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(Greek Linguistics)

2009-08-05

Further on Acadia: Duelling "I am Canadian"s

My confused researches on Acadia have continued, and this is what I further report back.

I remember a decade back that Joe Canadian rant ad campaign from Molson, which turned into a surprising assertion of Canadian nationalism, though it was mostly an assertion of what Canada was not (i.e. the U.S.):

It's a cool ad, which spawned much imitation (including a fairly lame Australian instance from Foster's—a beer no Australian actually drinks). It's also a reminder that identity is much easier defined negatively than positively. Identity is only understood with reference to the Other—otherwise it's the Luminiferous Ether, omnipresent and unnoticed; and the easiest thing to say about your identity, when you're confronted by the Other, is: "That... is what I am not."

Which led to the following exchange at Christian Rioux's blog, when he embedded this for his Bonne fête du Canada posting:

MARTIN: Rioux, you should have called your post "I am anti-american".
RIOUX: The original Molson ad aimed to affirm Canadian distinctiveness against Americans. There's nothing Anti-American in that, it's just an affirmation of Canadian identity.
MARTIN: What identity? They sell more Kraft dinners in Canada than in the USA lol.
Anti-Americanism is the core of Canadian identity.

Which is easy for Quebecois to laugh at, but (a) they're eating Kraft dinners too, and they're anxious about it; and (b) they're as susceptible to defining their identity negatively as Anglo-Canadians are. And Martin's not entirely wrong. Anglo-Canada has defined itself with a glance southward more than it has eastward. In fact, if it wasn't for the gloriously insane folly of the Fenian raids, there wouldn't be a Confederation as we know it.

Hold Toronto and Montreal hostage in exchange for a Free Ireland. With the States looking the other way. It was pure madness, but it gave us a cool country whose identity #1 I didn't get to explore enough this trip (pity, it's intriguingly close yet far to Australianhood)—and whose identity #2 is continuing to distract me.

There was a Québec counterpart to Joe Canadian, of course, Guy Québecois:

Guy Québecois is not a affectionate Quebecois caricature of Quebecois, but an Anglo-Canadian, Annoyed Editorial caricature for a Toronto radio station. ("I believe in a Distinct Society—as long as somebody else pays for it.") But it is still a caricature drawn by someone who has at least driven through Quebec. And—albeit for their own purposes—the Francophone YouTube commenters are not objecting to the caricature. They're either finding it funny, or yelling QUEBEC LIBRE FTW at the Anglophones. Largely in semi-phonetic spelling reflecting the local accent, because that too is a badge of identity. (With the occasional "why is noone using accents aigus here?" sideswipe.)

It would be a disappointment if the Acadians had not come up with their own counterpart to Joe Canadian, and here is Réjean Acadian, via a blogger in Nunavut. (Also here, with further commentary on Acadian identity issues in French.) It's Chiac, so it's only one of the several, Russian-Doll like constructions of Acadianness (on which more later); and like the other two instances, it does plenty of negative definition of identity. Here's my misleading translation.

(English in the original italicised. Markers of distinction from France, Quebec, and Anglo-Canada indicated as FQC)
I'm not on stamps or welfare,
I don't fish for mussels,
I am not illiterate or uneducated.

There is no cheese on my poutine,Q
and my poutine is not a Russian president.

I do not live in a little shack in the bush.
I do not go to work on the 20,Q the 40,Q or the 401.C
I take the Fundy Bay Drive
the Coastal Road or the Old Shediac Road.

I do not need a bib or complicated tools to eat my lobster,
I [rouve?] it on my own:
I eat it with fresh bread and Coke.Q

I do not listen to Patrick Bruel,F Pierre LalondeQ or Nana Mouskouri.F
Real music is done by 1755, Bois-Joli, Zachary, and Daniel & Ola! [misparsing here...]
And I do not shop at Galleries de la CapitaleQ or Eaton CentreC
but at Champlain Place and Home Hardware.

And I do not speak QuebecoisQ or France French.F
I'm trilingual: I speak Chiac, French, and English.
And it's "Co-cogne" not "Co-cagne" [feast].
I've got my own university and my own flag.
My heroes are called Antonine, Ti-Louis, and Roméo.
I'm proud of my language, my heritage and my culture.
Don't worry your brains: even if you can take the boy out of Acadia, you can't take Acadia out of the boy.
And the Grand Time is August 15
Not June 24Q or July 14F

I am CanadianQ and Acadian at the same time.
In Acadia La Sagouine has her own land,
Bouctouche has its dune, and we have our own star.

I'm called Réjean, Freddy, Aquilla, Maxime, and Jude. And
I am Acadian.
Originally written by Jules à Hector à Eric à Cyprien à Cyprien


(Yes, I know Q after I am Canadian is naughty. I'm assuming the mention of Coke is aware of the Pepsi-ocracy of Quebec, which Guy Québecois mentions at the start of his rant.)

A smidgeon more Q and F than C in there. Which is not just Jules', Hector's, Eric's, Cyprien #1's and Cyprien #2's bias; but after the cluestick Acajack hit me with yesterday over at AFG's, I'll no longer assume they speak for all Acadia. That they speak for Chiac-speaking Acadia, and that Chiac-speaking Acadia is ambivalent about Quebec—that, I find plausible enough.

4 comments:

John Cowan said...

Can't agree with you about the Fenian raids: federation came to Australia, after all, without any similar incident. Canada's real War of Independence (against the Yanks, obviously) was the War of 1812, aka The Napoleonic Wars, American Edition. We are big on remembering how the British burned Washington, but on how that was retaliation for the Americans burning Toronto (okay, Fort York) the week before, not so much. Also forgotten is how the Americans strode into Canada in the first place, expecting to be greeted as liberators, mumble mumble Iraq mumble mumble mumble mumble.

Canadians I point this out to are first puzzled a bit by the phrase "War of Independence", then admit there's a a fair amount of truth in this version, and finally point out that while the Americans burned the town proper, it was the Canadians themselves who blew up the fort, presumably to keep it out of American hands. I daresay there are plenty of Canadians who would be quite happy to burn down Toronto today: all major cities are hated by their hinterlands (none more so than my own), and the hinterland of Toronto is the whole of anglophone Canada.

Léonard Minh A. Langlois said...

I'm wondering where your interest for Canadian issues come from. As far as I know, you are an Australian of Greek ancestry, right? There are some people living in Montreal that will never get to this level of knowledge of their new chosen society because of their lack of curiosity & time I guess...

I was aware of the "I'm Canadian" clip, as well as the parody "I'm not Canadian" that is a pretty good caricature of the Québécois.

Mais la surprise fut la version acadienne en Chiac, c'est quelque chose! Avez-vous traduit tout ça seul? Parce que je doute que «Google Translate» soit d'une aide utile.

opoudjis said...

@ John: and you've said that about 1812 to me before too. Of course, it confirms my contention about Canada being defined in opposition to America. The Fenian twist is, it got the Maritimes in as well.

As you'll have gathered from my post, hinterlands-with-pitchforks secessionism is something I have even less sympathy for. :-)

But Vancouver is still a really cool city.

opoudjis said...

@Léo : Non, aucune utilisation par moi de Google Translate—qui en tout cas m'a pas aidé à traduir J' le rouve moi-même. (Une façon de manger homard, sans doute; parce que je ne suis pas adepte de cette espece de crevette gigantiforme, je ne peux pas diviner laquelle.)

Btw, as the above will prove, I really don't deserve plaudits for my French; and I'll take your plaudits as telling me more about the knowledge of French in Canadian anglophonie than about mine. :-)

Like the Acadian rant shows, Acadians are proud, not just of Antonine and her novel on La Sagouine... but of the Le Pays de la Sagouine theme park? (En Acadie la Sagouine à son propre pays). I, uh, hope it's a *respectful* theme park, at least...

The Chiac rant *is* informative (especially in what it targets), but I've got to say, few of the imitations of Joe Canadian (available on YouTube) are actually funny, and this one isn't funny either. The I Am Indigenous one is not bad, if halting; the I Am Albertan one, pfft. (And not just because it screams "And I'm sick of having French RAMMED DOWN MY THROAT". Yes, the bilingual chips packets must be truly horrifying...)

But the Quebec one, even if it is brimful of Anglo-Canadian malice, *is* funny; and it is funny, because it does display at least some small awareness of Quebecness, even if it is adversarial.

The Shatner version! Now that is the special kind of demented genius that only Shatner can do:
(YouTube)

(... *Does* he actually speak French? If he does, I hope it's better than his Esperanto...
YouTube)

And I'm still dodging your "why Quebec" question. :-) But basically, the intellectual challenge it poses me is twofold. One, as hinted, where does my resentment of secessionism come from, and does it apply in this context. My tenor talking about a Souvenir Shop in Middle Of Nowhere WA is not the same as my tenor talking about Quebec. OTOH, my tenor talking about Belgium *is* more like my tenor talking about a Souvenir Shop in Middle Of Nowhere WA.

So obviously I think there's something different about Quebec than Walloonia–and–Flanders, but I still don't know what. Maybe it's just that I didn't seek out the right blogs in Brussels...

The second challenge is also why I was caught by your post on multiculturalism chez vôtre blogue: it's the question of, can a multicultural society project a strong civic nationalism, or can that only happen through assimilation ("melting pot"). Quebec vs. Canada is a good shorthand for the issue: is a bicultural nationalism possible? Doesn't look it, but there are lots of sides to the story, and lots of different constructs.

On a less intellectual level, I'm fascinated by Quebec because Montreal is a pleasant and many-layered town to be a tourist in; and I'm fascinated by Acadia because I can almost understand Chiac. :-)

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