Canadians are a notoriously polite people. If you bump into us, we say I’m sorry. We are also well known for our general respect for government, though we may disagree with a particular one. When a problem arises in our country we expect it is the government that should solve it. It’s right in our constitution: peace, order and good government.

You might understandably confuse this polite respect for deference but Canadians in fact do not easily defer to power. We argue with it, sometimes in quite strong – though polite — terms. We certainly don’t idolize powerful people. We recognize that the police and the military are important institutions but we prefer the courts and the civilian instruments of government.

Unlike the USA, Canada has never had a general as a Prime Minister. At least 4 US presidents were formerly generals — correct me if there were more. And the American President is the Commander in Chief. Our commander in chief is a little old lady in London, England. And compare the attitude towards the muscularity of our leaders. American presidents are expected to have a sporting quality: Regan’s horseback riding, Clinton’s jogging, Obama’s basketball. Even George Bush owned a baseball team. Is it me or does the shirt-off hunting and fishing photos of Vlad Putin seem oddly American in style?

The closest we ever got to a he-man is Pierre Trudeau and his sport was canoeing. How Canadian!

Certainly few Canadians have much respect for billionaires. We question how they got their money and whether it was done properly. We fret about inequality the way most Americans would consider a bit weak-kneed. In America they sanctify the rich, especially after they die (Steve Jobs anyone), and fully expect them to play a major role in politics (on the right and the left). I mean, where else but in America could a lunatic writer like Ayn Rand with her crypto-fascist hero, John Galt, be taken seriously as a political philosopher?

Canada isn’t free of those who love a man in uniform (though we prefer damaged peace keeper s like Romeo Dallaire) but they are a clear minority. Some conservatives seem to think the rich have a special knowledge of the world but the few times we elect one to office it tends to end badly. Rich businessman, Larry O’Brien, after his single term as mayor of Ottawa, at least had the good grace to acknowledge that running a city is nothing like running a corporation — it’s much harder.

Politeness yes. Deference to power or the powerful, not so much.

And that’s ten minutes.


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