As an American, I am proud of my country’s many strong attributes. However, there are things for which I am quite frustrated and embarrassed. I consider these items my country’s bullshit.
For this discussion, I am defining bullshit as a serious, chronic problem with a known solution, but no will to solve it. I am not talking about political points of view or just things I merely don’t like. I mean important issues which no one wants to solve. These things make me want to move to some other country. But, it occurs to me that other countries likely have their own bullshit.
So, I’ll begin by offering American examples of our bullshit. What is your country’s bullshit?
Gun violence. Our country has daily mass shootings. In addition, our streets are awash with the blood of other gun deaths, be they suicides, homicides, or accidents. Most recently, nineteen school children and two teachers were gunned down here in Texas. No matter one’s political affiliation, we agree that this is a problem. We also understand the solution (gun control). Even the gun nuts know this. Yet, we will not take even the smallest steps toward addressing the problem. Murdered children is simply the price of “freedom”. It makes no difference who is in Congress, the White House, or anything else. No substantive changes will be made.
Healthcare. Again, we know the problem and we know the solution. We just won’t do it. We know what works – the rest of the world figured this out. We make some improvements that sort of fix some things, but single payer is the answer. We all know it. We just won’t do it.
Climate Change. I live in Central Texas. The daily high temps here are over 100F. That’s not unusual for JULY! It’s way too hot for June. Meanwhile, our winters are generally warmer, but there are occasional cold snaps that are straight out of The Day After Tomorrow. We know climate change is real. When will we act like it?
Transportation. Why can’t we have high-speed trains, like everyone else? Texas, especially, would be perfect for high-speed rail. We have five huge cities clustered around 150-200 miles from each other (Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston). We even have private companies interested in building a rail system in the Texas Triangle. Our legislature keeps getting in the way – citing private property rights. My own State Senator sponsored a bill to block eminent domain proceedings for rail, but has no problem with oil companies taking land for pipelines. (Her family owns a chain of gas stations, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.)
I could go on, but you get the idea. So what is your country’s bullshit? If someone said, “I want to move to your country because mine has too much bullshit,” what would you say to dissuade that person?
Having lived in the US for 5 years after growing up and being a grown up in Norway for 42, I find it hard to think of anything that compares. I did however live there the last couple of years with my now wife, an American, and she would say:
Little variety and low quality for produce, except for strawberries a short period in summer.
Oh, and I can throw in on my own account (not that I wouldn’t dispute the degree to which the aforementioned three points are bullshit):
Climate Change - The majority of voters and political parties are concerned about climate change, but the majority in parliament insists Norwegian oil needs to be part of the solution and that decreasing production should happen very slowly if at all.
I’m Canadian and consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have been born here. However, our government, regardless of party, does not take national defence at all seriously (this mirrors the public’s attitude as well). We are huge beneficiaries of being neighbours of the US but I fear that this will bite us some day.
We can also tend to express a moral superiority over the rest of the world but with little to back it up.
UKer here, and at the moment it’s hard to know where to start, given our ridiculous government, so I’ll try not to get dragged down by current affairs and look at broader, longer term issues.
Ladish, hard-drinking bad behaviour. I like a drink with the best of them and there’s much to love about our pub culture, but come the weekend, or a special occasion, and people just lose their shit to drink. It has led to our terrible reputation for football hooliganism, the laying waste to city centres on Saturday nights by drunken hen and stag parties, and the fact that tourist destinations across Europe dread us visiting. Of course, this isn’t everyone in the British Isles, but it’s plenty of us - just visit any British airport at 7am and spot the amount of people starting their holiday with a breakfast pint.
The consistent, underlying class system - maybe ‘system’ is no longer right, as your birthplace or accent aren’t anymore going to be the sole reason you can’t get that job. But I can’t find any other reason for the fact that the Conservative Party - the party of the wealthy elite - has by FAR the biggest electoral success of any party of the past 100 years. People are voting for their ‘betters’, who must know what they’re doing because they’re the upper classes. The same class system is also full of reverse snobbery, where making good of yourself or going to university can get you labelled a lefty elitist.
The Little Englander dreaming of a lost empire - This is what I blame for Brexit - this idea that we were once so great that we don’t need anyone else, our way is the right way, foreigners don’t deserve to live here, and the problems we’re in now are someone else’s fault. The irony is that the people hankering for Empire, would have been impoverished servants and miners with ZERO life opportunity back in ‘the good old days’. It’s why the current shambles of a government wants to bring back ‘Imperial’ measurements and blue passports. It’s nostalgic bullshit
I think I’m in a bad mood. We are also fabulously creative, non-judgmental and fun to be with, if that helps.
Dear lord yes. You can’t ever be doing a thing because you want to do a thing - you’re doing it because of some unspoken class related motive; you can’t ever be just trying to be a better version of the person you were yesterday - and you’re doing it to trample on others, or look down on them.
Canada. It’s a very good country. More space than people. More good points than bad ones. I am sometimes guilty of these same things. Its weaknesses?
Inertia. Canadians do not move around the country like Americans do. They like the status quo even when mediocre. Business is often many cozy duopolies, Canadians work less hard than many countries, but never consider productivity a problem. Canada does not yet have “free trade” between its own provinces. It lives by some principles which often work, but are also often centuries old and outdated.
Smugness. Canada feels it has an enormous amount of wisdom to offer the world. People are quite educated, but often rush to judgment and are conformist, thought they feel they are fiercely independent. Sometimes we’re right. Sometimes it is easy to solve the world’s biggest problems after drinking a dozen beer. Sometimes you just argue what the plural of “beer” is.
Bubbles. I heard a joke on comedy radio about curling - a great sport since it involves lots of sweeping and nobody touches one another. Canadians are often kind and sometimes witty. We have great comedians, but many can’t tell when a joke goes too far. Many Canadians do not make a lot of effort to expand their horizons. What do the neighbours think, if you even know them? Let’s go where they go. Even our major political parties are very similar though all would object to this correct description.
I have a lot to complain about German politics, but the one subject that has the deepest parallels to THE irrational policy of the US is our nation’s stand on the speed-limit on the Autobahn. The feeling of entitlement of most drivers to be able to drive as fast as they want is as much a German national delusion as the American right to bear guns. Every study tells us that by establishing a speed limit (of 130 kph), accidents and their casualties will decrease, as well as CO2 emissions and pollution in general. In all other aspects, Germans are quite aware of climate change and ecological concerns, even proud to be some kind of pioneer in ecological awareness (to the point of sometimes being chauvinistic or patronizing about it), but despite several attempts to install a speed limit, most of us still fight tooth and nail against it. It’s bonkers, just like gun laws in the US.
This is probably our biggest Bullshit, particularly when it come to telecommunications, cell phones being the worst. We keep having Rogers et al. trying to convince us that we have the greatest cell phone plans in the world, when by any objective measure, we are among the worst*. Higher costs, worse service, and virtually no real competition. And the government, regardless of which party it is, has no real interest in fixing this.
TV and home internet services are almost as bad.
bought a one-week tourist sim card when I was in Singapore in 2019. Even paying tourist prices, buying one of these every week still would cost less per month than my regular plan, which is one of the cheapest in Canada, but would still provide more high-speed data, and more than enough texting and phone minutes to put no practical limit on my usage.
Canadian here…some of my complaints have been addressed already but anyway…
Our telecom rates. With a near-monopoly, what we pay for cell, TV and internet connectivity is stunning. I was in Cardiff a few years back and one of those street kiosk guys approached me to pitch cell service. I told him thanks, but I’m not from there, but asked what the charges were, out of curiosity. When I told him what my monthly Bell bill was, his jaw hit the sidewalk.
In ways that unfortunately parallel our neighbors to the south, more and more the rural and less-populated parts of the country hold inordinate sway politically. It’s really easy to run in many parts of the country on a “Don’t you hate Toronto and how they control everything?” platform, it seems. Canada has a population of about 38.5M; my province of Ontario has 14M people and of course we suck in the eyes of the nation, and multiple political parties have risen in Alberta based in western resentment. I remember during the Meech Lake crisis, it was pointed out that any province could veto constitutional changes. So Prince Edward Island, with a population smaller than some Toronto suburbs, could put the kaibosh on something supported by the rest of the country.
So, a dumb question of mine, but what sort of threat does Canada really face? Russia may fly a few bombers, send a few subs off the coast, but what really is at stake for Canada? Nobody will invade, unless perhaps it’s Russia seizing some up-north Arctic territory. Canada may do a lot of overseas missions as part of NATO or international peacekeeping but that isn’t really defense-related.
Unfortunately, I believe anyway, that we’ve learned in the last couple of years (and especially in the last couple of months) that there is nothing inherently logical (to a western audience anyway) about Russian and Chinese foreign policy. Though those don’t directly affect us at the moment, I do fear threats down the road as climate change problems increase.
A coworker of mine (also ex-mil) and I have talked about this from time to time and it’s not that we need to be able to repel invaders or anything like that, as that simply isn’t realistic. But we’re not even credible. For example, when we first went to Afghanistan, we should not have been sending our troops in “woodland” (or whatever it’s called) camouflage and Iltis vehicles, but we did and we had to continually up-gun our vehicles as we kept losing personnel to road-side bombs and the like. For those who don’t know what an Iltis is, it’s basically a VW Thing. After those were shown to be unsatisfactory we then upgraded to Mercedes G-wagons and on and on.
Back in the cold war, while the then-new frigate program was spooling up, there was an incident in which the Department of Supply and Services (DSS) (subsequently Public Works and Government Services Canada) arranged to have frigate gear-boxes shipped from Europe to Canada in Russian (actually Soviet) freight ships. On arrival inspectors found that the crates had been pried open and the gear-boxes examined. The military, of course, couldn’t believe that something so fundamentally stupid had been done, while DSS tried to claim that everything was just fine. In reality, that event should have been considered a massive intelligence failure as subtle noises from gear-boxes of ships and submarines are crucial for detection and tracking. But this sort of thing is typical in the realm of Canadian defence.
Also, our claims to the arctic archipelago are disagreed with, if not disputed. Our government should make a solid decision one way or the other - do we want the archipelago and control of the northwest passage or not. If we want control of it, then we should be pouring resources into it.
It’s not so much that we will need to repel invaders as it is that we need to be much more efficient, pragmatic, and realistic about national defence policy rather than following inordinately convoluted acquisition processes or using the defence budget as a just-in-case kitty from which to draw money for other purposes.
One other thing is that we have been extremely reliant upon the US. But a salient question is, what happens if the US gets Trump or Trump mk 2?
Canada does not face a threat of invasion, at least until freshwater becomes rare elsewhere or the Arctic becomes important. Maybe not then. The US is a friend. Yet Trump and his isolationism showed Canada may need more independent forces to deal with issues but do not fund them and insist they are “peacekeepers” instead of professionals.
Québécois feel they are in danger of “becoming Louisiana in fifty years” and are moving to protect French at a time when their economy desperately needs skilled immigrants.
Canadians are threatened by the fact few of their hockey teams have made the finals in recent decades. That other countries can curl and bobsled too. A small country, they insist on Olympic dominance and sometimes belittle good athletes when it doesn’t happen. (It saddens me when some great talent comes in fourth place and feels they have let the country down. We’re a small country.)
Canadians are threatened by “American values” (a negative term that ignores the many innovative and progressive elements there, a somewhat similar place) and increasing bubbles, social discontent and being over influenced by distant conflicts in distant places from distant times which have nothing to do with us. Our pot needs more melting, or maybe our malcontents need more pot.
And I think this is the biggest part of our bullshit. We feel like a big country, because we’ve got all this land, but in reality, we’re a small country, because that land is mostly empty. We keep trying to act on the world stage, but it never really works out, because so few of us are willing to admit that we’re too small, population-wise, to make much of a difference.
Sure, it would be great to have a world-class military, but even if we spent 10% of our GDP on the military, the US would roll over us in a matter of days if Trump 2.0 finally decides to annex us. The only reason China and Russia couldn’t do to us what Russia is doing to Ukraine right now is because they don’t have the boats to get their troops over here.
Sure, it would be great to reduce gas prices and inflation in Canada, but even if we planned our whole economic policy around such goals, high prices in the whole rest of the world will still drive high prices in Canada.
Sure, it would be great if Canadian TV and movies were far more prominent in our culture, but almost all of us live within broadcast range of the US border, and they’ll always have 10 times the money to spend on producing movies and TV shows, so we’re always going to be inundated with their culture.
This is true to some extent in a lot of states, though the limit is generally higher so that beer and wine are sold everywhere and liquor is sold at special “ABC stores”. Seven states have state-owned ABC stores and ten others control prices and available products centrally. (Cite.)
Liquor laws vary from state to state and can be pretty silly. Here in Kentucky you can buy beer at a grocery store but you can only buy wine or spirits at a liquor store or a pharmacy. In North Carolina if a bar sells liquor but not food you have to buy a membership at the door. (It’s usually $1.)
Ah I see. Yeah that makes sense, ISTM that every time Canada tries to procure something like fighter jets, submarines or surface warships, it inevitably turns into some sort of decades-long, cost-exceeds-budget politicized boondoggle.
A bit off topic, but the posts about being invaded by the U.S. or Russia jogged my memory…
Canada has been (amusingly, to my mind) stuck in the middle between sides in the Cold War. I grew up in Ottawa and it was kind of shrugging common knowledge that the CIA had a pretty decent-sized presence in town. Since the U.S. had no official diplomatic relations with Cuba or Iran, and we did, American intelligence agencies would be active in spying on the embassies in Ottawa. Covert, to be sure, and you couldn’t point out a CIA operative on the street, but they were around.