Thursday, July 18, 2013

Canadian Identity - Government Sanctioned Anti-Americanism

Canadian Culture, Canadian Identity, Anti-Americanism

What? we’re not sharing the back of a turtle with an elephant –  government sanctioned anti-Americanism

Let me premise these comments by stating clearly that Canada’s independent and eternal dominion over north of the 49th is a passionate desire of mine – I am a patriot if such a thing exists in Canada. What is annoying though is that I felt compelled to make the declaration as I begin to affirm affection for elements of American culture worthy of representation in Canada. As the Molson advertisements so aptly put it “I am Canadian”.

There is pervasive in Canadian society an anti America sentiment that I believe to be a most unfortunate rallying cry for defining our national identity. We as Canadians need to define ourselves by what we are as opposed to being non-Americans. The sheer mass of our neighbour is intimidating from the perspective of developing and sustaining a differentiating cultural element sufficient to generate robust cultural resolution to the Canadian population.

The America media / meme / culture machine is a power house and the resulting vigorous American culture is infectious. In the face of this cultural powerhouse too often Canadian leadership has taken an ugly turn and permitted a degree of Anti Americanism in our culture and it is cultural as opposed to just public opinion, which has precluded a more fruitful utilisation of what America has to offer. By permitting the development of a narrative around the US that is negative as a cultural immunisation against US culture’s entry to Canada, Canadian youth carry a generalised aversion to ALL things US. This cultural insecurity is closing the minds of our youth to a plethora of worthy elements in America Society.  

In Canada we hold as our guiding tenet of governance peace, order and good governance and who says credos are ineffective, because in Canada we have peace, order and good governance. The US has as its tenet - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; could it be that in this tenet there is a snippet worthy of consideration? Noteworthy from my perspective is liberty; our young people need to yearn for it, to watch over it and to keep a steely eye on threats to it. Liberty is the one element of society that insures all other actions, from personal choice - to freedom of association - to freedom to worship - to freedom of speech. As important as the lust for liberty is, is the fear of its loss. We are a kind hearted people who have built a kind hearted country, with a modality of life as good as it is generous, this comfort though, has conspired to create an apathy to the one element of society that lets us enjoy our modality of life - liberty.    

Canada’s genesis emerges out of the fur trade and a single massive corporation the Hudson Bay Corporation. The HBC worked in concert with the British Empire and was largely responsible for opening Canada to colonisation. This foundation provided stability in our evolution to nationhood, a far less tumultuous beginning than the US. Out of this orderly beginning emerged an orderly state with orderly people – people conservative in action and frugal in adventurism. This meme has remained robust in Canadian culture, yet it to some extent it limits us. This bureaucratic link in our development has produced an aversion to failure resulting in a cultural aversion to risk. In the US nobody fails, they participate in creative destruction. Winston Churchill said “Success is moving enthusiastically from one failure to the other” the American’s do this well. Churchill also said “you can always count on the US to do the right thing having tried everything else first.” These observations are far from criticisms, they are the essence of America’s success, the willingness to engage in bold massive ventures win or loose, as it is hard to argue with results, perhaps there is a lesson for us here as well.

There are many structural and cultural elements of the American society that are worthy of adoption, as Canada has much to offer to America should they want to look. The key point here is, in negating the significance of their offering is we are damaging and limiting our ability to export elements of Canadian society that have merit. Canadian measured cautious response to matters of state offers an effective counter to American adventurism; we need to be involved, credible and friendly to exercise influence. 

Much of our rebuke of America culture stems from people’s observations of American foreign policy and the means by which America projects power. America's foreign policy attracts a lot of criticism from many, within its ranks and without. Much of the resentment that has emerged in regard to America foreign policy is the result of extreme actions the US needed to take in the context of a decades long confrontation - the cold war. The cold war drove action by both parties that were extreme in the form of proxy wars and other means of securing regional influence. In this context many actions occurred that people site as humanitarian affronts and they are correct. When on the basis of these observations people resist American culture, they fail to serve the greater good by the absence of acknowledging the context of a highly charged geopolitical circumstance on American behaviour. Many in the Canadian intellectual vanguard who take the righteous position that exempts Canada of a stained past in realm of cold war driven human atrocity, fail to accept that we eat at the trough of US success in that struggle and in so doing share in the responsibility. I am unable to gauge the necessity of each action taken in the pursuit containing the USSR, only each person in each action has that judgment; however, one lives in comfort as a result of their collective actions. So now Canadians in reaping the benefits of those actions, are equally responsible to seek redemption through remedial efforts. To use a Canadian colloquialism, “we need to get off our moral high horse!”

Canada has the cultural mass to set aside the unattractive practice of US bashing as a means to effect cultural differentiation. We need to conduct ourselves with confidence in this regard, and rather than erecting a cultural firewall, permit the positive aspects of Americanism to find their way into our culture. By engaging in a process of winnowing the good from the bad we get to extract the best of the best cultural elements from our good neighbours; a process that has served us well from our British Roots and a process that is serving us well from our association with all other global players. 
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