• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, the built environment, planning adjacent topics, and anything else that comes to mind. No ads, no spam, and it's free. It's easy to join!

Canadians Gone Wild!

Canadians: Too Cocky by Half?

  • Rich Harvard Frat Boy Cocky

    Votes: 2 15.4%
  • Maverick in Top Gun Cocky

    Votes: 1 7.7%
  • The Great One after the umpteenth Stanley Cup Cocky

    Votes: 2 15.4%
  • Peter Jennings Cocky

    Votes: 4 30.8%
  • Wilt the Stilt talkin bout Ladies Cocky

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Leave those nice people alone.

    Votes: 4 30.8%

  • Total voters
Not open for further replies.

el Guapo

Hey, Good for you, eh! (Note: Not posted to inflame - I just found it interesting - the poll is a joke - maybe a bad one, but a joke nonetheless.) ;)

Dec. 8, 2002. 01:00 AM
It's not our fault we're morally superior to U.S.

Without intending to — his effect was actually the exact opposite of his intent — Deputy Prime Minister John Manley was praising Canadians lavishly the other day when he scolded them for harbouring a feeling of "moral superiority" toward Americans.

In fact, he's largely right in his description. Not that Canadians are morally superior to Americans, or to anyone. Our principal superior quality is that we are a lot luckier than anyone else — lots of natural wealth, lots of space, no enemies, no superpower or colonial responsibilities. (Calling the U.S. president a "moron" is, to get that out of the way early, utterly moronic.)

But a fair number of Canadians do feel morally superior to Americans. Manley, who has a distinctly schoolmasterly tone whenever pronouncing on this topic — earlier he called Canadians "immature" in their attitudes toward Americans — said this was "a sign of our insecurity."

In his diagnosis, he is dead wrong. Doubly dead wrong.

First, for Canadians to feel this way, even if wholly unjustified, is a sign of national self-confidence. It makes us unique in the world.

Lots of others resent Americans, envy them, wish they'd get out of their faces. Some people hate Americans. Many others love them. Lots of people both love them and hate them.

Only Canadians, though, dare to feel morally superior to them.

It's quite challenging to understand why we should be so bold. My own guess is it's because we feel we are better North Americans than they are; that is, we jointly possess most of the essential attributes of being a North American — optimism, love of freedom, a sense of limitless possibilities — but, in addition, have done a better job of being a collective, of having a sense of solidarity.

However you parse all of that, a lot of Canadians feel in no way inferior to Americans, even while immensely admiring their energy, their competitiveness, their boldness, their patriotism.

The big exception to this rule is the right-wing, neo-cons who want Canadians to become as indistinguishable as possible from Americans (two-tier medicine and the rest).

If all of this is good for us — certainly a lot better than our traditional, self-deprecatory foot-shuffling — it's also good for Americans.

They are absolutely certain they are superior to everyone else. Americans absorb with their mothers' milk a conviction that they are an exceptional nation, a city on the hill, a light unto others.

And then at the very moment when all of these presumptions do seem close to being confirmed — America as today's Rome — there comes from the distant, frigid north, a voice saying, "No. We're better."

What's so terrible about that? Is Manley saying that Americans cannot stand to be challenged, that they would collapse into self-doubt if another people say steadily, insistently, that the American way isn't necessarily the absolute best way?

A legitimate source of concern to worrywarts like Manley is that there should be a rise in anti-Americanism in Canada at a time when Americans are so patriotic and so likely to take offence.

Except that anti-Americanism is on the decline in Canada. As it should be.

A huge international poll on attitudes toward the U.S. was released days ago in Washington. In most countries there has been a distinct deterioration in the U.S. image since the last comparable poll, in 1999/2000 or before the attacks on New York.

In Italy, support for the U.S. has dropped from 76 per cent to 70 per cent, in Germany from 78 per cent to 61 per cent, in Britain from 83 per cent to 75 per cent. In Muslim states — unsurprisingly — support has plummeted, down to 10 per cent in Pakistan.

Canada is one of the very few exceptions. Here, the U.S.' favourable image has inched up, from 71 per cent to 72 per cent.

This doesn't mean anti-American stupidities don't exist here. But specific examples are difficult to find. Often, they are merely criticisms of U.S. foreign policy, which, even if unjustified, are perfectly proper to make, in contrast to boneheaded generalities about the American way of life.

Back to the main point. Quite a few Canadians do feel morally superior to Americans. If that nettles some Americans, good — it might help them to understand how the rest of the world feels about Americans' overwhelming presumption of superiority to everyone and everything.

As a bonus, it's good for Canadians to feel cocky in a thoroughly un-Canadian way.

Richard Gwyn appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at gwynR@sympatico.ca.



I'm afraid to comment on this one...

I have met only a handful of Canadians that think that Canada is "better" than the US. A lot of them are down on the US foreign policy, but most recognize that without the US, they would either be responsible for defending themselves in a similar way or they would simply be swept into some other country (say, Russia?)...

But I don't think that Alberta is a good example of the pulse of Canadian patriotism. The Republic of Alberta is much more like living in Montana culturally and ideologically, and many Albertans embrace American political points of view. I know people here that are itching to move south and take up residence in the States or even become US citizens given the chance.

Maybe Tranplanner or donk can respond and say what the climate is out east... but out here, it sure doesn't sound like anything in that article.


maudit anglais
Well, living in Canada's biggest city, you tend to get a real cross-section of attitudes towards the U.S. Whenever something "big" is going on, there is inevitably a protest in front of the U.S. Consulate by whatever ethnic/social group feels it is being oppressed.

Canada, especially urban Canada, is dominated by American culture, and the lines between the two are becoming blurred. So we cling to the things that make us different - hockey, donuts, public health care, "politeness", etc. But in reality, I would say that the hopes and aspirations of most Canadians are not any different from those of Americans. I think we truly are living in a North American society - I don't think the differences between the average Canadian and American are much more than the differences between say a Californian and a Montanan, or a Newfie and West Coaster.

Personally, I I have to laugh at some people - they "don't like" Americans, and yet they cannot answer why. My sisters-in-law are great examples. America is "bad", and yet the lifestyles they lead are so thoroughly "American" it's really quite funny. They fail to see that Americans are by and large no different from them. I don't know why this distrust has been so ingrained in Canadians. I mean, I myself do feel a little on-edge whenever I'm travelling in the U.S., and I can't for any reason explain it.

Morally superior? Well, considering that these days the stereotypical American tends to be Jerry Springeresque redneck litigious trailer trash instead of the industrious, noble, public spirited people that brought democracy back into fashion and saved the world a few times along the way, then yes. Yes we are. ;)
I'm an American and, being perfectly honest, catch myself feeling morally superior to most Americans especially when flipping by Judge Judy or Jenny Jones. Or when on Babyzone.com, when a Puerto Rican mother posts a name poll with names like Selena and Raul and gets flamed for adding in her bio that she lives in a "Spanish Speaking community" by "True Americans" who admonish her to stop speaking Spanish, especially to her children. sigh. I'll even admit to the possiblity that I believe Canadians are morally superior to Americans - hey, they have 1/10th the crime that we do, right? I just wish (and I'm putting my idealist hat on now) we all could be "those nice people".

*you guys will have to excuse me - I'm literally whacked out on estrogen today*


maudit anglais
An American perspective on this...

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------One vote to stay in Canada, eh?

This country has many gifts that are in too short supply in the U.S.


Globe and Mail newspaper
Tuesday, December 10, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A24

I lost the vote, and it was a bitter, if hypothetical, defeat. My family and I had spent more than three months in Toronto, where I had received a one-semester Fulbright professor appointment for this fall.

Although we really had no choice in the matter (my job would return me to Carleton College in Minnesota where I teach) we voted on whether any of us would want to live in Toronto permanently. My wife and two daughters registered their preference to return to Minnesota. I wanted to stay in Toronto. My vote reflected a discovery of many wonderful Toronto and Canadian traits.

Take the often controversial diversity issue, for example. Some academic colleagues at a lunch recently at the University of Toronto sneered at the myth of Toronto as a multicultural paradise. But as a veteran visitor and resident of several American cities, it sure looks like a paradise to me. Largely absent from Toronto is the racial segregation and tension evident in just about every large city in the U.S.

This is probably because Toronto remains an immigrant city, with more arriving from all over the globe daily. Immigrants make up a smaller percentage of big cities in the United States. Instead, they usually have large, distinct and well-demarcated black, white and Latino sections, with only unusual neighborhoods boasting the teeming diversity one finds throughout Toronto. World culture is happily thriving in Canada's largest city. Score one for Toronto, then.

Toronto also has a remarkable air of civility for a city of its size. Kindness and consideration are much more evident than in American cities. Toronto's mass transit is as good as any I have encountered in North America, and it allowed me to avoid the city's admittedly horrible (L.A. North) traffic congestion. So score two and three for Toronto.

Although Toronto won me over, certain aspects of Canada as a whole are less appealing to this American visitor. Watching parliamentary question time televised from Ottawa and Queen's Park reveals that Canada's ruling elites have no advantage in intellectual candlepower over their American counterparts. Canada's remarkably tiny and undersupplied military reflects governmental self-delusion in an era of persistent terrorism. The reflexive anti-Americanism of Canadian cultural elites, who take characters like Michael Moore seriously, is also a less-than-becoming trait.

Perhaps my biggest discomfiture came when encountering the vast, public and bureaucratic Canadian higher education establishment. I teach at a private, nonprofit liberal arts college -- found by the hundreds in the United States -- that draws its 1,900 students from all over the U.S., and occasionally one or two from Canada. My academic department of 10 professors usually has 50 to 60 senior majors each year. The comparable department at the University of Toronto has 60 faculty members, not 60 senior majors, and teaches thousands upon thousands of students every year, with many classes numbering in the hundreds.

What difference do these disparities make? Although I love the diversity and motivation of my York University students, it is clear to me that by their senior year they have received training inferior to that of my students back in Minnesota. A primary reason for this is simply the scale of the institution that enrolls them. Most Canadian university students do not get the sort of personal attention from instructors that can make their talents fully flower. I have learned from my Canadian experience that smaller is definitely better in undergraduate education.

Despite these Canadian shortcomings, the nation occupies a unique and fascinating position halfway between European and American culture. It is unfortunate that many Canadians I have met during my time here have an inadequate sense of their nation's good qualities. Toronto, for example, seems to slavishly follow New York fashions, deferring to this supposedly superior metropole. There is no need for Torontonians to do this; they live in one of the world's great cities. The occasional outbursts of Canadian hostility to U.S. culture and politics is but the flipside of this national insecurity. Ultimately, Canadians need to get over their proximity to the United States. Canada has no reason to feel inferior. It has many gifts -- peaceful diversity, universal health care, a culture of civility -- that are in too short supply in the U.S.

So, I'm heading home with my family, but I'm sadly aware of the many wonderful features of Toronto and Canada that I am leaving behind. It is time Canadians realized how good they have it up here.

Steven E. Schier is Congdon Professor of Political Science at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and a Fulbright Senior Lecturer at York University this fall.

el Guapo

Here is the follow up.

Americans fire back over column

You all suck even more than France. That is one American's opinion of Canada.

Another, from Salem, Mass., holds the view that, "Americans are superior to Canadians because we don't play or watch curling."

And from Kansas City comes the comment, "Canada is the bookish, nerdy sister of the prom queen that is America." Many, from all over, remark on how Canada — "hiding behind Big Mama's skirts" — depends on the U.S. for its defence.

But then a Texan chimes in with, "I'm a right-wing American who loves being part of the biggest, baddest, nation on the block.

Yet that voice from the distant, frigid north is oddly reassuring, sort of like having a more even-keeled young brother."

And a "Jon" recalled that the Roman emperors had a servant whisper in their ear, "Remember, Caesar, you are mortal" — a practice that could usefully be recreated in Ottawa — and then opined: "The U.S. needs to be challenged for its own good the same way ... (a role) Canadians are particularly well-suited to."

What Canadians think does matter to Americans. In certain circumstances at certain times.

My evidence for saying this is that I've culled those quotes from the some 1,400 e-mails sent to me as a result of my column of last Sunday titled, "It's not our fault that we're morally superior to Americans."

What promoted the column was some hand-wringing by Deputy Prime Minister John Manley that any Canadian sentiments of superiority were actually a sign of a sense of inferiority, and should be silenced so as not to annoy Americans.

My rebuttal was that Canadian sentiments of superiority were actually a sign of a sense of superiority, and why on Earth not say so out loud, since Americans are certain they are superior to everyone in the world and can hardly be shocked to be challenged.

I expected some shots back, from both sides of the border. I got the verbal equivalent of a salvo of cruise missiles. As a journalist, I've never experienced its equal. The Drudge Report on the Web picked up the column, and, in a tribute to its power, triggered well over 1,000 of those e-mails. American radio and TV stations called for interviews.

Best of all, I got by accident, a fascinating insight into American opinions about Canada but also about their own country.

First, a sample of the antis:

"We Americans don't give a rat's ass what you think about us."

"You do nothing and carp about others. You're like a nation populated entirely by university professors and newspaper columnists."

"You people can be as superior as you like while you surrender your firearms, pay for your socialist health care, and freeze your collective asses off."

"Canadians are sort of a nation of Homer Simpsons."

Then the pros:

"One of the reasons Canadians are such good neighbours is that they are not afraid to disagree with us. Our differences are not violent, fearful or antagonistic, and that means they must be constructive."

"I remember the first time being around Canadian people and as a black man that was the first time in my 44 years I was treated like a real person. I wish I were a Canadian."

"Overall you guys are great. If in fact you are superior in some areas, I see that as a challenge. You know how we hate to come in second."

The level of knowledge about Canada was far higher than is generally assumed. To my comment that Canadians have more of a sense of being a collectivity, many respondents replied: "What about Quebec?" On the differences in health-care systems, one of many defending the U.S. practice observed shrewdly, "Canadians do have a two-tier system. It's just that your first-tier is in places like Minneapolis and Syracuse and Boston where you can get an MRI on three day's notice."

The level of humour was high as well. "I'm impressed that Canada's firearms registration program has ballooned from $2 million to one billion. I thought only the U.S. Congress was that inept."

Most interesting, perhaps, is that dealing with a Canadian's comments about the U.S. triggered perceptive comments by Americans about themselves:

"Please be patient with us as we search for a way to respond to what we feel is a critically dangerous time in history. We can have big mouths, but we also have big hearts."

"Americans do have a bit of a superiority complex. But not in the way you understand. We want to be the best at everything we do. Our attitudes demand victory, victory, victory."

"It seems we NEED an enemy to feel good about ourselves. The fall of the Soviet Union was the worst thing that could have happened to us. No one to beat at the Olympics. No one to talk tough to."

The only way to end is to balance evenly, in a properly Canadian way, the praise and the blame:

"Just as Canadians are better at viewing themselves as a collective, they are also better at viewing themselves not just as members of a nation but as citizens of the world."

And to confirm that it's curling that really distinguishes the two nations of North America, "Go back to sliding things across the ice and calling it a sport."

Richard Gwyn appears Wednesday and Sunday. He can be reached at gwynR@sympatico.ca

Not open for further replies.