Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trudeau Tribalism

There are many things that bother me about Justin Trudeau's comments regarding his potential consideration of separation. But here's one aspect I have not seen addressed.

When I was growing up as an Anglo-Quebecker in Quebec City, when Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister, there was always a cloud of doubt over Anglos about being real Quebeckers.

Oh sure, people said that Anglos could be real Quebeckers. And they said that Anglos were real Quebeckers.

But Anglos who grew up in that era, almost to a person, will tell you, that you were never treated as a real Quebecker. Not in the media. Not by politically minded Quebeckers, except for the most committed federalists like Trudeau. Nationalism was the ideology du jour. Nobody and I mean nobody wanted to be seen as opposing nationalism. You have to have lived it to understand it, and I'm not even sure that Justin Trudeau, who grew up in such a privileged background, really understood the zeitgeist. Because it was palpable in French Quebec. It was everywhere, media, school, billboards, every single major institution. Even the Church. Maybe you could get away from it in Montreal, but not Quebec City.

Pierre Trudeau, to his credit, tried to change that. That is the one good thing I will say about him. He tried to create the idea that being an Anglo in Quebec didn't mean you were some kind of bad Quebecker.

However, in the meanwhile, Trudeau and his like-minded followers created another kind of tribalism: Liberalism.

With this tribalism, there was always a certain cloud hanging over people with a conservative ideology. Their commitment to this country and its supposed values was always suspect. I was fairly leftish as a youth, but I felt the stigma as a pro-lifer.

So while Trudeau tried to eradicate the tribe of nationalism, he created the tribe of liberalism.

Having suffered the stigma of being considered less-than a real Quebecker, I sympathized with the feeling of many English Canadians that they were not considered faithful citizens of their own country, even if I disagreed with what they had to say.

So in short, I grew up hating tribalism, like Pierre Trudeau.

And here's his son, trying to perpetuate it.

Pierre Trudeau wanted to dispel nationalism with the slogan Reason before Passion.

On the surface, that's a concept I can respect.

The real basis of citizenship shouldn't be a kind of tribalism, although this is a natural development.

It should be reason.

However, Canada was never established with a founding statement. Perhaps the elites had some idea of what Canada means, but the people were left to themselves to devise what being Canadian means. Americans have no complexes about this stuff. It's all in their founding documents. It's drilled into them by their culture, at least that's the official line. We don't have a Declaration of Independence. We have a Charter of Rights that wasn't even accepted by ten provinces or even the majority of the people. We have a BNA act. We don't have Federalist Papers.

Canada was really a pragmatic set up. It wasn't a country established to live up to a certain set of ideals.

So there's no measure of what's "Canadian" or not "Canadian" in the same way that American and Un-American are much more defined. Our ideas about what our country stands for are always evolving, and there is always an elite ready to take advantage of their clout to define for the rest of us, even the majority, what being Canadian means.

But what I reject is the notion that just because you are not in the majority, you are not part of the tribe, you do not subscribe to the elite's views that you are somehow a sub-standard Canadian.

I will always defend Canada. I will defend the right of others to be treated like real Canadians and reject making the ideological fault lines of the day the real test of who is a true Canadian and who isn't.

A country that is interested in unity cannot operate on that premise.

And that is what bugs me about Justin Trudeau's comments is that he is making the test of who is a real Canadian what political beliefs you have.

Kind of like...communist and nationalist countries.

I will stand foursquare against that kind of thinking.

It's the kind of thinking that fuels Quebec Separatism. Which his Father stood against.