It’s Canada day, and that pesky issue of national identity is on my mind.
Don’t worry – I plan to go out with my picnic basket and enjoy the sunshine on my day off, but I feel compelled to deposit some of these ideas into my blog before I go.
It might be a bad idea. I nearly tore all the hair out my 19-year-old head writing an essay about “Canadian culture” in my first year at York — and six years later I still struggle with the all the contradictions.
It would be ridiculously self-indulgent to post the whole essay (and the research is now outdated anyway), but the concluding paragraph gives you a pretty clear idea of where I ended up:
National and international agendas compete within this country. Canada is trying to understand itself while simultaneously trying to explain itself . We have explored this contradiction through three main areas of tension: multiculturalism, as seen mostly in the cities, regionalism all throughout the country, and an increased outward patriotism on the global stage. The latter contradicts the plurality of the first two levels, often complicating the discussion of Canadian identity. In a country made up of so many fragmented groups, be they ethnic, cultural, regional, etc, is it any wonder that many people feel alienated from vague mainstream depictions of Canadians? It is difficult to identify distinctive elements of Canadian culture that do not seem in some way exclusive or otherwise too broad to create a real sense of belonging. It is not only minority peoples that notice this. Even those that fit all-Canadian stereotypes cannot deny that there are many people around them that do not. Taking all the variables into consideration, how might all Canadians appeal to a non-superficial idea of collective understanding? It remains to be seen how Young Canada will deal with the paradox of its own identity.
I know, eh?
Plus, I pulled the classic “it remains to be seen” — one of the most annoying endings in academia and journalism — but, whatever, it was one of my first university-level essays.
Alright. I need some sort of conclusion.
All I know for sure is that I love this country.
I love it enough to want to work on its problems, plan for its future, and — on sunny days like today — close the books and enjoy its gifts.
The gallery above features a selection of photos that I took while exploring Canada from coast to coast. All images are shareable under a creative commons license (BY-NC-SA).