Sixty per cent of those who bothered to cast a ballot last May likely woke up the morning after unable to believe Canada's new political reality. While the majority of Canadians now know the feeling of many Americans after the 2004 re-election of George W, the suggestion, "Do not mourn, organize!" seems simplistic. Indeed, preparing for 2014/15 requires first that progressives learn the lessons of 2011 -- and recognize what Mr. Harper's win means for Canada and Canadians.
One observation is that the political consciousness of Canadians appears to have changed drastically. Some readers may recall when the 1993 attack ad focusing on Chretien's face was firmly rebuffed in Canada. Less than 20 years later, our new majority government has embraced character assassination and the politics of personal destruction as a legitimate campaign strategy. They have pursued a mean-spirited public policy and attacked those who have the temerity to disagree with them.
Over the last five years, the Harper conservatives committed a series of crimes against the People's Parliament and dismissed the increasing concern expressed by noted constitutional scholars as so much noise. However, it was not only the traditional corporate mainstream media who formally endorsed these actions. By rewarding Conservatives with a majority, Canadians themselves have expressly and/or at least tacitly consented to this approach to politics and governance. What are we to make of these developments?
In the UK, a sketch comedy show called Little Britain pokes fun at those who inhabit "little England." This is a term historically associated with anti-colonialism, but is now applied to English people who are regarded as overly nationalistic and increasingly xenophobic. It's comedic potential is somewhat undercut however by the policies of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the rise of the English Defense League (EDL), both of whom profess to stand up for the rights of "ordinary" British and against foreigners generally, and the rise of Islam more specifically. The EDL is now claiming to be the protector of Britain and sending members into the streets to deter rioters. The extent to which the riots are being used as part of the UK's "multicultural malaise" bodes ill for a more in-depth understanding of the complexity of these multi-city events.
It may, unfortunately, be a sign of the times. Canada, once a middle power with noble ideals today seems smaller somehow and increasingly petty. The news that the PM locked himself in a bathroom during a recent trade mission to Brazil seems a perfect metaphor for a country once at home in the world, and now reduced to pouting in the potty when things don't go our way. While name calling is rarely useful, it may be cathartic in the short run to say what you see. To paraphrase that great philosopher Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a Small-Minded Canadian (SMC) if:
1. You think spending time being successful outside of Canada is a character flaw.
2. You think the threat of Quebec separatism was awful, but the Alberta "firewall" was A-OK.
3. Although you are the product of immigrants, you now want to close to the door to other more "ethnic" immigrants.
4. You think bilingualism is a plot to employ undeserving "frenchies."
5. You favour superstition over science, ideology over evidence, and ego over empathy.
So what do you think? Are we witnessing the closing of the Canadian mind? Can you improve on the list above? What about the Alberta tar sands, G20 protests, and prison instead of prevention?
If you feel so moved, please fill in the blank in the comments section below. Depending on the response, the results will be re-posted next week.
"If you (fill in the blank), you might be a Small-Minded Canadian."