Canada the Meek

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How is it that one of the most successful countries in history can fritter away so much time and energy wallowing in ritual self-recrimination, and then commandeer the world stage to apologize for it?

In today's Toronto Star, for example, we read that Canadians' "national strength" derives from "this uncertainty and self-doubt which we tend to have as a country, this vague discomfort with nationalism." The author of this latest jeremiad, Mandy Pipher, draws deeply from the well of Mallickian anti-Americanism, claiming that "in a world plagued by the dangers of rising nationalism, the most striking and salient difference between Canada and the U.S. is not civility or vivacity but our ambivalence toward national pride in the face of their often blind nationalistic fervour." It is a familiar dance, replete with the beguiling contortions of Canadian loyalists who believe that it is precisely their humility that confers superiority. According to Pipher, Canadians not only do not care where they rank in the hierarchy of nations—which is lucky since we're currently number 10 and haven't occupied first place since Jean Chrétien was PM—but we quietly harbour the conceit that our modesty is our gift to the world.

Meanwhile, over at Maclean's, David Moscrop has set out the tortured logic via which Canada—a thinly populated, northern industrial state sitting on boundless energy resources—should be persuaded to "give up a way of living that we’ve come to enjoy" in order to be "a global moral leader committed to being a central part of efforts to address the single greatest existential threat to humanity." Climate change is the threat of which he speaks, if you're wondering. "It matters very little how much money you have in the bank if your local branch becomes a living aquarium," Moscrop implores us. Nothing new in this, of course—save for his refreshingly blunt admission that even under the most draconian program of economic self-denial, Canada's contribution to global decarbonization will be statistically negligible. No, what is stake, according to Moscrop, are the optics of being seen to act. Providentially fortunate yet eternally righteous, Canadians have a "duty" to sacrifice their material progress. "Canada can help set a standard for other countries who may be reluctant to give up their creature comforts," says Moscrop. Like Ms. Pipher at the Star, and indeed like Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister McKenna, his belief that Canada can change the world by the force of its own example appears to be genuine.

It's all very noble and inspired, of course, unless you cleave to the old-fashioned idea that the goal of Canadian national life should be to enhance the security and prosperity of Canadians—both of which, come to think of it, are underwritten and defended by those obnoxious, self-absorbed, unabashedly patriotic Americans.