Fading blues – the decline of the Tory tradition in Canada since the 1980s (Part Five)
By Mark Wegierski
Canadian nationalism has historically manifested itself though two main communal identities, the British and the French. It could be argued that what is found today in the Liberal and New Democratic Parties is an advanced and elaborate form of "doublethink" -- simultaneously embracing Canadian "nationalism" (defined in an almost entirely liberal and left-wing way), and the excesses of multiculturalism, which tend to vitiate any sense of real Canadian identity.
What is nationalism? One of the more usual definitions of the goals of nationalism is in terms of an effective foreign policy; a large and well-equipped military; and evocative traditional state-symbols and institutions, which strongly bind the nation together. One might well ask what sort of nationalism have the Liberals given Canada since the 1960s? It could be seen as gutless neutralism, practical disarmament, and the undermining of almost all traditional symbols and institutions.
It may not be a good sign for the condition of Canada or Quebec that considerable numbers of Quebecois nationalists think they can separate from Canada – and leave the military under Canadian jurisdiction! It is one of most elementary concepts in politics that an independent state must maintain the monopoly on the use of force within its boundaries. If that degree of “postmodern” ambiguity is possible today on the part of some Quebecois nationalists, surely there can be prospects for various other, far less drastic, conditions of ambiguity that will allow Quebec to remain part of Canada. This seemed to be what Mario Dumont and the ADQ had been working towards.
A corollary of a more robust nationalism is what has been mentioned in an earlier article: cultural sovereignty. The absurdity of those who typically call themselves Canadian nationalists today, is highlighted by their definition of the term “cultural sovereignty” -- which they still sometimes use. They mean to refer to almost anything produced by what have been called Canada’s “cultural industries.” Yet the arbiters of current-day Canadian culture have almost entirely cut themselves off from Canada’s more authentic roots. It could be argued that the current-day Canadian so-called “high culture” – as far as its natively English-speaking Canadian component -- has virtually no authentic existence outside of a few, narrow, mostly Toronto- and Vancouver-based “arts cliques.” Precisely because it has cut itself off from its roots, this inauthentic culture simply has to be heavily subsidized by all levels of government.
At the same time, it could be argued that there is now virtually one unified “North American” (U.S. and Canada) pop-culture, driven mostly by Hollywood. The mavens of Canadian culture today usually think that “the response” to Hollywood – insofar as they feel the need to differentiate themselves from America -- is to be even more antinomian, even more “edgy”, even more “politically-correct”, than Hollywood. Thus, today’s typical Canadian books, visual and plastic art, public architecture, plays, popular music, television shows, and news programs could be characterized as quite similar to America’s – only worse (from the standpoint of a more traditional view of Canadian culture).
The CBC has made a prominent television special celebrating Louis Riel (whom it is rather difficult to see as a real Canadian hero), yet there has never been a major epic movie or television special made about Sir Isaac Brock, who died saving this country from an American invasion. It is currently little known that the campaigns of Sir Isaac Brock and his Indian ally, Tecumseh (1) are studied to this day as examples of military achievement. (Ironically, it’s possible that those achievements are better known to Americans, especially those studying military history, than to Canadians.) And then they wonder at the CBC why Canadian culture is on the verge of disappearing.
To be continued.
(1) The extent to which many of the Aboriginal peoples were once friendly to the British Crown has now been almost entirely forgotten.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.