A Visit to Suburbia
What I did on my trip to Suburbia:
- Watched the following TV programs (amongst others):
- Judge Judy
- Dr. Phil
- CNN Headlines (which I've learned talks a lot more about fashion than CNN International)
- I saw commercials for:
- Incontinence pads
- Herpes medicine
- White blood cell booster for chemotherapy patients
- Drugs to make your dog smarter
(All available by asking your doctor/vet or going online for home delivery)
- Went to Wallmart
- Saw lots of fat people … some people were so fat they had to move around on electric scooters
- Saw lots of SUVs
- I saw many malls - all with the same stores and restaurants: Boston Pizza, Loeb, The Keg, Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Lone Star, PharmaPrix... There were almost no independent operators.
This was no sight seeing tour. I didn’t visit a place so much as a way of life. Oh and by the way - I was in Canada. If this sounded like the US then you can be forgiven. And if you think it's much of a muchness well... who am I to argue?
Canadians spend a lot of time discussing their identity i.e. what makes them unique (read “not American”). Based on this visit, identity appears to be a matter of brand choice. Watching crappy TV, buying oversized vehicles, excess eating and self medication are as prevalent here as in the States… Maybe the average canuck stuffs himself with a McCain’s frozen pizza and gets his car serviced at Canadian Tire, but otherwise the consumption patterns differ little between suburban populations north and south.
Does the intelligencia differ north and south? Certainly. Canada has stayed out of Iraq, they've decriminalised Mary Jane and recently, the Prime Minister even said “We are a nation of minorities. And in a nation of minorities, it is important that you don't cherry-pick rights.” You won't hear the American President expressing the same sentiment. After all these years abroad, stuff like this still has me proudly saying "we" when I refer to the Canadian people.
But as for the bulging bulk of the population… they are living day to day off the same hopes and dreams dished out to their yankee brethren on prime time. Is suburbia the frontline for erosion of Canadian culture? Given that "we" mostly watch American TV, it's amazing there are any differences left to speak of. But then we've always watched American TV and perhaps because of it, in spite of it, Canada's obese, SUV driving, Alka Selzer popping voters still haven't elected any movie stars and still haven't taken to keeping firearms. They've consistently put governments in power who provide them with health care and they don't tend to sue corporations millions of dollars for their own stupidity.
Perhaps that's the mystery of Canadian identity - not what the difference is but how in the bland sameness of suburbia, any difference has managed to survive.