Thursday, August 02, 2007

How Stupid Are We?

I like to think that I’m a reasonably intelligent fellow. But the longer I live, the more I question not only my native intelligence but also that of my fellow Canadians.

After all, where else would you find a nation of educated sheep who week after week fill their gas tanks with dollar a litre gas with hardly a whimper? Notwithstanding that the price of crude oil is lower than it was a year ago, the retail price keeps going up. Petroleum industry execs tell us that the current situation is all because of market demands and refining capacity and we accept that lame excuse and go on paying exorbitant prices at the pump.

And we’re the same Milquetoasts who let banks tack on fee after user fee and dole out minuscule interest rates on savings accounts in the face of record-breaking profits. The financial community assures us that they can’t make a go of it unless they can increase their customer charges and we do nothing except watch them laughing all the way to their own bank.

The height of this institutional arrogance is the recent offer by one unnamed, two-initialled bank to give a free iPod to anyone who becomes a new customer. What does this say to existing customers who have loyally conducted their business with that bank for years? It says we don’t really care about you because we know you’re too stupid to do anything about it.

Banks and oil executives at least try to justify their usurious ways. But book sellers don’t even bother making excuses. Despite a Canadian dollar that’s almost at par with its U. S. counterpart, publishers continue to feature Canadian pricing that’s typically 40% above the listed American price.

If a best seller lists for $19.99 American, we shouldn’t mind paying $21.99 Canadian. But to fork out $27.99 is outright highway robbery. Yet we just accept this gross inequity and continue to fill the coffers of the publishers without complaint.

Doctors are another group that make us look stupid and gullible. Whenever they don’t like the employment deal offered here in Canada, some of them just up and leave for greener pastures in the United States.

Given that a doctor’s medical education is heavily subsidized by you and me as taxpayers, why would we allow them to thumb their noses at us and leave? Shouldn’t we be demanding a payback of the hundreds of thousands of dollars we invested in them before letting them quit the country? Or shouldn’t we at least require all medical students to sign on for five years of practise in under-served areas before setting them free?
The Stanley Cup is another example of our naivete and stupidity. As I recall, Lord Stanley donated the Cup to the champion ice hockey team of Canada, not the winner of the National Hockey League playoffs. Why would we allow our national trophy to be governed by a rinky-dink league that bends over backwards to accommodate its seldom-watched, American-based teams?

The NHL’s hold on the Stanley Cup is tenuous, at best. All it would take would be a concerted effort by a few diehard Canadian hockey fans to bring the trophy back home. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that day to arrive.

We Canadians have a reputation for being polite and nice. To outsiders, that’s how it appears. But the truth is that we’re not so much nice and polite as just downright stupid. Americans don’t tolerate being treated like second-class citizens by corporations and government. Why should we? So let’s start grousing and complaining. And let’s start taking some positive action. If that giant bookstore won’t sell you the book at a fair exchange on the U. S. dollar, don’t buy it. If that unnamed bank won’t give you an iPod, take your business elsewhere. Lobby for the return of a nationally-owned oil company and fight for provisions that will ensure doctors serve the citizens who paid for their education. Who knows? We might even get smart enough to start a professional Canadian Hockey League and take back the Stanley Cup once and for all. Then again, given our world-leading levels of marijuana consumption, maybe we’re just destined to be dopes.

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