Viewed that way, it almost sounds kind of cool. Reason over passion Canada, the nation of rationalists, of thinkers, the vulcans of North America. Heck, we often refer to the canadian Senate as the chamber of sober second thought, as if theres something worthy about thinking things through (the senate, yknow, that place the conservative party and many editorialists are all so hot and bothered to abolish). Of course i speak of clichés and stereotypes. One could argue canadians are not in a day-to-day way necessarily exceptionally law abiding. And after pdf eight years of george. Bush, patriot Acts, and the department of Homeland Security, americans dont actually seem particularly rebellious. Ive often thought one could see a curious separation between the. And Canada in the figures of John.
You could argue that the canadian character is less one of blind obedience to the law and more one of measured reflection, and not running off half cocked. I read an article talking about how some canadian conspiracy theory radio show was being cancelled, and the question was raised as to why canadians dont seem as into conspiracy theories twist as Americans are. The answer offered was familiarly pejorative: Canadians are law abiding sheep, unable to think outside of the message spoon fed them by the authorities. But one could flip it around and say, maybe its because canadians are already more cynical than Americans. Canadians dont need to embrace wild conspiracy theories as a rebellion against authority because they never quite had a blind faith in authority to begin with (often those who are the strongest converts to some conspiracy theory, are people who started out fully committed to the. For that matter, when talking about radical conspiracy theories, its all about which side youre on that decides which is the unthinking sheep (if you dont believe in ufos the person who does is the gullible adherent to a party line). I once saw some graffiti where one person had painted the words: question everything! To which someone else had added the cheeky response: Why? Anyhoo, i think it was pierre Trudeau who used the phrase: reason over passion.
But what if we substitute for the yard stick a good ol Canadian metre stick? Just as an intellectual experiment, what if we reversed the assumptions, much as debating teams will take a certain position as a given and argue for it? For example, often a cliché (whether true or not is debateable, but its a cliché) of Canadians is that they are a law abiding bunch. This, apparently, is seen as a bad thing - certainly a colourless attribute, when America defines itself - and, therefore, cool - as a nation of rebels and outlaws. So lets argue from the opposite assumption. Lets say being law abiding is actually cool and sexy. Maybe the fact that Canadians are law abiding is why canada has legalized same sex marriages with very little fuss - while America is headed there kicking and screaming, wailing about activist judges and drafting Constitutional amendments to stop such unions. Or, going back centuries, why slavery was abolished in Canada without the need of a civil war. Sometimes being law abiding means recognizing that if theres a law maybe theres a reason for.
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Yet they rarely explain what they mean. We are often told that Canada came of age on the battlefields of World War i, that we became a respected nation then because of our military prowess, and that we let weak willed politicians in recent decades fritter away that respect with this mad. And how was this earlier global respect manifested anyway? Whenever Canadian politicians of the pre-peacekeeping era have tried to claim some global influence (King, diefenbaker, etc.) those same pundits are quick to ridicule their presumption, assuring us no one took canada seriously back then. And now that Canada is back in full combat mode, with troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan, how has global perception of Canadians changed?
Well were the goofy people who are happy for no reason at all. But we are told it is cool to be soldiers writer and uncool to be peacekeepers. And if we question that, if we ask why, we are told - well, just cause, dammit! One wonders if the nations that have benefited from the presence of Canadian (and other. N.) peacekeepers would regard the troops as uncool, or whether the families of Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives while performing peacekeeping duties would regard it as trivially. In fact conservatives are quick to say anyone who criticizes Canadian military actions is spitting on the memories of the soldiers who died in combat but they have no trouble spitting on the memories of the soldiers who were killed while peacekeeping. But we have the yard stick by which we measure these things, and if we dont measure up, then we are a failure.
It is at the heart of their identity, the shot heard round the world, from which all modern democracy is alleged to have sprung. Heck, hollywood has even produced movies fabricating nazi-style atrocities on the part of the British just to add greater weight to that long ago struggle, lest we think it was merely about taxes and land speculating. I can imagine many an American history class has challenged the students with the question of what would America be like if there had been no revolution. American science fiction novels have explored that horrific and nightmarish scenario. Except we know what wouldve happened. Canada is that what if?
Scenario, the path untrod. And things didnt turn out so badly. But to acknowledge that, by American liberals and conservatives both, is to call into question so many American struggles over the years, from the revolution, to the civil War, to the civil rights movement. And to suggest that maybe all that blood and suffering wasnt necessary. So canada is dismissed as boring, and Canadians as giddy village idiots. All this got me thinking about how in defining Canada, and its sexy"ent, we basically measure it against the American yard stick, without ever really asking ourselves what are we measuring, or realizing that, to some extent, such criteria is a tautology - americans. In so many areas we see this notion, how Canada fails to live up to some established criteria of greatness, or coolness, without anyone stopping to question the criteria itself. Canada had spent the last few decades devoting its army less to fighting and warring, and more to peace keeping, generally under the eye of the United Nations. Yet we are frequently told - by canadian pundits - that this is a bad thing, that Canada has lost the respect of the global community for this soft militarism.
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Now, to my memory, the cliché of Canadians had never before included being inexplicably, goofily cheery. Yet here seems to be a tentative effort in Hollywood to make this a new stereotype. Its not a mean stereotype. But like with clichés of Canadians being dull and boring, the cheery factor seems intended to delegitimize canadians, to make them seem like americas slow-witted cousin who can be tolerated with benign affection but not taken seriously as an equal, and whose views can. And one wonders how long it will be before canadian journalists and editorialists start parroting the line about Canadians being relentlessly, and idiotically, cheerful? Parroting it because they saw using it in an American tv show? Actually, as a brief digression, i think ive realized what may be at the root of this trend in America, where both the left and the right seem eager to dismiss Canada and Canadians. I think it may be because many Americas see themselves as Children of the revolution (to misappropriate a phrase) - the American revolution, that.
Political drama, the west Wing, this caricature of Canadians (on the few occasions Canadian characters appeared!) was very much in play. This despite the fact that essay Canadian thinkers on both the right and left, from david Frum to john Kenneth Galbraith, have had an influence on American administrations, and supposedly kennedy pearson, carter trudeau and reagan mulroney all enjoyed more than casual relationships. But its only when you see the gestation of a new cliché that you begin to notice the artifice. A few years back i was watching the. Series, six feet Under, and in one episode a character acquires a canadian maid who is portrayed as naive and almost dippily up-beat and cheery. It was just her character. Except then, a little later, i read a reference to an episode of the quirky us detective series, life, in which one character says something along the lines of you know what Canadians are like always happy for no reason at all.
debates. To which one might respond: um okay really? Because, lets face it, at that time there was nothing particularly exciting happening in the American Congress. But, understandably, to an American, the congressional shenanigans - whatever they might have been - were more relevant to him, and so inherently more interesting, than the unprecedented events in Ottawa in December which had Canadians glued to the manoeuvres and countermanuevers of our elected. In fact, America, by virtue both of being a powerful nation and the dominant purveyor of pop entertainment (at least in the west) doesnt just define our vision of it but can also influence other nations view of themselves. One wonders how many cultural stereotypes in other lands were taken to heart only after being popularized in American films and novels. I was thinking about this and the way canadians are often depicted in American productions. Dull, nerdy, often decked out in bowties irrelevant. This is so common and familiar, even Canadians rarely question.
Now, Ill admit, one can approach the topic with some trepidation. After all, as much as I might argue pride in ones country and culture can be a good thing too much pride can be a bad thing. Once unleashed it can be a bit like the tiger restrained by its tail, leading one to turn a blind eye to domestic problems, or send you down the ugly road of xenophobia and imperialism. Ironically, a lack of overt Canadian pride is precisely something Canadians can be proud. But it can go essay too far. As I say, even those who argue they like being Canadian, seem to revel in negativity: Canada is boring, staid, colourless. Sometimes such national nay saying, i suspect, is about personal aggrandizement - a filmmaker will dismiss his countrymen as staid and boring precisely so he can present himself as something fresh and exciting. He sees it as almost heretical to suggest something of value came before him. Part of what got me thinking about this topic was a piece a back in January or February (on the cbc radio series, Q) about an American columnist who felt Canada was dull and invited readers to explain to him why canada shouldnt be regarded.
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Essay_73, a canadian film editorial brought to you. The Great Canadian guide to the movies. Canadian Negatives Cliches:.and creating our own fictional stereotypes. Ive written about how Canadian film and tv makers - despite holding themselves up as the stalwart vanguard of Canadian culture and identity - are often loathe to be too canadian, often setting their stories in the. S., or an anonymous Anytown, north America (one former Canadian tv producer explained on his blog that he couldnt be expected to set his stuff in Canada because be couldnt spend his life making shows about maple syrup harvesters). And even when they do acknowledge their Canadianess, evernote it can be a soft or, equally, a somewhat self-loathing Canadianess. Yes - even those who present themselves as cultural champions often take great pride in not taking pride in being Canadian. Self-hatred being a bit of a canadian past time at least among artists. Which is something I wanted to look at: the notion of national pride.