Canada… the true north…..Wikileaks….It must be something in the water, and Canadians don’t want Americans drinking it or sharing it …
“A few acres of snow” – “Quelques arpents de neige”- is a quotation from Voltaire popularly understood to be a sneering evaluation of New France’s — and, by extension, Canada’s — lack of mercantile value and strategic importance to France. The quotation in full, found in Candide, is: “Vous savez que ces deux nations sont en guerre pour quelques arpents de neige vers le Canada, et qu’elles dépensent pour cette belle guerre beaucoup plus que tout le Canada ne vaut” -”You know that these two nations are at war over a few acres of snow near Canada, and that they are spending on this little war more than all of Canada is worth”-.Who knows, history may prove the acid tongued Voltaire to be a prophet in spite of himself.
…Canada’s active attempts to rise above its marginality became evident when it began fostering the creation of a literary culture. However important a national literature is to a country’s identity, a canon nevertheless needs to be fortified by an articulated national rhetoric comprised of myths that citizens willingly allow themselves to believe in. Civil ideology does not develop naturally; it has to be created, reinforced and even altered to suit the times. Canada is not exempt from myth-making. As Daniel Francis argues in his National Dreams: Myth, Memory and Canadian History: “Because we lack a common religion, language or ethnicity, because we are spread out so sparsely across such a huge piece of real estate, Canadians depend on this habit of ‘consensual hallucination’ more than any other people.”2 It was as a deliberate attempt to define what it is to be Canadian that the government introduced the concept of multiculturalism. Although Richler was relentless with his satirical attacks, he eventually realised that Canada’s evolution was not dissimilar to his own development as an artist and as an ethnic Canadian seeking to reconcile his conflicting national and cultural mythologies. ( Julie Spergel )
Canadian nationalism, alleged Mordecai Richler, fares little better,than its French Canadian counterpart; especially cultural nationalism. As English Canada has itself become increasingly fixed on expressing its own distinctiveness, Richler has criticized that expression as mere anti-Americanism, parochialism, or greed masquerading as love of country: “The nationalists [were] . . . determined to win through legislation, for the second-rate but homegrown writer, what talent alone had hitherto denied him: an audience, applause” (Pourquoi Pas – A Letter from Ottawa, 1984). Not for Richler is it ever enough to be “world famous in Canada” (The October Crisis, or Issue Envy in Canada). ( Arnold Keller on Mordecai Richler )
Oh yes, those WikiLeaks…A separate Jan. 25, 2008, cable to the U.S. State Department warned that prime-time TV images in Canada were painting the U.S. in “an increasingly negative light” by depicting nefarious officials, CIA rendition flights and U.S. schemes to steal Canada’s water.It provided details from episodes of The Border, another show called Intelligence and said “even Little Mosque on the Prairie gets into the act” in an episode about grandpa getting caught on the U.S. watch list.
Memo critiques the “anti-American melodrama” in several CBC shows…. “While this situation hardly constitutes a public diplomacy crisis per se, the degree of comfort with which Canadian broadcast entities, including those financed by Canadian tax dollars, twist current events to feed long-standing negative images of the U.S. — and the extent to which the Canadian public seems willing to indulge in the feast — is noteworthy as an indication of the kind of insidious negative popular stereotyping we are increasingly up against in Canada.” He says the shows “demonstrate the important of constant, creative and adequately-funded public-diplomacy engagement with Canadians, at all levels and in virtually all parts of the country.”
And these WikiLeaks:…– In Sept. 2008, Wilkins [update: embassy officials] provides a briefing on the US in the Canadian federal election. They describe the U.S. is “like the proverbial 900-pound gorilla in the midst of the Canadian federal election: overwhelming but too potentially menacing to acknowledge….“This likely reflects an almost inherent inferiority complex of Canadians vis-a-vis their sole neighbor as well as an underlying assumption that the fundamentals of the relationship are strong and unchanging and uncertainty about the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election.” …
For most Canadian immigrants Canada is simply a consolation prize….The United States had already established its reputation as the new land of milk and honey, [t]hus those who found themselves getting off ships in Halifax, Quebec City or Montreal through no choice of their own were dumbfounded. Somehow
had been tricked. Jewish relief agencies in Canada complained to their counterparts in Europe that ‘unscrupulous steamship agents…[tell] an emigrant desiring to go to Chicago…that the steamer will land him at Montreal and that the fare from Montreal to Chicago is only 60¢.’ Mordecai RICHLER, The Street, Washington: New Republic, 1969, 17.
In their memoirs, many Jewish Canadian writers refer to these fateful accidents that brought their parents or grandparents to Canadian shores. Mordecai Richler openly laments his grandfather en route to the New World mindlessly trading his ticket to Chicago for one to Montreal. Even for some third-generation, Canadian-born Jews like Richler, the United States was the place where they ought to be; it was “the real America.” He reminisces: “We were governed by Ottawa, we were also British, but our true capital was certainly New York.” New York was not only a vibrant Jewish centre, it was also an artistic capital. ( Spergel )
A Richler novel, as an example of early Jewish-Canadian fiction, is an exposé of the self-sufficient, over-protective, ambitious world of the tight-knit Jewish community from which the protagonists wish to escape. They are not seeking material rewards, status symbols or assimilation, but rather an identity. They set off on a quest to find out who they are, believing that this need cannot be satisfied through association with either Judaism or Canada. The characters believe their nation does not yet know itself and blame their lack of confidence on Canada’s being unable to provide them with an identity.
To make matters worse, one can never really prove one’s talent in a country where mediocrity is celebrated as long as it boasts “Canadian content.” Canada is too provincial to offer a venue from which one can say or do anything meaningful about the world. In order to succeed, the protagonists must vanquish the stereotypes and false heroes they inherit from competing national and cultural mythologies so that by the end of their journey, they may learn to amalgamate into their new concept of self a sense of being both Canadian and Jewish. Often the solution is that part of being Canadian is addressing national issues at the personal level, and part of being Jewish is belonging to a community.
Publisher Marc Cote’s essay in the Globe is sad and so terribly true.
Sixty years after Earth and High Heaven was first published, Cormorant re-issued it. I was invited to a morning television program to talk about it. Seconds before broadcast, the host dropped into the seat across from me and said he hadn’t read the book. Lights, camera, action. He opened with his “informed” opinion: “You’ve got to admit, it isn’t very well written.” Shocked, I compared Gwethalyn Graham favourably to John Steinbeck. The host derided me; Steinbeck had won the Pulitzer Prize, Graham had not. And before I could answer, we were off air. What I did not say was: The Pulitzer Prize is not the pinnacle of literary excellence, and it is open only to Americans. But when Earth and High Heaven was published in the United States in 1945, it beat out Steinbeck’s Cannery Row both in sales and in critical response.
That’s it. That’s the Canadian inferiority complex in a single, perfect anecdote. ( Dan Gardner )
He cites the example of a light-hearted but mildly contemptuous article written in the Washington Post in the late 1980s, during the height of debate in Canada over free trade with the United States. Post writer Michael Kinsley also attempted some national psychoanalysis, saying that Canada was in the grips of a “complex neurosis” with the threat to walk away from free trade.
“Canada — as is so often the case with stagey suicide attempts — was simply trying to draw attention to itself,” Kinsley wrote.
“It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in psychology to realize that Canadians’ mock horror at the thought of being swallowed by the United States actually masks a deep desire for precisely that . . . They protest too much. Their lips say, ‘No, no,’ but their eyes say, ‘Yes, yes.’ ”
The only solution, Kinsley wrote was this: “We must embrace them, adopt them, love them and annex them.” Kinsley’s article was greeted with outrage in many quarters in Canada.
Being embraced and annexed, of course, isn’t a serious cure for the Canadian inferiority complex. What may be a sign of recovery, though, is the relative absence of any big uproar about the inferiority-complex remarks in this latest controversy.