July 6, 2011

That lack of historical perspective, again

Filed under: Cancon, History, Humour, WW1, WW2 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:50

Mark Steyn pokes some fun at Tim Naumetz who managed to confuse the Vichy regime with Vimy Ridge, in an attempt to portray Stephen Harper as a history-distorting warmonger:

As Lilley points out, it was the Liberal Defence Minister John McCallum who made Vichy “a household name” in Canadian history when he confused France’s Second World War collaborationists with Canada’s greatest First World War battle: Vimy, Vichy, what’s the diff? (The Defence Minister made his error in seeking to explain an earlier confession that he’d never heard of the Dieppe Raid.) After blog-mockery from Lilley and others, Mr Naumetz and/or his somnolent editors have belatedly corrected his piece, although without acknowledging the error, never mind addressing the broader question of the cultural void in which he’s operating. I mean, it’s not even a particularly Canadian question: If you don’t know what Vichy is, it’s hard to figure out Casablanca.

[. . .]

I have no idea who “Tim Naumetz” is. (Any relation to Admiral Naumetz, whom the Bush-Cheney warmongers singlehandedly made a household name in the Pacific?) But truly he is a child of Trudeaupia. He belongs in the same category as Miles Hopper and Jason Cherniak, apparently grown men who write stuff like:

Canadians have a right to Freedom of Expression. We have that right because the Trudeau Government negotiated and passed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Gotcha. So before 1982 Canadians had no right to Freedom of Expression? Thank you, Boy Genius. As I said of young Mr Cherniak:

One can only marvel at the near Maoist elimination of societal memory required to effect such a belief.

For these guys, Charter Day 1982 is Year Zero in Trudeaupia, and that’s that. You get a lot of that on the review pages, of course. When a critic says “This is the best sitcom since ‘Seinfeld””, all that means is “This is as far back as I remember.” But it’s the collectivization of “this is as far back as I remember” that’s so creepy about this crowd, as if they all went through the same historical vacuuming in school.

Which is presumably why it never even seems to occur to them that “this is as far back as I remember” is an inadequate argument when you’re attempting to argue that the current regime is attempting a wholesale makeover of national identity. I have no particular views on that one way or the other, but I notice that, consciously or otherwise, Mr Harper seems to have a tonal preference for pre-Trudeaupian language. For example, he welcomed Their Royal Highnesses to “our fair Dominion”. How often did that word pass Martin’s or Chrétien’s or Trudeau’s lips? I suppose Mr Naumetz would find that a bit déclassé, too, even though, in its political sense, it’s one of the few genuine Canadian contributions to the English language.

August 28, 2010

QotD: The Canadian (lack of) taste for charismatic leadership

Canadians like their politicians dull. Perhaps at some point, many moons ago, this was a defense mechanism of sorts. A dull politician is unlikely to do anything rash and interventionist, thereby mucking up the daily life of the nation. This is no longer a safe strategy. Lester Pearson was politely dull, and unleashed Medicare, an ahistorical flag and Pierre Trudeau on an unsuspecting nation. Never was so much harm, done by so few, in so short a period of time, than in Mike Pearson’s five years in office. Much of what people blame Trudeau for was actually begun by Pearson. But who could hate Mike? He was such a nice guy. He wore a bow tie.

There have been only three genuinely charismatic Prime Ministers in Canadian history: Wilfred Laurier, John Diefenbaker and Pierre Trudeau. John A Macdonald might be a weak fourth, depending on how fond you are of boozy charm. What did they all have in common? What the Elder President Bush disdainfully called the “vision thing.” You may not like their visions, but they were about something and attracted a train of almost fanatical — by Canadian standards — followers.

You can’t run into an aging baby boomer in Toronto, they are ubiquitous here, without being bored to tears with their particular Trudeau story. They campaigned for him. They met him walking down some solitary Montreal street. You get the odd Trudeau in the wilderness stories. The funny ones usually involve a disco, a blond and something that happened after the third cocktail. Urban legends used to surround Laurier as well. Dief, as Peter C Newman noted, had the presence of an Old Testament prophet.

Their vision and their charisma were not coincidences, but corollaries. Just being charming and interesting will get you only so far.

Publius, “Iggy Why”, Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2010-08-26

March 16, 2010

Trudeau’s part in Cuba’s economic non-liberation

Filed under: Americas, Cancon, Economics, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:01

William Watson mentions, in a review of Just Watch Me, volume 2 of a Pierre Trudeau biography:

But to me the strangest and most alarming passage was this one, on page 617. Referring to the optimal speed of transition for countries exiting communism, English writes: “Trudeau’s concerns about making haste too quickly, with potentially disastrous results for the health of any society, were apparent in the mid-Nineties, when Castro’s Cuba, reeling from the impact of the abrupt end of financial support from the Soviet Union, considered opening up its rigid state socialist system. Because of its historic economic ties with Cuba, Canada became involved in discussions with the Cuban government. James Bartleman, then the chief foreign policy advisor to prime minister Jean Chrétien, later indicated that Castro abandoned his plan to loosen socialist restraints after a conversation with Trudeau, who cautioned him about its impact on the social health of his country. No record of Trudeau’s conversation is available, but Bartleman’s account rings true because of Trudeau’s friendship with Castro and his respect for the gains achieved by Cuba in the areas of health and education.”

Fidel must have been deeply grateful for Trudeau’s advice; the Cuban people, not so much.

It must be said that Castro probably welcomed Trudeau’s advice partly because it aligned closely with his preferences anyway . . .

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