Canada, I thought I knew you

Canada has always been a mixed bag of people, beliefs and customs. Lately, it seems to be veering far from the ideals I imagined in my youth. We started out well as a country and a people. While our American friends were shouting Liberty, Freedom and Equality under the Law, we quietly spoke of the need for Good Governance. It wasn’t that we were against the ideals of Liberty and Freedom, we just suspected the rallying cry would sooner or later smash up against a wall of realism created by increased population density, societal complexity and political shenanigans.

Equality sounds great but it also infers an ability to precisely measure conflicting claims. How can you measure equality in a complex world? The American adversarial system of politics, justice and opportunity tries but hasn’t calmed the increasing conflict between opposing claims. Will it ever?

When a people start with a goal of conferring equality, noble as that may be, even the tolerance of good people can be twisted by complexity. The fight becomes directed at an unachievable goal: trying to define something undefinable. Equality looks different from each vantagepoint.

Canada started, not with a passion to create liberty and equal opportunity but instead with a goal of quiet compromise. How can we agree, not how can we compete. How can we work together and share the result, not equally but in a way that meets the needs of the community. This is an attitude of equivalence. It is less precise than equality, open to interpretation, compromise, and agreement.

Mothers understand equivalence. They know it’s impossible to treat each of their children equally. If they try, children will always find some way to claim a sibling has received a bigger or better piece. Instead, smart mothers instill a feeling of caring. When a child’s focus is on being cared for, small differences in provision or outcome are not made into conflicts.

Until recently, Canadians built a society more directed to equivalence than equality. Americans have often claimed there is little to no difference between our nations. The old American joke: How can you tell the Canadian in a crowded room of Americans?  Answer: Just announce that there is no difference between Canadians and Americans. The guy jumping up and down at the back of the room is the Canadian.

Lately, Canadians have adopted more of the confrontational aspects of America’s nature. It was great when we had the wisdom to notice the good aspects of American society and quickly adopted them as our own while leaving the less desirable aspects behind. That has changed.

Maybe it’s American control of mass media, social media and the world’s financial system that has gradually turned Canada into a less kind and gentle nation. We still prided ourselves on being different, especially our Francophone brothers and sisters. But it is a false pride, an illusion. Our elections, still thankfully short, are increasingly filled with shouting and banal rhetoric. Conspiracy theories and stubborn reluctance to consider the common good over personal gain have increased. Have we lost the ability to understand and employ equivalence?

In AI research, XNOR is the logical function used to express and judge equivalence. XNOR gates can also be found in hardware implementations. When I started my investigation of Canadian history, the years 1759 – 1763 stood out as fundamental to the legal and cultural precedents guiding our path for the last 260 years. The more I looked, the more I saw how our unique start as a nation evolved from that base.

My notes culminated in a book:  XNOR.

It and follow-on publications will continue to explore the Canadian propensity or increasing lack of it to seek equivalence. Your comments are not only welcomed, they will impact the XNOR story as it unfolds.

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