Musings of an Urban Redneck

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Work In Progress

I keep being drawn back to the end of World War II – even though much of what I rail about has as a base even earlier than that. Keeping in mind that I’m Canadian, I’m going to be looking at the American response much of the time – not because I’m anti-Canadian but simply because the actions of the Americans tended to spill over on to us – as a people, as a culture and as a nation. Canadians, for the most part, have little understanding of that bleed effect and don’t pay nearly enough attention to how it has affected Canadian history. Prior to 1867, we tend to think of ourselves as being bound to the Empire rather than our neighbour. The reality is that the American Revolution affected Canada just as severely as it affected the American colonies.

Let’s start then, with the surrender of Cornwallis and the end of the American Revolution. Suddenly, there’s a single entity south of the British colony of the Canada’s and it is no longer a part of the British Empire. What’s more – this new country, the United States of America is divided against itself…the people who fought for the Revolution and the people who fought for the Empire. As with any civil war, it left deep divisions which weren’t going to be healed overnight, despite what any peace treaty might say. A great many who fought for the Crown decided that their best interest was served by migrating North. Thus was born the Canadian myth of the United Empire Loyalists. Not that the Loyalists didn’t exist – that isn’t the myth. The myth is one of heroics and a principled stand for the Crown. In the cold light of day – the myth fails. The Loyalists were no more heroes than I – they were simply the losers of a major civil war in which atrocity after atrocity was permitted on both sides. Further, these people, as the losers, had no expectation of being able to recoup their lives and livelihoods without Crown intervention and that wasn’t going to be possible in the newly minted USA. That left them only two options – go to Canada or return to Britain. There are those who maintain they had a third option – going to Hell – but from the tone and tenor of most Loyalists writings, opting for Canada was about the same.

Right – so precisely what did the arrival of the Loyalists mean? More importantly, why would this be of any importance to us some 229 years later? The short answer is that the arrival of the Loyalists set the tone for the type of country Canada would become. Professor jack Granastein, Canadian Historian Emeritus,  in his book, Yankee Go Home?, characterized the Loyalists as “whining, puling, losers.” Regrettably, there’s little in the written record to nay say this. The Loyalists regarded Canada as nothing more than a howling wilderness and that they were unceremoniously deposited there by the whim of the Crown…the very Crown they’d fought for in the US. Of course, there, they had power, wealth and privilege, whereas in Canada, they had precious little, save what they could carve out for themselves. Oh, and for any descendants of the Loyalists (as I am) they also thought to bring their slaves…yes, that’s right, their slaves. Canada may have been the terminus of the Underground Railway during the 1850’s – but never forget, at the beginning, the Canadian colonies were also slave owning colonies. I stress this point because later on – some 200 years later on, this will be important. In short though, the Loyalists arrived; bag, baggage and slaves, demanding their entitlements from the Crown. Is it any wonder then, some two centuries later another politician would infamously declaim “I’m entitled to my entitlements.”

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No Courtesy? No Surprise.

In case you haven’t noticed, we live in a rather rude and mannerless society. To be clear, I’m not talking about basic table etiquette (although, that too has suffered over the decades) but the basic social niceties and small courtesies that allow reasonable social interaction. We developed these courtesies over the centuries to make social interaction better for all people and mostly, it worked. Not for everyone, not all the time and not perfectly – but we had a generally polite and functioning society. While I will admit that today’s society is still functioning (for whatever value of function you may hold) we are most definitely not polite to each other and we definitely don’t go out of our way to be so.

Right – so that’s the issue in a nutshell. We know it.  We recognize there’s a problem but we haven’t got the faintest idea of how to fix it, let alone knowing how the issue started in the first place. Identifying the how and why may asssist us in figuring out a means of correction. I have to admit though, that after 40 some years of neglect, I am rather pessimistic about any chances of fixing the situation.

So – how did we get here? In a phrase – Baby Boomers. Yep – I’m indeed going to tar an entire generation with this brush, even though there are many who don’t deserve it. The sad fact is that manners started going out the window with the Baby Boomers and it happened for one simple reason…”manners are too hard.” Unfortunately, that’s the battle cry of the entire generation (and I’m included in it – whether I want to be or not). The whining cry of “it’s too hard” has echoed down the corrdiors of time for the last 65 years.

Simple courtesy has been tagged by Boomers as being too hard. Or, in some cases, courtesy was seen as being too Establishment and therefore by necessity be discarded. It wasn’t just the Flower children who made that decision – the ladies who were pushing the Equal Rights (which was needed) also wanted society to discard conventional courtesies. At least the feminists had a point – opening a car door for a lady, offering to carry her books or packages etc. probably was somewhat demeaning. At the very least, it did continue to push the stereotype of the “wealer sex”. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences have struck us all.

Simple courtesies are neither hard nor difficult. It’s merely a matter of thinking of the other person before yourself. And that, friends, is where the Boomers all get tarred with the same brush. Boomers found it hard and still find it hard, to think of anyone but themselves. Hence their whining battle cry. Their willingness to jettison anything that was too hard – manners, literacy, education, societal responsibility has turned us into modern day barbarians. If not barbarians, we’re the next step up from them.

Simple courtesy costs nothing but provides a lot. Pleasantries, smiles and even conversations can happen because of a small courtesy but because this was ‘hard’ much of this has disappeared. Society doesn’t have conventions anymore; it’s everyone for themselves and if someone is in your way, steamroll them. The really funny thing is – it’s harder to move through someone than to go around them. The Boomers, despite their crys of ‘it’s too hard’ took the lazy person’s approach and spent more time and effort to avoid being mannerly than it would have taken to be courteous. So much for it’s too hard…more like, it really didn’t/doesn’t benefit me so I shall do as I please and the rest of the world will just have to conform to me.

Cheers all!

Whatever happened to literacy?

I’ve noticed a tendency by many internet posters and users to take shortcuts with their writing. The general reason, so I’m told, is that typing grammatically correct sentences in real time is too difficult. With the proliferation of blogs, social networking sites, chats and MMORPG’s one would think that people would be conscious of the message they’re trying to get out and be a little careful about what they type. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In fact, should someone dare mention that the message presented is incomprehensible, they’re accused of being a “Grammar Nazi”. I’m reasonably certain we’ve all seen this sort of accusation – and also the post/comment/statement of the accuser. I know I mentally monitor my internet communications because of this. One cannot make a statement “ur a illiterate moren” without looking like a complete fool. It behooves one then, to be as precise and as grammatically correct  as possible.

Now – being grammatically correct and literate is, so I’m told, difficult. Courtesty is apparently difficult; grammar is not. We all learned it (or we were supposed to have) and any graduate of a high school is supposed to be literate. Apparently, what supposedly is true, is not. Literacy rates are falling by the standards set by government. The governmment’s response is to move the goalposts – therefore, a lesser level of literacy – what was once known as functional literacy is now the defining standard for full literacy.

Ideas, while important, must still be expressed as a coherent whole. If you have a wonderful idea but can’t properly communicate that idea – then really, your grand plan is somewhat valueless, isn’t it? Having teachers tell you not to worry about the spelling or grammar isn’t helping you – it is in fact, hindering your communication skills – the very thing those teachers are supposed to be getting across to you. Teachers do this because ensuring students are properly grounded in language skills is hard. Not difficult, just hard. Going back to the idea of difficult – try teaching these same children courtesy – now you’ve a reason to complain.

Literacy is a linchpin of society and a modern democratic society relies on its citizens to be literate. Tolerate illiteracy and you’re effectively telling your society that you care little for its continuance.

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