Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Canada’s survival: what’s love got to do with it?

Activists who had an especially good time in the '60s often complain that young people now don’t have the passion that they had in the good old days, that with their smaller dreams big Canada will eventually disappear. The human heart and the lifespan of the Canadian federation has become a peculiar obsession of defeated Liberals, especially Michael Ignatieff.
While his suggestion to the BBC (Click on: that Canada will eventually fall apart out of “mutual indifference” has been scorned, his concern that that the old passion necessary to keep us united may be missing is taken seriously. In short, Ignatieff survives again as a thinker.   
John Ivison writes in the National Post, “Ignatieff tells it like it is on Quebec.”
“Love, we are told, is a mix of intimacy, passion and commitment. It seems to me there is no great love for Canada in Quebec - and, judging by the rising demands for autonomy in Alberta, the thrill has gone for many in the West.”
Margaret Wente writes in the Globe and Mail, “Michael Ignatieff was right about Quebec.”
“He’s right. Our generation embraced the French fact with passion. It was what distinguished Canada from the rest of the world. The existence of Quebec – the language! the culture! – made us feel cosmopolitan and sexy.”
On a quiet day, there is no denying that Canadians feel great pride, mutual benefit, collective security—but there's little love from shore to shore. Without feeling sexy extra-territorially, are Canada’s provinces, in Ignatieff’s words, merely parked as “way stations” on a road that leads to independence?
History and, surely, Ignatieff's liberal faith argue otherwise.
Free peoples are not destined to play national politics in units exclusively bound by love.
Otherwise, the lose federations of North America would have never matured in the first place—or survived the religious, language, and economic strains of the 19th and 20th centuries. (Both united federations have just spent ten years fighting an unpopular war in the Middle East, after a century of world wars at others' behest.) Also, Europeans would be electing national fascist governments again, if mutual self-interest and civility weren’t uppermost in people’s thinking.
Actually, Canada and the US are relatively easy to govern when their regions are rather indifferent toward each other. “Mutual indifference” has been successfully addressed by forceful leadership, compelling external challenges, and mutual self-interest.
While federations don’t impress romantics, they’re good at addressing great opportunities and challenges that loving little nations must leave to others.

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