Home Desktop backgrounds About Attaboy the Archives Links elsewhere Photography Essays & writings Contact info Portfolio

March 11, 2001 — 1 PM

Today’s link snagged from aaronland,

Today's link snagged from aaronland, a fellow Montreal blog.

"History is the most dangerous product that the chemistry of the intellect ever evolved. It makes us dream, it intoxicates people, torments their rest," writes Alain Dubuc in this year's LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture, published jointly in The Globe and Mail and La Presse yesterday.

Some context: Dubuc is a federalist Quebecer, but like most Quebecers, also a Quebec nationalist. While I have a somewhat less positive view than he of nationalism as a force in society, Dubuc makes many cogent arguments in this lengthy piece.

In particular, he touches on ideas that have been stewing and brewing in my head lately. Canadian nationalism is all too often ignored or denied by those who implicitly support it most fervently. It is a powerful undercurrent in national affairs. Because it is not openly discussed in the same way that Quebec nationalism is discussed within Quebec, however, Canadian nationalism is in some ways more dangerous.

Whoa, stop the presses, did he just say that? Well, maybe I said it. Quebec separatism is a natural bi-product of nationalism, and some may see that as "dangerous," but it is merely a political viewpoint, and one counter-balanced by a significant number of Quebec federalists, like Dubuc. It is possible — probable, even — to be a Quebec nationalist and harbour gravely different political viewpoints from another Quebec nationalist.

Canadian nationalism on the other hand, running largely unchecked, has lately been steered into corresponding with political dogma, especially federal Liberal dogma. What, you don't support one-tier health care? You're un-Canadian! Never mind that it doesn't exist here or anywhere else except Cuba. You don't think Ottawa should have heady control over political affairs across the land? Why, you redneck, Reform looney/militant, ignorant péquiste! Says Dubuc:

Canadians reflect all too little, except in specialized circles, on their identity, on the expressions of their nationalism. Taking comfort from their dogma, rocked in the cradle of ideological orthodoxy, Canadians have lost the daring, the iconoclastic approach of the man that still inspires them, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The Canadian debate could benefit from a little more reason, a little more lucidity.

I couldn't agree more. (Actually, I disagree with most of Trudeau's views, but I still respect that he thrust them forth as clear arguments for all to see.) In the last federal election, scores of citizens voted out of fear instead of reason. The Liberal party has successfully co-opted what it means to be Canadian as somehow corresponding to their platform, gelatinous and capricious as that platform may be. Ontarians in particular eat it up since the dominant ideology there is undeniably Liberal. The mistake people make is to assume that to think un-Ontarian is to think un-Canadian.

Projecting regional ideologies as national values does a disservice to the fact that Canada is a vast and varied terrain of people in different historical and cultural contexts that cannot possibly align all their collective interests. It is therefore an error to govern the nation as if its citizens all agreed on everything. But it's a far more grand error to assume that to do otherwise would lead to national catastrophe. It would in fact lead to greater progress and innovation. If you think otherwise, look back at our one-party Liberal regime over the last 8 years and try to determine what, if any, positive, national social change the federal government has helped effect.

Perhaps I'm betraying my own political biases by asking the government to be involved in social change. Fair enough. But if this should not be the case, than the mechanisms for it should be scrapped, not poisoned by conflict-of-interest scandals, billion dollar boondoggles and general hypocrisy.

As Dubuc notes, we are in a period of global transition, as one trade barrier after another falls, as the mechanisms of power increasingly shift from people and Parliament to Prime Minister's Office and Power Corp. As a population ages and requires more innovative and accessible health care. As other nations' students become better educated and more competitive while our universities remain sadly underfunded.

If you're still with me here, then give it a read. Get those juices of nationalism stirring. Agree? Disagree?


Previously: Q: What do Carol Seaver,

Subsequently: And in the news today,

March 2001
the Archives