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[P]
Talking to Americans

By Sylvain Tremblay in MLP
Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 04:19:49 PM EST
Tags: Humour (all tags)
Humour

This is a story in AP about an Anglocanadian television comedy routine of a comedian that goes to many places in America and asks people questions about Canada. A special that the CBC broadcast of this has become "the highest-rated television comedy special or series in CBC Television history". Boston Globe has a story and a editorial.

The maker of the comedy even fooled George W. Bush Jr. into reading his thanks out publicly during the campaign to the "Prime Minister of Canada", Jean "Poutine" (the name of a delicious Québecois snack).


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Talking to Americans | 71 comments (70 topical, 1 editorial, 1 hidden)
Funny but... (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by nobbystyles on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 07:52:26 AM EST

I think hardly anyone in other parts of the world know much about Canada. Ask the average Ukian about Canada and I think you would get the same response despite being a fellow member of the Commonwealth.

Whereas we know quite a lot about Australia despite it being much further away and having a smaller population. Canada is too quiet about it's acievements wheras the Aussies, you can't shut them up...

True...but (4.50 / 2) (#3)
by forgey on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 08:29:32 AM EST

Wouldn't you be a bit suspicious about someone asking you questions about the Polar Bear slaughter in downtown Toronto, Canada restoring it's national igloo, putting the hockey puck on the Canadian flag or changing our time structure to be the same as the Americans?

You just need a little bit of common sense for most of what he asks. The questions that need specific knowledge of Canada they save for people like Bush who should really know the name of the Canadian Prime Minister.

forgey

[ Parent ]

Yes much as I try and.... (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by nobbystyles on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 08:40:29 AM EST

Convince myself that Americans aren't that clueless, there's so much evidence pointing the other way.

The top 20% of the US population is probably better educated than other countries' elites but as for the rest. Jesus what a poor education system they must have....

[ Parent ]
disagree (5.00 / 2) (#6)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 08:54:33 AM EST

The top 20% of the US population is probably better educated than other countries' elites but as for the rest.

Having experience as a teaching assistant in a BIG NAME college in USia, I certainly don't agree.

Actually, it's more complicated; IMHO, education in the US is dismal at the grade and high school level, bad at the undergrad level, and excelent at graduate level. Europe beats the US at the undergrad level, but the US beats Europe at the grad level.

--em
[ Parent ]

An American in Europe gave me these reasons (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by nobbystyles on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:08:25 AM EST

For the US's sucess in the economic field despite having a generally apalling education system:

1. People work a lot harder than Europeans

2. The US elite is better educated than Europe's

3. A large single market so you have economies of scale.

4. Labour mobility

5. Reliance on immigrant labour both illegal and legal.

She though factors 1,2 and 5 the most important.

[ Parent ]
Funny (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by forgey on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:38:12 AM EST

I just got back from a vacation in the US and found them to be pretty damn lazy when it came to working.

Case in point: We went to a large store called 'Old Navy' to buy my GF some jeans. We picked out the jeans, tried them on and took them to the cash to pay. There was one register open with a line of at least ten people in it, yet there were no less than six employees standing around the next cash register talking about last nights drinking episodes.

Ok, so perhaps a retail example is bad, but we were really unimpressed with the level of service we got just about everywhere we went. The employees all did as little as they had to and nothing more. I think this is likely because of the fact that if they lose this job, there is another down the street paying the same thing. Hell my cousin in North Carolina wanted to get an evening job at a retail clothing store because it payed almost the same as her entry level architect job! Not to mention it had benefits for a 'retail' position!

Sheesh!

In Canada workers can't afford to loose their jobs, so I think they end up working extra hard to ensure they keep their jobs. The shitty thing is that Canadian companies take advantage of that. The company I work for takes the attitude that we are lucky to have a job at all so we should thank them no matter how they treat us, while another company I used to work for that was based in the USA had the attitude that they were lucky to have us working for them.

forgey

[ Parent ]
those are the wrong ones (none / 0) (#30)
by Wah on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 01:12:59 PM EST

those are the kids working for money to buy CDs, movie tickets, lunch, and pot. They really couldn't give a fuck what you want, they make shit. Any "real" person can't survive on minimum wage and has to move to a more active service area. Devileries, cleaning services, all sorts of hardcore menial labor. And then you get to the white collar service jobs. Where how hard yor work depends on basically how smart you are / how much money you want / who you know.

Anyway, most American work pretty hard. At least from the studies I've seen. If you have different ones, let's see 'em. Remember, it's totally sink or swim here. If you don't have enough money, you don't see a doctor, you don't get an eduaction, you don't go anyplace, you don't have any fun, and you sit and rot and fester. And trust me, welfare isn't enough money.
--
Some things, bandwidth can't buy. For everything else, there's Real Life ©® | SSP
[ Parent ]

working (none / 0) (#32)
by Delirium on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 02:53:09 PM EST

Well, in that case you're basically looking at the high school kids who are working part-time to get extra spending money. Of course they don't work very hard, because they don't need to; it's just extra money, not a real job.

If you take a look at real laborers though, both blue- and white-collar, those in the US tend to work a lot harder than those in Europe. I don't have any exact figures right now, but The Economist (a British news magazine) had a comparison of average number of hours worked per years in many countries; the US was near the top, and nearly all the western European countries were near the bottom. Belgium particularly is renowned for having nearly as many days of holiday as working days, while in the US the average person might get between 2 and 4 weeks a year holiday.

[ Parent ]

Well (5.00 / 1) (#37)
by forgey on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 03:15:18 PM EST

Sure they may be high school/college kids, but when I compare their level of service with the level of service I get from the same job type here in Canada the US pales in the comparison.

Also, working longer hours does not denote working harder.

forgey

[ Parent ]
How to use your wealth (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by infraoctarine on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 03:28:30 PM EST

Lucky us (europeans that is)!

It seems like we prefer to convert our wealth to more free time, whereas USians prefer to buy more stuff. I like the european way, what's the point of being rich if you just work, work, work until you drop?

[ Parent ]

Optional (none / 0) (#69)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:41:54 PM EST

There has been a movement of late towards lower-paying jobs with more vacation, but by and large, Americans work that much because they want to. They are not required to. In Europe, if I want to work 70 hour weeks at my $50/hr contract job, I can't in many countries. Means that a highly-paid resource is idle. Many Americans, me included, when done with work go home and work on their own projects, those that fascinate them and might make money. That's probably how K5 got started...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
laziness != production (none / 0) (#70)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:46:14 PM EST

Actually, the average American worker is incredibly lazy. I've noticed that in my world travels. However, today, I saw my first robotic garbage truck. Use consistent garbage cans (required by the corp that picks up the garbage), and this wonder makes it so the garbage man can drive around in air-conditioned comfort all day. Lazy as hell, yes, but it will eventually cut in half the number of people required to pick up garbage, thus lowering the total cost to do so, while at the same time making the life of the garbageman better. Oh, and yeah, it's faster, too.
Think Ditch Witch. Good idea, put a huge chain-saw on a tractor and let it dig ditches the easy way. Better idea, mount it on a rail car, buy rights to siderails all over the country, and you have the fastest-produced fiber-optic system in the country, capable of laying fiber at the rate of around ten miles an hour at full speed. This is how Sprint got started.
It's the fundamental laziness combined with a compulsive addiction to making money that makes the US so productive...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Test scores (none / 0) (#12)
by ucblockhead on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 10:35:30 AM EST

In terms of test scores, American kids do as well or better than most European countries at the lower elementary grades. The scores then tale off to the dismal marks of high school.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Not really (none / 0) (#71)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:51:10 PM EST

I, personally, would know that there are no polar bears anywhere near downtown Toronto, but some may have been transported there. We just had an elephant trampling in downtown Denver...
As to Canada restoring its national igloo, that's just the sort of thing Canadians seem to always be doing. Sorry...
Putting the hockey puck in the national flag sorta makes sense, given the enormous importance of hockey in Canada.
No, we don't understand Canada, but Canada doesn't really understand us. We keep the big army to keep everyone safe, and Canada takes care of the back forty, keeping it nice and clean. It's a nice agreement, as far as I'm concerned, and that's how a lot of Americans see Canada. As long as the agreement lasts, we have no interest in what or how your half is done...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Brits (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by clover_kicker on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:59:51 PM EST

>I think hardly anyone in other parts of the world
>know much about Canada. Ask the average Ukian
>about Canada and I think you would get the same
>response despite being a fellow member of the
>Commonwealth.

My impression from a brief visit to London is that Brits have a pretty decent knowledge of .ca .

My experiences in the States are pretty consistent with Rick Mercer's, you can get people to believe anything. My sister went to a university in Boston, and she had people convinced of all kinds of improbable things. Ever seen a "snow snake"? hehe.
--
I am the very model of a K5 personality.
I intersperse obscenity with tedious banality.

[ Parent ]
Sure (none / 0) (#33)
by aphrael on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 02:54:38 PM EST

but it's pretty unusual to know close to nothing about the country *right next door*. Except the problem is, the US is so large that for all practical purposes there is no 'right next door' --- I have to drive 8 hours before I can reach an international border, for example.

[ Parent ]
funny not funny (4.33 / 3) (#2)
by adrien on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 08:14:05 AM EST

When I was in 6th or 7th grade (in an American public school in Michigan, this would be about 12 or 13 years ago), the teacher handed out a small test:
It had a map of the world and one question: "Please circle the United States of America on this map".

I don't reacall the exact numbers, but less than half the students got it right.

Some circled Australia, some Canada, some the USSR, some China, some Africa, some Europe, some circled just Michigan (I loved that one), etc.

That's when I realized I had to leave the country as soon as possible. (I remember a lot of people saying, during the last elections, "if Bush wins, I'm leaving the country" and I would reply "why wait!?!")

In any case, +1 because the story was a riot.


-adrien
National Geographic did that study too (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Luke Francl on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 01:31:57 PM EST

National Geographic did a similar study a number of years ago (I'm sorry I don't have a link; I read about it in the magazine years ago). They had ADULTS point to the US on an unmarked map. IIRC, less than half were able to correctly identify the US. Sad.

[ Parent ]
Of course, a rigorous study (none / 0) (#68)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:36:29 PM EST

The US does this sort of thing to itself all the time. No other country does. When someone can prove to a reasonable level of doubt that Canadian children can consistently find Canada on the map, I'll listen.
Seriously, the wholesale memorization of facts is one of the *problems* with European-style education. Facts can be looked up; spend more time teaching children to think for themselves...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
That's easy! (4.50 / 2) (#4)
by Rand Race on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 08:32:49 AM EST

The maker of the comedy even fooled George W. Bush Jr....

And I once convinced water to flow downhill.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson

Amusement? (2.87 / 8) (#8)
by Signal 11 on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:07:56 AM EST

I think the funnier part is the morbid fetish that canucks have with US affairs. As if they don't have enough to worry about (Quebec, 'nuff said) they also spend a hideously large amount of time talking about and reading up on US affairs.

I can think of better ways to spend one's time...


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.

ah yes, the bloated ego (4.40 / 5) (#13)
by raaymoose on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 10:43:56 AM EST

If you think the Americans are the only recipients of this obsession, you're either misinformed, non-informed, or just downright self-absorbed. The general observation I've made of myself, and those around me is that yes, it's hard to ignore US affairs, as Pierre Trudeau once said, "Living next to you [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant: No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt." (March 25, 1969). By no means does the US recieve the majority of the time, the Commonwealth countries are far more interesting anyways. Just because we actually understand countries outside our own, doens't mean we're morbidly obsessed with the USA. Please, you're really not that special.

I'm an understanding guy, and I'll help you remove your collective head from your collective anus if you wish.


[ Parent ]
RE: bloated ego (4.00 / 8) (#14)
by Signal 11 on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 10:56:02 AM EST

Just one question... if the US 'isn't that special', and 'Commonwealth countries are far more interesting', why are you spending so much time talking about it?

And isn't it a truism where you live that USians don't read/know about international affairs? Wouldn't that seem to suggest international affairs are irrelevant to americans, hence there is a difference in culture? And wouldn't this difference in culture underscore the reality that, infact, following international affairs is less a requirement than a social custom?

And if that's the case, how shall I go about 'removing your collective head from your collective anus', raaymoose?


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

why? (3.00 / 3) (#15)
by raaymoose on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:04:55 AM EST

Why am I taking time to talk about it? Look at the story, just being somewhat on-topic. Yes, you've got a pretty good handle on it. I'm fairly confident that it is a difference in culture, maybe because the general level of education in Canada is higher, I cannot be entirely sure, and speculating could be another article unto itself. However, since the USA likes to play internationaly policeman, or bully, depending on how you look at it, shouldn't its population be keeping up with international affairs? and it's not my collective head, it's yours my good moose.

[ Parent ]
Brilliant analysis. Right. (none / 0) (#19)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:54:02 AM EST

However, since the USA likes to play internationaly policeman, or bully, depending on how you look at it, shouldn't its population be keeping up with international affairs?
And so you rated my post a 1 which explained exactly why the US "enjoys" playing policeman. Sure you can disagree, but you have to think.

I will agree with intellgent, openminded Canadians and laugh at the US with them. I do so with Europeans who really care about improving fellow humans. But I will definitely not spare a chuckle with people who just need to laugh to distract themselves from their own sense of powerlessness. As you make clear, you laugh at the US because it's the big elephant, the leader. But despite your laughter, it remains leader and you remain the clever fool.

[ Parent ]
*knock knock* anybody there? (5.00 / 1) (#21)
by raaymoose on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:02:20 PM EST

Go back, read what I wrote. Think.
I quoted Mr. Trudeau because what he said has been true for a long time. We can't ignore the US, it's too big, even if we try, that's what he meant all those years ago.
I didn't say anything about laughing at the US because it's big, I'm not sure where you're getting that from. Rick Mercer is a funny guy; Canadians enjoy having a laugh at fools, it has nothing to do with size.


[ Parent ]
Yeah yeah, now shut up. (none / 0) (#24)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:07:46 PM EST

;) Read other post. 'twas all in fun that unfortunately degrades quality of conversation.

[ Parent ]
Parent post can be rated to 0 (none / 0) (#23)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:05:15 PM EST

I was having a bit of fun with flaming, since this is not a serious article at all. But I do realize the silencing effect on discussion when such flames are so joyously lobbed around. I certainly don't apologize to anyone who feels insulted, but that is because no insult was intended.

[ Parent ]
*gag* (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by sasha on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:53:45 AM EST

And isn't it a truism where you live that USians don't read/know about international affairs? Wouldn't that seem to suggest international affairs are irrelevant to americans, hence there is a difference in culture? And wouldn't this difference in culture underscore the reality that, infact, following international affairs is less a requirement than a social custom?

You've _got_ to be kidding ...

I've got to admit, that's one I haven't encountered too often -- general ignorance justified on grounds of cultural differences. Originality points, I suppose ...

But no, you cannot rationalise ignorance of basic fundamentals of the world in which you live on the grounds that it is not socially "customary" where you live ... (LOL!) -- Basic awareness and knowledge of the world's people and lands is essential to the continuity of a nation, and the only way it can achieve a respectable status as a member of the civilised world. Mercer's brilliant satire underscores the reality that the US does a poor job of fulfilling this particular requirement, and so, Canadians and others alike are well entitled to their collective laugh. This does not suggest any sort of obsessive US-centric interest (you'd need a rather monsterous ego to think so), but the all too common human tendency to laugh at fully grown working-class people who lack the awareness of most toddlers when it comes to anything outside of their borders.
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

Hmmm (3.25 / 8) (#25)
by Signal 11 on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:16:15 PM EST

Basic awareness and knowledge of the world's people and lands is essential to the continuity of a nation, and the only way it can achieve a respectable status as a member of the civilised world.

Yeah, I know you hate us and call us uncivilized, but every one of us has as many pairs of jeans, televisions, VCRs, and SUVs as we want. And we got the Marines to make sure none of you more barbaric civilizations get jealous and try something smart.

Really friggin' necessary, that. I don't watch TV hardly at all. Strangely enough, I continue to function effectively in society.

but the all too common human tendency to laugh at fully grown working-class people who lack the awareness of most toddlers when it comes to anything outside of their borders.

Canadians are laughably undereducated on American culture anyway. They simply dismiss it as non-existant. And yet they call us childish... but hey, don't let me stop you from laughing... just realize that your entire argument (as is my rebuttal) is based on stereotyping which is hardly factual.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Eh? (3.50 / 4) (#27)
by sasha on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:24:07 PM EST

I don't personally hate anyone as you assert, but:

Yeah, I know you hate us and call us uncivilized, but every one of us has as many pairs of jeans, televisions, VCRs, and SUVs as we want. And we got the Marines to make sure none of you more barbaric civilizations get jealous and try something smart.

Well, yes, I suppose jeans, televisions, VCRs, and SUVs are the measure of a civilisation. It is because of your jeans, televisions, VCRs, and SUVs that you assert your complete dominance over the world at large. Haha.

Pre-Iraq Invasion Kuwait had the highest per-capita number of cars, VCRs, SUVs, and probably televisions in the world. You don't see them advertising themselves as messianic rulers destined to dominate the world because of their material possessions.
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

Kuwait (none / 0) (#47)
by decoy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:41:15 AM EST

Pre-Iraq Invasion Kuwait had the highest per-capita number of cars, VCRs, SUVs, and probably televisions in the world.

Yet Iraq kicked their ass and invaded them. You can't do much with televisions except watch television. Kuwait may have been overflowing with televisions and SUVs, but it lacked guns, and the US is overflowing with them.

The US doesn't use jeans and televisions to assert its power over the world, it uses its military and economic strength.

[ Parent ]

How so? (3.33 / 3) (#28)
by sasha on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:27:44 PM EST

How is my argument based on stereotyping? In the context of the topic -- Mercer's show -- I think it's been illustrated quite well that claims of ignorance of basic ABCs of world awareness are substantial and well-founded. Of course, don't rely on such inaccurate data -- might just want to go outside and speak to some people. ;-)

*offers raeymoose a snack* .. Jean Poutine?
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

Is it really important? (3.66 / 3) (#46)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:29:03 AM EST

Is there some reason that Americans should know who the Prime Minister of Canada is? Would we gain anything from this knowlege? Should all of us Americans go around memorizing the useless trivia of various foreign nations even though it would not affect us in any way?

This Canadian show, that makes Americans look stupid by asking them trivia questions about Canada, is just as funny as a Algerian show, that makes Canadians look stupid by asking them trivia questions about Algeria.

Most people don't give a fuck about the governments, culture, or current events of other countries. They don't have any effect on them, so why care? Local events, politics, and culture are just as complex, and infinitely more relevant to their dailiy lives. It's only when those foreign nations become relevant to people that people pay attention to them. I don't find anything wrong with this situation.

[ Parent ]

I think you're failing to ... (3.50 / 2) (#51)
by sasha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:28:00 PM EST

... recognise the difference between "useless trivia"/"details" and "basic common knowledge." Well, of mildly informed people who have an idea that something actually exists outside of their town/national border/whatever.


--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

You know what? (none / 0) (#54)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:40:12 PM EST

The internal workings of Canada are useless trivia in most Amercians daily lives. Most Americans know where Canada is, but that doesn't mean that it affects them in an obvious, direct manner. The goings on in California probably have more of an indirect impact on American's dailiy lives than the events in Canada.

What would I stand to gain if I knew this "basic common knowlege"? I'd say pretty damn close to nothing.

[ Parent ]

baa! (3.33 / 3) (#52)
by raaymoose on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:40:08 PM EST

let's just recall, Algeria and Canada aren't neighbors, they aren't major trade partners, hell, they're not even on the same continent. (and yet, the average Canuck will at least be able to locate Algeria)

Canada is a major trading partner and ally of the USA, we're neighbors, we share the longest unguarded border in the world, it'd be natural for the citizens of the USA to know things about Canada, but they don't (it seems, on average). There's something wrong there.

The problem is, the average wanker in the USA is too stupid to understand how knowing about other places, other ways of doing things influence their daily lives - it does, whether you acknowledge it or not.

By the way, I like the sig on your message, it's rather true, and unfortunate.


[ Parent ]
Yes... (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:31:22 PM EST

Have you surveyed, a statistically valid sample, of Amercians and Canadians to see how many could locate France and Algeria, or are you just assuming that Americans are morons, and Canadians + yourself are not? Have you met many Canadians? If you have, you'd notice that, on average, they aren't any smarter than the average American.

Why do you assume that the Amercian people are the intellectual dreck of the world?

There are exactly three things that are relevant to me about Canada:

    1. The drinking age is 18 there.
    2. Persciption drugs are cheaper there.
    3. They apperently dump a lot of wheat into the US, lowering prices. I am not a farmer, so I don't know much about this. I do know that farming is important to the local economy, and that farmers are having a hard time staying in business.
This stuff has relevance, because I live farely close to the Canadian border. It would not be relevant to someone living in Florida. Their geography, culture, and political system in unimportant to my daily life. It is useless information. Why should I care what the name of their head of state is? Would I gain anything from taking the time to learn the difference between his name and a popular Canadian snack's? Would knowing any if these help me, would knowing these things help a low-paid factory worker?

My sig is satire.

[ Parent ]

BZZZT! (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by raaymoose on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 05:48:44 PM EST

Have I met many Canadians? yes, I have, many thousands upon thousands, kind of comes naturally when you've lived all over the forementioned country. I've also spent significant portions of time in the USA, and assorted European countries.
And in my travels, it has become clear, that yes, Canadians on average are more intelligent than their American counterparts. Perhaps ultimately, they're not, but they're better informed, and more articulate and logical without a doubt.

Your list of things about Canada is erroneous, and shows that you aren't very informed yourself.
1. The legal drinking age is detirmined provincially. Where I grew up, it was 19, where I am at the moment, it's 18.
2. Yes, perscription drugs are cheaper here. I think that's because the gov't allows generics sooner than the US gov't does, but I wouldn't know, I've never had to pay for perscriptions here.
3. No one 'dumps' anything. Canadians do things differently than the US. The US whines about 'dumping'. In reality, they just can't compete, and spread things such as the above. It's far far more complex than that, however.

Directly, I can go off on a long limb and come up with some reason why knowing what the Prime Minister of Canada's name is. What if, he runs across someone who can give him a better paying job, and is impressed at this factory worker's knowledge of things in general? It's pretty vague, but plausable nevertheless.

I suppose ignorance is bliss, in the end for some people, I just don't subscribe to that BS.


[ Parent ]
Canada is not "things in general" (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 07:40:01 PM EST

You seem to have a dim view of Americans in general. You think they're stupid, ignorant, wankers. If Americans are such substandard human beings, why does America have one of the largest economies in the world? Why are Americans responsible for many of the technological advances of this century? If we're so busy being stupid and ignorant, why didn't a Canadian build the first airplane?

You might as well say, "Our country is better than yours because we are! We are so smart, and you are so stupid! We are so much better than you that you are ignorant if you don't know much about us."

You failed to answer my main question. Would knowing information about Canada help me? Would I gain anything from it? Would it get me a promotion at my US-based company?

Should I spend less time learning about and doing interesting things because you, as a Canadian, think I should know more about your country? Am I ignorant if I care to learn more about European history or mathematics than contemporary Canadian culture and politics?

Should ignorance be redefined as lacking knowledge about Canada?

[ Parent ]

generalities (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by raaymoose on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 09:05:53 PM EST

In general, stupid, ignorant wankers could be used to sum it up. I know induviduals aren't general, you could be the exact opposite for all I know, and would be judged accordingly.

How would knowing simple facts about another country help you? I cannot be entirely certain, your definition of 'gain' seems to be limited to material wealth alone -- there's far more in this world than that. As I said before, I can't account for every situation, and I did pose a hypothetical situation, albiet vague.

Not knowing everything about Canada doesn't make someone stupid, but what I'm pointing out is it's indicative of a greater malaise in general, the anti-intellectual attitude that seems to permeate mainstream US culture. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is a great thing. Knowledge of your main trading partner is an even greater thing, if you insist on sticking to materials.

I don't really give half a moose's arse if you want to know, or couldn't care less, it's your loss, and whilst it may not be material, it's still a loss, and you're entitled to think whatever you so choose.

Deliberately choosing not to know something because it's inconvieniant, or isn't profitable in the material sense is worse than ignorance; I don't know what it is, but it's really a poor attitude to live with.


[ Parent ]
My definition of gain... (none / 0) (#63)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:55:08 AM EST

...in this context would be acquiring some bit of knowlege that I find interesting or useful. I don't find Canada particularly interesting (like many other countries and US states) so, if I decide to learn anything about it, that knowlege must be useful. I don't think I would find Canadian political knowlege or most current events useful.

I find the drinking age knowlege useful (although I haven't done anything with it). The other two bits of information I just picked up from the local paper.

[ Parent ]

They agree with you (none / 0) (#65)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:23:24 PM EST

I have lived all over the world and never found a place that was sincerely better than the US in terms of the average person's intelligence or awareness of the rest of the world.
However, upon arriving in the US, these people are shocked to find that a) their preconceived notions of the US are grossly in error, b) the average American doesn't give a rat's ass about their country of origin, and c) the average American thinks *very* differently from them. From these things, they erroneously conclude the average American a dolt. Well, as an American who has travelled abroad, including Canada, I can safely say that a) their preconceived notions of the US are grossly in error, b) their knowledge of the US is spotty at best and downright propagandistic at worst, mostly being derived from whatever's on the evening news, and c) they couldn't give a rat's ass to be further educated than that.
Anywhere you go, you'll find the locals believe what locals believe and don't really care about much else. This includes Canada, whose level of misunderstanding of the US is significantly higher than the US' level of ignorance of Canada, despite the clear opportunity to learn the truth, which they do not excercise. So, while they may have more facts about the US than the average American has about Canada, those facts are largely wrong, and they can't be bothered to correct them. One of those 'facts' is that Americans are stupid and ignorant. Well, Canadians are, by and large, factually misinformed and supercillious reactionaries, if we resort to namecalling...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
*Smirk* (none / 0) (#56)
by sasha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 06:31:32 PM EST

All that you are demonstrating, sir, is that you are a specimen of the commonplace attitude toward knowledge that permeates the US, and to an extent, the entire Western world, depending on how you look at it and where you look.

Treating, for instance, the name of Canada's prime minister as an item of "trivia" or a "useless detail" is fundamentally wrong, and signals of an irreversable, rigid, mechanical sort of disposition on your part. How Mr. Chretien is directly relevant to you is not the question -- the question is how much do you know about the world around you? Like raeymoose pointed out, you could go out on a real limb, and I think you can inquire into the purpose of a person's life, and derive from it some sort of concrete reasoning for this that suits your agenda.

Realistically, knowing the names of leadership isn't trivia. It's just part of being an informed person. With so much access to such widespread information, it is surprising that many westerners cannot see it in this light. Next time you see an interesting news story about something that does directly impact you, and that does come from a news source angled toward people at least minutely aware of their surroundings, you might find yourself in trouble. You will see Mr. Chretien's name, and no caption ("Prime Minister of Canada"), and fail to recognise the origin of this news.

Being an informed person amounts to this, to put it in a very basic way that accomodates your anti-intellectual, anti-information perspective.
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

*grin* (none / 0) (#58)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 08:15:13 PM EST

So I would become sort of uber-intellectual if I memorized the names of every world leader? All I'm saying is that:
    1. I could care less about Canada. It doesn't interest me.
    2. I would not stand to gain anything if I was well versed in the ways of Canada.
    3. If I do not find Canada interesting, and I stand to gain nothing from learning about Canada, why put effort into learning about that cold northern country, that has a Prime minister that cannot use proper grammer, when I could be doing something else that does interest me?
You are not an intellectual you are a pseudo-intellectual.

Treating, for instance, the name of Canada's prime minister as an item of "general knowlege" or a "non-trivia" is fundamentally wrong, and signals of an irreversable, rigid, mechanical sort of disposition on your part. You, for some reason, think that this sort of knowlege is vital to every person on the planet, it's not. Knowing of world politics does not make you informed about your surroundings.

You can know jack shit about international politics and still be an informed person. You can know nothing of the politics in your own country and still be an informed person. You can know absolutly nothing about anything outside of your village, and still be an informed person.

You are not intellectual you are pseudo-intellectual.

[ Parent ]

*snort* (none / 0) (#60)
by sasha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 10:09:42 PM EST

No, you would not become a uber-intellectual if you memorised the lineup of world leaders. However, you have nothing to gain from your failure to do so, and nothing to lose by taking the time to be acquainted with them as you encounter their names, it certainly couldn't hurt in the future.

As for my own intellect, that is irrelevant to the discussion, and I don't think you can make the point any clearer by informing me of my pseudo-intellectual properties ... twice.

Knowing of world politics, by itself, mechanically, (i.e. memorising the names of world leaders) of course does not increase your awareness. It's really unfortunate to see another stereotype reveal itself as an accurate generalisation, by way of your approach. If you "memorise things", indeed, you are no more enlightened. If you maintain an overall awareness and understanding (impossible concepts, I know), however, there are much benefits to be reaped.

Practises that involve quantifying knowledge, and questioning its usefulness merely in terms of material gain (Canadians dumping wheat over the border?) indicates that those notions are obviously beyond you -- this is understandable, of course -- but, as someone conscious of this sub-standard methodology, would it not be reasonable to expect you to attempt to transgress those boundaries and learn something? No, instead you retaliate with personal aggravations, further reducing your credibility in any kind of academic discussion on this matter.

Politics by themselves are irrelevant; it is the overall understanding of the world around you that make you an informed person. Please try to understand this (*gasp*) differing perspective, or at least lend it an ear -- it would be only to your benefit.


--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

Nice big words! What's the point? (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Jun 08, 2001 at 02:37:24 AM EST

I'll put it simply, so that you may understand:
  • Canada is uninteresting.
  • There are more interesting that I would rather learn about.
  • I have a finite amount of time available to me.
  • I choose to learn about what interests me, rather than Canada.
Now do you understand? There are more bits of knowlege in the world than any single person can know. I choose to learn those bits that interest me. This set does not include bits about Canada or many world events. This set does include bits of physics, bits of math, bits of western history, bits of fiction, bits of computer science, etc. Am I ignorant because I am interested in the wrong things?

You seem to value knowlege of current world events, good for you, but you should realize that there are many people who do not value this kind of knowlege as much as yourself, and that fact does not make them ignorant, stupid, or anything else except different.

[ Parent ]

Only to Canadians (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:14:29 PM EST

I'd be hard pressed to come up with the leader of Britain or France, too. Why the prime minister of Canada, specifically, is more important than the ruler of Rwanda is beyond me...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
this is too funny! (4.33 / 3) (#42)
by cory on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:51:01 PM EST

"Basic awareness and knowledge of the world's people and lands is essential to the continuity of a nation, and the only way it can achieve a respectable status as a member of the civilised world."

Tell me, do you think the average Roman citizen could locate Germania on a map? Probably not. You know why? Because Germania didn't matter worth a fuck, that's why, only Rome did. Same thing with the US today. The rest of the world could all catch ebola and drop dead and we'd go right on truckin' (alright, that's an exagerration, we depend on international trade a lot, but my point still stands).

Tell me, if having current knowledge of "world events" is so important to being a great nation, why isn't Canada calling the shots anywhere outside their own borders?

Cory

[ Parent ]
I like your example... (none / 0) (#45)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 01:50:40 AM EST

but wasn't it the Germans that came down and kicked Rome's ass?

Of course, it probably wouldn't have helped anything if the average roman citizen knew something about ancient-world events.

[ Parent ]

Circumstancial details. (2.00 / 1) (#61)
by sasha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 10:14:44 PM EST

What you're overlooking, of course, is that the ancient Romans did not have the enourmous infrastructural redundancies that are capable of supplying so much information to the common citizen. Ancient Rome did not entail telegraph, telephone, television, radio, or the Internet. I am superbly confident beyond doubt that if the ancient Romans of mind were to have the infrastructure for this enlightenment en masse, as it exists in the US today, they would know the world around them inside out. Curiosity is an inherent human trait, as is a quest for knowledge -- I cannot believe that someone would be inclined to shun these basics of reason and environment by their own nature and free will. Some systematic decadence and brainwashing is obviously at work ...
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]
What ego? (4.00 / 4) (#17)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:44:21 AM EST

Living next to you [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant
The mistake you make is in framing the whole topic in terms of "ego" and self-esteem, which are purely Canadian concepts in this issue. When the reality is that if the US is an elephant, Canada in terms of activity is a gadfly.

I'm sorry if the country I happen to be a citizen of (no, I don't live there) doesn't give yours the cultural time of day and affects your economy overly much (although Canada could change that, you won't because money tends to trump dignity). But as Robin Williams once sang, "Canada isn't even a real country, anyway." (March 26, 2000).

[ Parent ]
good good (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by raaymoose on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:55:46 AM EST

Your points are very much true, except the reference to some silly song, but that's fine.
The 'ego' has nothing to do with the countries themselves, I was talking about Siggy's assumption that people are obsessed with the US more than anywhere else, I was referencing his ego, more or less, not everyone's.


[ Parent ]
... reference to a song ... (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by misterluke on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 03:54:54 PM EST

... which is also reference to a Lucien Bouchard quote. South Park actually produces knowledgeable humour about Canada most of the time. You have to admit that flying in to "downtown Canada" is as much a hack at American preconceptions as it is at anything Canadian.

[ Parent ]
aye (none / 0) (#43)
by raaymoose on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 12:13:49 AM EST

You're right. I can't say I've actually seen the movie in which this is contained, but I know the spirit of the song. In context, it's funny, it pokes fun at everyone, out of context, it loses that spirit.


[ Parent ]
Morbid fetish, eh? (3.33 / 3) (#22)
by sasha on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 12:04:16 PM EST

I'm not sure who has the morbid fetish with US affairs, but citing the Canucks seems to be a bit far-fetched.

You might be able to make an academic argument that Canadian media is to an extent preoccupied with US news -- it's really not, it just feels an obligation to carry it -- but, I really have not met very many Canadians who attach any importance whatsoever to "US news", let alone a morbid fetish ...

Canucks, in the aggregate, are intelligent people. They don't watch on TV whatever you show them so long as it's dumbed-down commercialised infotainment. I'm sure they don't consciously choose to develop their "morbid fetish" with "US affairs." But then again, as civilised people, they have an inherent curiosity with the affairs of their neighbours, as most other members of the civilised world do as well. One would not be a well-informed world citizen if one does not pay attention to US affairs, of course -- but I think what's important here is that this relationship in the context of the US/Canada sphere seems to be ... well, unilateral ...
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

Yes! (none / 0) (#48)
by decoy on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 02:59:41 AM EST

Those Amercians are so stupid! All they watch is dumbed down infotainment! They are so uncivilized and barbaric that they don't even pay attention to what happens in Canada or the rest of the world! Those Canadians, I tell ya, they're just so damned smart! They wont even watch the watered down infotainment that is so satisfying to all of those stupid Americans!

Really, when reading your comments, you come out sounding like you have a real bad case of anti-American bias.

[ Parent ]

Apologies, then. (none / 0) (#50)
by sasha on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:25:08 PM EST

Really, when reading your comments, you come out sounding like you have a real bad case of anti-American bias.

Not the intention at all. Sorry if you perceive it as such.
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.
[ Parent ]

Managed two incongruities (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:31:18 PM EST

First of all, no Canadian really cares about US news; the Canadian news networks simply air it, but at the end, Canadians care because they are trying really hard to be urbane...
Second, Canadian news shows show things Canadians don't care about: US news; yet Canadians sit there watching what they don't care about exactly as do Americans. That it is high-class drivel doesn't change the basic fact that Canadians watch what is spoon-fed them like everyone else basking the glow of phosphors...

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
funny... (3.22 / 9) (#10)
by slaytanic killer on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 09:28:37 AM EST

It's a humorous MLP, but what people fail to realize is that the US is a HUGE country. It is exceedingly difficult to keep up with local events, much less int'l.

The danger of course, is that the US is the world policeman without a clue, but it was a role the US was forced into -- before WWII, the national policy was to walk softly and carry a big stick. Even if one concedes that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was lured by Roosevelt, it was clearly important to shut down Hitler by having the US public on the Allied bandwagon.

The proper response? Grow backbones. Stand up to the US so that it can take you seriously. The US can manipulate you endlessly through economics, so become more self-sufficient, even if it hurts your poor businesses in the short run. Renegotiate treaties so your country can have real militaries.
[From the AP article] It makes Americans look stupid
If Canada wants notoriety, commit genocide. No one pays real attention to the intelligent, quiet country because they have no real problems that need help. (And why doesn't Canada help solve the US' problems, if they have an advantage in Enlightenment?) Otherwise they should get over their self-esteem problems.

The only reason I don't give this MLP much weight in my own mind is because the AP service is spreading misinformation -- in choosing really inflamatory quotes like "It makes Americans look stupid," they only capture the extreme opinions of everyone other than perhaps those in Quebec.

American's aren't stupid at all, they're just fucking ignorant. And so is anyone in a "civilized" country with strong information ministries.

They were such a nice, quiet country ... (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by misterluke on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 04:03:01 PM EST

... no one expected them to go on a murderous rampage. Ha ha. Oh wait ... Somalian teenager beaten to death by Canadian peacekeepers, Spanish fishing boat forcibly boarded in international waters ... hm ... maybe we'd better keep the quiet image. Lets you get away with more. A man with a reputation as an early riser ...

[ Parent ]
Expand! (4.25 / 4) (#16)
by sasha on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 11:35:19 AM EST

Oh, this makes me wish so much that I received CBC ...

Actually, the best thing Mercer's show can do is expand to subject matter beyond just Canada. Doing that, he would have an unstoppable juggernaut of comedy surpassed by few things in the world. Why not ask American commoners about elementary details of world geography and affairs -- just as long as it's outside their borders? That would be killer comedy ...

With most of my classmates in my 9th grade literature class (aye, in the US) being unable to identify France on a world map, I could just see a programme like this warming the hearts of the world's non-ignorant citizens with joy and laughter ...

A resounding +1!
--- Signal SIGSIG received. Signature too long.

Who neede the CBC... (3.66 / 6) (#35)
by SvnLyrBrto on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 02:56:53 PM EST

>Why not ask American commoners about elementary details of world
>geography and affairs -- just as long as it's outside their borders? That would
>be killer comedy ...

... when America's perfectly willing to make fun of itself?

Jay Leno already does this bit. It's called Jaywalking. He takes a camera crew out into LA, finds random schmucks, asks them about basic news affairs, both domestic and international, and broadcasts their ignorance on his show.

And I don't mean he asks for the details. You could answer the questions he asks if you had just skimmed the herdlines @ Yahoo news, or even just looked at a globe at some point in your life!

But I guess it's true... Sturgeons Law says 90% of everything is crap, so it does follow that 90% of people are idiots.


john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Mercer's better at it. (none / 0) (#41)
by misterluke on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 04:13:28 PM EST

He's been doing it longer, I think, and he's really subtle and insidious about it. He'll speed talk at you for 2 minutes about a fabricated issue and slip the funny bit in the middle. He'll misdirect questions people ask when they're not sure whether or not to believe him. One time, when he was talking about the serious ramifications of global warming - the polar ice cap was going to split, therefore making all of Canada bipolar - someone was trying to call him on it and laughing. He retorted: "You don't think global warming is a serious issue?". It also helps that he's not known to the people he's fucking with.

[ Parent ]
So... (4.00 / 1) (#49)
by Anonymous 6522 on Thu Jun 07, 2001 at 03:24:11 AM EST

..there isn't anything in the world funnier than making fun of Americans?

If something was happening in France, that the average 9th grader would care about, I'm sure nearly everyone in your class would know where France is. If they have no reason to care, why should they?

Does knowing the location of France make you a better, happier person?

[ Parent ]

Try it in Canada (none / 0) (#66)
by weirdling on Fri Jun 22, 2001 at 04:26:54 PM EST

America does this to itself; Canada has to do it to America. Which is the more noble? Don't you guys have anything better to do?

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Done before (by Americans =) (3.75 / 4) (#34)
by Delirium on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 02:56:31 PM EST

If you watch some American comedy shows, you'll see that they do this all the time. Dave Letterman and Jay Leno in particular like to walk around in downtown New York/Los Angeles and ask people on the street questions about world affairs, broadcasting the amusing erroneous responses.

dubya mis-spoke? say it aint so! (3.33 / 3) (#36)
by cicero on Tue Jun 05, 2001 at 02:56:57 PM EST

The maker of the comedy even fooled George W. Bush Jr. into reading out his thanks publicly during campaign to the "Prime Minister of Canada", Jean "Poutine" (the name of a delicious Québecois snack).
George dubya said something foolish ?

I never would have guessed it was possible.


--
I am sorry Cisco, for Microsoft has found a new RPC flaw - tonight your e0 shall be stretched wide like goatse.
About halfway through the special (4.00 / 3) (#44)
by ZanThrax on Wed Jun 06, 2001 at 02:59:49 AM EST

(way back when it was first ran), I realised that I just didn't find that segment all that funny anymore. This is a tv show (meaning that we only see the most stupid sounding replies) that involves going to another country and asking serious sounding questions that, for the most part, sound a bit odd at worst to someone who hasn't got any real reason to know better. On top of that, the intentionally deceptive manner in which many questions sound almost right (or are simply too long for people to catch the joke bit that's slipped in somewhere) and assumption that many people make that someone asking these sorts of questions isn't going to lie to you (notice that only the little kid calls Mercer on the naming the States of Canada bit) make it unlikely that someone will argue with the interviewer even if they do realise that something's not right with that question. (Answer the question that's asked, don't bitch that the question is invalid is something many people figure out in high school - I know I certainly did) The show's just trolling. The only people I really felt shouldn't have been so easily fooled were the politicians, and for the mocking of the candidates, they were blindsided in situations where they had no real reason to be paying that close of attention for someone asking them faulty questions. (Still, I did enjoy the opportunity to laugh at Bush) If you want a television troll that's actually worthwhile, find the Michael Moore bit where he walks around NYC with a couple of off-duty cops and randomly picks citizens to harass and subject to unlawful searches by said uniforms.


Duckspeaking since 1984.


Talking to Americans | 71 comments (70 topical, 1 editorial, 1 hidden)
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