Monday, March 07, 2011

A Rose by Any Other Name

I was going to take a sick day today; I missed my classes, phoned in to work, slept in, and just generally had written today off as "Non-productive" save for the fact that I polished off seven episodes of Mad men and a pint of ice cream. But then I realized calling it a "sick day" would undermine the importance of my earlier desire to not give a crap all day, and would threaten my unique view of recuperating for a day. So I'm taking a "Not doing work due to illness" day. I feel this greater difference is reflected in the new title, so please remember, as you read this, I'm not "sick", I'm taking a "day off due to illness". It sure makes me feel better.

Two stories in the news lately reflect this ridiculous focus on titles; The news that the Conservative government is re-branding itself as "The Harper Government" and that Quebec is no longer "multicultural" but "intercultural". The first story has people both in a  histrionic fury and a wildly apathetic slump. Some insist that this new 'rebranding' is a common-place occurrence, reflecting the head of leadership, while others go so far as to suggest that since the title "Harper government" is not a recognized entity under the constitution the office should be legally required to cease and desist all use of the phrase. The second story, put forth by Quebec's brain trust to reflect Quebec's french heritage and its impact on current day immigration policies, has opened up the typical debate about whether or not Canada should be required to cater to foreigners or whether they should just "become Canadian", which I can only assume implies buying a plaid flannel and gaining +5 cold resistance. It is a shame this story has simply opened up a second hole in an already rancid can of worms, since the opportunity to lampoon people for believing there is actually a difference between these concepts is so welcoming that I felt a bit faint when I first read it.

There is an advantage to re-branding; the Harper government stands to disassociate itself from icky things like taxes, election scandals, and a rapidly dropping system of upward communication. We scoff at this, but the fact we should realize is: it will probably work. With voter motivation so largely finicky and suggestible, there is a very good chance this new name will provide at least some of the benefits they are looking for, at least on a visceral, subconscious level. Even without realizing it, people will react more positively, assuming they don't have a powerful hatred for Harper, but the party might be calling those people a lost cause anyway, and focusing instead on those who are still undecided.

On the other hand, there is no point in trying to dissociate Quebec from the bad press about its cultural intolerance; especially when you are simply debating the word for what you are ignoring. There is no chance that people are going to become so confused about what the word "intercultural" means that they will assume whatever Quebec does is in line with its new mandate - the word will just start to become synonymous with culturally intolerant practices. The Harper re-brand will work because they just need to dissociate until the end of the next election, but Quebec needs to be presenting its best face all the time to adopt a better public image. So unless this is simply a childish power play to force Canada to acknowledge one more way in which Quebec is unique from Canada, then hopefully drum up enough momentum for a separation referendum, they are just spinning their wheels. The sad thing is that this is the best Quebec's intellectuals could come up with: some ridiculous new nonsense word to try and dodge accusations of cultural intolerance.

Sometimes you can change a name and gain a lot in terms of public perception, but sometimes you are just putting off the inevitable for a little while. The trick is in knowing when to use it.


Anonymous said...

I was going to write a letter to the CBC, complaining that whenever they referred to the government, especially if the story was a negative one, they referred to it as "the Harper government", not the federal government. Either they're on-side with the Conservatives, which I highly doubt, or the Conservatives have decided to take ownership of wording that the media is attempting to use as a pejorative.
lol, mapa

Miss Ernst said...

Strange dynamic, huh? And scary to think that the major news networks might be in the pocket of the government.