Oscar Wilde said “patriotism is the virtue of the vicious”.
On Canada Day, Past Jody wouldn’t stand for that kind of talk.
Present Day Jody, on the other hand, says “it’s complicated”.
Recently, I told some (younger) friends that I was moving to part of town that has a reputation for being rather dull.
The response? “That’s where people go to get old and die, Jody.” (Or words to that effect).
There’s a trope in North American popular culture: youthful exuberance, if not impudence. We love the kind of destructive, short-sighted, egocentric behaviour that’s typically associated with younger bodies and greater stamina.
The crazy nights out, the ensuing debauchery, and the hangovers afterwards. The fast cars and jet skis and trucks with oversized tires, the lack of even a shred of personal responsibility for the most basic functions. The entitlement. Loud music.
That’s us. We live for that stuff.
By contrast, silence, functionality, responsibility, good bodily and mental health, quiet nights in, the contemplation of gardens and birds and all those things that overworked younger people shell out four figures to half-ass experience at weekend retreats…that’s considered dull. Stuffy. Things old people like.
I want to think that last one is also Canada. Dull. Stuffy. Boring.
No “Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness”. No stirring “Marseillaise”. (Yes, “God Save the Queen”, but that’s going away with each passing year).
Literally, our unofficial motto — and that of other former British Dominions — is “peace, order, and good government”. Our reputation as a bland yet good looking middle power (the “Kevin Costner of nations”, as Will Ferguson put it) finds its justification in such facts about us.
It’s not, of course.
We’ve got a colourful and troubled history, but my off-the-cuff guess is that we’ve also historically had a lack of good history teachers in the education systems or just really lazy PR people in our global tourism bureaus (or both), otherwise we’d have shaken off that reputation long ago.
We are learning (and, let’s face it, re-learning) that history, and anyone with even half a conscience cannot like what they see.
With more eyes and ears now than ever before, we are also seeing conditions of people and peoples still alive today, and not liking what we see. Anyone who does, or who can defend such conditions under any pretext, lacks a moral compass.
And yet, Canadians have a good home: I would assert, the best in the world, as measured by daily lived experience for many of us. Interviewing a Syrian refugee restaurant owner a few months ago, he’d remarked about how he’d wanted to come to Canada to make sure his children would grow up in peace and happiness. There are reasons why people want to come here from everywhere, so it can’t be all bad.
As such, Canada is not exceptional in one regard: we still face that same existential question currently befalling nearly all the countries that won World War II.
Namely, how do we balance the present-day legacies of a dark past with the promises of a vastly-better future?
How do we see our home for all that it is…and love it anyway?
My oft-asked question is “what is the world you want to have?” Well, what’s the Canada you want to have? That I want to have?
I could throw out a handful of adjectives that would mark me as a virtuous person in the eyes of all those who read it, but the fact is, I do like 90% of the Canada that I get to experience thanks to my privileges. Those parts can stay.
What I want is for every person in Canada to have the equal outcome of the basics needed to live life, and the equal opportunity to grow and develop as they see fit. I want everyone to experience what I experience and more.
To do that, those of us who have what we have need to give more than we do. I’m not talking so much philanthropy and donations as I am voting ballots, picket signs, and purchasing decisions.
I’m talking actions and administrations that are based in public outcomes bigger and more functional than selfish, egocentric gains and indulgences.
I want a Canada that’s solved so many of its systemic problems that life here becomes a little dull. Low to no crime, no police brutality, actual racial harmony, sane and equitable power structures, and a thriving ecology.
A place where people do go to die…and live very well for many years before that happens.
Until then, I love my somewhat boring home, and I want everyone here to feel at home in it. My past and present experiences to date, and that bright future for many others that lies ahead should we find the shared will to go there, is what I’ll be celebrating today.
Jody Aberdeen is the author of several novels and novellas, including the upcoming “Variations of Paris”. He is also a professional ghostwriter, book writing consultant, host of The Ghostwriter and Pup Podcast and a few other things, none the least of which is a happy Canadian living in Hamilton, Ontario with his dog Bella. Learn more about Jody at www.jodyaberdeen.com.