Boring, as a virtue?

"Can I ask you a question about Canada?" he asked.

Sure, I replied, expecting something about healthcare or Anne Murray. Nope.

"Why are all you Canadians so terribly boring?"

Canadian national identity has always been a curious mixture of American populism and British propriety, a fact that, along with our climate, geographical size and complicated relationship with our neighbor to the south, has led us to be suspicious of acting too impulsively or dramatically. Some people might call that boring; we call that prudent. We’re the only country in the Americas to have gained our independence from Europe without violence -- choosing, instead, to pursue it through a series of incremental accords. As Pierre Berton, Canada’s best-known historian, put it, "If this lack of revolutionary passion has given us a reasonably tranquil history, it has also, no doubt, contributed to our well-known lack of daring." (Thomas Rogers, “Olympics Opening Ceremony: Canada will rock you (politely)," Salon, 12 Feb. 2010)

Yes, bullshit Thomas. You're part of the problem when you write articles like this about Canadian mediocrity and overt politeness. You only reinforce the stereotype and do a disservice to your fellow Canadians.

You spend the first 3/4 of the article in this self-effacing "Canadian" mode then for the last two paltry paragraphs actually state some of the positives of being Canadian.

Next time reverse the ratio. (Reid Mohr, response to post, “Olympics Opening Ceremony”)

Re: “Yes, bullshit Thomas. You're part of the problem when you write articles like this about Canadian mediocrity and overt politeness. You only reinforce the stereotype and do a disservice to your fellow Canadians.”

Wrong, Reid, he does Cdns A SERVICE, by SHOWING them how politely deferent they for the most part are -- how this may well be, in truth, their greatest defining asset (read: character flaw). From what he offers, we can compare Thomas, who takes care to not to step on anyone's toes -- unless they be nonPC, in which case, he'll stomp the that much harder than anyone else, driven to take full advantage of the opportunity to righteously make someone else experience what it is to just have to take it and take it and take it, without any effective means to make them please just stop! -- then compare him to the likes of others at Salon, who are not just literate but have it in them to INSIST on using their literacy to actually, like, SAY SOMETHING, personal -- and not just programmed code -- to challenge and grow, and know what a bland white-washing wasteland the Great White North truly is. You've got great healthcare, but who should care if automatons have the chance to walk a few more miles in the snow, on route to their nowhere of any interest in particular?

@champers

Re: “Canada has achieved what the architects of the Enlightenment dreamed of.”

They dreamed of a people that hides in shacks until unrulies have found their distraction, elsewhere?

Re: “We have a big space to play in, most of it beautiful and full of food and water.”

Great -- if you're otters; but what if you're urbanes like David Denby and guess that you'd find all the Avatar-play a bit dull after awhile?

Re: “We have a killer arts culture and all-round high respect for creativity in all forms.”

Otters ARE tool-using, and I'm sure take great delight in their stone-polishing play, but why don't we let, say, New Yorkers assess Cdns' openness to cultural creativity. I know that if I was doing my best to slam shut the door to any notable (read: unnerving, unpredictable) creativity, I'd probably school everyone to think I was instead up to something like "forwarding cultural appreciation and learned advancement in a way that does all Cdns proud!"

Re: “The weather is truly what makes life limp and bleak and even hopeless in a place like Toronto.”

To understand Cdns, you must understand the weather. I believe it. Cultivate YOUR OWN soul, and weather won't prove so much your master. In fact, I bet we'd hear more about your Toronto winter-blue skies accelerates your creativity than your being owned by the 6-month-long grey-brown stay of salt and slush. You'll like it when (and if) outsiders think of Canada, and at first thought think of written culture, lived brazenness, of particular, notable, individuals, and not so much grand spaces and their vast swath of determined -- even if ostensibly light and happy – minds -- it'll mean you're becoming more fully human.

Patrick McEvoy-Halston

@Patrick McEvoy-Halston

I'm going to skip the first couple of run-on sentences in your post. It looks like you have your Tourette's under control towards the end.

"know what a bland white-washing wasteland the Great White North truly is".

Canada is only bland relative to America's own perception of itself which is completely and utterly subjective. Any other country, in most American's eyes, is just plain doing it wrong - they (the foreign country) just don't quite get it.

Hence, the Yankee's frustration with Spaniards who don't speak English or the bedazzlement of driving on the left hand side of the road in some Commonwealth countries or the complete befuddlement when the local currency is printed in different colours.

Perhaps, in order to not appear too bland to Americans, us Canucks should just start being more opinionated about reality TV, attend more UFC wrasslin' matches and get drunk on pissy beer at NASCAR events. (mhatkinson, response to post)

Re: “I'm going to skip the first couple of run-on sentences in your post. It looks like you have your Tourette's under control towards the end.”

That's right -- Cdns wear quiescence-registering smiles, uniformed in over-all cultural blandness, BECAUSE they are a nation under rule by disciplinarian-minded schoolmarm grammartarians. Yours is the punish to help understand the why of Thomas' excuse-me: from this readers get the picture from which truth-of-Canada might be "distilled."

Re: “Perhaps, in order to not appear too bland to Americans, us Canucks should just start being more opinionated about reality TV, attend more UFC wrasslin' matches and get drunk on pissy beer at NASCAR events.”

That would just make you boorish. To avoid the bland, how 'bout being known for saying/thinking things that are, like, "out there," true assays, attempts at something personal, true, and new. More New Yorker, Slate, Salon -- even the Newshour. It's all safe and schooled in Canada -- the Walrus not exempted. As literate as possible, without saying anything at all, is in truth your motto, but is really just no way to go through life. But you've found a way to make anti-life fully decent/humane/civilized, and registers of great -- absolutely suspect. Awful and cruel, and it has to be pointed out.

By "out there," I mean when someone thinks/feels something, and it's clearly their best effort to interact/understand/fashion what is before them, and thereby grow, advance, develop, change, without being sidetracked/determined by some Other's directions or someone else's possible understandings/misunderstandings. I'm not sure if this is clear, but for me being "out there" is pretty much what I understand by living. The reason we can see so little of it, is because being "out there" means being true to yourself, living for yourself, means you are not readily directed to attending to others' -- by cueing and intimidation -- considerations (read: scowls), and this is a way of being most cultures still frown upon and distort-- for in truth, no good reasons. America got a huge chunk of yahoos, and THEY are responsible for things like healthcare not yet being a given. But America also got Europe's most evolved -- the lefties of their time -- while Canada got the duty-to-crown loyalists -- THOSE, that is, who not so much by belief but through constitutional/mental AFFLICTION had been thoroughly scared/bullied away from speaking for themselves, supporting those who (though admittedly still hugely imperfect) sought out independence and freedom, if still also revenge and war. The result is that unless you prefer the company of court sneers, those smart but primarily expert at taking down the novel, or those who don't frighten you with things you haven't yet prepared yourself for, if you're an unbroken literate dreamer, you'll find more to praise in the U.S. than you will in Canada.

re: The Whole Picture

"how 'bout being known for saying/thinking things that are, like, 'out there'"

Well, because while simply saying things that are, like, "out there" may make a people more exciting and less bland they don't necessarily have a real purpose.

I mean, I find fundamental right wing Christianity, prison gang violence and dramatic cosmetic surgery exciting to watch and hear about but I'm glad that kind of excitement isn't something my fellow Canadians aren't attached to.

Patrick, despite my snarky comments in my last post (and any in this one), I don't think Americans and Canadians are so terribly different.

Montreal and Quebec city are far from bland and they have an air of excitement only found in a few US locations. The regions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan aren't a lot different, geographically and culturally, from the states to their immediate south. And if Vancouver and Victoria go to bed at 10pm every night, it's so they can go mountain biking and surfing early the next morning in some of the most beautiful and jaw-dropping locales in the world - a lot like their buddies in Oregon and Washington state. (mhatkinson, response to post)

You experience both nations as near the same. I hear you, and appreciate you making the effort to convince me of their fundamental similarities. But I admit to hating when things like mountain-biking and surfing are put into play to salute a nation, primarily because it makes non-literate pastimes seem the primary way to enjoy life on earth -- in truth, makes a nation feel fundamentally suburban and rural-minded in character, and book reading, city-culture, somewhat alien. It is possible that a good number of people who enjoy these pastimes, this vigor, are similar to one another in both countries, so if this is the point you are making I am probably prepared to agree with you. But though these are not all Republican-minded, a good number of them are, and though I've loved sports in my time, these are not primarily my people. The "out there" I attend to is in a different kind of cultural-personal expression, and my experience is that Canadians are far more likely to keep-in any novel thought of their own that in the same instance an American would take wonderful opportunity to express, out of "speaking your mind" not feeling like an imperative but rather a natural inclination of "their" largely freer soul.

re: The Whole Picture

“if you're an unbroken literate dreamer, you'll find more to praise in the U.S. than you will in Canada.”

There's a lot of unbroken dreamers in the US prison system right now. On the whole I think the US is a more restrictive nation. A citizen is simply not as "free" as he/she would be in most other Western nations.

“But I admit to hating when things like mountain-biking and surfing are put into play to salute a nation”

The intent wasn't to salute any nation but, rather, to demonstrate that Canadian and American values (in this case, specifically, Pacific Northwest values) aren't that different despite any perceived Canadian blandness.

“it makes non-literate pastimes seem the primary way to enjoy life on earth -- in truth, makes a nation feel fundamentally suburban and rural-minded in character, and book reading, city-culture, somewhat alien.”

That's absolutely ridiculous. The identity of nations like Canada, Australia and, yes, the States is built upon the fact that we can be cosmopolitan, well-read and still enjoy the natural splendour of our wide open spaces - even at the same time.

“my experience is that Canadians are far more likely to keep-in any novel thought of their own that in the same instance an American would take wonderful opportunity to express”

My experience is that Canadians are better listeners than they are talkers and that Americans are often expressing their "novel thoughts" loudly and to the chagrin of anyone in immediate earshot (American or otherwise). The rest of the world has a word for this: tacky. The American who truly has something original and intelligent to say is an increasingly rare phenomenon. (mhatkinson, response to post)

Link: Olympics Opening Ceremony: Canada will rock you (politely) (Salon)

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