5.16.2005

apples and oranges

A friend and loyal wmtc reader sent me two Canada-related items from The Economist. (Thank you!)

The first is a letter to the editor, in reply to a story on the EU. A man in Toronto writes:
Canada Belongs In Europe

I believe that the citizens of the European Union would be best served if the next expansion of the EU was not to the east but rather to the west, to incorporate Canada ("Now that we are all bundled inside, let's shut the door", April 30th). While this notion might seem odd at first, a little investigation would show that the vast majority of Canadians claim ancestry from the nations of the EU and Canada's cultural, social and economic policies are very similar to those of Europe. Access to NAFTA as well as Canada's natural resources, such as oil and gas, holds obvious advantages for our European brethren. Equally, Canada's easy access to Europe would be just as beneficial to Canada. It is time for Canada to petition the EU for membership. The advantages for both parties are too significant to ignore.

Dan Taylor
Toronto
Canadian readers, please weigh in?

The other is an interesting perspective on the new War Museum in Ottawa. The article is here, but you need an Economist subscription to read it.
Don't Even Memorialise It

A new war museum sparks a typically Canadian row

Historically, the 160-acre LeBreton Flats, just upriver from Ottawa's Parliament Buildings, has been a place of both war and peace. On its slopes, Irish canal builders and French-Canadian lumberjacks used to camp and brawl. For the past four decades, it has been a toxic wasteland. Now, after a C$100m ($80m) face-lift, it has become home to Canada's spectacular new War Museum, opened on May 8th, the 60th anniversary of VE-Day.

But the C$136m museum is already mired in a typically Canadian row over whether it presents too bellicose an image for a peaceloving country. The museum's purpose "is not to celebrate hostility", Canada's governor-general (and commander-in-chief), Adrienne Clarkson, insists. While it is not easy to find a peace motif among all the traditional artefacts of war, a message of regeneration does emerge.

The museum's grass-covered roof tilts up towards Parliament's Peace Tower. Its chief architect, Raymond Moriyama, is a Japanese-Canadian who was interned in Canada during the war. And among its 13,000 works of art are some strikingly frank portrayals of the underside of war: a portrait of a disgraced Canadian peacekeeping soldier who tortured a Somali boy; another of a despondent General Romeo Dallaire, head of UN troops in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

But if the museum does not glorify war, does it sufficiently project Canada's self-proclaimed role as international peacemaker? Ever since Lester Pearson, then Canada's top diplomat, helped end the 1956 Suez crisis by replacing the Anglo-French invasion force with the world's first international peacekeeping contingent, Canadians have headed such blue-helmet units, taking part in some 45 UN missions from the Sinai peninsula to Afghanistan.

Although the new museum does reflect some of this, many Canadians would like it to do more. Why not celebrate, they ask, years of Canadian diplomatic efforts culminating in the creation of the International Criminal Court (now headed by a Canadian), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines? Or the unsung exploits of the multitude of Canadian humanitarian groups working abroad? Probably because war is more exciting than peace, and perhaps because the proper subject of a war museum, even in Canada, is war.
This piece is very fitting, given my recurrent attempts to explain some basic differences between Canada and the US. In a recent comment, Mollie, an American ex-pat in Canada, said:
Apples and oranges. "Liberal" in Canada means something so different than "liberal" in the U.S. Likewise with "conservative."
Perhaps you can see the connection.

29 comments:

B. W. Ventril said...

While this notion might seem odd at first, a little investigation would show that the vast majority of Canadians claim ancestry from the nations of the EU and Canada's cultural, social and economic policies are very similar to those of Europe.

Although I've jokingly advocated Canada joining the EU for quite some time, this sentence, at least, seems to typify the underlying racism of some Canadian anti-American sentiment. I mean, what the fuck? Canada belongs with Europe because Canadians are of European ancestry, as opposed to, what, the disturbingly non-white US? Aside from the fact that the EU is increasingly shutting the door on the non-European world, the Canadian left can do much better than this bollocks.

RobfromAlberta said...

"Why not celebrate, they ask, years of Canadian diplomatic efforts culminating in the creation of the International Criminal Court (now headed by a Canadian), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Ottawa Treaty on anti-personnel mines? Or the unsung exploits of the multitude of Canadian humanitarian groups working abroad?"

This is the most absurd thing I've heard in awhile and is typical of the pablum that gets spewed from our urban elites. The Canadian War Museum is a "war museum". That is its expressed purpose. Would you include a display on the Rwandan genocide in a Holocaust Museum? Of course not, they are both genocides and so there is some tenuous common theme, but they are otherwise completely unrelated events. We Canadians (especially those of us who vote Liberal/NDP) like to spit in the faces of our veterans every chance we get, but we should set aside at least one space to recognize their sacrifices without polluting it with political correctness.

Sometimes, I really hate this country.

L-girl said...

"Canada belongs with Europe because Canadians are of European ancestry, as opposed to, what, the disturbingly non-white US?"

That's intersting BWV, I wouldn't have picked up on that. It makes little sense, tho, since Canada is increasingly multi-racial.

"Sometimes, I really hate this country."

I know how you feel. Not about your country, of course.

B. W. Ventril said...

Well, I've always noticed a very slight racist undercurrent in some Canadian lefty circles (though of course racism is much more of a right-wing trait). This, I think, is a consequence of Canada being a country where nationalism is construed of as left-wing, rather than right-wing, the right being free-market and usually pro-USA. [Disclaimer: I say all this as a left-wing Canadian citizen] I've noticed this most of all in the tendency of some Canadian nationalists to blame an absurd array of social ills on the US, while maintaining sort of a myth of Canadian purity by way of contrast. Usually this doesn't involve any sort of denial of Canada's multiculturalism. But it does involve a denial by lefty white Canadian middle class people that there is a big problem with racism in Canada. I've heard some white people, for instance, dismiss complaints from the black community about racism by saying that there's little "real" racism in Canada, that discrimination on a serious level is just an American problem (though those on the right might deny there's a problem in America too).

But the Economist letter in question is clearly extolling Canada's supposed European heritage, as part of a definite contrast with the US. Subtext: the US has less of a European heritage, meaning it is less white. There's definitely some dodgy volkish shit going down here.

RobfromAlberta said...

What better place for racists than Europe? Is there a greater fallacy in the world today than the myth of European enlightenment? If there are two pastimes which all European nations share, they are soccer and anti-Semitism. Throw in a healthy disdain for Muslims and Africans along with international animosity based on centuries of European conflict and you have a veritable cornucopia of hate.

B. W. Ventril said...

Anti-Muslim sentiment is off the chart in much of Europe. And of course there's the whole phenomenon of Pim Fortuyn-style racism: "We Europeans are so tolerant that we have to be intolerant towards groups we deem as not sharing our tradition of tolerance." I think it was the British lefty comedian Mark Thomas who said "only the Dutch could have a gay sociologist fascist."

Whatever is wrong with the US (and by that I mean its own share of off the chart anti-Muslim sentiment) it at least acknowledges that it's a society founded on immigration and multiethnicity (as does Canada). Many Europeans are still in denial.

L-girl said...

Racism seems to be universal. Is there a country in the world without it?

Certainly to tout Europe as some kind of paragon of tolerance is absurd. Even the most fleeting look at history belies it.

I think we can only judge based on what a country is doing now, how people accept other cultures, what discrimination immigrants face, etc. Because if we look into the past, it all sucks.

"I've heard some white people, for instance, dismiss complaints from the black community about racism by saying that there's little "real" racism in Canada, that discrimination on a serious level is just an American problem (though those on the right might deny there's a problem in America too)."

I guess it's easy when you have the US as a neighbor - you can point a finger and say it happens over there, and you never have to look at your self.

And yes, many on the American right believe racism is done and gone - just like sexism. In fact, all discrimination is in the past and the country is perfect! (Except for those fags, will those people never shut up...!)

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Racism is a universal human failing. All people, everywhere, prefer people who look or at least act like them. I'll offer myself up as an example. Despite being born in the age of multiculturalism, I still felt somewhat uneasy when I was the only white male sitting around in computer labs at University. When I moved into the city from the suburbs, it was also a little disconcerting to be surrounded by so many Somalis and Arabs in my new neighborhood. Before, I would have always said "no, there's no racism in me". Now I realize that yes, it is there. It's a primitive sentiment built into us, distrust of things that are "different". The feeling can be controlled, but never eliminated. That's what civilization is, an attempt to put a nice veneer over our primitive selves.

Pointing fingers is also another human failing. Everybody extols the virtue of honesty, but not even the most honest person on earth would truly admit their faults when they can blame someone/something else.

As for the War Museum, while the left-wing was ranting about the fact it talked about war instead of peace, the right-wing was ranting about the fact that they dared show things like Somalia and Rwanda instead of uttering empty platitudes about "the greatest generation" and some such.

If the museum offends both left and right, then I trust that it reflects a truer version of history.

RobfromAlberta said...

I think what separates the US apart from Europe and Canada though, is that America genuinely sees racism as a problem. Europeans talk a good game, but ultimately they seem to believe racism is limited to a fringe component of society, the neo-nazis, which they happily muzzle and pat themselves on the back. Canada, denies the problem even exists.

The US, however, is literally obsessed with race relations. Race seems to permeate every level of society. Presidents compete to see how many minorities they can get in their cabinets. Trials are decided in the court of public opinion based on the race of the accused and/or the victim. It's newsworthy whenever a member of a visible minority does something that hasn't been done before by that particular racial group. You always hear "first black man to...." or "first latino woman to....". No other country is this obsessed with race.

L-girl said...

Kyle, I like what you said a lot. I think confronting our own racism (sexism, homophobia, etc.) is essential to our growth as humans - and then, to society's growth.

Everyone who is part of a dominant group should have the experience of being the minority - or the only one! - at some point. The only hetero person, the only white person, etc. It's a great lesson.

"If the museum offends both left and right, then I trust that it reflects a truer version of history."

Nice. :)

L-girl said...

Rob, it's true that Americans are obsessed with race, that's our legacy of slavery, Jim Crow and the movements that dismantled them.

But to say that most Americans acknowledge or admit racism is still a problem in our country is, I think, a misunderstanding.

Americans know that racism itself is a problem - but that's a problem we don't have anymore. (So think many or most white people.) The "first African-American" syndrome is more self-congratulatory. See? He accomplished this! Problem solved!

David Cho said...

Ventril,

"Many Europeans are still in denial."

That is a curios statement. Aren't most Europeans indigenous, and their nationalities strongly tied with ethnicities?

As a naturalized American citizen from Korea, I can tell you that people in general, except for the most ardent racists, have no problem with the notion of me being an American because most recognize the fact that this country was founded on immigration.

(As a side note, I've had people with liberal leanings, bring up my race in conversation more than I would like. "As a Korean American, how do you feel about..." I think it's intended to "respect my ethnicity." Well, what I do with my ethnicity and how proud I should be of it is my business and none of theirs. Well intended, yes, but it can get extremely annoying.)

But I cannot, for example, imagine becoming "German" because the German nationality is tied to the German ethnicity. Likewise, I cannot imagine a non-Asian person becoming "Korean" without radically changing the defintion of Korean. Would you say that's racist?

Anonymous said...

ALPF Here
I am pretty sure that we sane Canadians are not going to elect a Conservative government. Steven Harper is just way too creepy for most of us here in Ontario.

http://www.metronews.ca/reuters_international.asp?id=73455

L-girl said...

"Aren't most Europeans indigenous, and their nationalities strongly tied with ethnicities?"

Europe is full of immigrants, and people of ethnicities other than the dominant culture. They are not fully accepted, and yet that lack of acceptance is not openly acknowledged. Thus: denial.

For example, people of Pakistani descent who have been in the UK for many generations will still be referred to as "Pakis", even though they are British. British people are thought to be white.

If you're looking for indigenous Europeans, you'd have to find Celts, Scythians, Huns, Visigoths -or maybe the people who built Stonehenge.


"As a naturalized American citizen from Korea, I can tell you that people in general, except for the most ardent racists, have no problem with the notion of me being an American because most recognize the fact that this country was founded on immigration."

In Fort Lee NJ, near where I live, there is tremendous prejudice against Korean-Americans, who are said to be "taking over" an area formerly Italian-American. More recent immigrants hated by second- or third-generation Americans: a very old pattern.

I'm glad you haven't seen it - but it's out there.

Also, I think you might mistake the reasons you haven't encountered prejudice. Your ethnicity is considered "safe" and harmless - one of the "positive stereotypes", if you will. Mexican-Americans, for example, do not have the same experience.

David Cho said...

I don't mean to convey to you that I have not encountered prejudice. One area where the stereotypes hurt a lot is dating. Well, even Asian women have bought every negative stereotype about Asian men and completely ruled them out as prospects. I'd have a much better chance with a daughter of the KKK Grand Wizard than most of these women.

And of course people harbor racism and act out on it in subtle ways which makes it virtually impossible to call them on it. I've seen it and yes, I do it myself. There is a lot of racism within the Korean culture. Lots. I constantly call them out on disparaging comments about blacks and Hispanics, and my relatives have learned to watch their mouths around me.

And I have encountered open hostility because of my race. But in every case, they tend to have major "issues" and racism is just a tip of an ice berg. I end up feeling sorry for them.

Sass said...

Having lived in Canada (Ottawa for the bulk of it) from birth to age 10, then spening 10-18 in lily-white New Hampshire, and 18-22 in diverse South Florida (at one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the stateat that), I definitely have a take on the race discussion here. Bear in mind, being middle class (sloping towards the lower end once I moved to the states) and white, I can't speak as an absolute authority, but rather add my own two cents. I would have to say that out of all three places, Canada was by far the best in term of race relations. While there are definitely a few Canadians (some of my relatives included) who haven't grasped quite how not to be racist fucks, I was raised in an environment where I had friends of many races, and from many different countries. Living in New Hampshire into my teens, I learned how far bigotry can go, to the point where white kids would be calling each other derogatory names based on their ancestry from long ago--ie: the kid whose grandfather was from italy became a "wop" and the kid whose great great grandma was Irish became a "mick" etc. When I got to college, I realized that while a bunch of white racists sitting in the woods is lame, that doesn't hold a candle to what genuine racial tension is like. Where a guy in the DMV suddenly, unprovoked, starts hollering that there are "too many niggers in here" and runs out. Like black kids who went to "white" high school down here talking about not being encouraged to do anything but play sports, being expected to underperform. White kids who went to "black" schools telling me about "cracker day" where any white kid caught off guard would get the shit beaten out of them.
I have to say, while Canadians may whitewash over racism, and that needs to be worked on, growing up in Canada taught me to look at people as individuals, not colors. This may not reflect every Canadian's life experiences, but it truly is a part of my life that I cherish and appreciate.

L-girl said...

David, I see it the same way. The racism within the ethnic community I grew up in, the subtle stuff that's so slippery to pinpoint, the overt stuff that is more pathetic than anything else.

I really relate to what you say here.

And the stereotypes, even among Asian women - yuck!! I remember when I started college - away from home, among a more diverse group of people - and for the first time heard the about the supposed dating practices of Jewish guys and girls. I couldn't imagine choosing dates on the basis of culture, it seemed so reductionist and stupid.

S'Cat: Thanks for this! Great stuff.

B. W. Ventril said...

A couple of things:

David Cho: to echo L-Girl, racism in Europe is both complicated and ongoing. I mean, this is the continent that almost entirely did away with one "other" half a century ago. And I'm not just finger-pointing at the Germans. There was widespread (some might say enthusiastic) complicity in the Holocaust throughout German-occupied Europe.

That aside, most people I've met in, say, the east end of London whose parents are from South Asia grew up having the living crap beaten out of them every single day on the way home from school. And as one friend whose folks are from Pakistan told me, it's only better now because there's safety in numbers.

Re: Canada, regional variation is a factor, as is the urban/rural divide. There's a lot of extremely casual and unthinking racism from many people I've met from, say, rural eastern Ontario. Racism is always different in different places. And don't forget that South Africa's apartheid laws were in part modelled on Canada's reservation system.

Things are in many ways better in Canada, in part I think due to less of an economic divide between rich and poor, and less of an ethnic pattern to that rich/poor divide. But self-congratulation leads to complacency.

David Cho said...

"And the stereotypes, even among Asian women - yuck!!"

Try particularly among Asian women. Read this post and the ensuing discussion. Check out the link called "Whiggie" that I posted. It's kinda dumb and funny.

As to stereotypes related to Jewish and Asian men, Amanda in the thread made an excellent observation. I will paste it here.

"I do agree that there are some very negative stereotypes out there about Asian men when it comes to romance - which is a damned shame. The stereotypes about Asian men bear many similarities to the stereotypes about Jewish men. My theory is, it's just the Man keeping everyone down. If there's a stereotype that your group is smart and ambitious (Asians and Jews), then you are labeled with the stereotype that you're "bad with the ladies". If there's a stereotype that your group is "good with the ladies" (blacks and Latinos), then you are stereotyped as less intelligent under-achievers. The whole thing is dumb. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who bases their dating decisions on such stereotypes isn't worth dating - which leaves unbiased folks with a self-selecting pool of like-minded individuals."

David Cho said...

Thanks, ventril. Very informative.

David Cho said...

Laura,

I think there is something to be said about "the abused becoming the abuser." One would think that those victimised by stereotypes should know better than doing the same to others, but that is often very untrue. So I get really upset when people from my ethnic group make racially idiotic statements and do racially idiotic things, and then bitch about stereotypes perpetuated against them. Well, f'em. They deserve everything they get.

And also, because of the sensitive nature of racism and given how defensive people can get, it's better when people call out others within the same ethnic group as opposed to when accusations are leveled from the outside. It's more effective when say, whites call out other whites, Asians other Asians, but sadly we fail to see the log in our own eyes.

David Cho said...

Dang, Laura. Sorry for anothe posting. I've been posting more on other people's blog than my own lately. After this I REALLY gotta go. Geez.

"I couldn't imagine choosing dates on the basis of culture, it seemed so reductionist and stupid. "

One only has to look at the divorce rate in this country to affirm your statement (not to mention the fact that 50% of those who stay married are very unhappy). Not to say that dating and marrying out of one's culture is the answer, but people's dating patterns are very reductionist and stupid in many different ways. And it shows. Especially in divorce lawyers' wallets.

L-girl said...

David, good post from Amanda. She's right!

Re abused becoming abuser, I've thought a lot about this. My parents believed that Jews, as a people historically persecuted, had a duty to be egalitarian and support civil rights. Yet I frequently saw bigotry within my own family (though of course it was always explained away). It always drove me nuts.

Then on the other hand, I wonder, is it fair to hold different people to different standareds? That is, Jews are people, racism is a very common failing, so Jews are as likely to be racist (or non-racist) as anyone else. It's wrong, but is it more wrong?

I have no conclusion about this, just a thought.

I agree with what you say about criticism from the inside. Likewise, I can make generalizations about Jews or New Yorkers, but I don't like when other people do. I know that's the case for many people and whatever groups they identify with. Half the (mediocre) stand-up comedy out there is based on that principle.

L-girl said...

Never any need to apologize for chatting! Though I should certainly be working too...

You're absolutely right about stupid and reductionist reasons for marriage and relationships. I would also add the concept of lifelong monogamy may have outlived its usefulness. It's an idea that may no longer work for many people in the modern world.

"Til death do you part" was never meant to be 60 years. People didn't live that long, women died in childbirth, a marriage only had to last an average 20 years or so. Many people have two or three decent marraiges over the course of their lives, because at different ages, they want different things and have different needs.

So I don't see the high divorce rate only as failure, but also as realism.

And now I am getting back to work!!

Lone Primate said...

I believe that the citizens of the European Union would be best served if the next expansion of the EU was not to the east but rather to the west, to incorporate Canada...

It's a pipe dream, but I have to admit, not one that would really displease me. The last six or seven years have increasingly impressed on me just how different Canadians, by and large, are getting from Americans... again, by and large. I know a lot of blue staters and they're easy to identify with. But the problem is, they won the Civil War. They're stuck with a bunch of red staters who increasingly call the shots, and they don't play fair. It's hard to be friendly with the US when its government is really being elected and run by the people among its citizenry who are the most xenophobic, reactionary, belligerent, and plainly insensitive to the suffering of others. I don't know why, but there's something about the ethos in the US (or maybe in the world generally) that the closer you get to the equator, the more willing people are to let you suffer whatever Fate has dealt you. If you're poor, it's because you pissed off God and He wants you to suffer... or something. Anyway, this seems to me to be the mindset that runs the US these days.

Europe's not perfect either, but that kind of attitude doesn't seem to be typical. They're more willing to help each other out, more willing to use the carrot than the stick when dealing with others outside the EU, and they don't seem to be amassing everyone they possibly can as enemies. In short, they're a lot more like us... or at least, the way Canadians are used to thinking of themselves. Given the alarming balance of trade deficits the US has been running for years, I wish to God we were in the EU or at least working hard to diversify our trade. I think we're all in for trouble sooner or later.

L-girl said...

The last six or seven years have increasingly impressed on me just how different Canadians, by and large, are getting from Americans. ... It's hard to be friendly with the US when its government is really being elected and run by the people among its citizenry who are the most xenophobic, reactionary, belligerent, and plainly insensitive to the suffering of others.

Both these issues are big themes here at wmtc. I agree with you fully, and I'm forever blogging about it.

The only caveat I'll throw in - and I know I'm being picky, but it's important to me - is that the US really isn't divided into blue and red states. The people may be divided, but the division doesn't fit neatly into states.

Upstate New York is very conservative. Many working families in Texas are liberal. David Cho and Crabletta can tell you about the conservatives in California. Etc. etc.

Which is not to say I don't agree with you, because I do.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

You're right, the divide in the U.S. is really urban/rural.

It's just the rural states look red, and urban states look blue.

Up here, the divide isn't as regional as it sounds either. If we had proportional representation, the regional divides would seem to dissappear.

Of course, we'd also never have a majority government, because no party ever makes it even close to 50% support. Whether majority governments are a good thing is a matter of opinion (I'm now in the "not a good thing" camp)

Sassypants said...

I started to write a response about some of the stuff discussed here, and it really just sort of snowballed into a blog entry. A really really long one. So, go read it there, if you'd like.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Dan Taylor on Canada petitioning the EU. Canada's policies and Canadians' overall values are a good fit with the European Union, aka Europa. As a visible minority, I see this suggestion as a positive move.