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I’ve been reading Conrad Black’s 1106-page history of Canada, Rise to Greatness.I can’t recommend it. For two reasons.
First, because it’s written at a level of turgidity rarely achieved since the Victorian authors. The friend who loaned me the book said he had to read it with his dictionary open beside him.
Second, though, because this book is not really about Canada – it’s about Black’s obsession with high-level leadership, an elite to which he thinks he belongs. So although there are voluminous references to Sir John A. Macdonald’s speeches to parliament, there is not one word about the actual building of the transcontinental railway that linked a fledgling Canada “from sea to sea.” Alexander Mackenzie’s journeys to the Arctic and Pacific Oceans get shrugged off in two sentences. David Thompson’s mapping of the Columbia river system gets a single line.
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: history, Canada, Conrad Black, leadership
Canada’s 150th birthday party is over. It didn’t feel to me like the 100th birthday. That’s a subjective reaction, I must admit.
In 1967, we genuinely seemed to be in a celebrative mood. Gatherings spontaneously broke into Bobby Gimbey’s anthem Ca-na-da… Expo 67 in Montreal had made the world aware of us. Neighbours held beard-growing parties.
Like the musical Dolly, we were crowin’, growin’, goin’ strong.
By contrast, Canada’s 150th – handicapped, perhaps, by its polysyllabic “Sesquicentennnial” title – felt manufactured. No catchy song kept us dancing in the streets. McDonald’s commercials had staff and customers singing Happy Birthday to each other. (I wonder if they paid royalties to the copyright holders each time?) Furniture chains offered bright-red 150th Birthday Sales, with all prices ending in 99. Parties had to be organized by civic authorities.
It felt like drinking champagne at the bedside of a dying patient.
Or am I just growing old and jaded?
Categories: Sharp Edges
Tags: Peter Mansbridge, Canada, identity, Sesquicentennial, 150th birthday