Saturday, 11 June 2016

In All Thy Sons Command

So it's looking very likely that the (English) Canadian national anthem is going to be changed to be "gender neutral", much to the consternation of seemingly everyone willing to put their opinions out there. For those unversed, the English variation of the Canadian national anthem goes as follows:
O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
The proposed bill, put forth by a Liberal party MP dying of ALS (presumably as his final wish to improve his country), wishes to change "in all thy sons command" to "in all of us command". As one could expect, this proposal has unleashed a shitstorm of fury from people calling the proposal a shame to every soldier who has died fighting under that anthem and that it's just the "political correctness police" forcing us to change over nothing. Naturally, the dishonouring veterans argument is a common tactic amongst so-called "patriots" in any sort of national debate like this, although it isn't particularly effective since the proposed changes are closer to the original lyrics (pre-1914) and "O Canada" didn't even become our official anthem until 1980 (with the only major non-peace-keeping operation since that point being the Afghan War). On the other side, we have people claiming that those who don't want the anthem changed are supporting sexism, which just reeks of attempting to shame people out of arguing with them*.

In general, people hate any sort of change, especially when it gets forced on them. I know that whenever a new program gets introduced at my office, people will grumble and cry out about having to learn a new system, even if it's demonstrably more useful and efficient. This is also why the US is so ass-backwards in still using the imperial measurement systems, despite it costing them (and the rest of the world) time and money every year by keeping it - they'd rather be proficient at something inefficient rather than take the time to get good at something demonstrably better. On a similar note, I think we could convince most people that inclusivity is a good thing in principle, but when you take that into the real world and apply it to the national anthem, suddenly you've got about 3/4 of the population disagreeing with the sentiment. If this goes through, I'm just picturing how much trouble this is going to cause - I can see the singers at sporting events getting booed for going with the new lyrics, or Olympians refusing to take the podium, or a singer deciding to go with the old lyrics to make a statement. For something so small, this is probably going to be quite contentious for a few years.

That's the thing though - this might piss people off significantly in the short term, but in the long term "in all of us command" is going to become the only "O Canada" that any of us knew. Kids will grow up singing it this way and maybe their old fashioned grandparents will complain about how the change was made, to which the kid will just wonder what the hell the big deal is. Again, the lyrics to "O Canada" have been changed twice in the past, and they likely will get changed again sooner or later. I kind of like the idea of a nation that isn't shackled to outdated structures over time (unlike the US and all the insane culture that the Second Amendment has fostered). Adapting to the times is one way that nations actually survive in the long term, so this might just be part of Canada trailblazing into the future and making itself better (but then again, an anthem that can be changed might hold less importance than one that is immoveable - we shall have to see on that front).

That's my take on the situation, but what about my actual opinion on the change? Well, for my part, I am kind of ambivalent about the change. If it gets changed then that's cool by me, but on the other hand I don't consider it a great crime if it remains the same - the current anthem is, in my opinion, only "sexist" if you really stretch the definition to anything that is not completely inclusionary. In fact, I wonder if changing it might be a mistake. I can see the change fostering a significant amount of animosity towards progressives and feminists in the public sphere, and I would be shocked if the Conservative party did not take this and turn it into a rallying cry to oust the Liberal party when their term is up. It also kind of cements my opinion that the Liberal party is largely the "white, middle-class" party, since this is basically the political equivalent of a "first world problem". I like that Justin Trudeau is pushing more of a progressive angle for the Liberals in his leadership, but when they end up focusing their efforts on championing something like this, it feels like a strange set of priorities. In fact, I think the biggest issue is that they didn't bother to call a referendum - "O Canada" is a song which is effectively owned by all Canadians, not something which our government has dictated upon us. Not giving us a say in this change is extremely strange and stands at odds with the Trudeau government's commitment to open and inclusive government.

Bottom-line, I guess I'm against the change in a sense, but mainly because I don't want to have to listen to the whining and slippery-slope seething which is inevitably going to result in its passing. That said, it looks like it's likely to become law here soon enough, so I wouldn't be surprised if we see a part 2 to this article at some point...

*By the way, assholes, if you wanted to label this sort of person as an "SJW", then that would be a far more appropriate usage of the term than the current meaningless label it has become.

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