Filed under: Media | Tags: Colonialism, Conservatives, Culture, FEMA, First Nations, Inuit, Marshall McLuhan, Military, Performance, Sovereignty, Stephen Harper, The Arctic, The Media is the Message
Prime Minister Harper announced his “Canada First” Defence plan this week: “The Canada First Defence Strategy will strengthen our sovereignty and security at home and bolster our ability to defend our values and interests abroad.” But, as The Ottawa Citizen points out, when the media requested a few details as to what this strategy might entail, they were rebuffed. The content of the plan, it seems, was the speech itself:
Asked about when the actual Canada First Defence Strategy was going to be released, Jay Paxton, Mr. MacKay’s press secretary, replied: “It is a strategy that you heard enunciated by the prime minister and Minister MacKay.”
“It is not a ‘document’ like a white paper—it is the vision delivered today for long-term planning for the CF,” he added. “As such, the speeches are the strategy.”
The speeches are the strategy. Who says Marshall McLuhan is unfashionable? The medium is the message, Canada. “If you want to be taken seriously in the world,” Harper declared, “you need the capacity to act—it’s that simple.” The insinuation is clear: “act” like you have a strategy. Act like a leader. (After all, don’t our wars take place “in theatre”? With “actors” and “players” in leading roles?) Harper must be taking his media cues from ex-FEMA administrator Harvey E. Johnson. “Real leadership” is performative, not demonstrative.
But the implications behind Harper’s avant-garde leadership are much graver than the opportunity for mockery it affords. Just like “real leadership” is not real but imaginary, it’s very difficult to argue that organizing the Canadian Armed Forces with an eye on the current colonialist enterprise in Afghanistan is a “defence” strategy. In fact, such missions suggest that Harper’s strategy hardly puts “Canada First” either. Why bother outlining the details of your defence policy when our priorities clearly come from south of the border?
Furthermore, the largest threat to Canada’s sovereignty comes not, laughably, from Denmark or Afghanistan, but from the United States. While surely Canada should acquire the equipment and vehicles necessary to service trade and safety issues in the North, it is ludicrous to suggest that we should enter an Arctic arms race with the United States. You would think that Harper would recognize that Canada’s best claim to the Arctic lies in its relationship with the society that has subsisted there for thousands of years: the Inuit First Nation. Investment in Inuit society would not only repay the moral debt Canada owes the Arctic’s indigenous culture after a century of neglect and abuse, but would strengthen Canada’s historical and social claim under international law. Canada’s best chance at establishing legal stewardship over the Arctic comes from cultural, not military sovereignty.
Indeed, if you add in to the equation the erosion of Canadian cultural integrity by the commercial monolith to the south, and the ongoing transformation project of the CAF into a subsidiary of the Pentagon, the threat to our sovereignty can’t be defended with helicopters or submarines. Yet the Harper government (and the Liberal government which preceded it) has spurned every opportunity to mend relationships with Canada’s First Nations, or to solidify Canadian art and culture against interminable American influence.
Someone has to put Harper’s improv show out of its misery.
h/t to pogge.