I’d never really had an understanding of what it meant to be patriotic. University can be blamed; taking courses that examined the concept of nationhood, nation states and the resounding affects that these concepts had on us, and how we dealt with others, left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Further, sitting at the sidelines beside the US and watching how they would use the concepts of patriotism to exert control over their citizens to fuel wars and increase capitalist hegemony. Through my years of studying politics, taking an active role in it and attempting to affect change, I’ve recognized that as a political and social construct, there have been some very negative repercussions that have emerged from nation identity and patriotism. I do know that there are positives and that while I feel this current system isn’t working, I do recognize that I barely have an idea that could work. It’s grown and flourished alongside capitalism and within our current world system it’s been working pretty well, whether your country is one with a militaristic scope or one that is focused on cultural pursuits (playing Sid Meyers’ Civilization has truly ruined me; for each city state within the game has a main modality of being, and since playing, I’ve begun to classify nations within our very own world with simplistic forms similarly to the game). But I digress; for the very reasons I’ve stated above, nationhood has seemed to be something that I didn’t want to engage with.
When I was younger, I would watch children in my class who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and notice that they did not stand up for the national anthem. When I was younger, this perplexed me. Why didn’t you stand up? Why did you want to take part in a ritual that was bigger than yourself? We are taught that we should belong. These are foundational concepts of modern religious movements (Abrahamic) and modern political movements (emerging from the end of the 18th century) – congregational movements that enforce or exalt mass believe within a structure. Pledge your allegiance and who you are as a person – the self is indivisible from the entity. But understanding this was a choice was the most important lesson I learnt – nobody would punish me if I didn’t do it. While with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it was the belief of not pledging yourself to anything other than your Lord, for me, I understood it as a control mechanism.
What does this have to do with anything? Through my decision to eschew any form of nation allegiance, I lacked the ability to find any stake in my own country. Canada was just this place I lived; and while I have lived here happily, and contributed as much as I can, the possibility of me moving away somewhere else (blame my destination lust [LINK]) was never an impossible, rather, it was something I was striving for. While Canada has everything that I wanted, perhaps it has been living in Toronto that has been the issue. Last week I was asked to join my team in British Columbia for the weekend. Accepting and going for a trade show, I left my city and headed out west. In the past when I’ve travelled far away, I’ve mostly always loved it. I didn’t expect this time to be any different, but the beauty and calm that I found in Vancouver was unparalleled in many regards. Going to SE Asia and Europe are entirely different, and I do feel at home when I venture out to France or just anywhere on the Mediterranean, but this felt different. Different meaning I found such an ease, since it was within in Canada. I was seamlessly going from one city to the next, but still able to use the things I normally do. I felt like I was at home, but in a greener, more sacred place than I’m used to.
Moving on to this concept of sacredness, I must speak to how those in the Western parts of Canada revere their land unlike any other; understanding that we can live amongst what already exists, and work with the land instead of exploiting it for gain, is an attractive mode of being. So, the sacredness of the city and the environment immediately appealed and spoke to something within me.
I’m happily a Canadian – but it seems that as time wears on, I’m becoming more and more proud of being part of such a great place. Especially in juxtaposition to the country that lives directly beneath us, it’s more blatant and clear that we have opportunities and beauty that is unparalleled. As I get older, the concept of being Canadian is changing for me – becoming more nuanced and complex each day. I’m looking forward to how it continues to grow, and seeing what form it takes next year.