Crawl Across the Ocean

Monday, May 28, 2007

From the Department of Meaningless Comparisons: A little Pop-Culture-Reference One-Upmanship

1) From 'The Joke', by Milan Kundera:

He said there were two great opposing institutions involved: the Catholic Church with its traditional thousand-year old rites and the civil institutions that must supplant the thousand-year old rites with their own. He said that people would stop going to church to have their children christened or to get married only when our civil ceremonies had as much dignity and beauty as the church ceremonies.


I nodded and asked whether there might not be a more effective way of weaning people away from religious ceremonies, to give them the option of avoiding any sort of ceremony whatsoever.

He said that people would never give up their wedding and funeral. And from our point of view (he emphasized the word "our" as if to make it clear to me that he too had joined the Communist Party) it would be a pity not to use them to bring people closer to our ideology and our State.

I asked our old classmate what he did with people who didn't want to take part in his ceremonies, whether there were any such people. He said of course there were, since not everybody had come around to the new way of thinking yet, but if they didn't attend, they kept receiving invitations, and most of them came in sooner or later, after a week or two. I asked him whether attendance at such ceremonies was compulsory. He replied with a smile that it wasn't, but that the National Committee used attendance as a touchstone for evaluating people's sense of citizenship and their attitude towards the State, and in the end people realized that and came.

In that case, I said, the National Committee was stricter with its believers than the Church was with theirs. Kovalik smiled and said that could not be helped.

2) Via Robert, an article by Andrew Cohen, ponderously titled, "Let's become committed Canadians, strong and proud: For too long, we have been casual and ambiguous about our citizenship"

Says Cohen,
"Stephane Dion has also been ambivalent about his citizenship. When he became leader of the Liberal Party last December, he said he would renounce his French citizenship if he had to - but he wasn't sure that was necessary.

In their ambiguity over their citizenship, Dion and [Michelle] Jean are Casual Canadians.

Author Richard Gwyn calls this "the unbearable lightness of being Canadian." It means that we are not terribly fussed about citizenship. When immigrants arrive in Canada, we tell them that acquiring citizenship is "a right" rather than a privilege."


"Our insouciance about citizenship comes into sharp relief as Canada welcomes about 250,000 immigrants a year. Many live in what novelist Yann Martel calls "Hotel Canada," where they (and we) retreat to separate rooms and share little common space.

As we pay deference to the deity of multiculturalism, we are disinclined to resist ethnic nationalism in favour of civic nationalism, rooted in the rule of law, human rights, pluralism and democracy.

How to address this? Make citizenship harder to obtain. Ask more of all of us, new and old Canadians, through mandatory national service at home or abroad. Create a new civic liturgy in which we study our past, display our symbols, and embrace national projects.

In this way, one day, the Casual Canadian might become the Committed Canadian, strong, clear and proud."


  • When immigrants arrive in Canada, we tell them that acquiring citizenship is "a right" rather than a privilege."

    Okay, he totally pulled this out of his ass. It's all spelled out in black and white in the citizenship handbook that it's BOTH a right and a privilege (though they use the term 'responsibility', which is even stronger). We're freaking tested on this stuff.

    By Blogger Idealistic Pragmatist, at 9:26 PM  

  • True enough, true enough. So many different ways to pick apart nonsense. We could point out the factual errors, we could mock the monumental nonsensicality of Cohen suggesting that a man who wrote the clarity act and endured years of abuse in his home province due to his defense of the country is 'a casual Canadian' because he, gasp, is a dual-citizen. We could mock the impracticality and irrelevance of his proposed 'solution' as Robert does. We could play it straight and note where innocent sounding statist proposals like Cohen's have led and the past. Personally, I was most irritated by the lazy, vapid, second-hand Kundera reference so I picked on that, but you know, different strokes, let a thousand flowers bloom, chacun son gout, more than one way to skin a columnist, and all that jazz.

    By Blogger Declan, at 11:26 PM  

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