…Aaaand there are the bells, so we’re gonna have to get back to business pretty soon, but while we’re still at some liberty…
Let’s talk about everybody’s favourite subject: Canadian politics!
Oh don’t worry, we’re not really going to talk Canadian politics. Just about one tiny piece of Canadian politics.
Or — scratch that, I mean the Queen.
A funny old bird, the Queen; some people like her, and some people hate her, but most Canadians think something about her every so often — la Reine du Canada, in that possibly oddest of all odd military toasts. So today I was talking to my friend who makes a great show every so often of being a Republican…to which I say, “as if”, because I’ve met some genuine Canadian Republicans (down at the Legion, which is really the only place you’ll find ’em) and as crotchety a curmudgeon as my friend is he just doesn’t have the right amount of grey hairs and vitamin supplements to qualify for that august brotherhood. Nowadays we don’t care so much about getting rid of the monarchy, most of us — because the Constitution already got repatriated, and a Prime Minister already invoked the vestigial right of direct appeal to the monarch — these things really work like Charter rights do, you know: as precedent stands until the Charter is applied to it (just like State law applies until the 14th (?) Amendment is applied to it down in the Benighted States of America) (I kid because I love), so do obsolete constitutional privileges until they are used, whereupon they back out of the House sweeping away their own footprints behind them, editing themselves from Parliamentary praxis — although that editing process is more a matter of tacit democratic agreement rather than legal necessity — and I’m not sure if you can even leapfrog the Supreme Court to the Privy Council anymore. But in any case the crux of it all is this: that Canada’s money stays in Canada, and Canadians don’t care anymore about the rest. We don’t have Dominion Day, and we don’t have to go cap-in-hand on matters constitutional, and that’s where our long colonial story sort of…just peters out gradually, I guess, as most things like that do up here.
And not that there isn’t more to that story…
But we don’t need to get into it here. All we really need to get into is this: that for most Canadians, the only change they’d notice from Canada becoming a full-fledged Republic with a UDI and everything is that the money would look different. And so why bother going that route? Since it costs money, to change the money…
Well all right. There is a little bit more to it than that. Because the Queen (and not just any old Queen, but this Queen), is written into the Constitution itself. “Monarch” in the Canadian context is technically not a category just any old monarch can fill, and as we all know the Constitution is about nothing but technicalities…as any constitution must be, if it’s really supposed to track down self-evident Truths and hustle them into a legal framework. Or, as we might more fancifully call it, a cage: a binding-spell made of hierarchical prouncements and conditions, a Solomon’s Seal of philosophical formulae: and all the chalk lines must be drawn out in full and unbroken, or the demon will escape. Yes: the law that governs our governments is the highest form of cybernetic research we’ve got, and like Mr. Suber’s Nomic it is infinitely flexible, a maze of cause and effect and cause descriptively-powerful enough to fall into the border of complexity itself: there to fight the very Dragon of Undecidability if it isn’t lucky. But for such immensely serious real-world risks, the compensations are stunning: for doesn’t Jung say, that to win the Princess is always and only to win one’s own soul?
For polities, democracy is just such a soul — essential and unsubstitutable. In the core (the heart, of course: as heartwood) of democracies, there lies always the indissoluble trouble of science itself: how can we know, really know? How can our mathematical plots of reality, of Truth, no matter however so close they sail up to it, ever jump the gap of Newtonian evanescence to the firmness of Dry Land? Well…the short answer is: they can’t. (And it suddenly occurs to me that you can blame Andrew for this post, that is if you’re looking for someone to blame…hey, I’m just the messenger, man…)
But again: compensations.
The Princess, and all that.
But, we weren’t talking about the Princess, were we? We were talking about the Queen. And as the Queen, good old Betty (though I never call her that, myself) is the fundamental technical fact of the Canadian Constitution…and so, because of another fundamental (though less technical) fact, which is that THIS IS CANADA AND WE DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY HERE, taking the old jeep-fixer out and putting some other moral widget in her place would be an extremely complicated, not to say vexed, task. In Canada, you see, we do a lot of pretending: we do a lot of nodding and smiling and what-we-were-gonna-do-anyway. I would venture to say, even, that we are the most (constitutionally-speaking, at the very least!) passive-aggressive polity in the English-speaking world. But even for us, the Queen is a hard prop to kick out, and then plausibly walk away whistling what who me, she did, you don’t say, well well. I’ve got friends in the UK who want the monarchy bloody well OUT!!, but my true north strong and free hasn’t got anything like that kind of feeling about it, that you could hang a philosophical position on. And so there’s no way of telling just what would it take, or what would have to be done, to remove the distant figurehead from which our Governor-General ultimately derives authority. The UK? Heck, this isn’t even Australia…this is the place where faking it ’til you’re making it was invented, and we are not straightforward people up in here. Every country, like every family, is weird in its own way: and our way is that we are just not going to let on what’s on our minds.
Individually, of course…well, I like us.
But corporately…hey, your guess is as good as mine.
Constitutionally-speaking, that is.
But with that said…still, no matter how occulted the matter of dramatic constitutional change might be, the business of what the money would look like would still be the most pressing and critical matter. I mean, we couldn’t even start talking about removing the (strangely vital) figurehead, until we had that shit sorted out. Hey, did I ever tell you about the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Bank of Edinburgh? That’s where Jacobite and Whig alike (according to the grandson of our fifteenth Governor-General) recognized that ideological warfare was trumped by the necessity of people having faith in the security of their banking system, and for Canada — whose Constitution doesn’t fool about with such idealistic aspirations as “the pursuit of happiness” but instead concentrates rather dully (with glorious, heroic dullness!) on the even-more-nebulous thing identified as “good government” — and there are a lot of goddamn ex-Scots in this country! — and one day soon I promise to get into all this more fairly and in more detail so no one hates me — for Canada, the same imminently (not to say eminently) practical panic is likewise a top priority.
And so, all that (as I said) said…
Jesus, what d’you think the money would have to look like?
That’s exactly what I asked my faux-Republican friend. Convince me about the money, I said, and maybe I’ll ride along with your pointless anti-monarchist tough-guy gravy train to a freedom we’ve already got!
And that’s when he said:
“Lester B. Pearson on the twenty.”
So okay, you Canadians out there: he got my attention with that. And so let me get your attention with this, a possibly fun game? Suppose it happened: we changed the money.
What, in that event, do you think it should be changed to?
We need the facing side of the lesser coins, the facing side of the two major coins, and the facing side of the twenty, and let’s say we bring back the thousand and give it a new facing side as well…and, of course, a back side! And if you want to go higher, I don’t mind: after all, if we’re to be Republic-ready, we’re gonna want a whole bunch of patriotic portraits, aren’t we? Heck, design a whole new series if you want to, I mean I’ve gotta say I miss the landscapes that used to be on the back of the notes. Go crazy, is what I say…but I only ask that you consider what could make it through Parliament: so if you want something a little off the beaten path (I think you probably know who I mean), you better make a bit of a convincing speech about it.
But isn’t that part of what being Canadian is all about?