More Election, More Canadiana

I honestly don’t know if I have anything else worth saying about the election. Maybe it’s because I read my friends’ blogs before I write my own, so a lot has already been said. I think it’s quite difficult for commentators on the left to get a grip or even a reasonable perspective. There are now lots of murmurs about how Kerry really won and it was some underhanded trick or failure of poll technology. I have no idea if those stories are true, and even if they are, they still don’t get to the crux of the matter: millions of people voted for Bush. Period. It is true, as always, that he was elected by a minority of Americans (because of the nation’s poor voter turnout in comparison to other democracies, even in this election which is being touted as a success). Politically speaking, the only option for the left is to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work.


Following a talk by Ian Hacking about the resurgence of Cartesianism in new technologies(1), I found myself at Thompson House having drinks with my grad students (and others) Wednesday evening. That morning, the Sound Studies class had suspended normal operations in order to discuss the election betweel 10 and 11:30AM. So in other words, we were talking about it like it was going on even though Kerry was conceding during our conversation. How very Walter-Lippmann-Intro-to-Public-Opinion of us. Still, it was the right thing to do, because there was a sense of urgency at the time, or at least a need to “process” (as they used to say in my Women’s Studies classes) and the sonic relations of buildings and instruments could wait. That evening, over drinks, much of the talk was of the election(2), and it was definitely one of those weird “American in Canada” moments. I would get asked whether I was happy to be here given the election results (note: I would be happy to be here if Kerry won, too). I would get all Michael Moore on them and say things like “your conservative party is kind of like the democrats” “you have universal healthcare” “The Globe and Mail is far to the left of any mainstream US newspaper” and they would laugh at me as an American who idealizes Canada (I don’t. All of my statements in this sentence are true, but I know the place has its own problems, which are discussed in other entries). They they’d prove me right by saying “I can’t believe people are opposed to abortion in the U.S.” “I can’t get my head around that healthcare system”; they would deride the education level of Canadians, but I would point out that on average it’s higher than Americans. The burden of Canadian identity is its often negative relation to the US (ie “we’re not America!” — though it is also sometimes erased, as in those moments when Europeans don’t distinguish among North Americans), but this was one night that seemed perfectly reasonable. Carrie and I went out for dinner afterward — we were hungry and wanted something fast. It was a perfect night for poutine.

(1) Hacking is an excellent academic perfomer and pleasingly contrarian. While I was already convinced of the thesis that people (industry, press, inventors, some scholars etc.) who talk about new technologies tend to bring back Descartes mind-body split (which was one of his main points), he never got around to telling us why we should talk about new technologies in that way.

(2) In the banal good news column, I have become aware of more Canadians interested in American Football. We will have a quorum for a group viewing of the NFL Sunday ticket and the Super Bowl. I have also learned of more interesting music stuff happening locally. Word is that there is a real, operational local indierock scene. I am intrigued.

2 replies on “More Election, More Canadiana”

  1. In the course on Canadian cultural studies I\’m teaching here in Helsinki, we talked a bit about Innis and McLuhan. I think Kroker\’s book, Technology and the Canadian Mind, might be of some interest to you, particularly as it talks about how technology has been framed by the \”big three\”: Grant, Innis, and McLuhan. To my mind, it\’s the best thing (i.e. readable) Kroker has written and a worthwhile introduction to Canadian communications studies.

    And today in Helsinki I was congratulated on the election of Bush. Simple response: I\’m Canadian. The power of that \”negative relation\” lies in the historical ambiguity we\’ve had in terms of our geopolitical past and present. It informs our reserve and our smugness. Two sides of a loonie, if you will.

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