Canada and Its Inferiority Complex

October 6, 2009 § 8 Comments

Last week, I published a review of Canadian journalist John Lorinc’s new book, Cities: A Groundwork Guide, over at the Complex Terrain Laboratory.  As much as I liked and enjoyed this book, I found myself wondering, though, as I read this book, was what is with Canadians’, or maybe just Torontonians’, obsession with Toronto?

Toronto is mentioned more than any other city in the world in Lorinc’s book.  More than London, Hong Kong, Sao Paolo; more than Nairobi, and New York.  Toronto is mentioned more than twice as often as Canada’s other 2 major cities: Montréal and Vancouver.  Moreover, Montréal is usually, though not exclusively, mentioned in a negative light.  Not Toronto.

We are a nation with an inferiority complex, that I can accept.  Toronto’s wiki page, though, is kind of sad, as it has to point out that: “As Canada’s economic capital, Toronto is considered a global city and is one of the top financial centres in the world.”  It is indeed a top financial centre in the world, somewhere around 20th.  Great.  Who cares, really.

Why can’t we just stand on our own merits and not have to defensively point out that we can play with the big boys?  I liked Canada more when we were an unassuming nation, proud to be what we are, but not a neighbourhood bully or the whiny little brother of the USA.  This inferiority complex is getting out of hand.

And whilst Lorinc, on the one hand, is showcasing Toronto for the domestic audience, it is kind of sad that it has to come at the expense of Montréal and Vancouver, and that Toronto is mentioned more often than any other city in the entire world.   Years ago, the Vancouver band, Spirit of the West, wrote a song about this, called “Far Too Canadian;”  times have changed, though, we are no longer content to be the unassuming, quiet Canadians.  Now we’re becoming a bunch of loudmouths.  I like the old way better.

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§ 8 Responses to Canada and Its Inferiority Complex

  • Mike says:

    In fact, you/we stand on your/our merits. The view from abroad? The inferiority complex is a parochial preoccupation, a symptom or expresssion – maybe – of sheltered navel-gazing. It would be interesting to see Canada/Canadians talking/thinking about the world more, instead of (always?) anchoring it to Canada’s role in it.

  • Mike says:

    I meant “you/we can stand on your/our merits”.

  • ransacktheelder says:

    kinda my point. we get so caught up in our own inferiority that we need to point to ourselves all the time, point out what we do in the world, when, in reality, i don’t think the world cares one way or another. people generally like canada, well, except for ignorant republicans, and generally think canada does well in the world. but why that even matters is beyond me.

    then again, i think most nations do this. the americans do the same thing, too.

  • Mike says:

    I dunno. I think a decade ago, it would have been a safe assumption that “people generally like Canada.” Today? Not so much, and not just some of our less well informed southern neighbors. I’m less convinced, too, that this is common behavior… among expats, I see more Canadians doing the star-struck country bumpkin… but maybe not. I’m extremely aware of it in others when I see it, but actually, I can’t claim that Canadians do it more then others.

  • John Matthew Barlow says:

    i guess it’s a question of where you are, whether or not we canucks are liked. but, i do agree that the past decade or so has seen canada move into that dangerous territory of no longer being seen as a benign middling power. dammit, too, ‘cos i figured this was our best means of taking over the world. we’d get ’em when no one was paying attention, i mean, who would pay attention to canada ;)?

    but seriously, i don’t think canadians are any more self-centred than others, certainly americans do the same thing. the consequence when canadians are self-referential, though, are far lesser, at least in terms of geopolitics. but, i must say, one thing that drives me batty is this stereotype of canadians as a bunch of hockey-playing, beer-guzzling country bumpkins.

    a friend of my sister- and brother-in-law, at a dinner party last summer, was astounded to learn that not only does canada have very large cities, but that canada has crime and racism, and all those nasties that the us has. this coming from a guy who grew up in vermont and lives in new hampshire. egads.

  • Mike says:

    Well, we do tend to wear our collective superiority complex equally well. Smug is something we’re pretty proficient at, and it makes for an interesting sort of schizoid identity complex.

  • John Matthew Barlow says:

    oh yes, we are a smug lot. but only because we’re the best. no, seriously, canadian smugness seems to me an entirely natural response to being next door neighbours to a massive empire. since we’re dominated in so many ways, the only way we can feel good is to be smug. drives me nuts, though. i should add that the canadian equivalent of the new hampshire lad is pretty common place. but, yes, we do have a wonderful manic, schizoid identity complex.

  • […] to celebrate the birth of our nation is entirely arbitrary and artificial.  I have also argued on this blog that Canadian independence has been achieved piecemeal.  From the granting of responsible […]

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