Being Canadian, being American. What's the difference?
If you ask most Americans the answer would probably be, "not much" to the horror of our Canadian counterparts. But what is not understood by that perception is that many Americans feel Canadians are equal to them, and here in the U.S. we're supposed to be all about equality. History does tell quite a different story about equality in the States, doesn't it?
"Equal but different" is a self-contradictory expression that can be applied to the Americas cultural comparision. One example is the American political parties posture for their positions on marriage equality, while our northern neighbors have found consensus. Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin introduced the Civil Marriage Act in support for same-sex marriage in 2005 and the House of Commons and Senate passed the legislation in the same year. Even with Conservative reexamination, the motion was passed again in 2006. The U.S. is making progress passing equal rights legislation to same-sex couples state by state, but the cultural paradox in local landscapes continues.
Change comes slowly to America, possibly because everyone gets their "panties in a bunch" over the littlest things. We are so caught up on being "politically correct" that we are losing our humanity and our rationality, to boot. Issues are debated ad nauseum, and there seems to be an even split, pro and con, which prevents our legislators from making any real progress. Meanwhile all the "little people" sit by twiddling their thumbs not knowing what they might get sued over this week.
As for the equal rights for same-sex couples, it is coming to America, even if it is not soon enough for some. But look back at our history equal rights for everyone took time, and in most cases too much time.
The reality is that cultural traditions are incorporated and quite frequently inter- reliant is a key cause to resistance to change. For example, in the second half of the 20th century, shifting roles of North American and European women were resisted and resented by their male couterparts because as you might expect the change in their roles that would result. The roles of men and women do not and cannot coexist without each other. This kind of assimilation of cultural traits predictably slows downs and transforms cultural changes. That being said, it is a basis of fustration for individuals and societies who desire to revolutionize and those who do not.
So if we were to turn these thoughts into a story, how would we start? Imagine yourselves to be rappers, working with Hip-Hop Canada or Hip-Hop Occupies. You've got the mic.
Maybe the best place to start any story of a people, Canadian or American, is to talk about who they aspire to be. It seems only fair that a people be allowed to present their best selves, even if that self has not yet been fully realized. Its a hard question though. Canadians have always struggled to find a common identity, some common myth that would unite the far flung federaton. Ameicans have the stories of a great battle for independence and other wars that have allowed the perpetuation of their union. Yet, I'm not sure all American's believe in those stories any more. At least there seems to be a large segment of the population that is no longer willing to be defined by the uniting myths of there forefathers.
Myths of a free nation, a nation under liberty and justice for all. How free are we now that there are changes in the constitution that allow us to be held without trial or reason? America's healthcare is slowly plummeting to it's death and it's hard to not look over the borders to take a peek at Canada's health care system. There system seems like a fresh breathe of hope when you have been living in the united states.
Canadian rappers are achieving this notion of political perspective. Classified raps about how we need 'real people' as opposed to comparing ourselves to others. It's important to acknowledge differences in Canada & the USA as opposed to attempting to be the exact same. It's possible to adopt tools or cases that were successful in other countries (ex: equality in same-sex marriage) but we also need to understand how different people are between regions. Different cases taken on by different people will have different outcomes. We should stop comparing & use a model where we can learn from other countries as opposed to mimicking them.
Our North American pluralist societies of both countries offer a similar rich cultural mosaic that crosses the boundaries of wealth, education or status. Our tremendous land masses have become crossroads to global industries and ingenuity. And the parallels continue comparing the Blackberry to the iPhone or Tim Hortons to Starbucks. Maybe this is a topic for a debate! But the U.S. is thought of demonstrating much more hubris than the Canadian psyche. After all Canada did resist military action participating in the Iraq war as the citizens protested. While the same political outrage exists in the states but the business of war became too abundant.
Yet while both great nations do offer a plethora of intertwined cultures across wealth, education, and status, we must also look into noting where we differ in this regard. We must never stop at looking at how certain minority cultures between Canada and the United States are marginalized, privileged, or affected. How do the different nations collectively (for the most part) come up with their decisions on action? With this example of how Canada resisted participating in the Iraq war as opposed to the States, could this be an act of defiance, or a mark of embracing an identity? As mentioned earlier, Canadians do struggle to find their collective identity, while the US has a much stronger sense of self developed through their history and media. This might be an extension of such, as the former nation was built on the concept of peace; while the latter, on the premise of fight and victory.
Canada lacks it's own identity, not true. Canada suffers from younger sibling syndrome. Canada looks to the US to protect it's borders like a big brother. If the US is involved it's easy to remain neutral, what will they have to loose. Big Brother will save us.
Living near the canadian border I see the differences between our nations every weekend and national holidays. Canadians exhibt european cultures because they have adopted an european culture.
Canada's struggle to find a common identity often results in Canadians defining themselves as "not American." Our need to define our differences leads to us making sweeping stereotypes about Americans, something we accuse them of doing to us all the time. The ability to be identified as Canadian, or not an American, just by their clothing would likely be a compliment to many Canadians who take pride in being different.
Lovely thoughts, and I appreciate the energy. How do we turn this all into a story?
It is unfortunate that Canadians need to define themselves this way, as so to speak "not American". Canadians have their own story and own history and own cultural significance, but I also believe Canadians and Americans are far more similar than the both would like to admit.
That being said, I am mixed with many cultures Arab, Caribbean, Native, and African American but the thing that shocks people the most is that I’m a Muslim who covers or hides so to speak, her face and body. Or that I speak fluent Arabic that I grew up listening to hip hop, and R&B. That I talk with an American accent but the most shocking of all things is that I am “allowed” to continue my education although I am married with four children. This is my American dream, being me with no hindrance.
I would have to disagree with the comment that "Canadians struggle to find their collective identity ... the US has a much stronger sense of self.The former nation was built on the concept of peace; while the latter, on the premise of fight and victory." Canada has not always been united. Divisions existed between Upper and Lower Canadas, among the provinces, and of course between our Indigenous Peoples and European settlers. Despite extensive discussions about the significance of collective identity (or a lack thereof), I am not so sure that it is truly important. I value much more the differences among regions and populations, acknowledging their diversity of culture, ethnicity, and values. Living on the West Coast allows me to view this cultural diversity firsthand, as does a decidedly cosmopolitanism upbringing and education. Being Canadian may not have produced this appreciation for diversity (as I was born but not raised here), but it has most certainly cultivated it.
I believe that although Canadians and Americans have many differences that one of the large ones aside of same sex marriage is that of abortion. As of 1988 Canada has not held abortion as an illegal act. There has been an agreement that abortion can be allowed if the physicians she it as an important factor determining the physical or mental well being of the mother.
In the United states this is still a very touchy topic. Not only a moral and ethical issue but a legal issue as well. As a country that is supposed to be ahead of ouselves in freedom for all, we falter often with the big issues that affect many of our american sisters and brothers.
Even though abortion is not illegal in Canada, different areas have different amounts of accessibility and regulations. Some provinces do not even have a hospital that can provide services. As the students at UVic also know, there are still many different opinions around the issue as access to abortion is not accepted by everyone. Even though this is a topic that affects youth, it seems to be one of Hollywood's last taboo's.
These comments have brought up a very vivid memory that I remember. It was my earliest and first experience with contemporary American society that is similar to many; when I was about 11 years old I was selected to receive a scholarship to attend the Trinity school for the gifted in Manhattan, New York. This school was in one of the richest and whitest neighborhoods in New York. My very first day while student’s where being dropped off by their mom’s and chauffeur’s in their very expensive, very fancy cars I was dropped off in my mother’s 78’ beat up red Buick station wagon. I’ll never forget the looks I got as she drove off leaving behind a thick black trail of smoke. I swear you could hear her car coming before you could actually see it. That didn’t make it easy for me to actually fit in with the “privileged” kids in the school and there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of students that I could identify with the only other scholarship students that attended the school were Asian and they didn’t exactly welcome me with open arms.
I would also have to disagree with the idea that Canadians struggle to find a collective identity. I live very close to the Canadian-American border and interact with many of these people everyday. I may not be able to distinguish them by the clothes they wear, but what I do see is that many Canadians CAN distinguish the differences themselves. Whether there is a collective identity or not, from what I have seen in my own experiences, it does not seem to matter. They know who they are and what brings them together. I don’t believe it’s entirely a bad thing that they define themselves as “not American;” many cultures define themselves as “not this or that.” While battles won and wars fought are certainly a way of creating nationalism and pride, it is not the only way.
Differences and similarities certainly do exsit. Yet, what country is more like the US than Canada and vise versa?
I could very much relate the person that was talking about being dropped off at school with others who were privaledged while their family was virtually poor. I went through this as well in Virginia as a young teen. I was able to attend a very good boarding school due to the work that my father was involved with in a private school. He was a teacher which gave us a large break on school tuition. While I was there I quickly became aware of the differences in myself and the many other kids that were there. I didn't have the clothing, the vehicles or the material things that many of them possessed and was looked down at due to this. While wealth may make a difference in many countries, I wonder if it is such an extreme difference out of the US. Are we really so different when it comes to our thoughts of privaledge?
Personal stories can often help us build a collective story about crossing borders. I have seen some personal stories being shared by Americans. Canadians, perhaps you have some good stories to share?
I believe that it has a lot to do with the specific region that you are in and not so much the country. I can relate to the previous posts regarding the student in Manhattan, and say that the exact same scenarios take place in Canada in regions that are better off (for example West Vancouver). I think that income disparities are particularly observed while we are in our youth because there is such an emphasis on vanity and "showing off". Since Canadian and American youth both subscribe to a consumer culture, there is the same emphasis on how much money you make, and what kind of car you drive. It would be interesting to hear from someone who has grown up in a country outside of North America to see if youth are stigmatized based on income as they are here.
I agree, it would seem to me that we are making a mistake to presume that there is a Canadian identity that every Canadian holds to be true. The idea that a Canadian living in Fort McMurray and a Canadian living in Toronto having the same Canadian identity seems flaws. Across Canada different people are going to have different experiences of what Canada is. This would seem to hold true in the US. This conversation so far seems to be homogenizing Canada and the US in a their own single identities, which does not do justice to the multicultural mosaic that these countries are. I have to agree that we need to be looking at regional differences rather than national differences.
I think that we would be hard pressed to find a country that is more closely related to the US than Canada. Canada has one major difference, however, that changes the way it perceives itself and is perceived by other. Canada is not an international hegemon. Canada, like many other countries around the world, has to accept a second class seat in the international arena. This hegemonic relationship however, is not limited only to international relations. It also affects Canada culturally. Canadians watch American news, movies, TV shows, sports etc. Canadians visit American tourist destinations and adopt a lot of American fashions. How often is this cultural exchange reversed? Not often I imagine. However, Canadians do sneak in a few of their film stars and recording artists.
I think Canadians feel like they need to assert themselves against the American influence as a way of cultural self-preservation. This is perhaps not unlike how Quebecers feel with regards to the rest of Canada. This in part perhaps explains why so many Canadians are so invested in the annual New Year’s Eve Canada v. USA World Junior Hockey game, or any other Canada v. US hockey game. Hockey is very closely associated with Canadian identity. It is one place where Canadians feel they deserve to dominate. It is a place Canadian’s can play out their collective animosity toward the US. American’s have no reason to feel such a threat. That is likely why most don’t even know these games happen.
Due to the overwhelming influence of American media in Canada, it would be unfair to draw conclusions of Canadian citizenship based off what we watch on television. Instead, we largely define our citizenship in terms of our social policies. While I support the previous comment about regional differences, I would have to say that Canadians largely define themselves through their socialized health care system. Whether you are from Toronto, Fort McMurray or BC, Canadian's exhibit a sense of pride and ownership regarding their open access to health care that is very unique, especially when contrasted with the United States.
Hockey is an excellent example of Canadians asserting ourselves on our own terms. It is often the case, hoever, that we measure the success of Canadians on American terms. Music and movie stars have really "made it" when they aren't just big in Canada but in the United States as well. Drake didn't become a superstar in Canada because of Degrassi, he became a superstar in Canada, when he got big in the states. Our Canadian hearts swell with pride whenever he gives his hometown a shout out, it seems we are happy to be remembered, or even happy when our big acts remind American audiences that they are ours, not theirs.
I don't agree with "Canadians largely define themselves through their socialized health care system". I agree that a lot of Canadians are proud of the healthcare system, but there are a lot more things I think Canadians define themselves on. Whether it's fresh water or dynamic ecosystems Canadians value a lot of different categories that define "Canadian". I think Canadians fear making similar mistakes that the USA has made. For example, Enbridge pipeline is a HUGE controversy here. Although tar sands exist in Alberta (& in the USA), there are A LOT of people on Canadian coasts who are super against this.Unfortunately, I think one quality of Canadians that define us is that the entire country is not under consensus. There are a lot of different opinions through out the country, whereas I feel in the USA there are fewer opinions presented by the media, but they are more unified than in Canada. This makes for political instability and Canadians feeling like they don't have a voice.
I like the idea of being described (though not entirely defined) by social issues like environmental protection, abortion, or gay marriage. However, I don't think either Canadians or Americans are defined by issues so much as we, either subconsciously or actively, define our issues. The issues that dominate our respective national agendas are due to a perfect storm of aggressive media, controversial and/or personable politicians, and different priorities, not to mention the more quantifiable differences between populations and resources. For example, a collective Canadian legacy of preserving wilderness (almost all of my classmates will recognize the significance of "Clayoquot Sound") leads to debate about Enbridge, whereas "Prop 8" is something extremely resonant to most Americans for reasons they would be better equipped to explain.
i would also have to disagree with the statement that Canadians define themselves based on the health care system. I may not be Canadian, but I think it's the idea of socialized health care that Americans focus on more than Canadian residents. I hear so often from those around me, complaining about the American health care system and how everything would be better off if we followed Canada's example. Of course, these people fail to consider the complications for both America and Canada. One can't say that a culture defines itself based on one system simply because said person disagrees with their own. It's my own opinion, but I feel like this is one of those common misconceptions. With the Canadians I interact with on a daily basis, there is a sense of pride for various reasons, such as Hockey. I think how people, regions, etc, define themselves is varied.
I also believe that saying we don't define ourselves by the issues we discuss so much as we define the issues is entirely valid.
We seem to be pretty intent on focusing on the differences between our two countries, how about the similarities? Both Canada and the United States were discovered by clueless Europeans who had gotten lost, both were founded on the principles of government, society, religion and philosophy of Western Europe. Canada may have had a greater requirement to enter the world wars, but ultimately both of our nations did, and both suffered. Some Americans came to Canada during the '50s to escape the Vietnam issue, many Canadians ran to the States to take part in what they felt was an important fight for values they held dear. The US may be undeniably the most impressive political hegemon of the modern age, but Canadians like to perceive themselves as a middle power with a whole lot more political clout than we actually deserve. We maintain the largest undefended national border in the world. Most, if not all of us, have either friends or family one one side or other...
Canada as well as most living in the states look towards the U.S. government when it comes to defense. Most U.S. citizens will tell you that they have little say in what happens in the current U.S. government. It is a government driven by greed and corruption yet so many depend upon it to not fail. What would happen to the U.S. and Canada if there was a major collapse and our large military force no longer existed? Even though Canada is it's own country I feel it is viewed in all practicality as part of the United States, we have our differences ,but over the years the two have become closer than ever.
Excellent point about Viatnam and the fact that while some fled, others came to help the US fight.
We have many similarities through media, our speach and the fact that there are different classes of people in each place. Canadians have the same sense of pride in their country that we do in the US and do not wish to be seen identical. Still, however you can't help but notice that similarities exsist.
How many of us giggle when we hear someone use the term "A?" for instance and we immediately know that the person hails from Canada. There are also other language differences such as the french Canadians. While you are more likely to hear someone speaking french and/or English there, you are more likely to hear someone that is bilingual in the US speaking Spanish and/or English here because they tend to be the dominant cultures. While I have never been to Canada I would love to visit just to get a glimpse of this unique and yet similar culture.
What is really difficult about identifying similarities or differences between Canadian and American culture is the fact that basically it comes down to individual and/or regional perception of cultural identity and the ways in which we produce our own identities and define ourselves according to what we like about our culture. A lot of people point to Canada as a location for major social considerations (especially in comparison to the United States), but as a Canadian I have always found this really frustrating because it is an image that Canada projects but doesn't substantiate. Yes, we have universal healthcare and yes, gay marriage is legal here, but universal healthcare still has the potential to disenfranchise a lot of people, and the advent of gay marriage doesn't in any way mean that homophobia doesn't exist in Canada.
Back on page 15 the following was stated, "There are a lot of different opinions through out the country ( I assumed Canada), whereas I feel in the USA there are fewer opinions presented by the media, but they are more unified than in Canada. This makes for political instability and Canadians feeling like they don't have a voice."
That, is one thing that is totally misunderstood by the entire world. The media does not speak for everyone, only their own agenda, and there is a very large portion of the country (the US) that do not share the media's point of view, but because it's what is all over the TV, it is assumed world-wide that we are all in agreement and unified. That is far from true.
As much as we complain about healthcare, and as much as it totally takes over most public forums in Canadian media, and as much as some Americans look to it as a beacon of hope, I can't help but point out that if you simply look at numbers, we've proven our system to be completely unsustainable. We hear over and over again that especially with the changing demographic of society, the current situation will only push us deeper and deeper into national debt. Imagine the same ratio of failure on an American scale? Canada needs to seriously re-evaluate the way we operate our medicare system, research and discover new methods of providing services to our population, and really develop a working policy for the 21st century. Universal healthcare is a great force for good in this country, but as far as sustainability goes, a similar system could never work in the States. Perhaps working together, opening the doors to enable health technologies and resources to be shared is the key to success?
All nations should remember that America is a great country because of equality for all. Further, I've found that alot of canadians enter the US for jobs, and homes. To my horror, that a person would place such importance on one country over the other.
America is well known for it's statements of freedom yet the very freedoms that are preached about are taken from us. Did you know that in certain areas in California people were sued for large sums of money for having Jesus, Mary, Joseph statues in their front yards during the holiday season. Yet if it were statues of two guys kissing in their front yards it would be promoted and headlined on CNN. America talks a good game, but as a whole I see this country moving farther and farther away from the liberties and freedom it swears to protect.
I must correct @ksunchik and say that as a Canadian I am greatly offended by your misspelling of our national word. It's "Eh?" not "A?"
I disagree with the last comment saying that other nations should remember how great America is because of equality for all. America is far from being the most equal country in the world. In terms of gender equality the number of women elected in the US ranks 78th at 16.9% far behind the first place Rawanda at 56.3%. In the US (as well as Canada) ethnicity plays a large part in income level, access to healthcare, incarceration rates as well as other equality measures. Income inequality is very high in the US; pay disparity between CEO's and the average worker in the US are 350 to 1 (Canada 29 to 1). There are other social factors which have been discussed earlier in the story regarding marriage equality and equal access to healthcare and education that also demonstrate that the US is not the poster child for equality.
nmpaul, good post and you brought up a good point in class about how Canadians define equality. I am curious to know what ESC students define as equal. Is equality as simple as just being born in the United States?
I think that for Canadians equality is more along the lines of equal opportunities at nearly every stage in life. This definition is not a reality, but more of a compass. Canada also has major inequalities in society and economics, so I do not mean to say Canada is head and shoulders above the USA. I am just curious as to what the definition of equality would be to Americans.
Being Muslim, multiethnic, American, and a women, I know just how “equal” America(ns) can be. You have to define who you are yourself and except it and you must be content with that identity or someone will identify you, for you. And it is usually an offensive stereotype, a misleading assumption and a judgmental non factor. The American dream is not what you earned, but who you struggle to become in spite of the many trials and tribulations you encounter and overcome.
I definitely agree with nmpaul and the earlier statements disagreeing with the comment "All nations should remember that America is a great country because of equality for all." Everyday we see immigrants of different minority cultures arrive in the US and Canada with their PhDs - yet also see their families flounder as those degrees and experiences are not recognized. The men are often forced into jobs like cab driving, while the women (immigrants and locals alike)are stuck in pink collared jobs with little/no benefits or job security. Only those who 'make the right choices' and 'act like we do' and assimilate into the majority culture, are the ones with any promise of moving up the race ladder and to be "treated equally". I empathize with the last post and also recognized the increasing difficulties and trials that present themselves when we bring in cases of intersectionality. They need to work that much harder to gain any foothold. I would call this 'equality for all' by any means.
Our virtual community storytelling exploring the question of national differences between our borders, has challenged the preconceptions and also brought some cohesion. Speaking beyond the generalities in the collective countries has expressed the social nuances that draw the contrasts punctuating the territories or in the patchworked states. Whether one country finding unanimity or the other taking pride in opposing ideology, the theme of cultural self preservation become the most evident.
The example of immigrants coming to Canada and the US is illuminating in that the challenges they face are similar in both countries. The discussion around how Canadians and Americans culturally identify themselves is even more pronounced for immigrants, who have to first 'become' a citizen both politically and socially. As mentioned above, the latter can take longer than the former. (An immigrant can become legally an American (or Canadian) citizen with 'equal' rights and opportunities as other Americans, but remain socially marginalized until they assimilate, letting go of the cultural identity they grew up in.) This struggle between cultural self preservation and assimilation for purposes of equality is something that both countries need to address in their own terms, whether these are according to nation or region.
Equality is definitely something that both nations would have to address. I have to say though, that even when immigrants manage to assimilate, there are still exist preconceived ideas about who someone is. A doctor from India may travel to America, assimilate perfectly into his or her community, and become one's best friend, but how successfully they assimilate may not make a significant difference. I know a very nice Indian couple who have come to the States to have a better life for their children. In India, the father was a successful surgeon, but as mentioned earlier, the job he was able to get in America was nowhere near as successful as what he had worked so hard for. I would have to agree with whomever stated that the American Dream is “who you struggle to become in spite of the many trials and tribulations you encounter and overcome.” Making a name for yourself seemingly has more significance than the physical rewards/results.
I find the American Dream to be an interesting phenomenon because it really pretends to be an equalizer for everyone. Perhaps this is to say it gives the illusion of a meritocracy. This is not to say that that Canada in contrast is a better nation. We have our own struggles with equality. We do not have a Canadian dream that revolves around "making a name for yourself". But maybe we do not have a Canadian Dream in the same way American's do. Immigration is much different in Canada than the U.S.A. Probably because of multiculturalism and other forces. We do not have the same notion of assimilation quite like Americans do. I think Canada overall has a much more varied idea of what Canadians should look like or act like. Though it is not much of a utopian like some want to believe.
I think that the idea of an "American Dream" is a bit ridiculous. By this I mean how should that dream be specific to America? Is it not true for most people is the world to want to be comfortable in life in terms of money, luxury, etc. I do not understand how this is something supposedly unique to America. I am sure that what constitutes success could be different from country to country, but success on its own is not a uniquely American desire.
The so-called American Dream is a misnomer. It (the dream) started as the hopes of oppressed peoples of Europe coming to the New World to free themselves from the oppression in their homelands. That dream has evolved over the centuries, but one thing has remained constant: people seem to believe the answer to their problems is in America.
In truth, all people everywhere want the same things: to have a decent life that is good, not great, just without hassles and an opportunity to make a more meaningful life for themselves and their children. Bottom line all people everywhere, deep down inside, are the same, or close to the same, and want very similar things. The American dream should actually be called a humanity dream.
I think that the biggest factor to consider is that the "American Dream" means social mobility. If "all men are created equal"then people can have opportunities based on their ability, and not the social class which they are born into. This differs from countries like India where historically you were born into the caste that you would remain in for the rest of your life, hence no social mobility. I personally think that social mobility plays a large role in what equality is. However even though both Canada and the United States define themselves as equal, social mobility is often not possible due to more than just economic conditions
I thin that the American Dream is quite unique to North America and I think it means more that just living confortably without hassles and with oppertunity for social mobility. I think the American dream has a lot to do with consumerism. It is a very materialistic kind of aspiration. Sure, I do think that that most people, regardless of where they live want to live in peace, security, with food in their bellies and a roof over their heads. But the american dream is something more. And I think it does more harm than good, because it is used to pacify the lower socioeconomic classes. It is an unattainable (and unsustainable) concept.
To generalize that the "American Dream" is what everyone wants deep down I believe is problematic. We are taught that we want the "American Dream" by the capitalist western societies that we live in. We grow up thinking and believing that by owning a car or a house we will be happy. The "American Dream" may be affecting the individuals living in Canada or the US who subscribe to it but I would say that more harm has been done overseas. The consumerist behavior that the "American Dream" deems as good has done a lot of harm. This behavior has led to many inequalities overseas in areas such a workers rights or environmental destruction. But I think that Kaelyna brings up a great point about India, illustrating how different cultures can be from one another. These different cultures can effect how we view the world and change what we want to get out of life and I think to generalize from our position living in Canada and the US is an issue as we have very different points of view.
Is it not true that most people on the planet would like to be comfortable? To have enough food to eat, clean water to drink? Have the means to make a living and provide for their children? To be safe and relaxed in their productive lives? That is the dream I was referring to. It is not an "American Dream" its the dream of all people. Take the politics and religion out of the equation, take the continents and the country off the table.
Maybe its living in a dream world, but that dream is not exclusive to the North American continent, certainly not exclusive to America. Basic humans want basically the same things for a happy life.
What you spoke about is not "the american dream." Yhe American Dream is all about unrealistic upward social mobility. It is to come to "the land of the free" with absolutely nothing and end up in suburbia with a nice house, beautiful spouse and two children and have lovely neighbours. It is why the Republic rhetoric about how they want poor people to drive through rich neighbourhoods and think to themselves "good on you, I will be joining you soon" is what exposes the sickness of the american dream. This is not true for everyone. It is not true for most people. If you are poor, you will likely remain poor. C'est la vie. The american dream promises that all it takes is hard work and you too will be joining those wealthy folks in beautiful houses. You can do it! It is for this reason that some poor folks (tea party) with no chance to ever rise to the now shrinking middle class won't oppose tax cuts to the rich because hey, that'll be them soon, right? The dream is a perversion of hope.
The perversion of hope is hope nonetheless to some who may not have dared to hope before. Securing a decent job, purchasing a nice home in a nice neigborhood and raising a nice family are not such bad things after all if we consider the alternative. And this land of the free and of equality and all that, is not so free and equal now is it? I think the problem of all peoples, not just Americans or Canadians, is the lack of appreciation and the constant need to complain about this or that. Americans are different, Canadians are different. I see that as a good thing. What would life be like if we were all alike? How predictable and boring would that life be. We all bring something different to the table, and if there are a few things that we borrow from each other, what's so bad about that?
I don't think it's a need to complain or lack of appreciation that is a global issue, necessarily. I think it's more that there is a compulsion (human nature?) no matter where you are for people to want to better their situation. In the end that's basically what the "American dream" comes down to . . . a sort of shared conscious desire that was given shape, and from there strayed from its initial intents and purposes. Now it's often used as a tool rather than a concept, a weapon or something to be pulled out to motivate those who would rather look critically at the flaws of a system, or to justify otherwise unjustifiable actions. This isn't to criticize the values inherent in the dream itself--not at all! But as a society (as any society) we tend to get caught up in ideas and idealization, which again, I suppose, is part of nationalism and national identity as well.
To the point that "hope is hope nonetheless" I question the use of perverse hope that will rarely, if ever, actualize. It is empty and blind to the widespread and adverse effects of continuing to pursue the American Dream. The point jaitken made about overseas effects of the American Dream is too often ignored or sidelined by those pursuing the Dream. The well being of other nations' environments, citizens and economies come at the expense of providing for North Americans materialistic goods and opportunities.
It is too much tied to consumerism to come in different, more humanistic or simple versions. People everywhere have the same basic needs--food, water, shelter, security-- but I don't think that a person is considered to have "made it" or "achieved the Dream" once these basic needs are met, whether they are judging themselves or being judged by others and society. As sevelynk mentioned, maybe its human nature to want a better life, without maybe a specific endpoint.
I will concede the American culture is consumerist and deeply materialistic, but isn't that the world over? Can Canadians or Europeans really say they don't spend similar amounts of time and money on holidays and celebrations, or on making their homes comfortable? I cannot say that for the country I was born and raised in, because the truth is, Jamaicans are one of the most materialistic people I know. We all extend ourselves as much as we're able. Should I then turn around and blame America for imposing that way of life or those thought processes on a third world nation? On any other nation? Should I blame America for being Capitalistic and taking advantage of cheaper labor and production costs? Regardless of what our race, nationality, culture we all take advantage of situations, both positive and negative when they presented to us. American companies off-shoring jobs to China to take advantage of cheap labor costs, is no different than the Chinese nail shop, or the Chinese wig store in the 'hood. It's called Capitalism, and as consumers, in order to get the most bang for our buck, we choose to drive from the suburbs to the 'hood in order to take advantage of those cheaper prices. The question could be asked also whether or not these laborers are better off for working in these manufacturing plants. What would their lives be without those jobs? Are these jobs forced upon them or did they make a conscious decision to accept employment in these facilities. I don't support inhumane working conditions for anyone, but I think the world takes pleasure in blaming American for it's pitfalls. Dreams are individualistic, regardless of how unified we are as a people in wanting to acquire the basic comforts that the American Dream offers.
Each day Americans and Canadians can roll out of bed, turn on the light, start a pot of fresh coffee brewing and jump into a nice hot shower, before heading out the door and turning the key in their late model car and drive themselves to their place of employment. For much of the rest of the world, the people experience a much less privileged existence. Just finding food or water is an extreme challenge, forget about the indoor plumbing, much less a decent job.
We as human beings, Canadian, American or otherwise, need to have the desire and political will to finally decide that no human should face a day without the basic necessities of life. Until we make this collective mission, it doesn't matter which side of the border you reside, the good life will always be a hollow life.
There seems to be a notion in Canada, or at least with some of my friends, that that War of 1812 was a great Canadian moment when "we" burnt down the White House an so on. However, Canada was not an independent country then, and would not be until over 50 years later. The war was between the USA and Britain. I am curious to know how Americans view the War of 1812. Is there a positive American spin to this war? I would assume so, as many American friends of mine seem to believe the USA is an undefeated nation. Do Americans identify the war as one with Canada or with Britain?
History is that, history, keeping in mind that our population was not as diverse as it is today, in both countries. With populations changing, bringing other cultures, ideas, food, clothing, and religions. A few hundred years ago Europe was fighting over who would run our countries. Tomorrow, today becomes history and our stories will continue to grow and change with each passing day. I believe that America is a very strong and giving country but I can't say there is a positive spin on any war although where would we be our ancestors did not fight these battles to free our nations. Both Canada and America would be very different today if other ruling powers had taken us on and won.
I agree with sevelynk. Adding to that, there can be as many subcultures within provinces as there are between nations. It are these subcultures which help to define each province or territory. If we homogenize peoples and categorize them, then we jeopardize losing crucial information that would be overlooked which could potentially change the country (or international relations) as we know it. We should stop comparing and build a deep analysis of information that can be used to help better international relations. This would help educate people as well as potentially open new political doors.
For nearly 2 decades I have resided relatively close to the Canadian border. We always see Canadian license plates on our main highways and it's just a fact of life. In the summer of 1995 my wife and I made our first trip north in Montreal for our honeymoon. We stayed for six days and had a great time exploring the city of Montreal. Several things stuck out about the city. First, it's beautiful! Second, most everyone we encountered were very friendly. Third, it became very clear to us that America could take a few lessons on how to maintain a city from Canadians. We both loved the old European charm mixed with the more contemporary atmosphere. We always felt safe and enjoyed the amazing culinary experience. I know I'm looking at this through a tourist's eyes, but, there's no disputing that America needs to take a few clues on how to maintain heritage of communities and modernize at the same time.
The biggest difference between nations isn't political it's just human nature. We are two nations built upon great standards of commitment which shows in our peoples. I'll always feel that "Big Brother" is watching out for Canada, and who has to fight when you've got such a great brother. It's looks like we will all agree to disagree.