Saturday, 26 April 2008

My First Annual Gossipy "Inside the Queensway" Post

Given that our society (and especially its political class) is quickly becoming almost parodically litigious, I think it wise to offer this post as a hypothetical.

Imagine that a certain Ottawa-area blogger is at a Second Cup chatting with an acquaintance while enjoying a coffee (no, not a spineless, cosmopolitan, "liberal" latté, but a morally unobjectionable, perfectly assimilated, "conservative" double-double, thank you very much). This acquaintance happens to work as a Commissionaire on the security detail at Government House.

Now let's say this woman mentions that the wife of the Prime Minister appears to have become good friends with the Governor General. In fact, the two gals--both health conscious and eager to retain their trim figures--often work out together. Conveniently, a small gym is situated on the grounds of Rideau Hall-- intended for use strictly by the Governor General, her staff, and her security detail--which has often been graced by the two ladies' sweaty presence.

Now, would it be entirely petty to wonder why the wife of the Prime Minister, already the beneficiary of public emoluments and already housed and fed on the taxpayer dime, feels the need to exploit yet another publicly provided service to which she is not entitled? Speaking of pettiness, is there not something petty about the wife of a generously remunerated head of government avoiding gym fees she could easily afford by using a facility which is really intended to serve as either a secure work-out location for the head of state or one of the few perks of boring and fairly meagrely paid jobs?

My own reaction would be to suggest that such a woman should choose: she could join the Governor General's staff if she wishes to use resources intended for its members; she could delve into whatever pin money her husband allows her in order to pay her own gym fees, or she could do so by actually getting a job.

Now, would it be unreasonable to feel uncomfortable at the mere fact of this hypothetical friendship? Would anyone else be concerned by the sight of the head of state and the head of government's wife strolling down Sussex Avenue, arm-in-arm, window-shopping for Manolo Blahniks?

Let's say the woman's husband were in a precarious minority government position. Would it be entirely illegitimate to wonder whether this friendship compromised the Governor General's ability to adjudicate impartially any sticky constitutional awkwardnesses that might arise? Are we so used to the notion of the Governor General as a spayed cocker spaniel pup, an executive irrelevance whose most significant task is delivering trite, soporific, Rotary-Club speeches to small, indifferent crowds at sod turnings that we've forgotten the key role she plays (or can play) in the fate of such a Parliament as is now in session?

I can't be the only one who would not want to see the holder of our highest office being taken to High Tea at the Chateau Laurier and being accosted with something like, "Oh Buffy, by the way... the polls are looking just fantastic, so my husband would like to make a confidence matter of a ludicrously trivial vote that he knows he'll lose, 'cause this whole "minority" thing's become such a bore. You'll be a dear and sign off on it, wont you--for friendship's sake?".

Wouldn't a government whose key theme is "transparency" seek to avoid the appearance of that most basic form of unaccountability--conflict of interest--especially if it is in danger of afflicting the highest office in the land?

It's a good thing this situation is only hypothetical, no?

41 comments:

Ryan said...

Well when your ideology is formulated on the inherent inferiority of the majority of people, and that a small group of people should enjoy certain privileges far beyond those of the inferior masses, why the hell not?

Stevie and the Mrs. deserve a little slack just for their hard work. Mises and Hayek wouldn't accept anything less.

Red Tory said...

I like the way you built up from something that seems quite petty and inconsequential at first blush to a situation that might conceivably be a potentially troubling conflict of interest if one took the construct of our parliamentary system at all seriously.

It’s certainly a fair enough question to pose and considered in the way you’ve framed it, one would have to conclude that’s entirely inappropriate for the PM or his family to be chumming around with the head of state except where their paths happen to intersect in an official capacity.

You’re quite right however about the fact it likely wouldn’t bother anyone as being indicative of the low regard the Governor General is held in these days; that is to say as a completely impotent figurehead that performs a number of purely ceremonial and public relations functions.

Sir Francis said...

"...when your ideology is formulated on the inherent inferiority of the majority of people, and that a small group of people should enjoy certain privileges far beyond those of the inferior masses..."

That's what is called "populism" these days, apparently.

Ryan said...

Yeah, christ I can't even wrap my head around this new so-called populism. Even Preston Manning at least pretended to consult with the "grassroots" of the Reform party. Now the party members just squawk the party's press releases. Gone are the days of Myron Thompson's "age twelve means trial as an adult" outbursts.

I guess words like "social justice" are no longer items in the populist canon. "Red tape" and "tax relief" are the big crowd-pleasers nowadays.

Sir Francis said...

Red:

The only way not to care about this situation is to look upon the G.G. as an entirely irrelevant component of our constitution. Perhaps many Canadians want her to be that irrelevant, but that's not yet (at least not legally) the reality; she could still wield significant power if she so chose--especially in regards to Parliamentary protocol.

In any case, the optics are bad here, especially for those who understand that the Royal Prerogative (as embodied in the G.G.) is the only effective check and balance our system provides against the power of a federal executive, all other de facto checks (provincial governments, the Senate, the Opposition) being mere irritants. I find it sad that the two actors involved are so unaware of their state responsibilities as to let this happen.

If Canadians truly feel that the office of Governor General is of so little consequence that its occupants can cavort with the Prime Minister's household without any damage to Rideau Hall's reputation or credibility, I wonder why we tolerate its existence.

As a passionate monarchist, I dearly wish the duties of the Governor's office could be executed meaningfully. Failing that, I think we need finally to put a bullet into that suffering animal and learn to acknowledge the reality that our political system has no checks and that our governments are effectively four-year dictatorships with the Supreme Court functioning as a mildly annoying heckler.

Sir Francis said...

I guess words like "social justice" are no longer items in the populist canon. "Red tape" and "tax relief" are the big crowd-pleasers nowadays.

When the core audience for your "populism" is composed almost exclusively of those denizens of Canada's affluent suburbs who believe themselves the victims of "unassimilable" immigrants and the "greedy", "shiftless" and "welfare-wallowing" poor, the words "social justice" will not appear anywhere in your rhetoric, at least not together in the same sentence.

Red Tory said...

I think it’s probably safe to say that most people have only the foggiest clue how our government actually works and are particularly uninformed when it comes to the role of the Governor General. Ironically, it's probably immigrants who are most on the ball about this sort of thing. I'd imagine the same could be said about a lot of countries.

Peter Burnet said...

You make a very good point, even if the image of a crowded Tim Horton's full of puzzled looks at your alarm over a potential constitutional crisis originating in a gym is amusing. But allow me to try and out-Tory you on this one. Does not the problem originate in choosing GG's who are still young enough to work out in a gym and proud to tell everyone about it? There is something about the image of Her Excellency sweating away in spandex on a treadmill that doesn't quite jibe with the weighty duties of a King-Byng crisis.

However, surely the onus here is on the GG and her staff, not Ms Harper. If Her Majesty invites the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go bungee jumping with her, is he expected to decline in order to preserve a constitutional distance of which she seems unaware and uncaring? Weren't royal invitations historically seen as commands? You can't expect the Harpers to both show appropriate deference to her legal superiority and be her personal constitutional trainers as well. She too has lots of perks and help, and she is supposed to know this stuff.

A good recent article from Britain pointed out that the modern royals below the Queen want it both ways. They want to be seen as men and women of the people, jawing in pubs or participating in televised seminars, but then retreat to their historical aloofness when they are criticized and expect deference. You can see some of this syndrome with today's young judges who like to doff their robes and mingle at the bar with the bar at conferences, etc, or act as chummy "Call me Bob" mediators in pre-trial conferences, but then get very cranky and even menacing when they are challenged or argued with too much for their liking.

And if you were to tell me this was all happening because of American influence, I'd surprise you by agreeing.

Ryan said...

"And if you were to tell me this was all happening because of American influence, I'd surprise you by agreeing."

The Americans would prefer an elected tyrant with virtually unlimited power (not constitutionally, mind you) to a hereditary monarch with ceremonial responsibility.

That's why republicanism is so popular with CPC supporters, and why Harper is so popular with the quasi-American elite out here in the west.

Aeneas the Younger said...

This of course, saddens me.

Where are the Lord Byngs of the world when you need them?

Aeneas the Younger said...

Red:

The reason why so few Canadians know how they are governed is that the School System does not teach Civics - and where it does, does not do it well.

So, we fall back on the US-centric media to educate our Youth on matters of Government - Foreign Government.

Can any of this really be surprising?

Aeneas the Younger said...

A "collective amnesia" is what I call it ....

Sir Francis said...

However, surely the onus here is on the GG and her staff, not Ms Harper...

There is no "onus", only a responsibility, and it is shared by both women in equal measure. Laureen Harper (if it is she we're discussing, of course!) is an adult and cannot be commanded to do anything that violates her common sense (if she is indeed in possession of such a thing).

And if you were to tell me this was all happening because of American influence, I'd surprise you by agreeing.

...but we would likely not agree as to whether this is a good thing.

What appals me, not just in this instance but generally, is our cultural abandonment of decorum, a mode of behaviour which--being "artificial" and ritualistic--is something Americanism defines as "élitist", "snobbish" and thus to be avoided at all costs; instead, we are to be "authentic", "natural", and "real", behavioural modalities which I find are usually indistinguishable from vulgarity and boorishness.

So, yes, dignity quickly becomes a lost art in a culture fuelled by the ideology of the "noble savage"--for there is no such creature.

Fortunately, though (as you would point out), Americanisation has redeemed itself by providing us with cheap and yummy junk food, diverting moronic television, and so many charming toys for our kids (gangsta rap, "trailer-trash-chic" fashions, slasher flicks, torture porn, crack, etc.). I suppose it all comes out in the wash...

liberal supporter said...

SF: Very well said about the loss of decorum and dignity.

My favourite example is the situation where "politeness" has been substituted with "political correctness". We are constantly told about the nefarious PC thought police and given extreme examples to bolster the desire to throw it all out.

Simply substitute back politeness wherever you see political correctness and you will easily distinguish the two things which the "political correct is evil" brigade try to conflate.

Example: respecting people wearing their religious symbols, and not forcing prayers on them, is being polite. Adopting sharia law goes so far beyond being polite that it is a completely different idea. But both are given as examples of "political correctness gone wild" and we are expected to be against both.

Another example comes back to the US energy crisis of 1973. People shooting each other in gas lineups. I think it was Miss Manners who framed this is mainly a lack of etiquette. Etiquette is not simply rules for holding your pinkie so others can ridicule your low breeding. It is about getting along, waiting your turn, being respectful of others.

Red Tory said...

ATY — True enough. There’s no “Civics” course per se, but a lot of the material gets covered both in Social Studies and History. I don't think the lack of a program devoted to the subject is really the answer, otherwise how to explain the woeful ignorance of most Americans about their own government...?

Aeneas the Younger said...

Red:

When I was Boy in Toronto in Grade Ten, I took "Civics." Why this should be outmoded today is confusing to me.

If it was good enough for 1978, it should be good enough for today.

Tomm said...

You guys gotta get out more.

I personally think that the GG should be on chummy terms with everybody, from the leader of the opposition to the PM's wife.

I do not see a conflict even in the stuffiest circumstances.

I take it you are thinking that the GG will be under a cloud if asked to do her job of dissolving parliament, because she is a friend of the PM's wife.

That's Jack Kerouac kool aid, not Sandra Buckler stuff.

I assume that you would also disagree with a friendly relationship between the Queen and the British PM?

Peter Burnet said...

I assume that you would also disagree with a friendly relationship between the Queen and the British PM?

Most definitely. Indeed, we are not be amused.

...but we would likely not agree as to whether this is a good thing.

No SF, sorry to disappoint you, but I would agree with you there too. I like my Canadianness built on actual positives, not desperate, frothing demonizations.

Sir Francis said...

I do not see a conflict even in the stuffiest circumstances.

So the nation's highest legislative and Parliamentary authority can pal around with the wife of someone whose entire agenda requires her constitutional consent and whose power increases proportionately as hers decreases (would in fact be absolute were hers entirely neutralised) without the slightest appearance of conflict. Right.

This is news, I must say: I thought those from the Reform/Alliance tradition were suspicious of élites, and I'm surprised to see you so comfortable with the head of state and the head of government forming a clubby combine. On the other hand, the CPC's retention of its core support is beginning to make sense. I guess the old populist soldiers are losing their passion for political propriety. Fortier, Emerson, Khan, Cadman, In-and-Out, Laureen shedding the pounds with Michaëlle on the ratepayer's tab--it's all good. All we need to do is bring Mila back with her lorry-load of Prada pumps and it'll be 1988 all over again. Swell.

Tell me, how far would your perspective need to be extended before even you discerned its absurdity? What if Jean were best buddies with Harper himself? Would that be appropriate? What if the Harpers divorced and Stevie and Jean started dating, or were married? Would that be kosher? What if a prime minister appointed his wife or girlfriend as GG? Would that pass the smell test for you?

I assume that you would also disagree with a friendly relationship between the Queen and the British PM?

Yes, I would, as would the British constitution--which is why there never has been a "friendly relationship" between a reigning monarch and a prime minister.

Queen Victoria had a crush on Disraeli, flirted with him shamelessly during their weekly meetings, and laughed at his stupid jokes. She did not go out dancing with him. Do you see the difference, or is it apparent only to those of us who "don't get out enough" (and who probably read too many books in consequence)?

Sir Francis said...

I like my Canadianness built on actual positives, not desperate, frothing demonizations.

You say "to-mah-to"...

Ah, but what is your Europhobia built on, my good chap?

Not "demonizations", you would say. No, you would call them "critiques", naturally.

You say "to-mah-to"...

Aeneas the Younger said...

Again .... Tomm and Peter represent individual examples of the "collective amnesia" that I alluded to earlier in the thread.

They simply have NO CONCEPTION as to how Canada is to be governed.

Raised and brainwashed on US pap for far too long, they have no understanding of the fundamental difference between Canada and the US. And ... they are shameless about this ignorance.

Aeneas the Younger said...

In fact, they seem to revel in it ...

Peter Burnet said...

SF: I haven't said a word about Europhobia. The only remark I've made here is to question whether modern Europe hasn't so throughly renounced its own political and cultural heritage as to render problematic the idea it can or should inspire us as a source of Canadian distinctiveness. In other words, I question whether we can be that historical "bridge" between old and new anymore. I think you are trying to slam me for criticizing a post you haven't made yet.

aeneas, that's as close to an English-Canadian equivalent of the pure laine rants of bitter, powerless, reactionary Quebecers as I've ever seen.

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

You said:

"...So the nation's highest legislative and Parliamentary authority can pal around with the wife of someone whose entire agenda requires her constitutional consent and whose power increases proportionately as hers decreases (would in fact be absolute were hers entirely neutralised) without the slightest appearance of conflict. Right."?

The answer of course is...RIGHT!

I have business relationships with clients, contenders, friends, superiors, inferiors, winners and losers. I also have a partner, kids, and friends.

I do not need to put a firewall around the world to live in it. Nor cocoon myself behind one.

Should Dion be forced to renounce his French citizenship?

Tomm

Aeneas the Younger said...

Peter wrote:

"that's as close to an English-Canadian equivalent of the pure laine rants of bitter, powerless, reactionary Quebecers as I've ever seen."

Defending the proper and quite legitimate structure and functions of the Canadian Constitution makes me a xenophobe?

Explanation please ...

Tomm said...

aenas,

From my reckoning it makes you "snooty".

Sir Francis said...

Should Dion be forced to renounce his French citizenship?

Yes, if he were our head of state. Michaëlle Jean renounced hers, back in the days when she took conflict of interest seriously.

Tomm said...

Sir Francis,

You are a brave man. Be prepared to suffer the lings and arrow of outraged Liberal's for your slander and smear of their illustrious leader.

I personally think its a little odd he would wish to keep his French citizenship. It would very likely be baggage during the election campaign. However, I have faith in his integrity to discharge his office with 100% loyalty and don't believe he would need to renounce it to be a good and loyal PM.

Tomm said...

pardon...

"the slings and arrows"

Sir Francis said...

In other words, I question whether we can be that historical "bridge" between old and new anymore.

I'm not sure we've ever really thought of ourselves as such a "bridge". A few minor post-war academics advanced that notion, primarily (I believe) as an illegitimate and preposterously over-extended extrapolation from Mackenzie King's self-concept as a conduit between Churchill and FDR (a typically self-aggrandizing fiction of King's own; those two men had no difficulty communicating without King's aid).

The implication is that Canada never thought of itself as a nation whose significance lay in its own nature but, rather, always saw its true value in its purely instrumental function--as an anonymous service road between the two cultural entities that actually mattered.

This may be how some of us wish to view things retrospectively, but there's little to suggest that this view was part of our traditional self-understanding. Certainly the Fathers of Confederation had no use for this nonsense. They saw Canada as a worthy and noble project in its own right, with no obligation to be a "bridge" for anybody.

In any case, we should keep in mind that the United States is no longer "new" in any meaningful sense. Initially a brash, revolutionary society, it has undergone a century-long process of ossification and is now wallowing in what can only be called an inert, smug satiety. As I've said before, neither Jefferson nor Madison would recognise it.

Americans have perverted the foundations of their nation far more than any European people have theirs. Of course, the U.S. is an ideologically derived entity and thus actually has an ideology to pervert, whereas no nation of Europe was ever founded on an idea. Europeans cared very deeply about ideas; they invented most of the ones that matter, but they weren't stupid enough to try to conjure countries out of them--a good thing, in my book.

Sir Francis said...

You are a brave man.

Surely that's not news to you... :)

Be prepared to suffer the lings and arrow of outraged Liberal's...

From what I've read on the Liblogs lately, Dion seems to be losing his blogger friends en masse. I don't think you'll see many of them volunteer to defend his honour.

It would very likely be baggage during the election campaign.

Bah. It's only French citizenship--rather like Senegalese citizenship, only less threatening.

Now, if American citizenship were in question, he'd be laughed out of the election.

I have faith in his integrity to discharge his office with 100% loyalty...

I do not. No politician today deserves my faith concerning any aspect of his personality or performance. Given the wretched nature of our politics, I want my PM to be kept on such a short leash that he has to use his bellybutton as a water bowl.

Peter Burnet said...

SF: I grant you the "honest broker" middleman role is indeed more revisionist, sometimes embarassingly so, but surely the notion that the Fathers of Confederation saw Canada as a worthy and noble project in its own right, has to be interpreted in the context of a firm, loyal, subsidiary status grounded in the Imperial project, not a full-blown, discrete national narrative that was a counterpoint to the Americans. To the extent that we did have our own narrative, and we certainly did, it was similar to the American one except less extreme, dogmatic, rigid, ideological, etc. Democracy, opposition to aristocratic government, trade, settlement and development of the frontier, freedom of speech and religion, openess to immigration, etc. were our causes too, all tempered and guided by the British allegiance, orthodox religion and a decent, deferential political and social culture. We're still much inspired by our friends to the South, as Trudeau's Charter shows. We certainly had more of a tradition of public investment in infrastructure and settlement, but as much out of a defensive pragmatism about our size than an ideological affinity for the state. There have been a lot of international economic developemnts in the past few generations which put that issue in a wholy different context than out grandparents saw.

And unlike the new breed of angry libertarians, I think our distinctiveness is just great and well worth preserving, but we go off the rails when we try to define ourselves through rationally coherent competitve philosophies or demonize the U.S as some kind of voracious, totalitarian behemoth that threatens Canadian children and puppies. Those efforts generally fail because the Canadian public know their lyin' eyes are telling them something different, even though they treasure the distinctions and love nothing more than wiling away pleasant summer evenings talking about them.

It seems to me that the collapse of religion and the British narrative, and the wholesale European postwar reaction to their heritage leaves us somewhat ideologically naked. Either we bumble along as wary, stand-offish friends (or friendly adversaries) of the Americans or jump onto the postmodern, transnational UN dream of the EU and the left. No thank you to the latter for me.

Also, there is a tendency for Canadian intellectuals from both sides to panic a la Grant if we can't come up with a full-blown ideology to define and protect us from the rapacious Yankee trader. I used to feel that way, but I now see Oakeshott's irrationalism and traditionalism as much stronger and perhaps more enduring than I had feared and a good counterpoint to my beloved U.S. vacations and American friends. At least I hope it is. Don't you, hoser?

Ti-Guy said...

Those efforts generally fail because the Canadian public know their lyin' eyes are telling them something different

What are our lyin' eyes telling us?

even though they treasure the distinctions and love nothing more than wiling away pleasant summer evenings talking about them.

Ok, enough accusations of parochialism and bigotry; I don't think anyone here as been under-exposed to Mark Steyn.

Also, if you spend your evenings doing this, you need to find more interesting friends.

I got together with my shriekingly and appallingly anti-American family and friends over the weekend and apart from a show-and-tell of what each of us thought we understood about the current primaries, the subject never came up.

liberal supporter said...

Shorter Peter: can we have your liver then?

Sir Francis said...

...surely the notion that the Fathers of Confederation saw Canada as a worthy and noble project in its own right, has to be interpreted in the context of a firm, loyal, subsidiary status grounded in the Imperial project, not a full-blown, discrete national narrative that was a counterpoint to the Americans.

I'm not so sure. Again, that tends to be our modernist take on things, but the deliberations of the Quebec Conference suggest otherwise. There was, of course, considerable tension between the Tory/Bleu agenda (i.e. that of Macdonald, McGee, Cartier, etc.) and the Grit/Reform/Liberal agenda (Howe, Brown, Mowat, etc). The notion of Canada as a sheer extension of Britain was closer to the Tory than to the Grit vision, obviously (though we should recall the all members of the conference wanted Canada to be called a "Kingdom", choosing "Dominion" only as a Westminster-suggested compromise); the Liberal faction was certainly "nationalist" in the strict sense and definitely saw Canada as autonomous from Britain in every way.

Even Tories, though, had a sense of Canada's uniqueness. Remember that the Tory Canada First society--really Canada's first indigenous large-scale cultural movement--managed to be both deeply High Tory and imperialist but also "nationalist" (in the Grit sense) at the same time. Much like the members of the later Imperial Federation, they envisioned the Empire as an ethno-cultural alliance of equals (with England as primus inter pares at most) within which Canada was expected to evolve in ways very different from Great Britain and the rest of the Empire. So, again, I think Canada's distinctiveness has always been acknowledged and nurtured, even by her "reactionaries".

Peter Burnet said...

SF:

Intriguing, and I tip my hat to you, sir, for your scholarship. I confess I am torn between rushing out to buy and study the records of the Quebec Conference so I can argue with you about what they intended or take the far easier route and suggest that, unlike with the American Founders, nobody has cared what they intended for a very long time. Is not paying no mind to our Founders part of our Canadian distinctiveness? :-)

But sure, I didn't mean to suggest that Canada was created in a "whatever Kipling says" spirit. There certainly was (on the English-Canadian side) a North-American frontier-conquering impulse, a conflicted assertion of autonomy vis-a-vis the Brits and an element of reaction to the American experiment, all rolled in together. I suppose my thesis is that whatever was intended then and is felt and cherished today cannot and should not be reduced to an ideological polarity, nor a visceral demonization of the Yanks, as a substitute for clarity of thought and perception. A lot of it is simply irrational, visceral, experiential and traditional, but there is nothing wrong and much right with that. A very preceptive American colleague of mine once quipped: "Everything in Canada is exacly the same, except completely different". (BTW, the hardest question to field logically from an American is "Why does Canada exist?") Nor is their anything wrong with liking and admiring the Americans for that for which they deserve to be liked and admired, which is a lot.

An example: You will be aware of the current blazing row between free-speechers and the HRC's. Many of the free-speech voices are doctrinaire libertarians in the American mould who are quickly talking themselves into an appalling national self-disgust. OTOH, their opponents seem lost in some miasma of abstract, postmodern notions of "human rights"(an equally foreign concept), the definition of which they seem determined to control themselves. It seems to me that the impulse of the semi-mythical average Canadian would be to favour free speech very broadly defined, but set on a plinth of decency, safety and public tolerance they can't define but can intuit in a given situation. That's my position and I can't define it either, but I know my extremely agreeable, safe, clean city and cohesive community is built on it, and it makes me weepy on Canada Day. I'd fight to keep it, but I see no need to parade smugness, spew contempt southwards or take principled pride in rote reaction. Historically, it is part of the Canadian destiny to bear the burden and savour the glory of being part of something bigger than ourselves. What will that be in the 21st century, the UN, the French or the Chinese?

Ti-Guy said...

Historically, it is part of the Canadian destiny to bear the burden and savour the glory of being part of something bigger than ourselves.

...which obviously includes suffering the insufferable. On this, we agree.

Sir Francis said...

I confess I am torn between rushing out to buy and study the records of the Quebec Conference ...

You'll find them all on-line, mate...fully annotated, even.

...unlike with the American Founders, nobody has cared what they intended for a very long time.

Hah! Outside of a few cranks languishing on the Republican fringe like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, you'll not find many Americans musing at appreciable length about their Founders' philosophical dispositions (your former American blog-interlocutors notwithstanding, of course; they may still be nattering away).

As for our own Fathers, Stephen Harper used to trot them out in order to justify his vision of a de-centralised federalism, without mentioning, of course, that he was quoting from the Grit faction--the minority report, as it were. Harper hasn't had much opportunity lately for that kind of high-flown discourse, as he's been preoccupied with the grubby and degrading business of governing (or "governing").

A lot of it is simply irrational, visceral, experiential and traditional...

...which pretty much describes the complexion of much of my own conservatism, for good of for ill.

whatever was intended then and is felt and cherished today cannot and should not be reduced to an ideological polarity, nor a visceral demonization of the Yanks...

Agreed. Such reductions are impoverishing, although an honest assessment might need to admit that the motives you mention were aspects of the founding intention, and our attitudes concerning Confederation might need to take account of how we feel about those motives. I, for one, am fairly comfortable with them.

Nor is their anything wrong with liking and admiring the Americans for that for which they deserve to be liked and admired, which is a lot.

Not at all. I'm quite fond of the Swiss--the Japanese, too. There's nothing wrong with liking people; in fact, my religion requires me to like everybody (too tall an order for me, alas). In fact, one of the reasons why I dislike our deepening ensconcing behind the walls of Fortress America is that it requires us to restrict our global friendships--traditionally quite vast--to a narrow band of America-vetted nations. I cannot think that's healthy for us.

I'd fight to keep it, but I see no need to parade smugness, spew contempt southwards or take principled pride in rote reaction.

Some might argue that "smugness", "southward-spewed contempt", etc. are ways of fighting the fight you admit is worth fighting. I'm not sure I would agree, but I've seen the argument made.

In any case, I'm not willing to allow Americans or our own self-loathing continentalists to define the meaning of "smugness" or "contempt". I cannot take seriously anyone who condemns as "smugness" the act of taking pride in a nationhood that represents the most objectively successful multi-racial modern society on the planet and yet applauds whenever a state that has failed and continues to fail on so many crucial levels spit-polishes its self-applied messianic veneer.

..it is part of the Canadian destiny to bear the burden and savour the glory of being part of something bigger than ourselves.

True, but I would argue (perhaps naïvely) that the "bigger" things have always been ideals, rather than nations.

Ti-Guy said...

I cannot take seriously anyone who condemns as "smugness" the act of taking pride in a nationhood that represents the most objectively successful multi-racial modern society on the planet...

Hear hear.

...uh, I mean...how smug. S-s-s-smug!!

Peter Burnet said...

your former American blog-interlocutors notwithstanding, of course; they may still be nattering away

Of course they are. At times they left me with the impression they were unable to buy a bus ticket or pay the hydro bill without first consulting the dog-eared copy of The Federalist Papers they kept in their back pockets.

the act of taking pride in a nationhood that represents the most objectively successful multi-racial modern society on the planet

What are you drinking, sir? My round.

Sir Francis said...

What are you drinking, sir?

My usual: whatever's cheap and on tap.