Today, on IFC, they were showing Bowling for Columbine. This Michael Moore documentary was an interesting look at the gun culture of the US. But it reminded me more of the differences between Canada and the US in general. When I first watched it a few years ago, it left me with an impression of a society that has very strict divisions of society as well as a “culture of fear”. And now, after living in the US for the past year, I find that it’s not that far off.
One of the things I noticed the most was how the media was done. Part of my work background is that of a computer and security expert/writer. One of the things that most are aware of is the fact that FUDing (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) does more harm than good. When people are in a constant state of fear and have uncertainty about that induces a huge amount of distrust in the work place and in general life. The reality is that our society needs some sense of trust somewhere.
We always hear questions about whether we trust the government but the question I’d be asking is: how much do you trust the person sitting next to you? Thanks to the mass media (i.e., news, movies, tv shows, talk shows, etc.) we have been taught to fear each other. I find this odd since most Americans I’ve met are really friendly and willing to help. There is an inner desire within each of us that is prevelant, I believe, to help others in need. It’s unfortunate that society has turn that ability to help into something bad or perceived as bad.
We’ve allowed others to decide for us what is “right” and what is “wrong” rather than going through the experience of getting to know one another and creating connections. In Canada, this exists as well but to a limited degree. It’s interesting that most of our “fears” actually were derived from and about the US rather than about other Canadians. I suspect it’s part of why there is such a huge push to have “Canadian only” or “mostly Canadian” content on TV, movies and elsewhere plus a large import from other nations (most notably, the BBC and France). But it’s more than that. There is something in Canadian culture that suggests we trust our neighbours more.
And although we trust our neighbours more, we want to learn even less about them compared to Americans. Many people stereotype Americans as nosy and loud. I suppose you could look at it that way but from my experience it’s more that Americans have a geniune curiosity about those around them, wanting to learn and offering an opinion about what they learn. There is a built in desire there to be part of something more than just their own lives. If we could remove the built up fear about the unknown, you probably wouldn’t see as much poverty, full equal rights for all and tolerance towards all who are different from ourselves.
And although Michael Moore’s piece was somewhat shocking (I can’t help but shake my head at the thought of a bank giving out a gun when you open an account and having 500+ guns in the vault — that, to me, is an invite to rob), in the time I’ve been year I’ve yet to see one gun. I totally respect people’s rights to have them as long as they are smart about them (proper training, storage and usage).
Basically, long winded way of me saying I like my new host country and consider it a second home for me.