As is a universally known fact, the response of any Canadian to someone stepping on their shoe is for them to apologize profusely.
Day after day, though, this self-abnegation is becoming harder and harder to sustain.
Instead, a terrible truth can no longer be denied. Its starting point is that for some time now it’s been obvious that Canada is one of the most successful countries in the world.
Precision in such a matter is impossible. But most international surveys of topics ranging from, as examples, education to social progress, include in their Top 10 choices the Scandinavians (Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway); the well-run Europeans (Holland, Switzerland, Austria); and the one-time British colonies (Australia, Canada, New Zealand).
Most of these countries, though, have the advantage of being small and homogenous. Among them, only Australia is about as large as us, while none of the others deals with a population anything like as diverse.
These days, our embarrassment at doing so well (which isn’t at all to say we don’t botch a fair number of the challenges that confront us) is well on the way to becoming uncomfortably acute.
Suddenly, we are becoming a kind of global loner.
Once, we could count on being able to figure out the best decisions to make by copying two sources of immense experience and accomplishment.
What, though, has the Canada of today got to learn from a Europe that for so long was our tutor on everything from culture to style? And what does this country have to learn now from the United States, for so long so dynamic and so original?
In both instances precious little is the only judgment that can be made.
That politics in the U.S. has long been dominated by money and lobbyists and empty rhetoric has become self-evident. Today’s American politics is a pitiful joke. One presidential contestant, Senator Marco Rubio, summed up brilliantly his nation’s condition by remarking: “who wants to live in a country where everybody hates each other.”
Much of the blame for this derives of course from the racism and anger unleashed by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. But he alone has given a “voice” to American working men until now ignored while they struggled to deal with lost jobs, lost salaries, lost hope.
Europe’s condition is still worse. From the botched Euro currency that has bankrupted member-states such as Greece to the chaos of first attracting refugees from Syria and then of installing barriers against them, Europe now functions as an empire as inept as the old Ottoman Empire.
A possibility exists that this European Union may unravel entirely, a process that will become irresistible if the British vote to leave in their June referendum.
We aren’t, of course, a perfect little tribe. Curing the harm done to indigenous people will take a great deal of time and money and of tolerance, on both sides.
But we, just about uniquely, now belong to the 21st century rather than times long past, and to the global economy and culture rather than to the creeds of nationalism and ethnic separation.
Steps already taken, as of creating space here for 35,000 or more Syrian refugees and of transforming into gender-equal a key institution such as the cabinet, reflect a new attitude, a new view about the way people should relate to each other, and to their society.
Others have begun to recognize this. According to a survey by the Reputation Institute based in New York and Copenhagen, the world’s most respected country, just ahead of Australia and Switzerland, is, well, guess …