Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Your Choice of "Canadian Values"


(The) two basic strategies are: on the right, "People are swine -- endorse my position, or join them in my estimation"; and on the left, "people are essentially good at heart, can't you see that, you sick fool?" -- David Mamet "Bambi vs Godzilla"

There have always seemed to be two solitudes in Canada. First it was French and English. Then it was East and West. Now it's Left and Right.

We lost our bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council Tuesday, polling fewer votes than Germany and Portugal.

The days leading up to the vote were marked by Liberal Party of Canada leader Michael Ignatieff urging the UN's member nations to deny his country this international honor to illustrate the world's displeasure with us and particularly the foreign policy initiatives of the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

This struck me as somewhat petty.

Imagine, if you will, that Mr. Ignatieff was a Toronto Maple Leaf fan (which he could well be since he more or less hails from there right now). And let's say his beloved Leafs were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Finals by the Montreal Canadiens who then went on to face either Phoenix or Nashville for the mug, both teams a lot of us feel should rightfully be housed up here.

Piqued that his hated rival might snag some Glory, would Mike be telling the rest of the world to cheer against the Canadiens?

Well given that he wouldn't want to alienate the Quebec vote, of course he wouldn't. But I guess he felt it was okay to alienate those who might like to see Canada receive a little more recognition on the international scene.

Of course, the more rabid of Conservatives blamed Ignatieff for the loss, giving him far greater credit than he probably deserved. But it was the media coverage following the vote by the completely unbiased CBC that caught my attention.

CBC Journalists continually made the point that several nations (predominantly in the Middle East and Africa) were indeed unhappy with Canada. In the Middle East because of our recent condemnations of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah and refusal to embrace the concept of Israeli Apartheid. And in Africa by those who don't like how much harder the present government has made it for them to collect foreign aid.

The vote was followed by what felt like an interminably long Liberal Party press conference where the point was repeatedly made that we have drifted very far from the traditional "Canadian values" the rest of the world has come to know and love.

For those of you a little fuzzy on what those particular values are (or were) they can be best summed up by a famous Canadian beer commercial you can find here. Basically, we're not Americans, we don't live in igloos, we're proud of being Peacekeepers -- and we like our beverages homebrewed and cold.

Occasionally a clip would appear with a representative of the government stating that we lost because the Harper Conservatives refused to compromise their  "Canadian values" of supporting human rights, defending the only democracy in the Middle East and making sure our foreign aid dollars were wisely spent.

As you can see, we have two widely different ideas of what constitutes "Canadian values" these days.

CBC followed the press conference with its regular schedule of early evening round table discussions, continuing to exhibit its lack of bias by interviewing panels comprised of former Liberal cabinet ministers and UN Ambassadors as well as foreign policy experts from the other party of the Left, the NDP.

The discussions mostly confirmed that the rest of the world doesn't like us much anymore because of our "mean-spirited" government, which doesn't reflect those traditional "Canadian values" of peace-keeping, not being American and not offending Middle East extremists or corrupt African dictators too much.

I don't think the igloo thing was really all that important to anybody.

Overall, the point was we're being especially un-Canadian by not saying "Sorry" to as many people it isn't our fault we upset as we used to.

These hours of discussion meant that the CBC didn't cover three stories which were being reported widely elsewhere today.

1. Police in Thailand made 155 arrests in cracking a human trafficking ring preparing to ship a freighter loaded with Tamils to Canada.

You may recall that a couple of months ago a similar ship arrived in British Columbia where our "mean-spirited" government didn't welcome them with open arms because they weren't sure if they were refugees or Tamil Tiger terrorists or victims of human trafficking.

Despite the fact that nobody on the ship could ID either the Captain or any member of the crew, according to CBC Journalists and their roundtables, the government actions did not reflect our traditional "Canadian values."

2. The last session of Parliament was marked by acrimonious debate as opposition MPs and Senators attempted to prevent several tough-on-crime bills from becoming law. These MPs and Senators pointed to Statscan crime statistics showing an annual decline in the crime rate as proof such laws were just "mean-spirited" and counter to traditional "Canadian values".

However, it seems the real numbers, when not being parsed or spun reveal that violent crime is actually up 316% and overall crime up 131%.

Odd how CBC spent most of the summer defending the necessity of gathering statistics and then doesn't report findings as stunning as these.

3. A few months ago, Michael Ignatieff made a point of not offending China by bringing up human rights abuses during a trip to Beijing. And despite being one of the first to congratulate Barack Obama on his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, he still hasn't said a word about the one just awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

I guess, in the end, it comes down to whose version of "Canadian values" you embrace. And I know it's hard for a lot of people to give much consideration to the values of those long depicted as being on the lunatic fringe of Canadian politics and especially the people who'd vote for them.

People like those who live in Brock, Saskatchewan near the border of "red-neck" Alberta and who continue to elect Conservative Members of Parliament. Before that, they even elected candidates from the even more evil, insensitive and "mean-spirited" Reform Party.

What urban dwelling, politically correct and/or sensitive Canadian could ever share the "Canadian values" people like that embody?


Last month, 29 year old Owen Strutt of Brock, Saskatchewan, already banged up from a rough summer, promised his elderly parents Lois and Ken that somehow, some way, he'd get the harvest in. Unfortunately, Owen was killed in a truck rollover two weeks ago, apparently after swerving to miss a wild animal crossing a lonely country road.

His parents were devastated, of course. Doubly devastated, since they would lose this year's entire income along with their only son.

But their neighbors wouldn't let that happen.

And last weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, 30 of them left their own families and turned up at the Strutt farm and in one very long day took the entire wheat crop off 1000 acres.

Others in the community stored the grain and brought meals to the men working the fields.

If we really have two different sets of "Canadian values" in this country, one espoused by politicians and one somewhat opposite that is reflected by the actions and character of a bunch of prairie "red-necks", I think I know exactly which one I'm more likely to embrace.


DMc said...

Dear Jim,

Even Hitler loved kitties.

And the bullshit continues.

I have a hard time deciding if the main sin in this post are the false dichotomies (to cherry pick one fine example of right-thinkin as the height of your rhetoric is a bit beneath you, unless you think it would be impossible to find some Liberal-voting pinkoes in Fredricton who also, you know, gave a shit about their neighbours.

But no, I think the main problem here is the clear cum hoc ergo propter hoc of the whole argument.

Which is to say, I see very well that the Cons believe Liberal badmouthing scotched Canada's chances. And Libs believe that Harper's departure from standard Canadian values did the same.

But correlation is not causation, Jim. And the reality is that I doubt the great thinkers who voted today were much influenced by either. Once again, Canada vastly overestimates the amount of time and energy people -- especially foreign people -- ESPECIALLY foreign diplomatic people -- spend thinking about them.

So you gin together a couple of CBC examples that you think prove the bias, you tsk tsk over Iggy's smearing of your guy, and then say you'd rather be with the people who brought the hay in.

Well great.

But there's a guy on the other side who could change the incidents, sub in National Post or CTV and cherrypick some warmhearted incident and we'd be in exactly the same place.

Over a result that most likely had very little to do with either.

Not one of your finer rants, Captain.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. The part about the crime statistics is garbage though - that columnist is comparing to the first year stats were kept. Not much of a useful measure.

Anyway, other than that, good job pointing out some hypocrisy in the political scene! I always enjoy the analysis.

-T Smith

Anonymous said...

Funny, sir, how you complain about "two solitudes" driving Canadians apart -- and yet you continue to push that same drivel.

Your 'redneck' analogy only reinforces American kool-aid mentality about 'real' people and 'real' values. C'mon. This is the best you can do to articulate and defend Harper's failure on the world stage?

Your analogy doesn't even make sense or compare to the matter at hand. All that shines through, again, is your cloying conservative bias.

I'm done with you.

Anonymous said...

No trust in Lorrie Goldstein, I'm afraid.

jimhenshaw said...

Normally, I don't respond to comments, feeling I've had my say and now it's somebody else's turn.

But I found the reactions to this post a little surprising. So, at the risk of offending some people further (which was never my original intent) here goes:

Did everybody understand that Mamet quote?

Doesn't pick a side just says here's how both operate. I haven't heard from anybody on the Right yet (perhaps proof in itself of their definition) but that " sick fool" part is definitely resonating from some other quarters.

Did I really say that "red-necks" were the only real people or the right kind of people or somehow better than anybody else?

Or did I simply ask if those who oppose the party they vote for couldn't possibly share the same values those "red-necks" put into action in the final anecdote?

Is somebody from the Right or Alberta somehow better than somebody from Fredricton who votes Liberal? Of course not.

Was I asking why one group is continually demonized on our national broadcaster? Yeah.

What point or whose agenda does that serve? Anybody?

Since this is a blog primarily concerned with Canadian TV and the CBC now is regularly accessed by only 7% of the population -- could there be a case made for not pissing on (or off) those folks as much? I hope so.

Was I "continuing to push" two solitudes or pointing out that doing that seems to be the primary interest of some of our politicians?

And maybe the state media as well?

Some of you didn't like Lorrie Goldstein's column. Fine. But it was a subject reported and discussed on other news services.

So was the human trafficking story and the Nobel prize story.

But not on the CBC.

Busy news day? Maybe. But the impression given by Newsworld was almost "Damn the Chilean Miners, full speed ahead on the UN snub!"

They were like a dog with a bone all day at the expense of reporting almost anything else.

Is that why nobody watches CBC News?

Shouldn't somebody be asking if this is a national news service or a debating society for political elites?

A few months ago, I also read a great blog post about a culture developing in the world where if somebody doesn't like the same movies or music as you, there's something seriously wrong with them.

Interesting, that...


Anonymous #2 -- sorry to see you go, although apparently we weren't even on a first name basis.

DMc -- you and I go around a lot about this stuff and you know I truly respect your opinions.

Maybe this post wasn't as clear and concise as it should have been. Maybe it deserved a next day revision.

And you're completely correct that nobody at the UN gives us much thought.

I also believe I clearly stated our loss had nothing to do with Michael Ignatieff.

I guess I was just hoping he hadn't felt the need to ask the rest of the world to beat up one of our own -- not because he can't but because he won't.

Mr. Ignatieff has had any number of opportunities to force Mr. Harper into an election and has always seemed to back away and maybe consider his own political hide first.

If somebody wants to vote for a guy who won't meet with the Dalai Lama or praise a Nobel Prize winner for fear of offending China, that's their choice.

If they don't want a guy willing to compromise his principles to get a deal done, that would seem to be fair too.

Maybe that's something we should settle at home.

And Hitler loved dogs. Kittens not so much.

Anonymous said...

Well Jim, I got your point, but it did take a few readings. Then again, I do share your rather cloying conservative bias, so that made it easier.

I do find it funny that when the left tells us that we should be more independent, they mean (but rarely say) we should become more anti-American.

Here, we try to be independent, telling the Islamic and Arab goons who give that kitty-loving Hitler a good run the Final Solution Sweepstakes, and those freedom lovin' African dictators to kiss our beaver, and, apparently, we got it wrong.

Jesus, I remember when you couldn't even look at a bottle of wine that had the remains of a single grape in it that spent some of its life in a South African vineyard without being labeled an apartheid apologist.

Now, unless we bend over and grab our ankles to placate the very states who commit crimes that are at the very least equal to, if not worse than apartheid, we aren't being team players.

The UN is a joke. Any organization that has Libya on a panel discussing human rights can't be anything but.

I'm sure Portugal will be happy and able to replace the Canadian troops in Afghanistan, right? Maybe they can can send over some guys who committed atrocities in Angola. The Taliban might understand stuff like that better than "soft power", whatever the hell that is.

As for right vs. left, I can't say it better than PJ O'Rourke: conservatives say you shouldn't make fun of cripples. Liberals say you can't.

Dwight Williams said...

One of the major points to Canada's existence was - and in many parts, still is - to provide at least an alternative to the American Way.

(Granted that the highest-ranking Britons of the 1770's and their local colonial supervisors hereabouts back then had an outright removal from this life in mind for the likes of Washington and company at first. Some things just shouldn't work out as planned, and that was one of them.)

The UN may be a joke to some, but to others, it's the one thing we need to have to make sure we don't have a Third World War. Anything else we get out of it to the good of us all is gravy on top of the potatoes. Or chili sauce, if that's your preference. I'd prefer to see how much of the metaphorical gravy - and other goodies, like more universally respected human rights, reduced starvation, lack of impunity for tyrants, etc. - can be had so long as we've got the UN and its associated institutions in play.

That's going to be an ongoing project. As in "centuries, not years or months".

Dwight Williams said...

And as for the difference between liberals and conservatives as you define it?

I have no problem with it. I always hated bullies anyway.