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In the last post, I discussed how “conditioning” can affect our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche – and more importantly, how, in a broad sense, it is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in Canada’s unique context, owing to vast distances and numerous regional differences, “cultural conditioning” (ie: laying the foundations of cultural “expectations” with respect to how Canadian citizens interact with each other) strengthens to our national cohesiveness.
I ended the last post by saying that negative consequences can arise from conditioning if our upbringing has led us to be conditioned (ie: led to expect, or believe) that Canada’s reality is one thing, when in truth it is another — OR if we are only aware of part of the overall picture.
A word to Anglophones on the negative consequences which can arise from an incomplete picture arising from certain sets of conditioning
In an Anglophone Canadian context, such negative consequences arise when Anglophones think of their country only in an Anglophone context. This often leads to charges from Francophones that they are being ignored, misunderstood, or not accounted for in the overall context. It goes without saying that such conditioning is not the best for national “cohesiveness”.
If you are Anglophone and if you have been following this blog for the last year, you are undoubtedly aware that many of my blog topics cover matters which many people are unaware of. This is because many Anglophone Canadians (primarily unilingual Anglophone Canadians) have been conditioned (either by way of geographic regionalism / isolation, school, or silence in the media) into not realizing that there is a need to look beyond Anglophone culture to be able to view and understand Canada in its entirety.
It is an unfortunate reality, because frankly speaking, this “is” one the major reasons why Québec’s sovereignty movement exists.
Some of the things unilingual Anglophone Canadians may not be aware of (including unilingual individuals in Canada’s Anglophone media, political and education systems) – but which exacerbate the notion of Two Solitudes — have to do with
- understanding Québec’s and Canada’s Francophone culture,
- who is talking about what issues withing French Canada and Québec,
- how those people’s views are valued and weighted within Québec’s and Canada’s Francophone society,
- what Québec’s primary societal values are and what weight is accorded to those values,
- what discussions may be different in Québec than in English Canada,
- what actions in the rest of Canada can lead to Québec’s collective sense of alienation from the rest of Canada, and finally,
- what simple things can be done in the rest of Canada to make Francophone Québécois feel more valued, better understood and a more complete part of Canadian society — just as an Anglophone would feel in any part of Anglophone Canada.
I have always said that we need to avoid a situation in which Anglophone Canadians feel perfectly at home and emotionally understood in 80% of their country, but in which Francophones can feel perfectly at home and emotionally understood in only 20% of their country. I truly do not believe we are at this stage (yet)… but many people in Québec have been conditioned to believe we are at this stage. Once someone is conditioned into holding preconceived notions with respect to a particular idea, then that person tends to look for signs that the preconceived notions are true; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.
I can give you a perfect example of this latter statement. I have a Francophone friend (originally from Québec) who lives in a small town in Ontario. He feels that he has been mistreated by a few Anglophones owing to a cultural misunderstanding. Ever since then, I get the impression he has been “actively” on the lookout for repeated patterns owing to this prior and unfortunate conditioning. Invariably, any time I talk to him, he always seems to have found a new story of “mistreatment at the hands of Anglophones” to tell me about — despite the fact that I think he is finding issues where issues do not exist. I’ve been repeatedly pointing out to him that I see other people around him — especially Anglophones — who are experiencing the same things that he is in this smaller community. I’ve been trying to point out that it is not a Francophone/Anglophone issue, and he just ran into a few bad apples. But owing to the conditioning stemming from these few experiences, I’m having a tough time getting this point through to him. His conditioning, owing to these few experiences, has tainted his view and now he believes the issues are deliberate, targeted against him as a Francophone, and it has made him quite unhappy.
Likewise, I have a good Anglophone friend in Montréal who I have known for almost 15 years. He moved to Montréal four years ago from another part of Canada, before which he immigrated to Canada several years back. During his first two years in Montréal, he worked in a hostile work environment. It is important to make the distinction that work environment was Francophone and hostile — not hostile because is was Francophone. My friend was hired into an English-only high-technology position for which the company could not find Francophones to fill the position Yet, because my friend was new to Montréal, and because he did not speak French, he was came to the conclusion that he was being harassed because he could not speak English. As someone looking from the outside in, I could see that he worked in such a toxic workplace that he would have been harassed regardless if he was Francophone or Anglophone. But his experiences conditioned him into believing the harassment was owing to the fact that he was Anglophone. His conditioning led him to become so bitter that he refused to learn French out of pure spite. Needless to say, it is not the most pleasant experience to visit him in Montréal, and I’m actually at the point of urging him to leave Montréal (and Québec) — not only for his own sanity, but for the sanity of those around him (I can see that Francophones around him are now incorrectly holding him up as an incorrect example of what Anglophones are like… It’s just not a good situation all around. I’m actually surprised to see how it spiraled out of control).
I find it very interesting how both of the two friends above (one Francophone, one Anglophone) believe they are being mistreated at the “hands of the other linguistic group”. Yet, from the outside looking in, I can see that it is not the case and that these two friends have simply become overly sensitive. I would love to bring them together to share their experiences and compare notes — precisely so they could see that their emotions are skewing reality (and I might some day). However, their “conditioning”, which is based on traumatic events, has led them to actively search for reasons to believe that everyone in a particular language group has it out for them. So they can see that their view of reality is incomplete and skewed, I’m trying to get them both involved in their communities more — to do volunteer work, to join a sports team, or to find a club of people with similar interests. But it is an uphill battle… especially when emotions are running high. This is a very poignant example of negative conditioning.
Like I said earlier, once someone is conditioned into holding preconceived notions with respect to a particular idea, then that person tends to look for signs that the preconceived notions are true. The sovereignty movement would not exist if a critical mass of people did not have these types of conditioned sentiments, regardless if I or you believe such sentiments are baseless or not. You can argue facts, but it is impossible to argue emotions. Thus it is impossible to tell someone their emotions are “wrong”.
That is why gestures are so important. Gestures and overtures are what influence emotions.
A word to Francophones on the negative consequences which arise from an incomplete picture arising from certain sets of conditioning
This leads me to the next point…
Likewise, in a Francophone Québec context, negative consequences can arise when conditioning prevents Francophones from being aware of the realities, context, changes, evolution and nuances of what is happening elsewhere in Canada. This often results in many Québécois unnecessarily (and often unintentionally, but sometimes intentionally) erecting emotional walls between themselves and the rest of Canada.
It is unfortunate when this occurs, because it can often be based on inaccurate pretexts and preconceptions (false “conditioning”). It leads to a sense of being more and more detached from the rest of Canada. The problem is that this sense of isolation is as much to do with (or even more to do with) Québec’s own “wall building” as it is with any unilingual Canadian’s disconnect from Francophone culture.
This blog is primarily for Anglophone Canadians. But I am told that more and more Francophones have been reading it over the last several months. If you are Francophone, and you have been following this blog over the past year, you perhaps have become aware of various things about the rest of Canada you were not aware of (things not mentioned in school, in Francophone media, and certainly not by politicians and interest groups interested who seek to score political points by way of playing the nationalist card).
Perhaps some of the things you have probably learned are that there are quite vibrant underpinnings of Francophone society outside Québec and across Canada. They are vibrant because they continue to evolve and adapt to a changing world. Francophone society across Canada is increasingly shifting to the online digital world (making it so that a Francophone’s community is available at the touch of a button in any village, town or city across Canada).
Francophone society across Canada is indeed seeing proportional challenges arising from increased Anglophone immigration, but Francophones have been adapting. In many cases, Francophone immigration is breathing new life into areas where Francophone society was struggling only 20 years ago (Southern Alberta and the Edmonton area are prime examples of regions where Francophone communities have grown by large numbers over the past 15 years owing to international and inter-provincial immigration).
You perhaps have learned from this blog that Francophone society in other regions of Canada comes in many different sizes, colours, and accents – different from one province to another. You have read how Francophones are working with their local governments (provincial and municipal) to build infrastructure and greater service networks within their communities and across the country (including schools, universities, health and other government services).
One of the more poignant things you perhaps have learned from this blog is the tremendous change in openness which is occurring on the part of millions of Anglophones towards Canada’s French fact. I have been citing many of my own observations, experiences, as well as many statistics on this topic. One such example is Canada’s immersion program — a truly ground-breaking program by any global measure. Other countries are now looking at Anglophone Canada’s grass-roots immersion movement which is transforming a nation. In absolute numbers, bilingualism is on the uptick and it is “sensitizing” politicians, governments, and the Canadian population as a whole. Changes are being made across the country. Courts are recognizing these changes and are providing extra “nudges” in areas where there has been some “slacking off”. If “conditioning” were to come in the form of a reset button, it is an understatement to say that more than a few Anglophones have pressed it in the past two decades.
In the next post we will look at the “modern” historical context which has shaped much of our current conditioning.
SERIES: HOW THE PRESENTATION OF EVENTS IN MODERN HISTORY WHICH HAVE CONDITIONED US ALL REGARDING HOW WE VIEW OUR PLACE IN CANADA (13 POSTS)
- Conditioning: A contributing factor in the notion of the Two Solitudes – Introduction (#275) Part 1 of 13
- Conditioning: And its affect on our cultural cohesiveness and national psyche (#276) Part 2 of 13
- Conditioning: The importance of gestures (#277) Part 3 of 13
- Conditioning: In the context of Canada’s “modern” history (#278) Part 4 of 13
- Conditioning: The goal of the “Estates General of French Canada” (#279) Part 5 of 13
- Conditioning: Modern Canada’s “First” Night of the Long Knives – a trigger for the all the rest (#280) Part 6 of 13
- Conditioning: What happened after the Estates General? (#281) Part 7 of 13
- Conditioning: From the 1980 referendum until present (#282) Part 8 of 13
- Conditioning: Wrapping up history and moving into the “now” (#283) Part 9 of 13
- Conditioning: Daily examples of “an Incomplete Picture” – post A (#284) Part 10 of 13
- Conditioning: A few words regarding the death of Jacques Parizeau (#285) Part 11 of 13
- Conditioning: Daily examples of “an Incomplete Picture” – post B (#284) Part 12 of 13
- Conditioning: Daily examples of “an Incomplete Picture” – post C – Closing post (#287) Part 13 of 13