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)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Canadian politics? Not too divided, just extremely small

Canada is a delight for landscape artists, bank regulators, and fans of wellness and urban statistics. It is—as it is—a very good place. Why, just this week, the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune declared “Canada Cool.” Is there anyone alive who’s ever read an editorial as extravagant and as uncritical of the US of A?

Yet, it doesn’t make me feel better.

If you have significant complaints, see that political action elsewhere can lead to genuine change, and believe that the world needs effective nations as well as smart cities, then Canada still feels small—even as the days grow longer.    

Even the way proud Canadians respond to flattery is demeaning.

Canada’s oldest progressive paper, Toronto Star, responded to the Tribune’s flattery with the headline: “Top 10 reasons Chicago Tribune loves Canada.” It emphasizes possibly the weakest cliché:

“In calling our country a ‘rising star’ among nations, the editorial says that ‘the tail is wagging the dog in North America’ in economic activity, although it is good for both countries.”

It didn’t go on to acknowledge that that busy "tail" is attached to a commodity boom—a fickle puppy, to be sure.

And, most revealing, it didn’t go on to quote the part of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial that could be of some (dare I say?) political value.

“A lingering frustration is the Obama administration's opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, an important cross-border infrastructure project needed to move oil from Canada to U.S. refineries and beyond.”

While telling Obama to get on with it, the Chicago Tribune noted that Canadians “can take solace” in the National Hockey League’s return to the ice.

There you have it: In Canada, when your dog can’t sit still, it can chase a stick. The proud Star missed the point.

Canada does many things very well; parts of Canada are more successful than many parts of the United States. It raises and rewards first-rate writers, creators, regulators, and athletes. However, as a political actor on this continent, Canada hasn’t had a new idea since the 19th century. It makes no demands of its neighbor and asks relatively little of itself.

When we’re reminded that we’re stalled on an array of social justice indicators, we tell ourselves that the US is getting old, too.

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