The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Whatever happened to our spirit?

We used to have such a can-do approach to what others said was impossible. We made things happen that shine in the memory of more than one generation, both in Canada and internationally. We could have done so much more. We still could ... maybe.

But now, we have tucked our tails in between our collective legs. We have hunkered down, trying to hide from our spirit, our past, and especially our future. We would rather betray the world, our children, and ourselves than dip a single toe into the ocean of leadership.

(And yes: oceans are big, scary, unknown, and perhaps unknowable. Grown-up worlds always are.)

Somewhere in the past forty years, our second language has become "No, we can't."

Why not?

People will say it is the money, especially these days: but in truth they have always been saying that. There is as much money as there ever was, and it is as "well" managed as ever. We can spend it building up our people and our spirit, or we can waste it gilding business cards and building prisons in a country where crime rates have been falling for decades -- and try to justify by mandating ever more severe prison sentences against the spectre of fear.

The money to hide ourselves from the bogeyman always somehow seems to be available. The money to lift up the torch of spirit could be shaken loose just as easily: if we had the courage and the will.

We have neither. Why do we have neither? Why are we so afraid?

Have we become so dependent on a sense of utter security? No such thing exists! No such thing has ever existed! The Greatest Generation knew it, when they marched off to war. The baby boomers knew it, when they managed to pull a flag and an anthem and even one of the world's greatest exhibitions out of compromise and the shadow of atomic war. Now we are safer than ever: and dare not test a single toe. Let others risk, if someone must. Let others pay.

We blame the state of art today and try to cut its funding yet further: but have we ever considered that art just might be showing us the unwanted mirror of ourselves?

Have we become a has-been before we ever were? Whatever happened to our spirit?


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