Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tearing Down the Myths in Canada's Cultural Wars

With so much talk of Canada's "culture wars" these days, it's difficult to identify the enemies.

I find myself observing people when I'm out, and detect nothing in the way of open hostility, and yet it is there. It's there when I read message boards or comments at the end of online articles.

But more importantly, it's there from our own government. They are openly hostile toward anyone who doesn't agree with them, and their list of enemies continues to grow.

"University Types", "Taliban Dupes", "Just Visiting", Elitists", "Artists in Ivory Towers".... the list goes on.

I attended the Michael Ignatieff lunch in Kingston yesterday and he said something that sums it up well. He suggested that Stephen Harper's problem is that "he doesn't look for the best in Canadians but seeks out the worst". That is very astute.

The nature of neoconservativism is to tap into the worst elements of human nature, and build a movement around that.

When Ernest Manning tried to create a federal party of the right-wing, by entering into a coalition with the Progressive Conservatives, he was turned down flat. He and his son, decided that the time wasn't right, and Preston said that they would have to wait until the next wave of "anger", before they could fulfil their dream*. But a party built on anger, only creates an angry party, and we see evidence of that everyday.

Yesterday, someone was distributing a T-Shirt outside the restaurant's courtyard, that was a mock up of the old "just visiting" only adding "tour", and on the back, the web address of their juvenile 'Ignatieff me' site. (I countered with one of my own)

One photographer approached and when he read the shirt just rolled his eyes and walked away.

Canadians are not engaged in a culture war against each other. We know what the real Canadian culture is, and we embrace it. So instead of playing to their base and seeking out the worst in Canadians, this government needs to stop their toxic partisanship and start paying attention, or they are going to find that "base" a very narrow base indeed.

Glenn Pearson, the Liberal MP from London, Ontario, posted on his blog today:
There were an unusual amount of responses to yesterday’s blog concerning willful ignorance, with the vast majority expressing their concern that hyper-partisanship has overtaken both the public and political space in Canada. One friend – a sincere Conservative – states the partisanship and absolutism have grown to such a degree that he has taken to “spamming” many of his own party’s blogs and emails because of the extremism resident within the language. He closed one paragraph by cautioning: “You present a radical but refreshing approach to solving issues that are ripping at the heart of our precious country. For the many that cannot accept radical change, you present a problem.” It’s a sad statement of the times that I can’t mention my friend’s name lest he be ripped apart by the radical fringe of his own party.

I wonder how many Conservatives feel the same way, about the direction their party is going. I used to be a PC, but when they folded in 2003, I was left without a home.

I voted NDP for the next two elections, but then I read Michael Ignatieff's book: The Rights Revolution, and realized that this man understands what it really means to be Canadian. He did not write the book as a politician, but as a man who loved his country. And though his career kept him out of Canada for many years, Canada was clearly never removed from his heart and mind.

I voted Liberal in 2008 and when Michael Ignatieff was named leader, I joined the party.

And why?

Because he always looks for the best in us.


*Preston Manning and the Reform Party, by Murray Dobbin, Goodread Biographies/Formac Publishing, 1992, ISBN: 0-88780-161-7

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