Thursday, August 27, 2009

Canadians; polite or fearful?

"Americans yell at each other in full confidence that their country is the finest place on Earth and that it will always endure. Canadians keep their voices down for fear an honest argument would wreck the country."
Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson

When I read this article, my first instinct was to be defensive. Canadians were a more "civilized. and "polite". society. We don't carry guns to town hall meetings, we don't assassinate our leaders (apart form that unfortunate incident in 1868 (see Thomas D'Arcy McGee).

However given the many pragmatic and vision-less governments that we have suffered through in the last two decades, I have come to long for a vision of my country that no longer is palatable for our politicians to espouse; a strong, centralist Canada.

As for his take on Americans; I agree. They hate each other, but like a good old Italian family, don't let anyone dare to attack any one of them or else they'll be all over you. There's a reason why The Soprano's was such a huge success.

Are Canadians always walking on eggs, afraid to break this very tenuous confederation of regions? Are Americans bulls in a china shop, oblivious to the damage they are causing, only intent on getting to where they're going?

Canadians keep their voices down for fear an honest argument would wreck the country...Canadians seek to avoid big political fights. Americans revel in them.
Because we started out as a union of English and French – two cultures that had been at war for centuries – Canada never congealed as a nation.

There are advantages to this. We may be the most tolerant place on Earth precisely because we have no strong sense of who we are. Nonetheless, we are left with a residual fear of Canada's fragility.

The sanctity of individual liberty is why American society is so dysfunctional and so robust. Canadians believe we are a free people, and we are. But at a certain level, we defer; Americans don't.

Put it this way: How confident are you that, 100 years from now, the United States will still be here? How confident are you that Canada will still be here?

Well, Mr. Ibittson, I am confident that Canada will be here in 100 years (assuming the planet will be). If not, it wouldn't be because we failed to find a way to accommodate our differences. It is more likely that our destruction would be the unfortunate result of being in the crossfire of warring elephants and donkeys.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Happy Birthday!

This weekend marked my 58th year on the planet. As with most birthday's, it's a time when willingly or not, I take stock of my life. This is a dangerous exercise due to the fact that very few people are completely satisfied with what they've achieved and who've they become. I don't fall into those "few".

Therefore, this task is usually a prequel to an emotional melodrama. But, as I get older, I am finding that I am much more forgiving of myself. OK, haven't become a huge international musical theatre star; well, I was born too late and with too little talent (can't have it all). I haven't written the great Canadian play or novel; well, still breathing - still hope.

Getting older sucks unless you've gained something from being around this long. If you feel you haven't, then birthdays can be very depressing; an anniversary of your failure as a contributing member of the human race. That's why god created scotch.

I agree with the Dutch tradition of birthdays being a celebration centered on the parents who brought us into the world. They were the ones, especially the mothers, who made it all happen. My mother had a terrible time delivering me. She was ostracized for being an unmarried mother and turned away from her job at Eaton's for being an adulteress. Can you imagine the unemployment rate now if that practice were to return?

Birthdays are marks of time which are measured by experiences; good ones and bad ones. Fortunately, as we get older, the bad ones tend to fade and we look at our past through soft focus lens (think Lucille Ball in Mame) We can't "turn back time" but we can be thankful for having been blessed by having the opportunity to make the most of it.

So this weekend, I took inventory of what I have achieved in my life and what should be celebrated. I don't feel confident to speak of my achievements but I do know that I can certainly celebrate the people who have touched my life and provided me with many more experiences upon which to mark my history.

They are truly loved and appreciated.

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