Saturday, November 15, 2003

On Monday the 2003 Massey Lectures will begin on CBC Radio.

I'm trying to remember why and when I became so obsessed with the Massey Lectures. I suspect that it happened when I stumbled upon Ursula Franklin's Real World of Technology when I was researching a paper on the 'non-neutralness' of technology at library school. I was so impressed with the powerful (and short) set of essays, that I investigated the earlier lectures and discovered that previous Massey Lectures had been penned by the likes of Noam Chomsky, Northrop Frye, Martin Luther King, and Jane Jacobs.

Ah, Jane Jacobs. I love Jane Jacobs. Love her! She is my hero. I want to be like her. In fact, I would be happy just to look like her... she's so cute.

And so, with a new set of Massey Lectures approaching, I resumed my attempt to read them all. And this is why I just finished reading Jane Jacob's The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty (originally published as 'Canadian Cities and Sovereignty Association')

I'm not going to review the book here (although eventually, I will review it over here) but I will mention that the book set in motion, within myself, a reconsideration of what it is to be Canadian. This happened during a particularly powerful chapter in Jane's book in which Jane details how Norway peacefully seceded from Sweden and how it separated itself culturally from its older Danish heritage to become a nation unto itself.

The people of Norway made a concerted effort over generations to not only be Norwegian but to be more Norwegian. I don't see Canadians becoming more Canadian with time... in fact, I only see us becoming more Scottish (link may expire soon - link is a columnist complaining of the strange presence of goofy Scots in Canadian TV ads. Current Canadian ads featuring bad Scottish accents include: Alexander Keith's beer, Crispy Crunch chocolate bars, and check-cashing, Money Mart)

This Canadian moment of self-reflection (and subsequent self-doubt) occured again days later as I read this article - called South of 50 - found in the most recent (november/december '02) issue of This Magazine. The jist of the article is this: Canadians live south and think south and we only think north when we need a symbol for our coins or need to produce some substancial difference from our neighbours.

I'm planning future reading on national identity, possibly reading the book, If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories?

And it will be stories (and perhaps The North) will be spoken of in the Massey Lectures on Monday.

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