Before I begin this post, I should clearly define my heritage, as that seems quite important to many people right now. I’m the product of British Isle immigrants (who came over in the mid-late 1800s) and Dutch immigrants (1950s). I was born in Canada.
Yesterday, Joseph Boyden published My Name is Joseph Boyden in Maclean’s magazine. It’s 4 000 words of “here’s what I know about my family” and “I’m a good person”.
It’s not going over too well with anyone who isn’t from the upper white echelon.
Here in Canada, we like scandal. Our British heritage is made obvious in scandal: we disapprove from a chilly distance, disdain with silence. When we speak of people, we use the passive voice and unspecific pronouns like they and he/she, so as not to contaminate ourselves with proper nouns.
We can’t seem to decide: should we be blaming an individual or a group? Who, precisely, is responsible for this problem? Who should we focus on?
According to Ken Whyte, it is time to focus on an individual and the “bullshit” that has been inflicted on him:
(Will I comment on his use of capital letters? I suppose it could be accidental…. No, I think I won’t comment on it.)
According to Robert Jago, it is also time to think about the individual and a different variety of bullshit. (I suggest reading the whole thread and [most of] the comments):
(Mr. Jago also makes mistakes on Twitter, but they’re occasional and clearly typos.)
I think Canada might be getting too focused on the individuals. Individual attention is required when there is a person standing right in front of you, where the interaction is between you and them. When a whole country–including those who have never met said individual–focuses on one person, this becomes rather like a religion. The person becomes an entity, a god or a devil, to serve the purpose.
God/devil/scapegoat: they’re all useful.
The real scandal in my country, however, is that we are a humongous, varied group that isn’t working well together. We’re not working well because we’re focusing on individuals rather than groups. We’re looking for ancient DNA and contemporary affirmation to justify our views on millions of people.
Maclean’s magazine gave 4 000 words to one person. The article isn’t about making improvements to Canada, about how we can work things out so everyone gets what they need–and perhaps some of what they want. It’s about one person and how they justify their own identity.
I would have like to see something about how we could try to end scandal–something about how the taxes can be evenly distributed, how we can get everyone the basics of human needs and rights, how someone like me (who has everything they need) can share with those who need something.
In this age of internet, where just about everyone has access to blogs, Twitter, etc. I would like to see an individual’s issues on said individual’s personal social media sites and national issues in our national media. The use of scandal to sell magazines depresses me.
And, for pete’s sake, let’s try for a new, more interesting, better class of scandal.
P.S. Ken Whyte praises the piece as “outstanding”. It’s not. It’s not better than, worse than or different from any other rambling blog. It needs a red pen.
Edit: Pithy internet quotes to support my point.