November 14, 2005

Canada's Memory Hole

Following up on Helen's post below on the importance of Anglosphere historical narratives, it's worth noting Mark Steyn's article in the Western Standard (requires free registration) on the eradication of history by Trudeavean Canada. Money quote:

"Isn't there something deeply weird about an entire nation that lies about its age? Canada is, pace Mr. Martin, one of the oldest countries in the world--the result of centuries of continuous constitution evolution. Even if one takes the somewhat reductive position that Canada as a sovereign entity dates only from the 1867 British North America Act or the 1931 Statute of Westminster, that would still make us one of the oldest nations in the world. We are, for example, one of the founding members of the United Nations, ahead of three-quarters of the present membership.

As George Orwell wrote in 1984, "He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future." A nation's collective memory is the unseen seven-eighths of the iceberg. When you sever that, what's left just bobs around on the surface, unmoored in every sense. Orwell understood that an assault on history is an assault on memory, and thus a totalitarian act. What, after all, does it really mean when Mme. Robillard and Mr. Martin twitter about how "young" we are? Obviously, it's a way of denigrating the past. Revolutionary regimes routinely act this way: thus, in Libya, the national holiday of Revolution Day explicitly draws a line between the discredited and illegitimate regimes predating December 1st, 1969, and the Gadaffi utopia that's prevailed since. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge literally reset the clock, to "Year Zero."

But it's not a tactic commonly deployed by governments in evolved constitutional democracies, and, to be fair, even Pol Pot did not intend that time should stand still. Two hundred years after Year Zero, Kampuchea would have been in Year 200. Canada in that sense has gone further than the Khmer Rouge: in Trudeaupia, Year Zero is a movable feast. Is it 1965, when we got the new flag? Or 1980, when we got the new anthem? Or 1982, when we got the new constitution? Or 1983, when we got the new national holiday? And, as Dominion Day became Canada Day, a nomenclature unsurpassed by any other nation's holiday in its yawning nullity, so some influential figures now wish to replace Victoria Day with Heritage Day, for only in Canada do we celebrate our heritage by obliterating it."

Read the whole thing.

Posted by James C. Bennett at November 14, 2005 10:58 AM
Comments

"Orwell understood that an assault on history is an assault on memory, and thus a totalitarian act."

Yes indeed, which is why it was so chilling that one of the first declarations that Tony Blair made after he won office the first time was, "Britain is a young nation!"

Wha'? Blair, who has absolutely no sense of history, and no knowledge of it either, has not only taken a wrecking ball to the British constitution because he doesn't understand it, but he seems to genuinely want to obliterate everything in our history that came before New Labour. It was a destructive statement, and intended to be so.

Posted by: Verity at November 14, 2005 11:39 AM

What do you expect from a country that invented multiculturalism. We celebrate everyone else's culture because 35 years ago we decided to obliterate our own. The levellers and wreckers and powers-at-be believe it is their role to disinherit the future and appease the present by obiterating the past.

Posted by: Michael J. Smith at November 14, 2005 11:43 AM

That about sums it up, Michael J Smith.

Posted by: Verity at November 14, 2005 12:49 PM

I consider myself fairly well-read on North Amer. history, but I don't remember Canada having a seminal event to commemorate like Jamestown or Plymouth Plantation's Thanksgiving, or even the Fourth of July. What does Canada's own history mark as it's "founding", or is there no "frontier" to cross?

The US-Canadian relationship has always been a strange-one by international standards. An unguarded border, benign cross-flow of trade, and yet the interface between two great Imperial Powers. Even in the U.S. Colonial-phase, the Thirteen Colonies were "separate" from the Canadian Maritimes, or Upper Canada and York....yet were they really THAT different?

Posted by: Ted B. at November 14, 2005 04:15 PM

The seminal event would naturally be July 1, 1867, when the Dominion of Canada (initially a Confederation of four provinces) was conceived under Acts of the Westminster and Canadian Parliaments. This was the British North America Act and Constitution Act respectively. This event was celebrated annually as Dominion Day every July 1st until 1982, when the Parliament of Canada repatriated its Constitution from the UK (previous to 1982, constitutional amendments needed ratification from the British Parliament as well). Dominion Day was thereafter changed to "Canada Day", which Canadians like myself criticize for inducing forgetfulness and evoking the memory of no historical event whatsoever. Can you imagine Independence Day being celebrated as United States Day? It wouldn't have taken a terribly imaginative mind to come up with Confederation Day (if it had to be changed at all), a perfect example of how the wreckers and evolutionalists get their way in this country.

The revolutionary history of the United States is an example of arrested constitutional development, where the three pillars of your government copied the balance reflected in the British system at the time between King, Lords and Commons. To this day your President has roughly the same powers as George III did in his time. Since 1776, however, the British system continued to evolve (mainly for the worse in my opinion) which has offered ample opportunity for politicians to obliterate our history at key moments whenever fashion dictated. Canada even came within a hair of abolishing the Victoria Cross in the late 1970s when several recipients were still living! That process of obliteration will continue for years to come unless saner heads prevail. It's all but obvious where the next step in this evolution of constitutional "progress" takes us: the abolition of the British Monarchy throughout the Commonwealth, if not Britain itself. You mark my words.

Posted by: Michael J. Smith at November 14, 2005 05:01 PM

"That process of obliteration will continue for years to come unless saner heads prevail."

That'll only happen when Quebec gets the boot.

Posted by: lindenen at November 15, 2005 12:13 AM

Yeah, how is it that [English] Canadians and Americans are so different that some Canadians would blanch at being mistaken as a Yankee, yet somehow [English] Canadians and Quebecois form a single nation that cannot let itself be sparated?

What, that Canadians would spend less time coming up with reasons why they are different than Americans (and why they must maintain union with Quebec), and spend more time celebrating and strengthening our bonds.

[I do not mean to exclude Francophone Candians, of whom I count friends. However, the existence of Francophone Canadians is completely different than an entire polity/nation that holds itself apart from Canada, whether independant or not.]

Posted by: ElamBend at November 16, 2005 10:16 PM

The incredible defensiveness of the Canadian Identity industry is evidence of the fact that there's not all that much difference between the average Anglo-Canadian and the average American. The French don't have to sew French flags onto their backpacks to demonstrate they're not Germans, after all.

One of the things that's the same about Americans and Canadians is the stories we like to tell about how we're diferent.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at November 16, 2005 11:22 PM

Canada is a country that I've grown to dislike intensely. Whilst most of the Canadians I know are pleasant folks, the political and cultural classes of that country are maddening. They alternate from 'why don't we matter to you?' to 'we are morally superior to you!'. The immaturity that emanates from Canada should make them turn red with shame.

Posted by: ClydeLane at November 18, 2005 09:03 AM
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