This article was originally posted to the blog of the Association for Canadian Studies, and can be accessed back there where you see the hyperlink.
When will Canada build a bullet-train network?
Will the first sesquicentenarian be Canadian?
Will Canada solve global warming?
Will Canada prevent the next genocide?
Isn’t Canada a more suitable nation to host the UN General Assembly than the United States?
When will Canada develop its own independent space launch capability?
When will we finally fully ratify the Constitution?
And when will we finally get down to business and enter into negotiations for the acquisition (or voluntary integration) of the Turks & Caicos?
None of these have to be national goals, there just examples of things we’ve pondered, issues we’re concerned about and various initiatives that we’re once considered but in which there’s been no follow through. We’re remarkably good at dreaming, but of late haven’t been great at creating. One without the other is rather pointless isn’t it? But really, would it kill us to start thinking, sincerely, about who we’re going to be and we’ll be doing twenty, forty, sixty years from now?
We have no goals, and I sincerely feel this may be our ultimate undoing. A nation without any definable goals is a listless one, and this is inherently unstable.
To say we have no goals doesn’t mean we haven’t been working – all of us, as individuals, have certainly been diligently performing our duties. Our economy is strong, our resource sector is booming, as is the value of our dollar. Canadian banks and corporations are doing well despite myriad potential threats to their stability. All in all, though there is a high level of popular discontent amongst certain key demographics (namely youth, creative & intellectual capitalists and primary cultural minorities), the vast majority of Canadians are still relatively content and appropriately compensated. None of us are overwhelmingly rich, and, for the moment, too few of us are sufficiently poor so as to effect broad societal change.
That being the case, why not utilize the general social stability to further stabilize the economy of the future? Why not secure a booming resource-based economy with a new foundation of major infrastructure projects to further unite the nation? Why not capitalize on security by thinking big and implementing long-term nation-building projects?
It’s what we’ve done historically, and we know that it works.
From the construction of the Canadian Pacific in 1885 to the construction of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in the 1950s, Canada has always been a nation of great national projects. The Canadarm, the Arrow, Alouette I, Medicare, Peacekeeping, the Charter – we have done so many great things it’s ridiculous to try and list them in a single blog post – the point is ultimately that national aspirations are a worthwhile endeavour, as it gives all of us, in no uncertain terms, something which we know we all can work towards, regardless of whatever function we happen to have. It’s the dream which pulls you out from your specific task and insists that you are actively contributing to a project greater than every individual, simply by going above and beyond every day. in order to produce a hyper effective, efficient workforce, we need dreams with just this much reach.
Without a driving force, we’ll invariably wind up circling the drain. Nothing exists uniquely in stasis – we must have social propulsion, drive, movement.
Today there is discontent in Canada – it’s palpable. Yet we also have security and, perhaps for the first time, real immediate wealth. We can’t afford to squander it. Let us find balance between these poles and seek to define what we want for the future and how we can better utilize our relative current riches into multi-generational, self-perpetuating wealth. We need to craft a wish-list to determine exactly what kind of future nation we want, now. And if we can go a step further, and identify key investments we wish to characterize as having a particular Canadian accent, then we can position ourselves to be, conceptually, the nation at the state of its respective arts. Whether it’s the best transportation network, the highest quality of life, the finest schools or global leadership in terms of eradicating poverty, disease, war or exploring outer space, whatever we choose as our national dreams, let it ultimately reflect who we wish to become.
The single greatest tool for economic stability and real growth is a society committed to achieving national goals for the greater good. As long as there’s a national dream that is driven by the wants and needs of the people themselves, and the people understand that these goals go to benefit the whole inasmuch as the individual, they’ll work harder, work better and save to live peacefully in the future ideal they wish to create.
And the best thing about living in the 21st century? Not only is this doable, but we have the communications technologies and media techniques to keep everyone focused on whatever goals we come up with. Heck, we could turn it into a very real, very addictive, game. Hard work can be infectiously enjoyable.