Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Cultural Treason – Things Not To Say in Canada
It's that time of the year again. The holiday season when boyfriends across the country meet their girlfriend's parents for Christmas dinner. Meeting her parents can be the most gut-wrenching experience in a young man's life, especially if her Dad is a big French-Canadian.
So when sitting around the dinner table making conversation remember the saying about never discussing religion and politics. I don't remember what that saying is, so if you're not Canadian stay away from these subjects if you want to look good in the eyes of her Canadian family.
Canada already has Obamacare
In Canada we've had State-run health-care for over 50 years now and most baby-boomers have no recollection of paying for health-care, other than through taxes and inflation. While the US government wants more control, our governments have been looking to privatize certain areas.
You can talk about ways to do this as long as you don't use the P word. Remember that any solution needs to maintain the status quo, that being the "free" service we get by paying taxes. Talk of two-tier is permissible, but be careful not to be considered "disrespectful to the poor" and subject to, well, cultural treason.
Also, don't use the term Obamacare. In fact any criticism of Obama may get you labeled a racist.
The parents are going to cut you off right there. They don't want to hear about how the free market can provide this and do that, or blah blah blah. Canada is full of left-leaning statists, and those who don't care about any of this stuff. Even the minority of conservatives justify State intervention. Monetarists are condemned, Marx went too far but Keynes didn't go far enough, and the Austrian school is unheard of.
Capitalism vs. Free-Market
If you do happen to get into a conversation about this stuff, use the term free-market. Capitalism in Canada is like the definition abroad – the combination of corporations and big government squeezing out competition and civil liberties. Many Canadians falsely believe this to be the free-market, therefore socialism must arise to serve society’s interests through the State. Libertarians and anarchists are one in a million.
If discussing contemporary politics remember that Canada has two “progressive" parties one called the Liberal Party and one called the New Democratic Party. Here's the tricky part if you're American – the Liberals are your Democrats but our “New” Democrats are socialist, or “social democrats”. Then to top it off we have a few other parties, The Conservative Party that currently holds government and used to be called the Progressive Conservative Party and the Bloc Quebecois that represents the Separatist Movement in Quebec. Although the Separatist Movement isn't as big as it used to be so now the party just resembles the federal interests of the Quebec establishment.
We don't have the TSA, we have the CBSA. The Canadian Border Service Agency, a federal bureaucracy nevertheless. Canadians aren't being molested -- yet. But when that time comes it's presumable that most Canadians will accept the groping as an inevitable end to keep airplanes from crashing into buildings. Find out where the parents stand on the TSA controversy, then proceed with caution.
Exception to the Rule – Our Deficit
If her parents are really into politics feel free to bring up the Canadian deficit and the current government. Left-leaning parents will go on about how horrible the current government is and how their party balanced the federal budget. Right-leaning parents will tell you the story of how the Left threatened a coalition and forced the current government to spend into the red.
Sound confusing? It will be if you're not familiar with our own political clown show. Just keep in mind that all of it is bullshit. Unless, of course, the parents are big Ron Paul fans. Then hang onto that gal because she is the one.
Not as big of an issue as it used to be, but it also depends where you are. If you're in Quebec, best to keep your mouth shut. You never know who's a separatist or who's a federalist, or who just doesn't care. If in Montreal remember that the city is both English and French. On the East side it's mostly Quebecois culture; on the West side you won't have to worry about speaking or reading French. Expect a mix of many cultures downtown.
If you are pressured into forming an opinion about Quebec, tell the parents that you agree with Montreal's decision to nullify unconstitutional laws. Your complete lack of knowledge over the Quebec sovereignty issue should end the conversation right there and then.
If you're west of Ontario and you make a Quebec joke, you'll probably get a laugh.
Whatever you do, for God's sake don't mention our banking sector. Unless you want a twenty hour lecture on how great Canadians banks are compared to the “unstable American system”, then just steer clear of this topic. Remember, unlike the USA, Canada only has five banks. This is supposed to equal stability, yet the banks are just as over-leveraged as their American counterparts were a few years ago. But don't tell her parents that, most Canadians are unaware that our banks even got bailed out. Our financial crisis may look pale compared to the rest of the world but consider:
We haven't had our recession yet
The recession in Canada didn't arrive until late '08, and then it was gone by early '09. Canadians point to the 'stable' banking sector and the federal surplus as our means of weathering the storm. What actually happened was the USA went into a depression but our central planners were able to keep our boom going. Despite a mild correction, real estate prices have continued to climb and household debts continue to grow. Government is getting bigger and more students are enrolling in post-secondary education every year.
There is sense that somehow we're immune to the rest of the world, like the laws of economics don't apply here. We're in a bubble but it's starting to deflate. The end result will not be good for Canadians. Many of the same problems that affect the United States affect Canada. The collapsing welfare state, the education bubble, deficits. Not to mention draconian climate-change regulation threatening to dismantle civilization.
But this is kind of dinner talk puts a damper on Christmas.
I suggest talking instead about Canadian football versus American football, you'd be surprised at the differences. Then talk about how stupid the rest of the world is for calling soccer, football. That'll win you some brownie points with her Dad. Then complement her Mother's cooking and you're home free.
But don't take my word for it, come test the water out for yourself. Canada is a beautiful country. As an outdoors person I'm very glad to live in it. However if you do come up here for the holidays just don't say Merry Christmas because that invokes the religious term “Christ” and Canada is a secular nation.
...I'm just kidding, nobody in Canada cares if you say Merry Christmas.
Merry Christmas Everyone!