Thursday, July 1, 2010

On Canada's annual period of introspection

Here we go again.

July 1st, Canada Day.

I know, I know, today of all days, I should put aside my cynicism and just enjoy the day, right? But I can't! (I'll blame it on a traumatic childhood incident...or something.)

I like Canada Day...a lot! Actually, it's my second favourite holiday after Thanksgiving. However, every year without fail, on the days leading up to July 1st, and on the day itself, the nation's media outlets work themselves into an unbecoming frenzy, attempting to "define" what makes Canada so awesome. This annual introspection (or navel-gazing as I like to call it) is exactly the opposite of awesome. It has about it the juvenile stench of seeking acceptance, of trying too hard.

Today's Globe and Mail, for example, boasts the following headline: "The Year Canada Grew Up"

The author, Patrick Brethour, claims in his commentary that at the age of 143, Canada may now call itself a mature country. Why? Well, we had the Winter Olympics in Canada this year, you know! We held the G8/G20 summits here! We developed a global-maternal health initiative! The Prime Minister finally offered an apology to the families of the Air India attack victims!

Let's take a closer look at all these supposedly fantastic events. Hosting the Winter Olympics and the G8/G20 summits shows that we spent scads of taxpayers' money this year on impressing the world. (Did it work? Is Obama finally going to invite Harper over for a sleepover?) Many of the actual Olympics events were overshadowed by whinging about how few medals Canada won, while the G8/G20 summits showed off an eerily empty Toronto framed by arguably mismanaged police deployment.

Discussion of the G20 leads to that of the global maternal health initiative, on which, let's be frank, most of Harper's own team was unclear (wait, are we funding contraception or not?) Anyone who thinks that this initiative will actually make a lasting, positive impact need only look at the dozens of initiatives and treaties and pacts and pinky swears of summits past that lie covered in cobwebs to realize that optimism for this new initiative is naive.

And lastly...Stephen Harper's apology to families of victims of the Air India tragedy. That it took so. many. freaking. years for the Canadian government to finally recognize these families as Canadians wronged by their own government and deserving of acknowledgement, apologies, compensation, SOMETHING, should be a point of national embarassment. Harper's apology may mark a turning point in the ongoing Air India story, but let us not confuse it for an event that helped Canada to "mature."

I recently read a book called "More Money than Brains", in which author Laura Penney says of her university students and certain public figures, "Anything that happened before [they] were born is part of the same undifferentiated mass." I would suggest that Brethour is guilty of similarly treating everything prior to 2010 as "an undifferentiated mass".

Many events of note have happened in the years prior to this one- the silliest statement to ever be made- but the fact that Brethour attaches more importance to those of 2010 could be indicative of any number of things, ranging from the possibility that events of this past year indeed are MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO DATE IN CANADIAN HISTORY (which, if you can't tell, I doubt,) to Brethour having given up marijuana and embraced a more clear-headed lifestyle in early 2010.

Now that I have sufficiently depressed/enraged/bedazzled you (man, my blood sugar is quite low from all that typey-typey-thinkey-thinkey), let me tell you the things that actually make me eternally grateful to live in Canada.

Being able to write this blog with utter freedom; being able to read whatever I want; an abundance of food and water; less right-wing lunatics than the U.S.; receiving free medical treatment for anything from the littlest stomach ache to full-on gunshot wounds; Canadian literature; the CBC; and...many many more things that I appreciate on a daily basis and don't need to rattle off here.

Now, let's stop the navel gazing, and enjoy the fireworks. Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians!

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