Monday, May 28, 2007

The Unfinished Cohen

Andrew Cohen is the author of the book "The Unfinished Canadian: The People We Are" which contains a chapter critical of Ottawa.

I read Andrew Cohen. I like Andrew Cohen. But Andrew Cohen could be so much more than he is.

I live in Ottawa and, as a national capital, we deserve the best. And that includes the best in cultural criticism.

Why should we settle for second best? Mr. Cohen is not a first tier cultural critic. If we are going to be dissed and slammed, surely we’re entitled to be dissed and slammed by first rate critics.

Sure, Andrew Cohen is a genteel, orderly fellow, what some might call a typical Canadian critic. But is that what we really want for Ottawa and Canada?

After all, Mr. Cohen is a professor at Carleton University. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I think Ottawa needs a top flight gadfly, someone say from a first rank university like Queen’s or the University of Toronto. Or if we truly have world class aspirations, how about a Harvard or an Oxford academic?

And Cohen is not even a full professor; he’s only an associate professor. That’s fine, I guess, if you’re satisfied with second best. But I think we can do better. Maybe even a faculty dean.

Sadly, the professor just seems to be very Cohenesque. That is to say, he’s bland, mediocre and undistinguished.

Check out Mr. Cohen’s picture on his book jacket or accompanying his newspaper column. The man wears glasses. Clearly he doesn’t have the proper vision needed to see Ottawa and Canada for what they really are and what they can become.

Architecturally, Prof. Cohen is definitely lacking. With an undersized frame, spindly legs and a small pot belly, it’s apparent that Cohen is not the product of a grand design. His constitution is just not well thought out.

Mr. Cohen’s thinning hair is typical of today’s Canadian critics. It’s OK, I guess. But why don’t we have critics with luxurious manes like those in American and European capitals?

And when it comes to being a critic of Canada, I’m very disappointed in Andrew Cohen. The professor isn’t willing to do the hard work typical of American critics. He simply takes the easy shots at everything from productivity to multiculturalism. Where’s the big picture thinking we’ve come to expect from academia? Think Marshall McLuhan, George Grant and Michael Ignatieff. Well, maybe not Michael Ignatieff but you get the idea.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud to be an Andrew Cohen reader. But I won’t settle for a second rate Cohen. He can do better. We can do better.

The 21st century should belong to Andrew Cohen. Let’s help make that dream come true.

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