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Johannes Wheeldon, Ph.D Headshot

The Closing of the Canadian Mind? Readers Respond

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Last week I wrote a tongue-in-cheek missive that examined the narrow-mindedness that has become increasingly common in the Canadian body politic over the last few years.

By using Jeff Foxworthy's famous laugh line, the piece offered a few observations about views that are inconsistent with the open, tolerant, and multicultural Canada where I was raised. Luckily many readers offered their feedback and made what might have been a one-sided rant into a far more interesting conversation. Most readers seemed to agree that the narrow-mindedness I reported was a new and worrying development. They offered some great additions to my first five signs that you might be a small-minded Canadian.

Here are some of my favorites:

- "If you want to simplify complex ideas and issues into talking points and slogans."

- "If you think we should be more like Americans."

- "If you believe that the end of the long-gun registry will 'return your constitutional right to bear arms'."

- "If you don't believe being proudly Canadian requires you to care for the rest of Canada."

- "If you are 'sick of paying taxes' and think 'Coalition' is a swear word."

- "You still think trickle-down economics works -- even while observing our neighbour's meltdown."

- "If you favor ideology over outcome."

- "If you are for individual rights except when you don't like what other individuals are doing."

- "If you don't see a bicycle as a practical solution for the daily commute."

- "If you want to punish children for having bad parents."

- "If you believe that Canada is a Christian country founded on freedom and democracy."

- "When an accident, injustice or tragedy befalls someone you immediately start talking about 'personal responsibility.'"

Not everyone agreed of course. Some readers disputed my characterization that Canadians are small-minded and blamed the lame stream media for the 2011 election outcome. For example:

"A shift of less than 2% of the vote would have kept Harper from majority power, yet you're making it sound like ALL Canadians have embraced.... Harper's political immoralities and values... You're equating ALL Canadians with 39% of the electorate, a good chunk of that hypnotized by the media that looks the other way and excuses Harper's illegalities."

And

"CANADIANS did not 'reward' Harper with a majority, that was done by the press (who gave him a free ride, and other than one single paper endorsed him from country to country despite his excesses and arrogance), and by the bullying tactics and accompanying Elections Canada rulings which kept young people from campus polling stations or even the right to campaign on campus."

Others suggested this narrow-mindedness was not new. For example:

"Traveling to Canada often and seeing how the nation has taken a sharp change to the right, I think a more accurate title would be 'You might be Canadian if...'"

And

"I daresay if you went up to adjoining parts of BC like Nelson and even redneck Trail and said the things you're saying here you'd be laughed out of the room (more likely jeered and booed)."

Some readers took an explicitly partisan view and equated small-mindedness with the PM and Conservative Party. Offerings included:

- "If you think conservatives are better at spending your money..."

- "If you think conservatives will keep you safer..."

- "If you think Stephen Harper is good for Canada..."

Still others accused me of being a partisan myself by trying to link my views with one party or another. Some suggested I was calling ALL conservative voters simple-minded and was accusing others of faults I myself possess. These included:

- "If you think 'conservative good and liberal bad' or vice versa..."

- "If you call people who don't agree with you small-minded..."

This last contribution is a pretty good little line. It would perhaps be better if one accepts that progressives need to adopt the same foundational assumptions that liberals have. I do not. While my views about the incompatibility of pragmatism and liberalism deserves more detailed discussion than is possible at present, for now let me try and answer a question posed through the comment section.

A reader, noting the success of small-mindedness as part of conservative political strategies asked, "What is the answer? We need one...fast (in Ontario anyway)."

I do not know the answer, but at least part of the answer requires progressives to ask some rather basic questions about what they believe and why. Here are a few starters. I hope folks will contribute as before and make this the beginning of a longer conversation. For now...

You might be a progressive Canadian if:

1. You believe that facts and reason guided by the scientific tradition provides the best (although still imperfect) means to form defensible opinions about the world.

2. You demand transparent, accountable, and connected political decision-making over processes that are centralized, closed-door, and clandestine.

3. You recognize and embrace the idea that no one makes money without the investments of previous generations and the support of those around them.

4. You believe in equality of meaningful opportunity, not equality of outcomes.

5. You tolerate and try to respect different views, practices, and sexual orientations and positions (gasp) -- however you can NEVER tolerate intolerance.

What say you?

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