. For we thirty somethings, coming into power, we must take it upon ourselves to remind fore and aft generations of what it was that made us great. We must expose the things that hinder this achievement and then remove them. We must strive to not put our nationalism before the pride of any other nation. Certainly one can imagine a respectable future as easily as one can remember the pride we used to feel for treating everyone properly.
It’s actually a remarkably simple idea.
Go Canada Go!
link to original article: here