Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Country That Leaves Me Alone

I was challenged to describe anything about Canada that I don't like by someone who is no longer entitled to comment on this blog, as he has a long history of trolling and stirring up shit.  However, this is a valid question ... but to answer it requires a history lesson.  As most Americans do not know their own history, it would be unfair to expect them to know Canada's.

Admittedly, this is again not quite so much D&D; I wasn't able to keep this post relevant to the core purpose of this blog.  Still, it was an American essayist who said that consistency was the hobgoblin of little minds ... so we can stretch ours to include a post on this country's history.

During the Seven Years' War between France and England, a globally insignificant battle took place on the Plains of Abraham in what is now the city of Quebec, in the province of the same name.  It was 1759, and during the battle both the British and the French commanders were killed (how often does that happen in D&D?) - James Wolfe and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm.  As a result of that battle, the French colony of Quebec came under the authority of the British, where it remained - the French never succeeded in taking it back.  For 253 years it has been the thorn in English Canada's side ... though I will argue that Quebec is the element that was the making of this country.

In 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence, and after 15 years of English control, the British Parliament conceded in the enactment of the Quebec Act, which gave citizens of Quebec the right to declare their allegiance to England as non-protestants; it allowed the free practice of Catholicism; it restored French civil law for private matters, while retaining English common law for public administration.

In other words, while the American Colonies were arguing and agitating about their mistreatment by a miserable, unyielding king, George III, the neighbor to those colonies was granted recognition under the law for not being English.  Both the 13 Colonies and British residents in Canada thought this was INTOLERABLE.  Catholicism was hated, the French were hated, and any idea that the British Parliament had the right to dictate which laws would be obeyed in its colonies was hated.  Americans had already indicated their distaste for ANY British involvement in local affairs by the Boston Tea Party ... so it was natural that they would despise the Quebec Act along with those other "Intolerable Acts" which the British bestowed upon its colonies in 1774.

But when the American Revolution occurred, the people of this land - Canada - did not join.  In fact, the residents of this country, including the French Quebecois, fought on the side against the declared United States.  I have never seen any historical document or public declaration from any source in Canada that has either resented or regretted this choice.  It should be helpful for Americans to remember that our ancestors up here did not agree with American politics, or the choice to rebel against the crown in the manner that it did.

Understanding that difference between Canada and the United States is critical.

The reason for that difference does not derive from Canadians being 'different' or stubborn or lovers of the crown.  It has everything to do with our climate and our geography.

This country, it is odd to say, was organized as an homogeneous unit in the 17th century, long before any of these historical events ... indeed, long before the American colonies were organized.  The homogeniety was not based on a large population, but a very thin one, who happened to have a single purpose:  the beaver.  As Canada was not structured upon a policy of controlling the lands occupied by the natives - there weren't enough 'Canadians' to do so - what we sought was cooperation.  We did not manage that; southern entrepreneurs of the Dutch and English persuasion, when the French still colonized Canada, armed the Iroquois and pointed them full bore at the Hurons, who supported the French.  The result was the Beaver Wars ... a messy, stupid affair that would simulataneously weaken or irradicate both tribes for a purpose that was entirely avoidable, except for greed and ambition.  It would also serve to inculcate in the French, and indeed in the whole northern region, the seeds that would cause my people to let the Americans stew in their own juices when the Revolution came.

The beaver trade required that trappers make their way up the various rivers debouching into the Great Lakes and Hudson's Bay, for hundreds and even thousands of miles, only to return again to forts that were built at the mouths of those rivers.  The North and South Saskatchewan, the Albany, the Francis, the Ottawa and the Assiniboine rivers defined the shape and reach of this country, more than the lines drawn by surveyors ever could.  The residents of this country knew from experience that the land could never be 'conquered,' as Americans perceive their country was.  That was possible for them - the land to the south was mostly warm, fertile and accessible.  Canadians know better.  For six months of every year, the country plunges into a deep freeze that is quite capable of killing you if you're stupid enough to think you're above it.  It is -3 degrees Celsius and snowing right now as I write this, and it is not yet halfway through October.

A country like this demands a government whose primary purpose is not to protect its people, but to SERVE its people.  Kennedy asked the American people to ask themselves how they could better serve their country; no rational person in Canada thinks that the government of this country is there to be served.  We created government for one purpose - to serve us; to perform the duties that no single person in this country could perform, and to do them in a manner that will keep us alive.  We are not left of the United States by choice.  We are to the left because it takes a warm climate to live where no government services are available.

When it came time to separate this country from the British Crown, it was not done by revolution.  There were two rebellions that took place in 1837 - one in "Lower Canada," or modern Quebec; and one in "Upper Canada," or modern Ontario.  Lower Canada was predominantly French Catholic; Upper Canada was predominantly English Protestant.  Both rebellions were poorly conceived, poorly organized and particularly unsuccessful.  But they roused a British parliament to the notion that all was not happy in their largest North American colony.

Following the reorganization of the country, to give more local soveriegnty, for the next 30 years negotiations were held to determine the shape and the future of Canada.  NOT a war, mind you.  Discussion.  Debate.  Compromise.  The application of reason, not weapons.  At the end of those negotiations, the various factions in Canada were given a demonstration of the sort of system the Americans had devised for themselves:  the Civil War.

Lest we forget, the fundamental policy of the southern states was States Rights - and so the south called themselves the Confederate States of America, in order that each region of that Confederacy would have control over its laws of custom.  I must remind the reader at this point that this was the purpose and ideal of the Quebec Act of 1774: that the French in Quebec would be entitled to remain French, and Catholic, with French Law, despite being a colony of Britain.

When Canada was organized at last in 1867, two years after the disastrous Civil War, which in reality represented the murder of 600,000 persons for a cause that had no real purpose except to impose the will of some Americans upon others, my country was organized as a Confederation:  The Confederation of Canada.  For those who may not yet get it, I live in a country organized in a similar manner to that which the losing side in America desired.  I live in this sort of country because Quebec would not accept a federal system.  We have no president.  We have no active Second House.  Executive Power in this country exists in the Civil Service, which will try to block legislation through malaise - but dares not do it openly, or else the service is purged.

We have a Prime Minister, but he or she can be removed any time the House of Parliament stands up and chooses to do so.  NO ONE in this country is entitled to five minutes of further authority if the House refused to give it to them.  We do not have to wait for the next election cycle.  We do not have to tolerate criminals until the next vote.  We can have a vote right now, if need be.

Because the politicians do not control this country, but serve it; because there is no president; because survival here is not installed by virtue of what we believe, but by how nature itself is ready to impose the law - Patriotism is a dismal failure in Canada.  I do not need to be patriotic.  No one suggests that I be more so, or that I am not a Canadian because I don't care to put a flag on my door.  Anyone who has visited Canada will take note that a flag in this country not on a government building is rare.  That is because we are ourselves before we are members of this country.  We happen to be members of this country because we cluster together for warmth; and because we need our neighbors for warmth, we're unusually polite and apologetic while doing so.

Is there something I hate about this country?  Oh yes.  I hate the policy of some provincial governments to let foreigners come and rape the country's resources.  I hate that some Canadians think we should be more like Americans.  I hate that most of the people who live here are too blind stupid to have any real conception of quality art or literature.  I hate that there's a sort of suburban thickness to the ordinary person's perception of politics or innovation.  As a country, Canada can be very, very boring.

But I'd rather live here, where its boring, where no one bugs me about how much I should fucking love my country, than to be part of the sort of shit show that we cannot avoid coming across our southern border.


Drance said...

Thanks for a very well-written, comprehensive, and persuasive response. I'd like to think I'm an American who DOES know my nation's history, primarily because I'm not afraid to admit to the "warts" that are extant on my country's body (perhaps soon to be a corpse?) And warts is a huge euphemism for the terrible actions that have been (and still are) perpetrated in the name of the American people. I am constantly shouted down by my fellow citizens when I seek to converse about things that the US has done wrong.

I am still holding out hope that the United States can turn things around, but it will take hard work from our people. I'm not sure the majority of our folk are ready for that hard work, however.

Please consider allowing this comment to go through. I've well and truly relinguished any desire to be a troll under your particular bridge.

Guillaume JAY said...

As a french newcomer to Quebec, this was very interesting, and enlightening.

Frotz Self said...

A very nice read, and informative. I've been studying the time period leading up to the Whiskey Rebellion here in the United States, and I think it is interesting to see how events and trends from that time period continue to shape the American psyche, particularly the extremism in our politics.
It was good to see one Canadian's opinion on what they like about Canada that actually had something to do with Canada and her history.