Stretched out along the foreign floors of a basement hostel in London, I felt the weight of a land drowned in past and saw above me a figure of the future. She stood tall with vigor as her shadow blocked the sun from my eyes. With cheerful interrogation she let loose a southern us accent and gestured toward the Canadian Flag on my pack, "So you really Canadian or ya just using it as a cover like us?" I grinned at the irony and stood up to find that the girl was not quite as tall as I had thought.
Recent articles in the Calgary Herald and the National Post have helped drive Canada into mediocrity. It seems the United Nations has cut us from the team of world industrial powers. We were described as having diminished international stature, becoming an increasingly minor player and existing in "the middle of the pack." Let it be known that such foreign first world rookies as Singapore and Thailand are out performing us. Somewhere in there, it was mentioned that we are the Number 1 country in the world in terms of human development. However, this was used merely as to create a more cumbersome sympathy for our drowning hopefuls who crave some of the extraordinary flavor that blesses the US.
This mentality of "poor little Canada can't catch a break" is everywhere. It has worked its way into the psyche of the Canadian people to the point that we believe this limited perception is true. In focusing on the bad and casting aside the good, our national consciousness is driving a whining stake of through the heart of the Canadian dream.
Perhaps we have lost some of our grip on the world's economic and political stages; previously second and third world countries are simply catching up to us. The point is Canada suffers from an inferiority complex that has little to do with our current standing in world affairs--it stems from our envy and spite of the global giant to the south.
We perpetuate this myth of inferiority. We see ourselves as confused adolescents struggling to Þt in among a school of Yankee bullies, feeding our state's decrepit self-esteem with talk of our feeble dollar, outrageous taxes and the onset of brain drain across the boarder. The world is changing and so to is our standing within it, but at least we don't have unsightly maple leafs branded on our asses, defacing the image of western idealism.
It is difficult to separate us from the image of the us. They have infiltrated us in every way. Or rather they have grown into us from the spawning of our nation. A feeling resides in the air that Canada is the meager red and white whom falls short of the blue. Like we are an incomplete gesture waving at the American flag.
We need an alternative to the image of the Canadian shrimp in the shadow of mighty Uncle Sam. A simple shift in perception can set forth the redefinition of our global presence as we, and others, see it. It is naive to argue that we are unaffected by the us. It is the new imperialism steamrolling the globe with capitalist idealism. We are all tainted by the dyes of the us, whether we live in Calgary, Cancun or Cairo.
We must stake our ground in the wake of our big brother's belly flop before we get swept away by it. We have the advantage of dichotomy, existing both within and outside of the American pocket. We can revel in our freedom and wealth while understanding that there is a world out there with its own diversified sense of culture and vision.
Our identity has the purity of youth and the blessing of cultural hybridity in its veins and is not burdened, like others, with the weight of ancient pasts. Nor is it clouded by the fierce and often blinding patriotism of the us. Perhaps more than any other country we can be the voice of all places, the fresh carriers of diversity and dignity.
We are the noble eccentric brother of the beefed-up jock with too much upper body offset by toothpick legs. In letting go of the American dream and embracing our own perhaps we could finally touch the rare, soft air of the life we call Canada.