The Mother of a Road Trip to Find and Define Canadian Identity in the Twenty-First Century, this project has the potential to be more than a book. It will be an interactive multimedia project, incorporating social media, television and film as well as traditional print and electronic publication. The plan is to engage Canadians in an innovative and yet timely pictorial and analytic exploration of the relationship between the diverse geographies and peoples of Canada. The objective is to better understand what it is to be Canadians in a turbulent twenty-first century. This exploration is particularly relevant as we approach the 150th anniversary of Canada with an increasingly fragmented national identity and chronically ill-defined defence and foreign policies.
Canada is the second largest country in the world by total area and the fourth largest by land area. Our border with the United States is the world’s longest land border. We are also blessed with tremendous geographic and cultural diversity. Through much of our history, flanked by three oceans and a friendly neighbour, we have also enjoyed the relative national security of continental isolation. Globalization, accessible and rapid international transportation and a growing virtual community, however, suggest that we are overdue for a rethink of our assumed national security.
It was quite by chance that I stumbled on the concept of Strategic Culture while serving in the Royal Canadian Navy. I had been assigned to work for the Admirals’ Asia Pacific Policy Advisor and was asked to review a paper for him on the Strategic Culture of China. I soon became fascinated with the concept and intrigued by its analytic potential. It was clear, however, that this tantalizing potential could not be adequately realized until it was better defined. My thesis was somewhat constrained by a short academic leash but once published I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept and the inadequacies of both previous research and my own redefinition. Something was just not working.
My struggles with the concept, and the vague use of the term culture, continued long after my thesis was accepted. Eventually a random musing led me to the potential in the word paradigm. Originally a term coined for use in scientific research, paradigm has found utility in social science to “describe the set of experiences, beliefs and values that affect the way an individual perceives reality and responds to that perception”. Strategic refers to “the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them” so the pairing of the two words suggests the relationship between a specific world view and the means agreed upon to pre-position for success within the context of that world view. It soon became clear, at least to me, that the concept is better expressed as “Strategic Paradigm”. If I ever get the book finished, you might even understand and agree.