Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Harper Rocks it Out

Calling Canada “the most peaceful, prosperous and enduring democracy the world has ever known,” Harper cast ahead to the 2010 Olympics, which he said will give Canada a chance to showcase itself to the world.

“We must never forget that our country, our way of life, did not come about by accident,” he said. “We are a product of diverse peoples from all corners of the Earth, but committed to common values. A country that offers opportunity to all who seek it. A country proud of our past and confident of our future.” -Ottawa Citizen "You're in Canada - Rock it Out"

Thus Harper striking the usual three chord unofficial anthem of national harmony: tonic chord: feel good peace and prosperity; subdominant: proud past, (if we could only remember it without blushing); and dominant: the future belongs to us. Twang, twang, twang! Nice licks, Steve, but don't quit your day job, as they say.

In point of fact the country was indeed the product of an "accident." Columbus stumbled onto the Americas while looking for China. No need to rehearse all the other stumbles that those gold lusting, slave trading, fur trapping, soul winning, war mongering white Euros made before they finally stumbled onto democracy. Suffice it to say that we're still stumbling, over five centuries later, as Harper's speech implies. We stumble over ourselves and our past and our whiteness and our "diversity.". Most of all, like everyone else, we stumble over the truth. Once in a while by some miracle or accident we stumble on to the truth, and man, that hurts.

Hard to fathom what makes Canada's democracy more enduring than America's, which out-endures it by almost a century. So too the bit about being "prosperous." Canada's spot on the prosperity roster has been sliding for years. Now with peaceful he might be on to something, but only with the caveats that anyone looks peaceful next to America and that peace in itself doesn't imply just or even decent. Indeed, Canada's penchant for peace uber alles is what leads her to censor and arrest people for voicing unpopular opinions, which her tribunals call 'hate" but which the haters call truth. And if truth be known, even our world famous peacefulness is taking a hit from the drug gangs and gun runners: "British Columbia or Columbia?" asked a recent headline in the Economist.

Truth always gets short shrift in a place like Canada, especially on July 1. The Ottawa Citizen story goes on to relate how popular the Mounties were during today's festivities. Was it just a few weeks ago that the Braidwood Commission began detailing the conspiracies and corruptions of our red serge surgers? And but for a lone cell phone that happened to be at the scene we might never have learned how really low our police can act when they think the parade is over and no one's watching. Come September the press will remember its indignation over the Dziekanksi killing, but right now, as the Citizen's headline says, it's time to rock, not rock the boat.

Harper's riff about "a country proud of our past" is also less than truthful. Last year a poll discovered that 60% of Canadians didn't know the Battle of the Somme for what. They didn't tell us what percentage cared. Like it or not our past was anything but peaceful, what with Indians to rob and subdue, rebels to hang and wars to wage. Nonetheless, we have a past that shouldn't be dirted on or apologized for because out of that past came the present, which everyone appears highly to value. As Cassirer wrote, dirt on your past and the future will dirt on you.

Many Canadians strongly object to "true North strong and free" in the real anthem on the grounds that it sounds wrong, i.e., "American." I object, too, because it is wrong, i.e., false. We aren't strong, or we'd be victorious in Afghanistan. We aren't free or we'd be free of Section Thirteen. And we aren't true, either to the past or to the rather forbidding future that's getting ready to rock and roll on us all.