Socials 2k19 Blog Post#2: Sir Arthur Currie

It has been a few weeks of “on-and-off” reading and procrastination since I picked up Hugh M. Urquhart’s Arthur Currie: The Biography of a Great Canadian. While reading, I selected five significant passages that intrigued me, personally or through its relevance to Canadian identity.

#1

“[Canadians] might have memories of the Salisbury Plain days when the Canadians were lectured day in and day out by British officers on leave from the battlefield on their lack of discipline, (…) [but] the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, decided that the Canadian Division, instead of being as a matter of routine sent back for further training in the rear area, would take over a sector of their own at a date four days after the Canadians arrived in France” (54).

When Canada entered World War 1, Canada didn’t have a standing army and all it could put together was a hastily put together mess of soldiers and partially trained volunteers from its militias. This is very interesting seeing how Canada today has one of the most professional and disciplined forces in the world. Furthermore, from personal experience in the Cadet organization, I know that Canada takes great pride in its military history and puts a soft military influence on civilian lives through organizations and public holidays. Seeing how all this influence on Canadian identity took place after World War 1, I find it astonishing to find how in the span of a little over a hundred years, being Canadian militarily changed beyond recognition.

At the time of this passage, Canadians, or the Canadian government, didn’t place much value on the military. Canada sending troops in World War 1 was a mere obligation as a dominion of the British Empire; Canada didn’t send its troops to earn recognition through its military. Through happenstance, however, Canada earned recognition among the great powers of Europe and through a series of additional wars, Canada became known externally as a small, but formidable force, a sharp contrast when juxtaposed to its poorly trained militias a mere hundred years ago. Through earning respect and recognition for Canada, the military ingrained itself as an important value in Canadian society and pieced together an arguably small, but significant part of Canadian identity.

#2

“”I desire to state,” he replied, “that in my opinion no Imperial in this division could at present be replaced by a Canadian officer now serving and available without great loss of efficiency. … It is not a question of whether a man is a Canadian or otherwise, it is one of the best man for the job… Sentiment must no sway our better judgement… (118)”

I find it interesting how Currie, a Canadian himself, states that he believes that the British officers of the Canadian division at that time are better suited to the task than any Canadian officer. He goes to the extent that he states that he believes that “no Imperial in [his] divison could (…) be replaced by a Canadian officer” (118). The very reason why Currie and other Canadians are serving in World War 1 is through the result of nationalism; the young Canadian men believe that their shared national identity as a Canadian creates an obligation for them to fight for Britain. Arguably, having a connection to Britain is a core part of being Canadian, but realistically, one expects a person to favor a person of the same national heritage over someone without a shared identity. Currie’s statement defies this by putting a non-Canadian in a post that he could put a Canadian in. No human being is truly free of judgement or bias, but Currie’s level of impartiality in this passage is rather remarkable.

This action resonates strongly with the values of present-day Canada. While racism and discrimination arguably influences an individual’s ability to get a certain post, Canada, for the most part, is a country where people with ability are placed in their deserving posts, regardless of where they come from. In fact, the Canadian Labour Code “prohibits [employment] discrimination on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity and other grounds” (gc, 2018). During the time of Currie, there were Canadians like Currie who were perpetuating this idea of “ability over nationality,” and today, Canada as a whole adopts this idea through its constitution and social policies.

#3

“You probably know as well as I do just what reinforcements we have available in England, and you must also know that they will be all used up in a very short time. If other men are not forthcoming it means that the Canadian Corps as a fighting unit will disappear. It will also mean that Canada will not only have deserted the men here, but will practically have deserted the Empire as well” (189).

Immediately, the passage gives off a “Hobbesian” feel; Currie makes connections between the Empire and Canada, showing how the two are entwined in a quasi-social contract. Currie himself considers himself to be a Canadian, but also considers himself to be a citizen of the British Empire. He takes pride in this and draws nationalistic statements from the fact that he is part of the British Empire, which brings to light the shared national identity of both British and Canadians. Unlike his republican neighbors to the south, Currie and his fellow Canadians seem to abide more by Hobbes’ ideas while the south tends to lean to Locke, favoring independence from the Brutish Empire in order to form a republic.

Canadians during the first World War believed that it was better to have a leader than no leader at all. Without being a dominion under the British Empire, Canada wouldn’t need to send troops and sacrifice lives for Britain, yet Canada’s firm Hobbesian belief led to Canada wanting to be part of the British Empire. Hence, Canada associated itself with the British Empire and its Crown. This perpetuates to this day; the Crown is technically the head of state of Canada and Canada maintains ties with Britain as part of the Commonwealth. While the connection to Britain has become less significant in modern-day Canada, this aspect of Canadian identity remains fundamentally the same as it was in 1915; to be Canadian means to favor protection and leadership from Britain while also maintaining a “Hobbesian” perspective.

#4

“On the other hand, the Canadian Corps at the time Currie took it over was a compact organism, national in character, consisting of a large number of corps troops and four divisions which were not moved out of the Corps. In those circumstances its commander became a national and an international figure” (167).

This quote makes evident the transformation of the Canadian corps from a being a loosely organized coalition of volunteers and militiamen to a full fledged, internationally recognized force. While the entire biography strongly hints at the importance of the Canadian armed forces in representing Canada internationally, this quote summarizes the importance of Canada serving overseas. Canada’s troops not only helped the British turn the tide of war against the Germans in World War 1; they also played a crucial role in representing the country. Even if there was a distinct Canadian identity or characteristic that deserved to be noticed, Europeans wouldn’t notice this. However, they would notice the achievements of the Canadians corps, its commander and how well they fought. This interest earned national recognition for Canada and made the great powers aware that Canada was more than just beavers and maple syrup.

As far back as World War 1, Canada sent troops overseas to restore peace and represent Canada. While our involvement in solving conflicts has progressed from peacekeeping to peacemaking, Canada still plays a role in sending its troops overseas. As of 2001, “39 267 CF personnel have deployed to Afghanistan,” one location of the dozens of locations Canadians are deployed to (gc, 2018). This shows that just like in 1915, Canada is a peacekeeper and uses its military forces to achieve peace, which makes being a peacekeeper a key part of Canadian identity.

#5

“On that date Currie’s headquarters was bombed. Two of the personnel were killed, fifteen wounded, and Currie’s life was saved through the accident that he himself took a message which he had just written to Signals Office. While he was on his way back and within ten yards of his hut it was struck. Currie was covered with the earth thrown up by the bomb, one piece of which grazed his head” (159).

This quote greatly interests me because it points how close Currie once was to dying before his legacy was secured. Currie was literally ten steps away from dying, which would’ve meant that this biography would never be published and that I never would be typing this sentence you are currently reading right now. This brings to light how lucky Currie is. Despite joining the military at a much later age than his peers, he quickly got promoted and ended up attaining the highest rank possible in the Canadian corps. He also survived World War 1 and led his men through some of the most torrential gunfire in all of the Western front. Similarly, I have been somewhat lucky so far. My recklessness led me into multiple dangerous scenarios, yet I managed to make it to this day without being mauled by a bear or hit by a car on a bicycle.

At a glance, this quote only seems to show the luckiness of Arthur Currie, but it also shows how much Canada was willing to put at stake for the British. Arguably, as a dominion of the British Empire, Canada had the responsibility to send troops to help out Britain in World War 1. However, Canada went beyond what was expected, risking its own national security for the sake of getting more soldiers. For example, during the Conscription Crisis of 1917, Canada caused massive fractures in French and English speaking Canadian communities for the sake of getting conscripts to aid the British. Similarly, Currie and his personnel’s life threatening incidents show how much Canada was willing to sacrifice for Britain. All this shows that Canada valued the connection between Britain and Canada, enough to sacrifice the lives of Canadians. To this day, having this connection to Britain is an important part of Canadian identity, whether this be through our anthems or through our political systems.

Theme: While your efforts might not make your dreams come true, hard work never disappoints you in the end.

Arthur Currie was undeniably a hard-working individual. He went beyond the call of duty to make sure that he could make every operation a success and minimize the loss of life. He inspected guns when it wasn’t his job to do so, carefully evaluated the morale of his divisions, spent hours studying battle maps, and promptly dealt with any inefficiencies with the higher command. When the Ross rifle, a mass manufactured rifle used by the Canadian corps at the time of World War 1, continued to jam up and cause malfunctions in the battlefield, Currie persistently demanded the higher command for better rifles, even stating that it was “not as satisfactory as it should be” to Sam Hughes, the Minister of Military and Defense, someone who could have easily removed Currie from his position (117). There were still people who didn’t agree with Currie’s ideals and enforced their opinions over this. Launching a frontal attack on the German lines wasn’t what Currie wanted, but even with his hard work, he couldn’t dissuade his higher ups from ordering the costly attack which ended with thousands of Canadians dying, all for a failure. However, Currie’s hard work paid off in the end. Thousands of potential lives were saved with Currie’s decision making and assertiveness. His leadership and command during pivotal battles, such as Vimy Ridge, earned respect and recognition for Canada. While his dreams did not come true, his persistence achieved astonishing results. Similar to Currie, I consider myself to be a persistent individual who does a significant amount of work in the background. At this point in life, I’ve realized the limitations of my talent and let go of many ambitious dreams I had as an idealistic youth. Rather than getting depressed over the futility and ambiguity of my future, however, I will abide by this theme and continue to work hard. Even if I never find true meaning, I will continue to go on, believing that one day, my persistence will reward me in a way I never expected it to.

In Depth 2K19: Blog Post #5, Jōyō Kanji, Fugu, and Omurice

Time has gone by really fast. It feels like it was just recently that I met my mentor for the first time and now, I’m thinking about how I’m going to present my learning on In-Depth night, Since my last blog post, I have had two sessions with my mentor. In a nutshell, this is what we discussed:

  • Vocabulary. As said in my previous blog post, my mentor and I introduce a lot of new vocabulary through running through different scenarios, but we also went over specific vocabulary, such as Japanese numbers to ten million.
  • Oral. The bulk of our sessions are oral. My mentor and I ask questions and give answers in different scenarios to practice pronunciation and correct grammar.
  • Prepositions. We covered the basic prepositions, such as 上 (up), 下 (below), 前 (in front), and 横 (next to).
  • Japanese culture. Occasionally, the questions lead to tangents where my mentor and I end up discussing Japanese culture, such as onsens (hot springs), fugu (a risky pufferfish dish), and omurice (omelet over rice). While not directly related to the language learning aspect, these discussions help me know my mentor more as a person.

Progress Report:

When I initially set my goals, I underestimated the amount of information needed to learn kanji. Even though I’m only learning the kanji and their definitions, I’m still planned on learning three thousand two hundred kanji, the approximate number of kanji a university graduate would know. For now, I’ve learned the two thousand two hundred general use, jōyō kanji, or the kanji a Japanese high school graduate would know. I think that my initial goals might have been possible in an environment without other commitments but might have been too ambitious to do during a school year.

I’m still indirectly finding out the pronunciations for certain kanji. For example, my mentor taught me the prepositions, and one of them was うえ, which means up. Knowing that the kanji for up was 上, I could then logically synthesize that 上 was pronounced うえ.

Immersion has been going well. I’m picking out a lot of words and phrases and the context is getting a lot easier to understand. While the amount of immersion has gone down due to there being certain times in my schedule where immersion is not possible, I plan to increase the quality of my immersion by doing more active immersion where I’m actively listening and trying to understand what I’m hearing rather than passive immersion where I simply play Japanese media while I work on other things.

How to have a Beautiful Mind:

Personally, I think this blog needs more color, so I will color code my transcript.

Black Hat

White Hat

Red Hat

Yellow Hat

Green Hat

Blue Hat

Mentor: This should be written が not か.

“The black hat stops us from doing things that are wrong,” and that’s what my mentor, who uses the black hat the most, uses it for (p. 94). By critiquing my writing, my mentor prevents me from developing bad habits that might hinder my application of the language.

Me: Yeah, I keep forgetting to put the dakuten marks.

Mentor: Also, is this あいません? You want ありません.

Me: Oh, that actually is ありません. I was writing a bit fast so I guess it came out a bit funny-looking.

“The white hat means ‘information’,” so in this case, my mentor and I exchange “information” on what I wrote, using only solid facts and avoiding the usage of emotions (p.92).

Mentor: Yes. I feel like you could lengthen this stroke more so that it looks for like り instead of い.

Mentor: I notice you used kanji. Very good, but why did you write いぬ in katakana?

My mentor uses the red hat to “legitimize [her] emotions” and give me statements that allow me to understand that what she’s saying is not entirely fact-based logic but rather her “emotions, feelings, and intuition” (p.93/94). Using this hat, she expresses her thoughts on the neatness and legibility of my writing and expresses her thoughts on the usage of kanji. Additionally, she uses the blue hat. By “defining the focus and purpose” of our conversation by asking a question, my mentor also sets “the sequence of hats for the session” (p.101). The question makes me explain why I wrote いぬ in katakana and limits the number of hats that could be used next by making me choose a hat most suitable for answering the question.

Me: Oh, I thought that since ネコ was written in katakana, いぬ would also be written in katakana. Also, i did some research, and I found いぬ written in katakana.

“The green hat asks for (…) alternatives,” such as the asking of the alternative writing of いぬ. In this case, the alternative I proposed turned out to be wrong, but if it did turn out that いぬ could have been written イヌ, taking the risk to explore an alternative would have given me valuable information I wouldn’t have gotten without using the green hat. I also use the yellow hat by trying to explain “why something should work” (p.97). I explain to mentor why I think いぬ is written in katakana by telling her how I did research and showing my logical train of thought. This allows me to find value in the possibility I proposed by clarifying why my alternative does not work.

Mentor: I see. Well in this scenario, it’s usually not written in katakana, but you can write it in kanji.

Me: Is 犬 the kanji by any chance?

Mentor: Yes! Very good.

Mentor: Overall, your writing is very easy to read, but you just need to fix the way you write a few of the hiragana.

Once again, my mentor uses the blue hat, but this time, its solely for the purpose of “defining the focus and purpose” of the conversation a final time (p.97). By summing up her comments regarding my writing and the suggestions she had for me, she repeats the context of our conversation and reaffirms its purpose. Furthermore, the yellow hat and the green hat are used again. The yellow hat finds value in my writing by describing it as “very easy to read,” while the green hat explores the alternative of writing certain hiragana a bit neater.

With one more blog post left the moment I press “Publish”, In-Depth is just around the corner. Let’s make the days count, all the way until the end. さよなら!

Socials 2k19 Blog Post #1: Canada, a “Post National” State?

Q: Is Canada a nation, simply a country, or a ‘post national’ state?

Canada is simply a country made up of multiple nations. By definition, a country encompasses the physical boundaries of a legally recognized state and everything inside it, including its laws and population. “Canada has borders, where guards check passports, and an army,” and with the recognition of its borders and sovereignty, Canada fits the criteria for a country (Foran, 2017). Canada as a whole is not a nation, however; the myriad of Indigenous and immigrant nations don’t define all Canadians but rather the specific Canadians that belong to that nation. Canadians abide by the laws of Canada and speak one of the official languages of the country, but rather than this being a shared characteristic of someone belonging to a nation, this is simply what is necessary to live in the country, Canada. Additionally, while Canada comparatively holds more value in diversity and multiculturalism, Canada is still not “a place where respect for minorities trumps any one group’s way of doing things,” or a “post national” state (Todd, 2016). For example, the niqab ban in Quebec proves that when a minority’s culture, or way of doing things, conflicts with the laws of the country, the country’s laws take priority. It is only when a culture does not conflict with the country’s laws that the culture is given complete respect. Without always taking respect for minorities as a first priority, Canada can at best call itself a “quasi-post national” state. Furthermore, “the [already] established mechanisms of state governance and control” prevent a country from completely becoming a “post national state”; Canada is not an exception (Foran, 2017). One of the reasons for Canada becoming a country is because “there is a ‘unique Canadian culture’” that makes us distinct as a country (Todd, 2017). To protect Canada’s identity as a country, laws and government control, such as tariffs and the military, were created. Without these, any country would lose its identity to a more dominant culture. As Canada still has laws and state control over the influence of foreign cultures and corporations, Canada is simply a country, not a “post national” state. With Canada at the forefront of social change and acceptance, labelling Canada as a “post national” state or something else is very easy, but in reality, Canada is a country; one that just happens to be made of multiple nations.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/04/the-canada-experiment-is-this-the-worlds-first-postnational-country

http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/douglas+todd+dangers+postnational+canada/11779069/story.html