Points North

If you’ve been hiding in a cave you may not be aware that the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia were generally rated a success, particularly for the host country.

Of course, Canadians being Canadians, or rather Canadian journalists and other intellectuals, both foreign and domestic, being what they are cannot leave well enough alone. So much has been said about how, given their reputation for affable quirkiness and self-deprecation, the Canadians could possibly put on such a show as they did. The boisterous, chauvinistic or perhaps patriotic display of emotions could not be restrained for long, even in the early stages of the 17-day event, when an early pallor was cast over the opening ceremonies by the death of a Georgian athlete.

Before these Olympics, Canadians would be expected to apologize if you crashed the line for a “Japa Dog” in the Vancouver streets because they didn’t step aside quickly enough to let you barge in. Now, despite the envious British press labelling the Games early on as the “worst Games ever” and The New York Times churlishly critical of Canadian fans for behaving more like Americans, the Canadians just kept on waving red and white, inventing cheers and bursting into song, often causing minor delays in the conduct of some events, such as curling, which can move very slowly without having to pause for an impromptu rendition of “O Canada”.

In the aftermath of the closing ceremonies, the Canadian media was still rife with stories about how everyone generally agrees that the Games were a success story for Canada, capped as they were by a stunning hockey game against Team USA for the gold medal, the winning of which created new records and set a new standard for future meetings of nations in friendly competition.

The spontaneous, emotional outbursts of singing, chanting, cheering and the continuous party atmosphere can be partially attributed to the climate of the Games, but such reactions are the result of something deeper and not a single occurrence as suggested by the largely superficial analysis. Now that the Games are over, the analysts expect Canadians to fade back into obscurity.

Individuals in crowds do not create a new psychology. A collective does not give rise to a new and separate consciousness. A crowd, which is an obvious example of a collective, is capable however of expressing a common and simple range of emotions, simple emotions often shared by many with common interests and spurred on by a catalyst like the Olympic events.

Each individual brought with him to these Games some conceptual view of his place in this country and as a fan of athletics and competition. The mental processes which helped form these individual conceptions had to be completed before they even showed up. It began well before they ever made the advance decision to buy expensive tickets or were compelled to gather with like-minded souls at bars and arenas to watch telecasts, as thousands did from one end of the vast country to the other. An estimated 80 percent of Canadians reportedly watched, for example, the final hockey game for the gold medal between Team Canada and Team USA.

The spontaneous displays were the emotional release following millions of thought processes in the minds of individuals, well before they attended an Olympic event—in person or via satellite. The emotions expressed were simple ones of joy and pride: joy at the unrestrained demonstrations of that same emotion by the outstanding performances of athletes and medal winners, and before that, pride at being a part of a maturing country that has something more than humility and the stereotype of underachievement to offer the world.

The Canadian Olympic Committee came under much criticism for its “Own-the-Podium” campaign and in fact the very brashness of the campaign is what compelled The New York Times to offer its elitist remarks designed apparently to imply that Canadians should just continue to act like Canadians, i.e. humble and exceedingly polite.

“Own-the-Podium” met its harshest critics among Canadian journalists however, given as they are to eating their young. Much of the criticism melted away like the snow on lower Whistler Mountain as the Canadian athletes persistently met challenge after challenge and contributed to the now well-known record Gold medal performance. That did not entirely stop the critics however. An Edmonton columnist, Terry Jones, writing after the Games closed, opined in a brilliant flash of hindsight that it would have been better if the chosen motto were “Go for Gold” turning out he suggested as having the dual advantage of being accurate and achievable, as well as far less “offensive” than the attitude of arrogance embodied in “Own-the-Podium”. That’s brilliant! I wonder if a different result would have inspired alternative retroactive campaign slogans from the erudite Mr. Jones. A record number of silver medals might have suggested to him, “Shoot for Silver”. What about “Bob for Bronze”? If, instead of placing third in total medals, the Canadians finished first, the thoroughly “Canadian” Terry Jones would have liked a campaign called, “Just do the best you can”.

I only have one thing to say in response to the suitability of the unfathomably controversial slogan of “Own-the-Podium”. Rarely is greatness achieved by setting one’s sights too low. In the end, another poll provided the news that 72 percent of Canadians liked the campaign. I guess there were no journalists included in that survey, or perhaps they represented the 28 percent who did not like the campaign.

There are other reasons which could explain the pregnant joy abounding at the 2010 Winter Olympics. In uncertain times, such as those prevailing in modern “progressive” culture, when unspecified political “change” is a mantra and ever-increasing control is being imposed on individual economic activity, many individuals are unable to make sense of the day to day occurrences in their mundane lives. Will they keep their job? Will they be able to retire comfortably? Will government tax away all the profit or savings of their extra effort and transfer it to the privileged and the unprincipled? The Games, indeed all sporting events, offer an understandable set of rules and the events represent a story with a beginning, middle and end. The outcome is uncertain, but the process is not. And when a winner is declared, even the losers congratulate them and perhaps learn from where they went wrong. The timing of the Winter Games was right when it was needed most.

The world is in economic crisis, thanks primarily to the financial cartel led by Keynesian-inspired bureaucrats everywhere and in particular the profligate government spenders who have comprised the United States Congress for lo these many years. Riding on the reflected glow of entrepreneurial success rooted in the 19th century, while castigating capitalism as a villain rather than the moral wealth creator it is, the Progressives’ gradual takeover of the US economy, most particularly the financial industry, has led to a culture representing the world’s biggest economy living well beyond its means. The recession affects all countries but commodity-based economies like Canada’s have been impacted relatively less. In addition, the stable Canadian banking system has been, and is increasingly the envy of the world financial community.

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proven himself to be an honest and thoughtful politician, one who respects the taxpayer’s money and does not stand on ceremony in the conduct of the affairs of his office. He is also a recognized sceptic on the international fraud now known as “climate change,” which turns out to be a euphemism for the organized transfer of wealth to assorted third-rate dictatorships around the globe, keeping the chief bargaining agent, the United Nations, in the business of promoting collectivism on a global scale.

Despite the criticism of Mr. Harper, a preoccupation of the predominantly left-leaning media, the PM’s popularity is fairly stable and even increased in recent polls. This is in the context of the ceaseless nagging by the opposition and the media over the controversial action of proroguing parliament. (See my earlier article on Going Prorogue.)

Now the Harper government is proposing a new budget as Parliament has resumed. The objectives are generally to not raise taxes but to make cuts in government spending, though the biggest social programs are not to be touched. This seems dubious, but the general approach of cutting spending is the only proper one for government to take, unlike the actions of the spendthrift counterparts to the south. Also in contrast the Canadian opposition parties are calling for tax increases, more spending on job creation and support for the poor. And the band plays on. The Canadian voters meanwhile, seem largely content with the current situation.

There was no real news in this story about Canadians acting out of character. Canadians are just like all other individuals. They prefer winning over losing, and just because they’ve been gracious losers in the past, does not mean they will occupy that position forever, no matter what journalists may think. Individual Canadians have come to their own conclusions about their society, and while there is much to criticize there is much to elicit pride as well. That was revealed in Vancouver.

©Copyright 2010 Edward Podritske

One thought on “Points North

  1. I agree with your analysis. I think that it could have been more concise, allowing the bon mots to stand out better.

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