All this is, of course, an illusion…Indeed even the illusion of being exceptional is common enough and most small societies share it.
-Fintan O’Toole, After the Ball
Guilty as charged. With the magnificent megalomania of the miniscule, it doesn’t seem odd to me that any North American university whose navel is worth gazing at offers Irish Studies. But then Darren-in-Vancouver writes of his disbelief that American universities would offer courses in Canadian Studies. Why would anyone want to study Canada, he wonders? I can think of a few reasons. Canada is the most ethnically diverse country there is. It shares a border with the most powerful country in the world, yet chooses to maintain its own moral standards on education, healthcare, and foreign policy, standards which are–screw Chomsky–higher. Its literature is energetic. Its men are devastatingly attractive, except for Jim Carrey. Not to come over all _Bowling for Columbine_, but I’d be happier in an America that turned out more graduates in Canadian Studies.
It’s not just modest, self-effacing Canada. In Jeremy Paxman’s excellent book, The English: A Portrait of a People, he spends most of the introduction explaining–apologetically, by his standards–why anyone would want to write or read such a book. The English do not dissect their Englishness that often, beyond a moving fixation on sit-coms. Yet they are a fascinating people, having had the brass neck to take over the world, and then, like teenage shoplifters, grudgingly hand it back. They display a mixture of traits even quirkier than our own, with the Class System in place of the Catholic Church as the universal fuck-you-up factor.
I would ask why the difference, what makes us so sure we are unique and and worthy of endless study. But, you know, I have navel-gazing books to read.