Star Shaped Pegs in Maple Leaf Shaped Holes

I find it embarrassing that many Canadians know more about the American political system and landscape than their own.  Even worse, and what makes me mad, is that many – maybe most – Canadians apply American politics to their own country.  They associate certain Canadian parties or candidates with American parties or candidates they like or dislike and, based on a perceived similarity, choose who or what to support accordingly.  They don’t think in terms of Canada, and what’s good for it.  They don’t think about what we are or what we need.  They assume a direct correlation and don’t stop to think that we are a completely different country with different political problems to solve, different priorities, and a different outlook.

This is influenced by, among other things, the fact that we are at different stages of development, or political and economic maturity.  The U.S. is at its zenith.  They are the only superpower in the world, at the moment.  Canada is still in its ascendancy, or adolescence.  Obviously, a superpower at its zenith and an up and comer have different needs, outlooks, and priorities.  For one thing, when you’re on top it can seem that the only way is down, so you act to prevent or delay the inevitable downfall.  You tend to look at the world in terms of perceived threats.  You look over your shoulder.  Right now, China’s ascendancy is looking like a threat to American dominance.  By contrast, when you’re growing and developing you tend to look to the future, and new goals and opportunities.  This outlook could be seen by a superpower as not being in line with their interests, especially if you happen to share a continent with them.  By assuming and applying American views, we often work against our own ambitions.

The U.S. became independent about ninety years before us and in a completely different manner.  They fought a revolution, striking out on their own immediately.  Canadian independence came in stages, starting with Confederation in 1867, then our first independent declaration of war in WW1, then the Statute of Westminster in 1931, the first Canadian passports in the 1940s, and repatriation of the Constitution in the 1980s.  The final step of letting go of the apron strings and ending the symbolic relationship with the British monarchy to establish a Canadian republic – specifically, a secular republic – is one I’m looking forward to.

Here again, however, perceptions of American parallels interfere with true perceptions of Canadian realities.  Historically, any movement in Canada for full independence has been called a republican movement because the result will be a Canadian republic.  Unfortunately, when most Canadians hear the word ‘republican’, they think they hear ‘Republican’.  They apply American politics to Canadian politics and think a movement for a fully independent Canada would lead to Prime Minister George W. Bush – or something like that.  Most Canadians tend to dislike the American Republican party and its policies.  That probably explains why the American right wing media often portrays us negatively.  Those same Canadians tend to associate the Conservative party with American Republicans.  However, it is the Conservatives who are most commited to maintaining the links with the monarchy.  So, Canadians’ perceptions of the possibilities for their own country, and desirability of them, are skewed by inappropriate and inaccurate application of American models to Canada.

Canada is not at its zenith.  At times, though, it seems like we’re not even trying to get there.  We aren’t planning for our own future success.  No one seems to have a vision for the future beyond selling raw materials to the Americans and, now, the Chinese.  If we’re going to think like Americans, why don’t we think about building our own successful nation?  Why don’t we become a powerhouse?  If, as a certain book store chain said, the world needs more Canada, shouldn’t we let it know we’re here?  To do that, shouldn’t we be a bit more proactive?  Wouldn’t we then stand a better chance of having a positive influence in the world?

How’s this for a start – if the world needs more Canada, doesn’t it need more Canadians?  Then we’ll be a bigger market.  Bigger markets can produce bigger companies.  Bigger companies are more visible and have a better chance of expanding to other countries rather than being acquired by foreign companies.  They can become global players, creating wealth at home and spreading Canadian values abroad.

We need leaders who are bold enough to move us forward.  That may mean choosing a more difficult path.  It may mean standing up to those who may think our own path is not in their interest.  Unfortunately, our political leaders follow public opinion and tell people what they think they want to hear, regardless of whether the public’s opinion is an informed one or not.  I haven’t heard of a really fresh idea in Ottawa in about forty years.  And, where do the public get their opinions?  Very often from American media.  Just as unfortunate is the fact that our business leaders tend to be market followers rather than market makers.  The easy money is in exporting logs and oil and metals – let the Americans do the hard part.  Leaders are supposed to lead.

American socio-political models just don’t apply to Canada.  They debate whether to have a national healthcare system.  We’ve had one for decades.  Yet, many Canadians vote for the Canadian party they associate with the American struggle to get what we already have, when what we really need is a few of those big companies that keep buying us up.

We won’t realize our full potential until we stop applying current American views to current Canadian situations and Canadian goals.  We have to start thinking of, for, and about ourselves.

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7 Responses to “Star Shaped Pegs in Maple Leaf Shaped Holes”

  1. Do Canada’s Leaders Have the ‘Nads? « Bloggin’ Off Says:

    [...] to the past, we will start thinking about and planning for the future.  Maybe we could see leaders emerge with a vision of the future that extends beyond the next election.  Maybe we would see some [...]

  2. Blame Canada! « Bloggin’ Off Says:

    [...] the cable news channels.  Even so, we get plenty of American political coverage on Canadian TV – more than is necessary, in my opinion.  Two of the funniest shows on television also happen to poke fun at American [...]

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    This seems to be geared towards climbing to economic supremacy…why can’t be build a sustainable economy that as you mentioned reachs a zenith and declines. Why do we have to become a superpower?

    I actually think of american politics in canadian terms.

    This action plan seems to be turning us into a country like the US with a larger population and larger chain companies. I don’t think canada needs to go in this direction, can’t we maintain the level of wealth we have now.

  4. paulmct Says:

    I think ‘supremacy’ is not very realistic. Our 33 million people aren’t likely to dominate the world economically. That said, we can increase our population and productivity to catch up economically with France, Italy, and Britain, for example. That is an achievable medium-long term goal. We would have a bigger presence and louder voice in the world. We don’t have to become a military superpower and I agree we can build a sustainable economy, but why do you want it to decline?

    We need a larger population because we are underpopulated. A larger population leads to greater economies of scale, which allows for greater productivity. It could also mean that more of our economic growth could be domestically driven, giving us greater control over our own economy and future.

    If our companies don’t get bigger they will be acquired by others. Globalization is a reality. We may as well be players in it and have some companies that do the acquiring or we’ll be swallowed up by others and have no say in our own future. That doesn’t mean there won’t still be new companies with new ideas coming along all the time.

  5. Scott Says:

    Now here is an issue in which I am definitely biased. I can judge my own nation with a clear conscience, because I am a citizen of that nation.
    I am not a U.S. citizen by choice, but by chance. From 1776 (or 1783) to 1916, the United States was, arguably, the best influence of any nation in the world. But since 1917, the United States has been, without argument, the worst influence of any nation in the world!

    That was the year President Wilson compromised his isolationist principles for American nationalism, and allowed this nation to get involved in a European conflict, in which it had no business whatsoever. It is my opinion that most of this world’s problems are a consequence of that unethical decision of 1917.

    Many would consider this opinion ridiculous, and that is their right. But I believe (for reasons too detailed to explain in a reader’s comment), had there been no U.S. involvement in what would later be known as the First World War: there’d have been no Treaty of Versailles, thus no economic depression in Germany, thus no development of a Third Reich, thus no Holocaust, thus no establishment of a Zionist State in Palestine, thus no displacement of Arabs, thus no Arab/Muslim terrorism today.

    Also: there’d have been no conspicuous consumption in the U.S., thus no Stock-Market Crash, thus no Great Depression, thus no U.S. involvement in a Second World War, thus no development and use of atomic weapons by the U.S., thus no Cold War, thus no exponential expansion of U.S. military force today.

    Alexis de Toqueville wrote, “America is great because she is good. If she ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” And this prophecy, from the early Nineteenth Century, is clearly being realized in the Twenty-First. The United States is now an empire, in all but name, and is beginning to fall, like all empires before it. It deserves everything that’s coming to it.

    • paulmct Says:

      Thanks for reminding people that history is a series of reactions to prior events and decisions, rather than a list of random, unrelated events. If one historical decision/event hadn’t happened, a lot of subsequent decisions/events would not have happened.

      Take the current mess with Iraq and Iran, for example. It can be traced back to a request by Winston Churchill for American assistance in toppling the young and fragile democracy in Iran in the 1950s (late 1940s?). This resulted in the imposition of a dictatorship (the Shah of Iran). Hatred of the dictatorship grew over the years, which led to the Islamic revolution and the American hostage incident, which entrenched American attitudes. Iran then became a base for Islamic fundamentalism which spread in the region. The U.S. allied itself with Sadam Hussein and armed him because they had a common enemy. Well, you probably know the rest. If they hadn’t interfered in the politics of another country, the world wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in (at least that part of the world – there would probably be other messes). In that sense, I tend to view the situation as a mess that the U.S. and Britain made, and one that they should clean up.

      You may be overlooking the fact that American empire building began long before WWI. The U.S. was expansionist almost from day 1. So, even the ‘golden age’ you refer to, from the revolution to WWI, included the Indian Wars and other conflicts aimed at acquiring territory and/or influence at others’ expense.

      I don’t know that isolationism is the best course. You have to engage the world to some extent. Ideally, this would be for co-operation rather than conquest or domination.

      I’ve also wondered if WWI was worth fighting. It didn’t really have the same ethical importance that WWII had. WWI was basically European powers fighting over the right to exploit Africans and Asians. British arguments that they treated their non-whites better than the Germans/Austrians don’t really go far. I don’t know if it’s actually true and, besides, they still weren’t free. It’s both counter-intuitive and appropriate that the conflict led to the end of European colonialism.

      If I may be bold enough to trumpet Canada and fly the flag, it was the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge that led to the German surrender and the Treaty of Versailles. Unfortunately, I believe Canada was not included in the treaty talks because it wasn’t seen as powerful or important enough. I may be wrong about that. But, if I’m not, maybe if the Canadian sense of fairness had been allowed some influence, the Treaty of Versailles may have been a little less harsh and the subsequent chain of events may have been less extreme. Just speculation, of course.

  6. paulmct Says:

    Thanks for reminding people that history is a series of reactions to prior events and decisions, rather than a list of random, unrelated events. If one historical decision/event hadn’t happened, a lot of subsequent decisions/events would not have happened.

    Take the current mess with Iraq and Iran, for example. It can be traced back to a request by Winston Churchill for American assistance in toppling the young and fragile democracy in Iran in the 1950s (late 1940s?). This resulted in the imposition of a dictatorship (the Shah of Iran). Hatred of the dictatorship grew over the years, which led to the Islamic revolution and the American hostage incident, which entrenched American attitudes. Iran then became a base for Islamic fundamentalism which spread in the region. The U.S. allied itself with Sadam Hussein and armed him because they had a common enemy. Well, you probably know the rest. If they hadn’t interfered in the politics of another country, the world wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in (at least that part of the world – there would probably be other messes). In that sense, I tend to view the situation as a mess that the U.S. and Britain made, and one that they should clean up.

    You may be overlooking the fact that American empire building began long before WWI. The U.S. was expansionist almost from day 1. So, even the ‘golden age’ you refer to, from the revolution to WWI, included the Indian Wars and other conflicts aimed at acquiring territory and/or influence at others’ expense.

    I don’t know that isolationism is the best course. You have to engage the world to some extent. Ideally, this would be for co-operation rather than conquest or domination.

    I’ve also wondered if WWI was worth fighting. It didn’t really have the same ethical importance that WWII had. WWI was basically European powers fighting over the right to exploit Africans and Asians. British arguments that they treated their non-whites better than the Germans/Austrians don’t really go far. I don’t know if it’s actually true and, besides, they still weren’t free. It’s both counter-intuitive and appropriate that the conflict led to the end of European colonialism.

    If I may be bold enough to trumpet Canada and fly the flag, it was the Canadian victory at Vimy Ridge that led to the German surrender and the Treaty of Versailles. Unfortunately, I believe Canada was not included in the treaty talks because it wasn’t seen as powerful or important enough. I may be wrong about that. But, if I’m not, maybe if the Canadian sense of fairness had been allowed some influence, the Treaty of Versailles may have been a little less harsh and the subsequent chain of events may have been less extreme. Just speculation, of course.

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