Mid-life whinging

By 
  • June 21, 2007
Canada, celebrating its 140th birthday as a nation, is no longer the rosy-cheeked debutante at the international ball, shyly stepping on to the international stage with a fetching impertinence founded on idealism and naiveté. No, in the family of nations we are now the middle-aged aunt, whinging about our bigger siblings and issuing stern lectures on matters over which we have no influence, all the while ignoring our own advice.
Most recently, there has been considerable hand-wringing among the chattering classes over our economic productivity — or lack thereof. The Conference Board of Canada released a report in June which observed that Canada’s performance is well behind that of 16 other countries in five key areas — the economy, innovation, environment, health and society — and ahead in only one, education. Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge lamented the willingness of Canadians to be satisfied with mediocrity, calling us a “productivity laggard.”

There is probably some truth in the criticism. We Canadians tend to be a little smug about ourselves. We’re abundantly blessed with natural resources, we have an immensely talented labour pool and topnotch schools and universities. We boast an enviable lifestyle and continue to attract well-qualified immigrants from many nations. And so we rest on our laurels.

But this criticism has echoes in other aspects of Canadian life, too. Notably, these are areas ignored by economic think tanks and the corporate elite. We’re talking about our spiritual health and this is one area in which Canadians can truly use some soul-searching.

Pope Benedict XVI offered an analysis to Ontario’s bishops during their ad limina meeting last September that should be just as important to Canada’s decision-makers as those dire economic reports. While praising the country’s commitment to justice and peace and its vibrant multiculturalism, the Pope gently pointed out that we are increasingly detached from our moral roots.

“Certain values detached from their moral roots and full significance found in Christ have evolved in the most disturbing ways,” he said, citing the legalization of same-sex marriage and the ongoing scandal of unfettered abortion.

Moreover, he noted “the marked presence in society of that relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. Within such a relativistic horizon an eclipse of the sublime goals of life occurs with a lowering of the standards of excellence, a timidity before the category of the good and a relentless but senseless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom.”

Could it be that the lack of attention to our spiritual health is showing up elsewhere? Pope Benedict seems to think so.

A country based on nothing beyond the material pleasure of its members will not inspire its citizens to die for it. Nor does it inspire excellence, idealism or lofty ambition. If we truly are “productivity laggards,” it’s because we are spiritual laggards first.

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