Great passage by Mark Steyn, which is far more universal than just Canada, whose liberal government continually refers to it as “a young nation”:
As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future.” A nation’s collective memory is the unseen seven-eighths of the iceberg. When you sever that, what’s left just bobs around on the surface, unmoored in every sense. Orwell understood that an assault on history is an assault on memory, and thus a totalitarian act. What, after all, does it really mean when Mme. Robillard and Mr. Martin twitter about how “young” we are? Obviously, it’s a way of denigrating the past. Revolutionary regimes routinely act this way: thus, in Libya, the national holiday of Revolution Day explicitly draws a line between the discredited and illegitimate regimes predating December 1st, 1969, and the Gadaffi utopia that’s prevailed since. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge literally reset the clock, to “Year Zero.”
But it’s not a tactic commonly deployed by governments in evolved constitutional democracies, and, to be fair, even Pol Pot did not intend that time should stand still. Two hundred years after Year Zero, Kampuchea would have been in Year 200. Canada in that sense has gone further than the Khmer Rouge: in Trudeaupia, Year Zero is a movable feast. Is it 1965, when we got the new flag? Or 1980, when we got the new anthem? Or 1982, when we got the new constitution? Or 1983, when we got the new national holiday? And, as Dominion Day became Canada Day, a nomenclature unsurpassed by any other nation’s holiday in its yawning nullity, so some influential figures now wish to replace Victoria Day with Heritage Day, for only in Canada do we celebrate our heritage by obliterating it. In Trudeaupia, it’s a permanent ongoing Year Zero, where every national symbol can always use a little work. Look into the face of Canada, and you’ll see our collagen implants are way too puffy.
Isn’t all this talk of how “young” we are itself getting a little old? Isn’t it, frankly, a little unbecoming? As the saying goes, a man is as old as the woman he feels–and, if you’re Hugh Hefner marrying Canuck Playmate Kimberley Conrad on Canada Day 1989 or that other wrinkly old swinger Pierre Trudeau chasing Margot Kidder, you feel great, at least until she gets to 23 and you move on to someone else. But when the Liberal Party of Canada–the oldest established permanent one-party government in the free world–insists that it’s young and fresh and innocent it comes across somewhere between a professional virgin and those creepy youth cadres of ‘tween-wars European fascist movements.
It’s one thing to delegitimize all those chaps in frock coats with knighthoods who built a constitutional monarchy in a northern wilderness. But to make youth and “newness” the one enduring if paradoxical feature of your national identity is a project far more audacious than even Orwell foresaw. To live permanently in the present tense is to deny even the possibility of societal memory and collective roots.