Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I'm Canadian, and that's OK

"Ordinary Canadians." That's an expression often heard from the mouths of politicians, pollsters, and others. Hmmm, do you see yourself that way, or do you aspire to be different, distinctive, extraordinary, remarkable, special, even unique?

This was the theme of the Canada Day edition of CBC Radio's The Current, and many weighed in with their view of the reasons for our national acceptance, nay glorification, of ordinariness.

Co-host Chris Wodskou observed that "we revel in taking down people with high falutin' ambitions." The Canadian approval rating system runs from "not too good" to "not too bad."

Satirist Bruce McCall, who left Canada almost 40 years ago for the excited states, said, "I just found people were more complacent than I thought they should be, that they were satisfied with their lot, and it was 'not on' to stand out ... they avoid the extraordinary."

Columnist Roy MacGregor said, "We even had a Royal Commission to find out what ordinary Canadians want." Author and historian Margaret MacMillan recounted an anecdote about someone rushing into a party with the announcement that Lester Pearson had won the Nobel Peace Prize. This was greeted by a woman saying, "That Lester Pearson, who does he think he is?"

Large double doubles at Tim's are good enough for us. Real Canadians squirm when confronted by a menu that includes Vente Caffè Misto or a Gazebo Blend. The most popular beers, Molson's and Labatt's, are those with little character --- industrial beers for session drinkers, not the craft brewers' flavourful artisan brews that tease the palate.
Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world includes no Canadians.

We actually dislike leaders who lead too much. Pollster Peter
Donolo said, "We don't like Canadian politicians getting too uppity... The more powerful you are in Canada, the more modestly you should behave."

The same in business --- we liked Ken Thomson, Canada's richest man at his death, but a gentleman who lived a low-key, philanthropic life. We smirked at Conrad Black, and took secret satisfaction from seeing him get his comeuppance.

Musical phenom Paul Shaffer seems happy being Letterman's sidekick. Even our biggest sports stars --- Sidney Crosby, Mike Weir, Steve Nash, Larry Walker --- all adopt an aw shucks, regular guy demeanor.

So maybe there's something to it. Whatever. Have an average day.

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