Monday, 19 May 2008

Avé Europa: Bloggor Canadensis Te Salutamus!

During his self-loathing "Good-Little-Canuck" minstrel act in front of an assembly of right-wing Americans in 1997, Stephen Harper put his powers of Canada-hating mendacity on flamboyant display. He began in smarmy ingratiation of his neo-con overlords:
...[Y]our country, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.
The delivery here is so unforced, so unaffected, that one is tempted to conclude that Harper actually believed what he was saying--that he had actually seen Canadians lovingly hang upon their living-room walls watercolour portraits of Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, and Jerry Falwell. This is odd, as the Canadians I knew tended to greet any mention of those names with either a derisive chuckle or the ejection of their breakfasts.

Harper continued his rhetorical guoualante:

Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term, and very proud of it. Canadians make no connection between the fact that they are a Northern European welfare state and the fact that we have very low economic growth, a standard of living substantially lower than yours...
Here, Harper managed to boil into a bilious stew all that has served as the main ingredients of Calgary School, libertarian-continentalist rage for fifteen years: two transparent facts--that Canada is very "European" and that it is a social-democratic "welfare state", and two egregious falsehoods--that Canada suffers from low economic growth and that her living standard falls below that of the United States.

The resilience of the latter two myths among our lib-con elite and their acolytes can be explained only as an obdurate insistence upon taking Canada's "inferiority" as an a priori assumption in total disregard of the available evidence, as both myths are effortlessly debunked. Canada has been outperforming the U.S. and her other OECD partners in economic growth throughout the last decade, and Canada's overall quality of life has been besting America's for years .

Incidentally, the U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) calculates quality of life according to a data set that actually matters (e.g. life expectancy, access to health care, crime rates, etc.) rather than a lone, crude GDP-per-capita criterion, a dishonest technique much beloved of right-wing "think-tanks" like the Fraser Institute. Naturally, the fact that Canada's GDP-per-capita ratio is lower than America's has practically no quality-of-life implications, as OECD economist Peter J. Nicholson explains:

Of course, very few people apart from economists would think to equate their standard of living with their country’s GDP per capita. It is a pure abstraction. And while per capita output does correlate with most social and economic indicators of well-being and development, the relationship is not strictly one-to-one within the group of advanced countries...In fact, the United States lags both Canada and the OECD average on many social indicators, probably reflecting the more unequal distribution of income in the United States than in Western Europe and Canada.
In any event, using such a criterion as a quality-of-life standard provides some odd results indeed, with nations such as Qatar, Brunei, Singapore and Cyprus apparently enjoying a standard of living far higher than Canada's. This is the kind of gibberish to which libertarian-continentalist cultists are willing to lend credence. Embarrassing.

Now, having disposed of the most predictable and dismissible features of Harper's anti-Canadian diatribe, we may now move onto the more curious and less often voiced lib-con a priori delusion--which Harper no doubt felt safe expressing to a reliably Europhobic group of nativist, exceptionalist Republicans--that Europe is a stagnant shambles of inefficiency, sloth and cultural decline. Like so much of the lib-con hallucinatory repertoire, this belief requires a scrupulous refusal to apply elementary logic to the key data.

I was reminded of this when I read about the "World Happiness Rankings" compiled by researchers at Holland's Erasmus University. The study ranks nations according to how happy their inhabitants are with their lives and how hopeful they are for their futures. The top tier is dominated by the social democracies of Northern Europe and correlates almost exactly to the top fifteen of the U.N.'s HDI. On both lists, Canada is in the top ten, while America is not. Additionally, on the latest Foreign Policy Failed States Index, the same group of European nations monopolise the top positions (are thus the most successful states), with Canada in the top ten and the U.S. quite far behind.

Canada's proximity to the nations of Northern Europe on these kinds of socio-economic indices may suggest, indeed, the kind of cultural propinquity that so deeply disturbs Calgary School jihadis like Harper, yet I doubt if such affinity as exists between us and Northern Europe has been deliberately cultivated. Those of our post-war initiatives that had European prototypes--socialised health-care, military unification, free trade--were pursued virtually without reference to their Europeanness, even, in many cases, without significant public awareness that they were, in fact, European ideas (free trade, for instance, is seen as a basically "American" idea, in apparent ignorance of Adam Smith, not to mention the Hanseatic League, whose practices anticipated his theories by about three hundred years).

Ultimately, our European instincts are the product of Anglo-French cultural foundations and a social superstructure that has been enriched by massive immigration and has been keener to pursue progressive (i.e. European) initiatives than regressive ones. These instincts flow from our cultural DNA. Harper can rage against them, but he might as well rage against the sun for rising.

But what if we were bereft of an indigenous cultural orientation--as lib-con ideologues insist we are--and had to choose one? What would be the wisest choice? Does the United States not offer a preferable model? Has the current state of Europe not demonstrated the barrenness of the European cultural project?

Frankly, I find it difficult to see how one could resist conceding to Europe a vast superiority over the United States in every quality-of-life category of real significance, as the above indices indicate (here, I am speaking of the "Old", Western Europe that Donald Rumsfeld petulantly deplored , not the "New" Europe--that dilapidated, corrupt, Third-World wasteland and "GWOT" warrior--to which Rumsfeld is so grateful). The states of Northern Europe especially, after more than five centuries of modern development, have retained identities unchanged in their essentials--have, most of them, even retained unbroken royal dynasties (as have we)--and have managed to graft onto this sustained ancientness an economic dynamism fully as potent, if not proportionately more so, than that of the United States.

In general, Western Europe's most comprehensive modern cultural transformations (democratisation and secularisation) have not altered its fundamental nature. It remains a region where savoir vivre reigns. Its overall cultural disposition--valuing literature, the arts, philosophy, and good wine over the corporate ethic of obsessive acquisition, porcine consumption and febrile over-production--would be easily intelligible to Charlemagne. America has about eight hundred more years to go before it evinces a comparable longevity.

A few words must be said about that part of Europe which most thoroughly commands the respect of a Canadian Tory (and especially a Popish one!), as it most brilliantly displays the one European talent which is so necessary to us--that of weaving a living indigenous tradition together with an advanced, modern economy.

As Northern Europe crawled out of the Dark Ages, the Irish braved the ruthless depredations of marauding Vikings and turned their island into the cultural headquarters of the Western World. Their monasteries bred the missionaries that converted the pagan masses of England and the continent and, as centres of scholastic research, attracted men of learning from around the known world. The sheer energy and commitment with which the Irish pursued their evangelising mission preserved the Latin tradition at a time when it was under serious threat of irrecoverable extinction.

A thousand years later, Catholicism is still Ireland's pre-eminent cultural engine, despite decades of creeping secularism. Many will regret that abortion is still outlawed there, that divorce has only recently been legalised, and that the school system is still run entirely by the Church. Nevertheless, this represents a stunning cultural continuity and must render nugatory the preposterous proposition--constantly iterated by our Europhobes--that Europe has not a vestige left of its heritage.

While cherishing their heritage, the Irish have pursued a sophisticated programme of cultural exportation, arguably coming second only to Americans in the intensity of their aggressive cultural exploitation. Their mixed economy has allowed them to achieve social-democratic objectives, with state interventionism much deeper than ours, while experiencing incredible rates of economic growth--between 6% and 11% throughout much of the last decade. Ireland, still ancient in so many ways, has nevertheless placed within the top ten in the U.N.'s HDI rankings over the last few years.

Ireland offers a gladdening threading together of savoir vivre, respect for tradition, progressive social policy, and economic power--something very much like the path we have taken, though the Irish have been free to make their journey unfreighted by the mortmain of an elite full of self-hating cranks perpetually bleating their certainty that the fruits of their national development are just not good enough and never will be until they acknowledge their irremediable unfitness for nationhood (actually, Ireland was plagued by such people, until Michael Collins liquidated them all).

Thus, the choice, were we forced to make it, would be clear. Fortunately, we needn't worry: we are, perforce, as European (in the best sense) as we could possibly be, quite by happy accident. As George Grant reminds us, it is precisely our anti-revolutionary maintenance of the Western European tradition that inscribes our uniqueness upon the North American soil. So far as we have moved away from that tradition--and we have moved farther away than I would like--we have been dragged by the gravitational pull of the United States, for most about Canada that is inimical to the European ethos is of American manufacture. To those of you who will object that America is a worthy component of the Western tradition, not some freak lying outside of it, I reply that, if you really believe that the culture that produced the Louvre, St. Paul's Cathedral and Le Nozze di Figaro is the same culture that produced Las Vagas, Wal-Mart and "Fuck Tha Police", you understand little about either of them.



UPDATE:

The annual Global Peace Index has just been released, ranking Canada as eleventh on a list of "most peaceful nations"--a list whose top echelon is dominated, unsurprisingly, by Scandinavia and Northern Europe. Last year, Canada was eighth; we slipped because of our involvement in Afghanistan and because nineteen more nations were added into the calculations. Our current ranking places us beside Switzerland and Sweden.

The U.S. comes in at ninety-seven, behind Kuwait, Nicaragua and Libya. Then again, ranking nations according to their commitment to peace is inherently anti-American...

27 comments:

Ti-Guy said...

It is very difficult to argue with a lot of modern economists about using GDP and standard of living interchangeably. In fact, a lot of them do use standard of living to avoid stating directly that what they are referring to is GDP, because they understand how unsatisfying a metric it is to support what we all understand to be an assessment of quality of life.

I wish I could find the reference to something I read about how GDP encompasses the value of goods and services that indicate a lower standard of living or that actually contribute to a lower standard of living; it illustrates just how absurd it is to use that measurement exclusively.

If I find it later, I'll mention it here.

Anyway, Harper's speech really does sound completely absurd now, doesn't it? It's the one remarkable thing about neocons; their ability to assert things about a very complicated reality that can only be revealed as baseless through an exhausting process of evidence and argument at the time they're making these assertions. If they were brave enough to face challengers who simply asked them "How do you know this?" when they're dishing out the tripe, it would obviate the need for a lot of average people to constantly revisit what they've said to understand how wrong they always are.

Aeneas the Younger said...

Steve-o reads from a script prepared for him. That script is written in the USA. Consciously, or not ...

Northern PoV said...

Mention the "Calgary School" and its Chicago/LeoStrauss roots to the average voter ... and they look at you like ... you just claimed that 9-11 was an inside job.
Well truth can be scarier than fiction, thanks for your contribution.

Did I see this link on your post?
http://www.acreativerevolution.ca/node/933

Sir Francis said...

I wish I could find the reference to something I read about how GDP encompasses the value of goods and services that indicate a lower standard of living...

As I mentioned, all one need do is look at the list such an analytic will generate, where places like Singapore and Qatar are ahead of Canada. It's prima facie nonsense.

Sir Francis said...

Well truth can be scarier than fiction...

...and Stephen Harper, being neither one nor the other, is scarier than both...

Kel Morin-Parsons said...

. . . shouldn't it be "salutat"?

:-D

Peter Burnet said...

Ireland? Ireland!? SF, here I have been bracing for the onslaught--British law, politics and poetry, French rationalism and culture, German music and philosophy, Italian art, architecture and anarchist humanity...even tidbits from Spain and Greece and ultra-ordered Switzerland. And you throw up Ireland??

Surely you are aware Ireland was an economic basketcase until it went the Friedman route and slashed public spending and taxes. Surely you are aware it is the darling of the neo-cons and libertarians. And surely you are aware that, like other small countries like Greece, it benefited from massive one-time subsidy transfers from Germany, etc.

As to happiness indices, well, that tends to be a young science and a little lacking in rigour. You would be amazed at some of the conclusions our happiness experts arrive at some days. But what I don't get is how come those Northern European countries that always show up near the top on happiness and peace indices do so well on the misery indices too.

OK, you like heavy social spending and therefore define the heavy social spenders as the successful ones. They don't seem to like immigrants and babies too much, so we'll see how sustainable that will be in the coming years. Anyway, me, I like hockey and fresh pineapple juice and so my list of most successful countries are the ones that have lots of hockey and fresh pineapple juice. Mom keeps telling me I don't understand the concept of tautological reasoning, but I haven't paid her any mind in years.

Finally, I couldn't let this pass:

that he had actually seen Canadians lovingly hang upon their living-room walls watercolour portraits of Newt Gingrich, Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, and Jerry Falwell. This is odd, as the Canadians I knew tended to greet any mention of those names with either a derisive chuckle or the ejection of their breakfasts.

I agree entirely. I've never met a Canadian of any stripe who had a good word to say about any of them. Talk about un-Canadian and unwelcome. So if they are Harper's public heros and he has so badly mis-read the Canadian identity by openly admiring Americans all Canadians fear and reject viscerally, how did he get elected and how come his numbers are still so respectable?

Ryan said...

I just had a similar argument with someone about this last night, though about the need for foreign "investment" and corporate taxation. I got the old "in a global economy, we need foreign investment," and "Canada has high corporate taxes and corporate taxes stifle investment."

Then I pulled out "The Truth About Canada" and knocked over those strawmen pretty easily. Canada allows more foreign investment than any other country, especially those much more competitive than us (ie good old USA) and Canada is 27th on the OECD corporate tax scale (plus the most competitive nations, once again the Scandinavian countries, have much higher corporate taxes than us).

They are feeding us flat out lies and our CNN-opiated populus seems to be eating it up.

Sir Francis said...

Peter:

I have been bracing for the onslaught--British law, politics and poetry, French rationalism and culture [etc.]...

I took all of that as read (and rather too obvious). I wanted to surprise you.

Surely you are aware [Ireland] is the darling of the neo-cons and libertarians.

I am. Holding up an interventionist, cradle-to-grave welfare state as an epitome of Chicago School utopianism is just one of the many ways dogmatic libertarians provide the otherwise dreary field of economic discourse with much-needed comic relief.

...it benefited from massive one-time subsidy transfers from Germany...

A single lump-sum transfer does not an economic miracle make. Ask the Greeks.

In fact, sustained massive transfers over several decades do not economic miracles make. Ask the Africans.

...those Northern European countries that always show up near the top on happiness and peace indices do so well on the misery indices too.

Your link is hardly persuasive. No Northern European nations appear in the top ten. Ireland is below the United States. Meanwhile, Haiti (Haiti!) is near the bottom.

OK, you like heavy social spending and therefore define the heavy social spenders as the successful ones.

No, I define empirically observable success as "success", and it so happens that some "heavy social spenders" seem to satisfy the definition. Many others would not.

The question preoccupying the post (and our protracted dialogue) is that of Western Europe's viability as a socio-economic entity in its own right and as a hypothetical object of emulation. The specific question of the effectiveness of dirigisme is entirely ancillary.

If you would like to pursue it, however, feel free to direct me to the jurisdiction that has met high quality-of-life standards through the strict application of Friedmanesque principles. Now, I can think of several jurisdictions with no intrusive state apparatus whatever, where market forces are free from any adventitious regulatory inhibitions (e.g. Somalia, Liberia, the Afghan/Pakistan border, etc). Perhaps we could start with those.

Incidentally, I would say that Scandinavia and Ireland are "smart" spenders (rather than merely "heavy" spenders), especially as regards their taxation regimes.

They don't seem to like immigrants and babies too much...

My dear chap, Canadians are the only people in the world who like immigrants (or at least, we tell ourselves we do). As for babies, 2.5 per family has been the average in North America for years. We're not over the moon about babies either.

...how did [Harper] get elected and how come his numbers are still so respectable?

First, there's this little thing called "Adscam". Second, Canadians are a forgiving people, and they are not nearly as anti-American as ranting Fulfordites and blithering Steynians make them out to be. I wish they were...

Anyways, am I to take from your failure to address the substance of the post that you agree with my assertion that Western Europe still retains its essential Europeanness and is healthy both socially and economically?

Sir Francis said...

shouldn't it be "salutat"?

I'm afraid there's room for only one pedant on this blog, and I'm it...

Sir Francis said...

Ryan:

They are feeding us flat out lies and our CNN-opiated populus seems to be eating it up.

Sadly, even bright, well-informed people buy into it. Look at Peter... :)

Peter Burnet said...

SF:

Western Europe still retains its essential Europeanness and is healthy both socially and economically?

You have me throughly confused. Compared to what? 1945? You bet. But I would say the same thing about the States and Canada, so where are we going? I thought we were discussing historical and cultural inspirations for our sense of national identity, not the next Liberal Party platform or federal budget.

European growth can be attributed in large measure to their economic integration, which you don't seem to want us to have with our neighbour. Europe's achievements over two generations were very impressive, but being Europe, it seems to have a very hard time getting off its rigid ideological train born in reaction to the war. Demographics, Tower of Babel over-expansion, immigration failures, international competition and social welfare ossification have thrown down gauntlets they are having a hard time responding to (although some better than others, of course). The massive protection of their agriculture is a major cause of African poverty, so don't ask me to cheer there. And if so many European intellectuals are now wringing their hands over rule by bureaucracy from Brussels and their democratic deficit, we should at least have the courtesy of taking them seriously. Don't you mourn the passing of parliamentary supremacy in Whitehall? No, ok, how about the great British sausage?

Based on my tracking of the British and European press over the past few years, I'm not getting the overall impression that Europe is any more ordered or peaceful than North America, unless you are going to cook the argument and compare an urban ghetto with a remote Swiss village. Would you rather take your kids to a Euroepan soccer match or an NFL game? More to the point, they seem to be going in the opposite direction from the States on this one.

What social spending do they have that you want us to have? Do we get to argue them individually or are you trying to sell a package deal? We can argue about them one by one and look to other countries' experiences to bolster our positions pro and con, but surely you would agree we can decide for ourslves and not on the basis of whether foreigners have them or not. Surely you aren't trying to prove I'm a lackey of the dreaded Yanks by advocating a slavish "us-tooism" about Europe.

As to retaining their traditional Europeanness, no, I think they are running away from it as fast as they can. The only tradition they are holding steadfastly to is their anti-Americanism. But I understand, it's a useful meme to fall back on when one can't think of anything else to say.

Cheers.

Ti-Guy said...

I think they are running away from it as fast as they can. The only tradition they are holding steadfastly to is their anti-Americanism.

On what evidence do you base this assertion?

(I just picked that one for demonstration purposes)

Peter Burnet said...

If you mean the anti-Americanism, then I recommend this analysis by a European intellectual to show how it has become an endemic, visceral incident of modern European self-identity that goes far beyond objective criticisms of this or that aspect of American policies or actions.

Red Tory said...

guoualante... Now there's a ten dollar word.

I still think you're much too hard on the Americans. For your Las Vagas, Wal-Mart and "Fuck Tha Police" there's also the Metropolitan Opera, MOMA, Lincoln Center, Rhapsody in Blue, etc.

Peter Burnet said...

Right, RT, and for those around here who like to believe modern Europeans are the dutiful custodians of the beauty and richness of traditional European culture, I have a one word answer:

Eurovision!

(Seriously, if you enjoy being driven to tearful hysterics, browse these entries and don't forget to click on "previous entries" at the bottom.)

Ti-Guy said...

If you mean the anti-Americanism, then I recommend this analysis by a European intellectual to show how it has become an endemic, visceral incident of modern European self-identity that goes far beyond objective criticisms of this or that aspect of American policies or actions.

Do you know offhand if the assertions found in this work are backed up with data culled from properly-conducted population surveys?

I've lived in Europe and I've travelled extensively in the US and how people vocalise their petty bigotries has little bearing on what they really do believe, how it really affects their behaviour and, as a people, what they support collectively or what their nation-states end up doing.

This is what you've been taking issue with and it strikes as not only boring, but distracting. It's like you want everyone to stop saying mean things about the Americans because they might...well what exactly? Invade a country in defiance of morality and international law? Collectively retreat from the world stage and leave the rest of us to defend ourselves against ...evil? Stop favouring us so magnanimously with the opportunity to pay for the exported cultural products we cannot live without?

As I've said, I don't share SF's chauvinism (which I'm taking more as a witty polemic...though he will deny that up and down, I'm sure) but the measure of cultural and social success I'm looking at increasingly is not whether a nation cultivates a favourable image among foreigners (ask the average Brit, Frenchman, German or what he or she thinks of Canadians sometime and be thankful if all you get is indifference), but what kind of life it provides for the people who live there.

Sir Francis said...

Ti-Guy:

...the measure of cultural and social success I'm looking at increasingly is not whether a nation cultivates a favourable image among foreigners...but what kind of life it provides for the people who live there.

The U.S. fails miserably on both counts, of course, but Peter's apparent lack of interest in that second, key criterion may explain why we've been talking at cross purposes: it is the only criterion that matters to me; it's the only criterion that has objective validity, and it's the only criterion that implies an authentically conservative analytic (which is why I'm surprised by Peter's implicit dismissal of it).

Peter cannot (or does not wish to) dispute the objective reality of Northern Europe's broad social and economic success (or of ours); rather, we're to understand that this success is obviated by a morally superior American "greatness" which, though unsupported by any empirical social data of significance, is experienced as a subjective a priori elevated to fact and proselytised as gospel through the exercise of sheer will-to-power. It's Nietzsche by way of Pat Buchanan.

Adult Americans appropriate Peter's belief through the application of intense civic pressure and indoctrination; that's entirely understandable. I stand in affrighted awe, though, of those who choose this delusion.

It would have a certain compelling gauche nobility if it were not already a North American shibboleth--if it were not the intellectual slipstream of a continental culture of bovine consensus actuated by radically anti-intellectual and amoral techniques of appetitive, market-driven de-sublimation.

As it is, it embodies a rigour and analytic depth exactly equal to Nike's "Just Do It" campaign. While admiring the cleverness of the pitch, I'm not buying.

Sir Francis said...

Red:

...there's also the Metropolitan Opera, MOMA, Lincoln Center...

...which would be almost virtually empty if not for European artefacts and composers, but I take your point.

The American elite has done a respectable job, indeed, of preserving some vestiges of high (i.e. European) culture and rebuffing the jeers of the "Peters", who seem to think a Big Mac is worth more than a Vermeer (presumably because the latter is inedible, although I find the former to be equally so).

Sir Francis said...

Peter:

I thought we were discussing historical and cultural inspirations for our sense of national identity...

That's odd, since my own intentions were explicitly enunciated in the post itself, where I assert that Canada--fully in possession of an identity (despite much inane punditry to the contrary)--has no need of such inspirations.

I merely intended to explicate the reality that Canada is essentially "European" and explain why we shouldn't be driven by caricatures of European "decline" to deplore that reality.

European growth can be attributed in large measure to their economic integration, which you don't seem to want us to have with our neighbour.

When our economic relationship to the U.S. takes on the proportions of France's to Germany's, I shall blissfully endorse "integration". Until then, the appropriate term to describe the present reality is "absorption".

The massive protection of their agriculture is a major cause of African poverty...

Yes. Fortunately, American agri-business has embraced global free-trade--in a parallel universe.

...compare an urban ghetto with a remote Swiss village.

I suppose the point is that there may not be many Swiss ghettoes (if any).

...surely you would agree we can decide for ourslves[sic] and not on the basis of whether foreigners have them or not.

Absolutely. That's been my point all along. My definition of "foreigners" includes Americans, though, which is where things might get complicated for you.

Ti-Guy said...

A big part of these tedious discussions is the desire to bask in reflected greatness: "I'm great, because my culture produced [insert paragon of excellence here]."

Never mind that those most vocal in expressing this are rarely ever familiar with the actual works a particular figure has produced, much less done anything notable themselves.

It's a neurosis those of us comfortable on the fringe of civilisation are thankfully rarely prone to, much to the chagrin our irremediably mediocre and thoroughly neurotic elite.

Middle-class people (and in middle-class countries like Canada and Western Europe, that means most people) shouldn't be encouraged to define their social success in terms of what the best/most notable among them have achieved, but what kind of lives they live for themselves and the kind of life they'd like most of the people they interact with to live.

There will always be elites of various types doing "great things" and we can all avail ourselves of those things if we choose to (and a fair society should impose as few barriers as possible for everyone to have access to and be exposed to 'great things'), but most of us can only legitimately take responsibility for and take pride in what we, personally, or collectively have had an active role in shaping or preserving.

A society that abandons its history, its democracy, its communal support for cultural and educational institutions, its ability to direct its economy to produce necessary things and for the benefit of the greatest number of its own people, its willingness to deal fairly with other societies and its revolutionary ideal that it has the legitimate right to remove its rulers when they no longer have the consent of the governed has little greatness to claim, regardless of what oases of (arguable) excellence remain.

Peter Burnet said...

I merely intended to explicate the reality that Canada is essentially "European"...

What a strange, ahistorical notion. There was a time when a lot of Canadians would have described us as British, but who ever described us as Europeans? Do you consider Australia to be "essentially European?"

You seem to be under the impression that there is a groundswell of anti-European prejudice in Canada. Where is it and who are its spokespeople? What there is is a reaction against the visceral anti-Americanism you tout and which grew from the 70's to 2004 to a level the Canadian public became embarassed and uncomfortable with it and reacted against the political elites who were doing just what you call for. But just because you say absurd things about the Americans doesn't mean those arguing with you are doing the same to Europe.

You and Ti-Guy may tell yourselves you are in the realm of objective analysis as much as you want but repeating that endlessly won't make it so. You are engaged in the epitome of normative analysis. Let's try your methodology on the domestic scene. Give me your list in descending order of the objectively superior Canadian cities and provinces based such indices as quality of life, happiness and peace. Tell me how you would tell those at the bottom that the only reasonable response to their plight would be to look to the top of the list for inspiration and emulation. Describe how, when they tell you to piss off, you would inform them how you stand in affighted awe that they would actually choose such a delusion.

But seeing as you have not only convinced yourself you are in the realm of hard science, you have also managed to de-legitimize the beliefs and testimonies of 300 million Americans as the product of some kind of intense mass civic indoctrination while persuading yourself the Euros are the very expression of unbiased clear-headedness, I can see why you feel your arguments are unanswerable.

Sir Francis said...

There was a time when a lot of Canadians would have described us as British, but who ever described us as Europeans?

According to whose eccentric cultural geography is Great Britain not part of Europe? And from which Aboriginal tribes did we inherit our civic and political institutions? Most Canadians seem to think they're originally European, but, pray, disabuse them if you feel you must.

In any case, may I assume that you disagree with Stephen Harper's contention that Canada is basically "Northern European"? I thought you and he were on the same page vis a vis that issue. I do agree with Harper; I just happen to think our Europeanness is a good thing.

You seem to be under the impression that there is a groundswell of anti-European prejudice in Canada.

Never said that. I think there's a groundswell of elite anti-Canadian prejudice in Canada, which is only refractively anti-European. To see it in action, re-read Harper's grovelling speech or peruse any of today's Canada-bashing Sun-chain editorials. Heck, just look anywhere; it's hard to miss.

Do you consider Australia to be "essentially European?"

Um, yes...as would any social anthropologist.

Do you consider it "essentially Aboriginal"? I'm trying to think of a key Australian institution or collective cultural practice of Aboriginal provenance, and I'm coming up dry. Am I missing something?

...there is a reaction against the visceral anti-Americanism you tout and which grew from the 70's to 2004...

There's some odd dating here, I think. The golden age of post-war Canadian nationalism occurred circa 1957-1977, with a marked decline over the course of the 'Eighties, then sinking into virtual extinction during the 'Nineties. The Mulroney era was hardly anti-American (unless you consider Mulroney's refusal to stay three paces behind Reagan during their rendition of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" to have been an outrageous slice of neo-Loyalist effrontery).

[Canadians] reacted against the political elites who were doing just what you call for.

The anti-American "elites"! Hysterical. That battalion comprises Carolyn Parrish and who else, precisely?

You must daily thank God that the poor, lonely, isolated pro-American advocates--our business class, the CPC and the pro-corporate Liberal Right, Can-West Global, the Sun franchise and the rest of the libertarian media, continentalist shills like Jack Granatstein, John Manley, Mark Steyn, Andrew Coyne, David Frum and the entire province of Alberta--were finally able to stave off the nationalist onslaught so ruthlessly prosecuted by David Orchard's highly-motivated cadre of card-carrying grannies from the Monarchist League.

Really, why is it so crucial for continentalists to envision themselves as some sort of counter-cultural David fighting a Goliath? It is hard to imagine an inversion of reality more perfectly executed.

As to the question of Canadians "reacting against" anti-American "elites", they did the precise opposite: they reacted against American initiatives endorsed by continentalist elites, in gestures that were usually denounced as "anti-American" by people such as yourself--to wit, our response to the Iraq invasion and to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Shield, as well as the continuing (and growing) negative public attitude towards the Afghan mission.

Canadians cannot even begin to react against an anti-American elite, because no such thing exists. If I've simply missed it, Peter, please let me know where it is, as I would love to join it.

...just because you say absurd things about the Americans doesn't mean those arguing with you are doing the same to Europe.

Just because you say I've said absurd things about Americans does not mean I've actually said them. As far as I can tell, most of what I've said (the key things, at any rate) have had empirical bases. You have not yet shown me otherwise.

As for your own Europhobic absurdities, you did say on another thread that Europe had totally abandoned its heritage. As my post suggests, I see no empirical evidence for that sweeping hypothesis nor would I describe such cultural changes as have occurred in the apocalyptic terms you are wont to employ.

Tell me how you would tell those at the bottom that the only reasonable response to their plight would be to look to the top of the list for inspiration and emulation.

Versions of what you describe happen all the time. Jurisdictions do often seek for "superior" techniques elsewhere in order to address intractable social issues. Many cities have borrowed New York's "Broken Windows" program in order to lower crime rates, for instance, because it's been shown to work.

I see no reason to be too proud to use other people's good ideas, frankly, if they can be shown to be "superior". In Iraq, the American-led coalition is helping ex-pat Iraqi elites impose "superior" modes of governance on an oppressed people. Are you on the side of the elites doing the imposing or of those telling them to "piss off"?

...you have also managed to de-legitimize the beliefs and testimonies of 300 million Americans...

Indeed. 300 million people can't be wrong (why, that's likely the number of old-school Chinese Maoists)! I rarely see ad populum committed so shamelessly.

Peter, I would guess that, of those 300 million, many would love to see fundamental change come to America. The number of such people may even equate to the number who never bother to vote--roughly half.

I think we're in full process of defining "dead end" here, unfortunately, though I thoroughly enjoy unfolding and unpacking these ideas. I doubt if either of us is really ready to be drawn out of our own positions (or expected to be so drawn). My own poor powers of persuasion and exposition may simply be incapable of offering you the clarity you require. If so, I apologise.

Ti-Guy said...

You and Ti-Guy may tell yourselves you are in the realm of objective analysis as much as you want but repeating that endlessly won't make it so.

I'm currently reading (well, listening to on audiobook) Susan Jacoby's The Age of American Unreason. She's referenced a wealth of research, population surveys/polls and historical critique that document a wide variety of assertions about Americans that I couldn't hope, in the most hysterical fit of bowel- and bladder-releasing Americaphobia, to match for their sheer anti-Americanism.

Peter...I get my understanding about America and Americans by paying attention to them and taking their own critics and commenters seriously. I know, I know...it's so anti-American.

Tell me how you would tell those at the bottom that the only reasonable response to their plight would be to look to the top of the list for inspiration and emulation.

Being a native of Northern Ontario, I got used to that long ago.

Peter Burnet said...

I think we're in full process of defining "dead end" here

Perhaps not yet "dead-end", but I agree the discipline of knowing when to stop is key to these discussions. Conversion just isn't in the cards and at some point Godwin's Law kicks in and both sides are drawn inexorably to ad hominems and Nazi epithets. So I thank you, SF, even if I must resign myself to accepting you are just another irredeemable Canada-hating Atlanticist. :-)

But permit me a couple of final observations about the nature of our discussion, to which you of course have the right of reply, and not just because it is your blog. It is interesting that, to a degree, we both perceive ourselves as representing a minority view standing courageously and undermanned against some kind of establishment or wave of popular thinking we fear. Part of that is just the nature of intellectual argument--one always wants to be the hero with fresh ideas sweeping out the corrupt and tired dross of old. But I wonder if to a certain degree we aren't both equally wrong in the sense that the average, comparatively apolitical "middle Canadian" simply refuses to be put to the choice in stark terms and will react instinctively if pushed too hard in either direction. I did a guest stint in the Foreign Ministry in the 80's for a few years and I recall some of the shrewder officers quipping that they knew exactly the foreign policy Canadians wanted: "Talk like a European, act like an American." Many Canadians appear to be very comfortable with the inconsistency. There may be more national strength and resiliency in that apparent irrationalism than either you or I find easy to accept.

The second point relates to your and Ti-Guy's belief that all this can be reduced to objective, quantifiable evidence, a kind of science. (I particularly savour the image of your social anthropologist telling a tanned, Aussie brute after a few tinnies that, contrary to what he feels and senses in his bones, he's really a European!). I reject that thinking for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is meaningless when averaged out over whole continents and soon comes to sound more like we are arguing about where is the most agreeable place to retire to. But if you persist, beware that it is a two-edged sword. In my American blogging days, I had endless arguments with a group of strongly anti-religious, libertarian Darwinists who, when challenged as to the source of their morality and particularly their patriotism, insisted it could all be proven on objective grounds. Their American exceptionalism was grounded in their unshakeable conviction that "America works" better than anywhere else, and they could summon up endless studies and statistics in support in the blink of an eye. I thought they were completely out to lunch, which they of course dismissed as a bad case of Canadian envy, but such is the lonely world of us science-deniers.

Finally, it struck me that it would be a very interesting discussion if you and I tried some day to take the opposite positions from the perspective of Canadian national integrity and success. i.e. you on the European influences we should shun and me on the American ones. Something to think about for the day when we get thoroughly bored with posts on Harper.

Cheers, and thanks again.

Ti-Guy said...

The second point relates to your and Ti-Guy's belief that all this can be reduced to objective, quantifiable evidence, a kind of science.

That is not what I believe at all. What I maintain, in this, the "Glorious Age of Information," is that it's imperative to expose the evidence to support any and all assertions we make about reality around us if we, all of us, are interested in separating what are conjecture, speculation and outright fabrication from a more objective understanding of that reality...that is, if we (true democrats) still think it necessary for the masses to be as well-informed as possible to come to their own conclusions and make decisions we hope are the best ones possible, given the circumstances.

I'm amazed that people still believe in the value of engaging in the long-winded, thoroughly mystifying and ultimately completely uninteresting exercises of vain, and more egregiously, humourless, intellectualising (which seems to be almost completely unburdened with basic empiricism) to elevate what are rather straightforward issues to a level of abstraction that discourages most people from gaining a reasonnable understanding of those issues.

In my multi-disciplinary career, I've come to the conclusion that many intellectuals have; that most things are not nearly as difficult to understand as we are led to believe and quite often are obscured by intellectuals who reveal (although never willingly), at some later point, that they in fact never understood them to begin with or were engaged actively, in fraud.

I'll leave it to SF to address the rest of your comment, which I did read. I'll just remark on this:

"I thought they were completely out to lunch, which they of course dismissed as a bad case of Canadian envy, but such is the lonely world of us science-deniers."

You seem to believe that evidence and science are concepts that are co-extensive. They are not. Many entities have a uniquely symbolic or abstract reality and are subject to examination with scientific rigour only with great difficultry. They nonetheless can be held to be significant on the strength of the evidence we have to support them.

A "fabrication" is, for example, a very real thing, even though it does not represent any physical reality or event that we can measure scientifically. It can be proved to be real, however, by referring to the instances we can examine when the fabrication was expressed or articulated.

I suspect the difficulties in challenging "Darwinian libertarians" (I believe you mean those supporters of the pseudo-social science of social Darwinism) results from their rather entrenched ability to treat language and meaning as a process of negotiation, rather than one that is not nearly as flexible and open-ended as most people imagine, at least for the purposes of communication and common understanding. A cavalier or clever manipulation of the concept of "success" for example, might result in a completely irrational understanding about how "America works."

Sir Francis said...

...it would be a very interesting discussion if you and I tried some day to take the opposite positions from the perspective of Canadian national integrity and success.

Indeed. Is there any hope of you re-activating your own blog?