Echo of Change

FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, May 15, 2003
As the war in Iraq grew imminent and even once begun, I sensed the deep discomfort Canadians felt. I sensed the strong feelings among us that the United States was losing perspective and I also felt the wrenching discomfort Canadians felt for their neighbours being at war and perhaps being on the wrong side of war, while others felt, we too should side with and assist the Americans even if they were wrong. As it is turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction the tyranny that they Americans were there to end was less severe than the devastation caused by the American invasion. Today charges were laid in Belgium against American military leaders for war crimes.
I was perplexed by both my own feelings and those expressed by others, and wrote two stories ( Its a matter of being fair, March 26, 2003 and Friends, April 10, 2003) posted on this site discussing these feelings. Despite my efforts to explain not only how I felt, but give some rational thought to the confusion about the way things were going, I think I missed the mark. The reason I was unable to nail the issue for me and for you who might read those stories, was a simple problem, loss of hearing. Well not really, I am all to familiar with hearing loss, but the hearing loss I am referring to here is, that we all need very much to be listening to ourselves.
Michael Adams is the president of the polling firm Evioronics and has written several books about how Canadians feel about things. What makes Michael different from the rest of us is that he has really been listening and what he has heard should be both comforting and remarkably important to all of us. On Wednesday morning Michael Adams was on the CBC radio programme Sounds Like Canada and was interviewed by Bernard St-Laurent about his latest book "Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging values."
You will remember that those people who were most outraged in Canada with the Federal government and its leadership, over Canada's decision not to send troops to fight in an unjustifiable war in Iraq, were the people from Alberta. I, with my myoptic vision from my basement office, decided that because Alberta and Albertans rely so heavily on the United States for their income that they have simply become American in their global view and their moral view of things. From Michael Adam's research it is clear I am dead wrong. It seems that the United States of American and its people collectively believe that the most dangerous element on the planet is the proliferation of nuclear arms while Canadians and Europeans consider religious intolerance and the widening gap between rich and poor as the greatest threat to humanity.
Now that is a really big difference and by itself does not explain very much. But what does explain much more is when we go a little deeper and discover that at one point long ago in the twentieth century, Canadians and Americans shared a common belief that the male head of the household should be the boss in every family. Americans as a whole, are much more attached to fundamentalist evangelical religion and this view of family structure is embedded in the emotionally based Bible thumping religious families. Canadians have steadily and overwhelmingly moved toward a much different view of the role of women in our society and within the family unit. Michael Adams ressearch discovered that the difference is something like 18% of Canadians think the father should rule the roost while more that 60% of Americans hold that view.
This is where the echo comes in, we ought to be listening to this, because all of my life time, which exceeds the half century, I have seen women steadily become more equal partners in every way and when it came time for me to choose someone to share my life, that was the criteria, I did not want a servant, I wanted an equal partner. I lucked out, for thirty-five years we have made decisions together and we are a "we", alwasy have been and always will be. I mentioned this issue on Mother's Day pointing out the assertiveness of my own mother and the pride I have in that fact. At this point ,I suspect you are wondering, "so what?" Well, if a family is democratic, it will most likely generate kids who expect nothing less, a trend begins and becomes a base value.
Children raised in such a home expect the world to be fair and will demand to be heard and respected, they will not accept authority unless that authority is deligated and rational. In the United States criticising the president is considered by most as a form of unAmericanism and is treated harshly. A comment by a country singer (Dixie Chicks) got their songs banned from United States radio stations. In Canada it is considered patriotic to criticise the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition is honoured for that job and condemned when he or she is not doing his or her duty.
Let's get back to Alberta. Alberta is the exception in Canada, fundamentalist religion is a part of most Albertan's lives, their politicians are almost always part time ministers and they are sincere in their conviction. But, they are not in step with the rest of the country, like their American friends, they too believe some messiah must lead them. Alberta's provincial government is always almost completely government party, opposition in Alberta is rare and this is historical. When you look across the US border you will discover their first president was a general and time and time again their leaders have been former military leaders, just as now this is the case, where the real power is in the hands of the generals and former generals and a moron is the spokesperson. Americans and Albertans have a majority in their midst who want authoritarian leadership and they want things simple, "we versus them" situations. (It is worth noting Canada's first prime minister was a tipsy Scot lawyer at no time in Canada's history have we had military leaders as political leaders)
What was startly about the findings by Michael Adams is that Canadians and Europeans are almost indistinguishable in their values. Canadians generally like Americans, enjoy their humour and sing their songs but are incredibly conceited and since 90% of Canadians have been to the United States, know what America is like and like being Canadians much better. Adams found that the value shift toward democratic concepts and less acceptance of unquestioned authority is not only stong in the Canadian population, but it is even strunger in Canadian young people. If you are worried that we as a country are going to succumb to being absorbed, worry no more, our kids are many times more Canadian then their parents and any government that attempts to move closer to accepting US policy will do so at their peril.
Though Albertans share many of the values of Americans they too are dramatically and irreversibly different. All you have to do is read Ron Thornton's story on Elsie Wayne and realise how strongly he as an Edmontonian and in most ways a pretty typical Albertan, thinks about freedom of speech and how important it is for people to voice their opinions. No doubt you will have noticed that contibutors to this site voice a wide range of opinion and that makes this site Canadian in spirit. Mario deSantis, visiting Italy right now, displays each week a very European view of things, while Joe Hueglin from Ontario, gives us a tempered and clearly solid central Canada view of things, while Mike Reilly from Winnipeg, reflects the sensible mid-Canadian view of compromise and working out solutions to problems.
An echo is caused by sound reflecting off a distant object and returning to us with the delay causing the sound to linger after it occurs. Michael Adams has been listening for the echo and found out that all along we have been consistently telling ourselves what we are and now its time to listen more closely.

Timothy W. Shire



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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
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