On Parliament Hill, they put on a giant multimedia show twice a night. It is called Canada: the Spirit of a Country and it is both preachy and prescriptive. To anyone even slightly wary of government dictating values from on high, it seems a bit disturbing. It definitely seems absurd and over-done.
I hadn’t properly seen it before yesterday, when Emily and I happened across it. While the virtues it expresses are generally admirable, the delivery is incredibly Orwellian. Between psychedelic bursts of light projected across the front of Parliament, it plays videos and expounds in both official languages on the virtues of diversity and cultural exchange, peacekeeping, and the like. It’s like an over-the-top ‘Part of our Heritage’ commercial, though it seems a lot more disturbing. While the message may be an innocuous one, the propaganda approach is off-putting and the overenthusiastic promotion of Canada seems very much like a case of too much effort.
If you ignore the words, the light show itself is quite dramatic, though also profoundly discordant. It is very odd to see huge spinning abstract purple shapes projected all across Parliament, suddenly replaced with a pattern that looks like the razzle dazzle ships of World War I.
Standing within 50m of the war memorial, one might hope that we have moved beyond nationalism. At an aesthetic level, one might at least hope that we have moved beyond the kind of crude, half-deluded, and self-serving nationalism that the light show seems to represent.