Sunday, January 27, 2019

No Respect for Authority and the World is my Oyster!

Long term readers of this blog know that I am an immigrant from good old Europe.  I still have strong bonds with Europe and now that I am getting older and wealthier, I often like travelling the old stomping grounds from my years as geology student.  I emigrated for two reasons: 

1.       I didn’t want to go into the army (two years draft in Holland for 18-year-old males or upon completion of your education (university). Many of my age-peers found excuses to dodge the army, as a competitive swimmer my dodge was emigration – less than 10% of young Dutch males end up in the army.

2.       Second, I was a geologist by training and there were way too many geology students (20-30 per year) for the Netherlands to employ. Living now in Calgary, it still amazes me how many geologists are employed in Canada – ahh… wonderful resources.
I came up to Calgary by accident. I didn’t like the gun-toting Americans and I didn’t want to live in an expat compound with locals starving at the camp gates. No stomach for that!

Australia, Canada…. It had to be overseas because of reason 1.  Not that much choice. Then I found out that several other ‘Dutchies’ had chosen Canada, in particular Calgary with demand for geologist (that was 1979). I never had heard of Calgary before. But this was enough for me to contact some friends-of-friends in Calgary and ask them to help me find work.  Maybe, I was naïve at 25 years old and being used to travel throughout Europe without a lot of trouble. I truly felt that I was a ‘free man’ and the world was my oyster.

I read and was taught English on high school and spoke German (I was watching every Sunday Star Trek in German), similarly I had learned a bit of French and could order a glass of vin rouge when traveling as a geologist through that country. Apart from Dutch, I used to be pretty good in German living only 8km from the border.  I also spoke a few words Spanish, the country where I did my M.Sc. thesis. But apart from Dutch and some German, my other language skills amounted mostly to stuttering a few words. 

So, I was lucky and found work in Calgary but still had to go through the application for ‘Landed Immigrant’. It was the first time I realized that I was not allowed to move freely through the world. My lack of respect for authority bred into many Dutchmen, made me feel offended. Who are those Canucks to restrict my movement on this planet of mine?  I got through the immigration process without much difficulty but learned about friends being refused because of minor offenses such as biking drunk (after all we were students or even younger) into the back of a parked truck. 

When the army guy who was screening me to become an officer in the Dutch Army asked me whether I considered it an honor to serve as an Officer in the Dutch Army, I replied (translated): “Not Really”. Not surprisingly, my answer to the Canadian Embassy people asking me why I wanted so badly to live in Canada was: “Because taxes on Dutch Pipe Tobacco are less in Canada”.  Yes, I have trouble dealing with ‘Authority’. Is it any wonder that to this day, I truly loath Canada’s liberals?

But I learned over time… that when you live in a country for many years or when you are born in a country, you may say: This Land is Mine.  There are even songs titled like that. And then we do live in different financial systems each with their own taxes and other societal contributions by its citizens. This became very clear when some Singaporean friends told us they thought Canada was stupid to pay their parents CPP, AOS and even their healthcare while these parents never contributed a penny of their own money to Canada. For them THAT was the real reason they wanted to emigrate to Canada! It is a bit of a two way street, emigration! 

For many years, I considered myself a guest in this country rather than a true Canadian. Especially, because when answering the phone, the first question from the other side was: “Where are you from?”  But as a guest, I always felt that I had to adhere to the house rules of my Canadian hosts and adjust to their system.  I was always astonished and even angry at liberal policies regarding multi-culturalism. I had adjusted, why should we not demand from other immigrants that they speak proper English (or French in Quebec)? I felt offended when, especially after 9-11, I saw more and more Muslims in their burkas and other tradition clothing or the demands to carry religious knifes. To me, it seemed more like provoking Canada rather than people trying to adjust to Canada’s society. Nearly a demand that the rest of Canada takes on their values!

Over the years I have met many Islamic people here in Canada and they are as peaceful as any other people. Many have adjusted to Western clothing and attitudes. There are Islamic people that still insist on wearing their accoutrements and most are just fine normal people – maybe with a bit more trouble to adjust to Canada’s mentalities. But the same is the case with many people from other cultures.

I start also to realize that despite my cultural differences with the ‘typical’ Canadian – I still have those after living here for over 40 years – that as a Dutchy, I am a lucky duck. There is a lot of goodwill between Canada and The Netherlands, especially since the 2nd World War. But culturally and linguistically we are not very much apart. Imagine someone grown up with a Slavic rooted language or someone from Arabia or Turkey. These people have languages with differences much larger than ‘melk’ instead of ‘milk’. Their cultures are much farther apart – I consider Canada just a bit behind Europe (😊).  But take someone from the deserts of the Sahara trying to blend in or a Sikh? We nearly talk worlds apart!

So yes, I still expect for every immigrant to blend with Canada’s society and its norms. But it may take for many a lot longer than it did for this Lucky Dutchy. Yes, I hate Italian ghettos or Chinese ghettos or Dutch parties.  Why cling so tightly to the culture you are committed to abandon?  Although, I am proud of the Dutch ‘olie bollen’ now morphed into Tim Horton’s donuts or Sinterklaas here known as… Santa Claus. I also love Greek food; my family and I ate oodles of Indian food or Vietnamese Noodle Soup. 

Economically, emigrants are over time one of Canada’s greatest success stories. Many of us Canadians paid Canada Pension for a substantial portion during our working lives. So, you may ask why our governments claim that emigrants are needed to ensure our pensions. That is because of Canada’s tendency to live above its means and credit!  You see, our premiums did not necessarily go towards our pensions but rather they paid for the pensions of past generations. If we, as a population don’t grow younger then there will be no workers to pay for our pensions no matter whether you paid premium or not. 

Ask yourself though, would you be so eager to leave your country of birth; your family and friends?  Emigrants are highly motivated people – they are not the rule but rather the exception in their home countries. Then Canada screens those potential immigraints to let only the best educated in plus, as an after thought, here and there some refugees. No wonder that so many emigrants end up doing well and contributing above proportion to Canada’s economy no matter that they may have been a liability in their early Canadian years. 

Canada, population wise is not a very important country.  Partially because of a beautiful but harsh environment, we don’t have a lot of people living here. Elsewhere in the world there is overcrowding and economic hardship. We can use more people to grow our population and become a stronger country over time. Our real estate values will go up, our economy will grow longer despite automation and AI, etc.  And finally, we are all people of this world and who are Canadians to deny other people to pursue here a future of prosperity and freedom? Are non-Canadians not entitled to a free and prosperous life? I guess, I haven’t changed my views that much over the years: no respect for authority and the world is still my oyster!

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