Soviet Canuckistan.

by Jonah Goldberg

Such a rare country.

The new issue of National Review has a picture of Alyssa Milano scrunching her cleavage together like a hooker displaying what you get for 40 bucks — or an intern in the Clinton White House in search of some “mentoring.”

Oh wait, that’s the current cover of Maxim.

The new NR has a bunch of Canadian Mounties with the word “Wimps!” emblazoned across their midsections. If you’re a guy and the NR cover does more for you than the Maxim cover, get some help. If you’re a gal and the Maxim cover does more for you than the NR cover, please let me know if you’ve appeared in any films lately.

The Canada story was written by this guy (imagine me pointing both of my thumbs at myself when you read the words “this guy”). Unfortunately, we cannot put that story on NRO because if we give away the milk for free you won’t subscribe to the cow, if ya know what I mean. But you can see the cover by clicking here. And hopefully, the few of you out there who don’t subscribe to NRODT will buy it off the rack (a huge spike of newsstand sales whenever my name is on the cover is very good for this guy) (again, think: thumbs pointing Jonahward). But this doesn’t mean I can’t write about what Pat Buchanan last week called “Soviet Canuckistan.”

I make reference to Buchanan’s remark solely because I am positive 99 percent of you didn’t know he said it. Pat made the comment on the unwatched program Buchanan and Press on America’s Most unwatched network, MSNBC. And while the bon mot disappeared into the cacophony of cable news here in the States, over there it was a minor outrage. I was in Canada last weekend, and “Soviet Canuckistan” merited an editorial in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading newspaper. In fact, a quick Nexis search reveals that Buchanan’s remark has been mentioned or discussed in over 100 newspaper articles (though some may be repeats of the same articles and many are angry letters-to-the-editor). Various leading politicians lashed out at Buchanan. The Tory leader called him a “bottom feeder” at a fundraiser. Some Canadian newspapers tried to link the phrase “Soviet Canuckistan” to a website run by a racist and Holocaust-denier.

Now, think what you will of Pat, but come on. Can you imagine another country flipping out over the comments of a daytime talking head?

This underscores the massive, spine-bending chip the Canadians have on their shoulders. It’s like the raging Cornell-Harvard rivalry which fills the minds of Cornellians but goes totally unknown at Harvard. While researching my article, I was simply staggered by the obsession Canadians have with the United States: about their superiority, about America’s problems compared to Canada’s, about how Canadians know so much about American but Americans know nothing about Canada. My favorite quote along these lines was from Peter Jennings, the Canadian-born anchor of ABC News who told the New York Times, “I know more about America than most Americans.”

Hmmm. Maybe that has more to do with the fact he’s been a frickin’ anchor of a major American news broadcast for more than a decade. If he doesn’t know more about America than most Americans, why the hell should any of us give a moose’s butt what he thinks?

Anyway, the comparison to a college campus works on a lot of levels. In the intellectual and political sphere, Canada is one giant university quad. On college campuses, tiny grievances are accorded tectonic significance and the most microscopic slights become metaphysical offenses. Passion is more persuasive than reason and facts take a backseat to self-esteem.

Same thing in Canada. The Canadians have for a while now taken it upon themselves to be a “moral superpower,” not a military superpower. The problem with this — as is so often the case with groups, institutions, and even nations seeking to be the conscience of the world — is that it leads to knee-jerk and cost-free preachiness rather than any attempt at real sacrifices. Canada was once willing to back up its moral ambitions with force of arms; today it’s ranked 37th on the list of peacekeepers. Its military, which used to punch well above its weight, is quite literally rusting through, and there are no plans to remedy that. In short, Canada has willfully forgotten that a nation which wants to be a moral superpower doesn’t just say nice things, it does right things even at great cost — as when Great Britain put an end to the slave trade by force of arms, not force of words.

Unfortunately, Jean Chrétien’s Canada believes that any problem can be talked away and that “Canadian resolve” is defined as “standing up” to the United States while apologizing for Iraq and the poor, downtrodden peoples who enjoy blowing people up. Moreover, Canada has internalized the interests of the United Nations as its own. This means that Canada is increasingly opposed to whatever action the United States takes as a matter of reflex, rather than consideration or contemplation. If the United States didn’t jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s every reason to think Canada would.

THE NONJUDGMENTAL NORTH
But this is the stuff of the NR story by this guy. Instead let me tell you a story that I didn’t get to tell in the mag, because, while it’s a bit off-topic, it fits in nicely here. Another attribute of campus culture is a near-absolute phobia about judging people. Canada has a similar ailment, in part because it has always emphasized “multiculturalism” over assimilation. The problem with this way of looking at the world is that it saps your moral and intellectual self-confidence. If you’re unwilling to condemn people, “Who am I to judge?” eventually becomes “It is impossible to judge.” This is one reason Canada has lost the ability to put forth a positive moral national vision — because such a vision is likely to offend somebody’s self-esteem and that is an automatic disqualifier. So instead, the Canadians just work from the assumption that whatever the U.S. does is wrong and so doing the opposite must be right.

Anyway, in the early part of September — as some readers will recall — I was driving through British Columbia. While listening to CBC Radio’s equivalent of NPR’s All Things Considered — which is sort of like saying “Canada’s version of the U.S. Postal Service,” the differences are so negligible — I heard an interesting debate over the controversy du jour in Vancouver.

For years, the city of Vancouver has made a fortune by inviting production companies to film movies on their streets. Over time, local businesses — newsstands, coffee shops, etc. — have extracted a commitment from the film companies to be compensated for any disruption. Anyway, the subject of the CBC program was a demand from another entrepreneurial constituency which feels it, too, should be compensated. That constituency? Whores, pimps, drug dealers, and homeless, panhandling drug addicts.

“We are demanding the compensation for displacement and inconvenience that the industry recognizes are due to us,” declared a spokesman for a coalition of interests led by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU). A formal letter from VANDU, sent to over 30 production companies, demanded that panhandlers be compensated for any lost revenue (technically speaking, “wages” isn’t the right word for income from begging). Hookers, meanwhile, should get paid even if their johns can’t make it past the studio’s sawhorses. “Sex trade workers must be compensated for displacement they experience at your hands in the same manner you would compensate a business if you were to use their locale during operating hours. The same must hold true for homeless people you push from beneath a bridge or doorway, and drug users you move from a park.” Inconvenienced homeless people, the studios were told, must be provided with “alternative accommodation… upon request.” The coalition was prepared to take their case before a judge and have the courts order that it be so — a very real possibility in Canada.

Now, from the American perspective this story is intriguing enough. But what made the CBC account truly riveting was the reaction from the program’s Canadian listeners. I’m paraphrasing, but the most common reaction seemed to be: “When hookers and drug dealers start paying taxes, they can get compensated too!” Others worried that such a policy would unfairly open firms to entreaties from prostitutes and addicts not directly inconvenienced, suggesting, of all things, that such people might be willing to be dishonest to make a buck. And, at least one listener thought crack heads should be reimbursed for their time. But what was truly fascinating was that not a single caller raised a moral objection.

Of course, strictly speaking, whether or not a junkie or hooker pays taxes shouldn’t have anything to do with whether a private firm should compensate a private contractor for his or her troubles. But never mind that. Instead, just imagine what Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity could do with a topic like this. Imagine the mockery and slouching-toward-Gomorrah table-thumping from Gary Bauer or Pat Robertson, even on NPR. Newspaper articles from last September do not offer a single judgmental quote about the proposed compensation for hookers and skells.

Now don’t get me wrong — I like Canadians. They are often among the nicest and most decent people you’d ever want to meet. They just don’t live in a normal country.