Toronto – Canadians have a world renowned reputation for being polite and very aware of the well-being of others. In fact, according to Heather Summerhayes Cariou, Columnist, “Canadian politeness is so notorious, it’s practically our international greeting, our very own version of “shalom.” “
Unfortunately, increasingly everywhere you look you witness growing evidence that “times are a changing”.
Gone are the days where every street is litter-free. We long for the days when every Canadian holds open the door while you enter a room. And believe it or not, an alarming number of Canadians are no longer picking up and disposing of their trash when they complete their meal or cup of coffee at Starbucks and other restaurants.
Are Canadians becoming less Canadian? Are Canadians becoming more like every other citizen, in every random country on the planet? Are thirsty Canadians only interested in their own Starbuck’s coffee experience and now oblivious to the needs of other customers?
Now, for the unfortunate person who has never had the pleasure of meeting a Canadian, this article may not make sense to you, so let’s share some historical facts as to the origins of Canadian politeness.
Bruce Grierson, in his wonderful essay, “Polite To A Fault”, credits Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman for inventing Canadian politeness. Goffman argued that “Society is organized on the principle that any individual who possesses certain social characteristics has a moral right to expect that others will value and treat him in an appropriate way.” Therefore, it is logical to assume that Canadians are polite because they hope, they believe that others will return the favour, as we all live in a civilized society.
Using this logic it is easy to see the difference between Canadians and Americans. Social Democratic Canadians put the collective need before the individual whereas Americans place individual rights before the collective. Cariou adds, “Canadians are more aware of the big picture, and respond accordingly-with politeness, which is a social convention reflecting civility.”
You see this in all areas of the Canadian experience. From the huge investment made in keeping Canadian streets clean, parks and transportation system clean. Historically, Canadians have seen the importance of trimming their lawns, shoveling their driveway, their neighbour’s driveway as well as placing trash in the garbage can. However, this historical civility is changing for the worse. The decline has begun at local coffee shops like Starbucks, where Canadians are choosing their own personal convenience over the needs for their countrymen.
Nevertheless, proud Canadians like Anthony Huie, author, “Starbucks Our Shared Home But The Butcher In Me Wants To Kill The Pig In You”, are sounding the alarm before the “Polite Canadian” becomes a dinosaur.
Huie talks of a growing impatience with the Canadian public’s disrespect for others.
The Starbucks piece is an extremely timely well written notice of public complaint. The piece is written in the form of rhythmic lyrical verses that inspires you to stop and think about how the values of some Canadians are changing for the worse.
For example, Huie is on record as fully supporting the Canadian way of offering your seat to a pregnant or elderly passenger on a bus or subway. He argues that this is an ingrained value of all Canadians.
So the next time you are at a Starbucks’ coffee shop, remember that you are a Canadian, and Canadians have a reputation of politeness to protect. Do the Canadian thing and pick up your coffee cup, pick up your sandwich wrapping and place them both in the trash, EH!
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