Wednesday, September 21, 2005

BOOKS: What DO Those Darned Canadians Think?

Did you know:
  • Twenty percent of Canadians believe that extraterrestrials visit the earth on a regular basis?
  • Seven percent believe that breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck?
  • One out of ten would support a law encouraging Canadians living in major cities to wear a name tag (and younger people are three times more likely to support this law than older Canadians)?
  • The 2003-2004 edition of the World Competitiveness yearbook ranks Canada first in use of the internet?
  • Twelve percent of Canadians have kicked a photocopier in frustration?
  • One out of six Canadians believes that the Harry Potter books should be banned from school libraries because they glorify withcraft?
  • Eighteen percent believe in witchcraft and spells?
  • The second-ranked thing that annoys Canadians most is "someone reading over your shoulder"? (The first is traffic.)
  • Three-quarters of Canadians cannot name a Canadian film that they have seen in a theatre in the past year?
  • Nine percent pretend they've read the book when they've only seen the movie?
How do I know all this? Why, I read it in a book!

What Canadians Think... About Almost Everything by Darrell Bricker & John Wright (#38)
I won't bore you with the story of how this book written by a couple of pollsters from Ipsos Reid ended up in my lap. It's not a long story, but it is medium-sized and utterly without entertainment value. Let's just jump straight to the middle, where I tell you what this book is about, shall we?

If you've ever bought a copy of Harper's just for the Index, or if you're the kind of person who flips to the Facts & Arguments section of The Globe and Mail solely to read the Social Studies column, then this is the book for you. What Canadians Think... About Almost Anything is a compendium of painstakingly gathered facts and statistics about, as the title would indicate, what Canadians think about... well, almost everything.

Divided into chapters on everything from food and pets (we like them) to crime and stress (we don't like them), this trivia-pedia is highly addictive. In fact, I actually read all 273 pages of it without putting it down. Which led to a sleepless night... not because I was up late (I finished the book before bedtime), but because reading about the job stress and money woes and environmental worries and health concerns of 31 million Canadians had the end effect of generating a swirling vortex of vicarious anxiety in my brain that was almost impossible to subdue.

So I distracted myself by wondering why no one but Canadians seems ever to be interested in what Canada thinks. When it comes to the global stage, everyone always wants to know what the UK thinks and what China thinks and of course what the US thinks and even -- with some trepidation -- what North Korea thinks.

But no one ever says, "Yo, we haven't heard from that giant land mass over in the northwestern quadrant yet. Hey, Canada, what do
you think? We care."

Because, you know, we're a very polite people. So if you don't ask us directly, you're never going to find out that only 37 percent of us know the first line of our national anthem.*

*It's "O Canada!"


Anonymous said...


That is so sad.

Anonymous said...

I would bet that at least half of that 37% couldn't go past the second line of the anthem.

Anonymous said...

Whooo, Canada! I love Canada! I even married me a superfly Canadian :) I don't know how he'd react to that book but it's a possible xmas gift. Thanks for the mini-review

Tammy said...

I reckon that number is so low because of all the immigrants who move here when they're too old to have the anthem force fed to them in public school. Cuz if I'm wrong, then that IS kinda sad. (Is this where I brag that I can still sing "O Canada" in both official languages? It is? Oh, yay!)

I love being Canadian. Specifically, I love being citizen of a country where, if only one-third of the population knows the first line of the anthem, the rest of us just shrug and go, "Well, what can you do?" I am being 100% sincere about this.

Anonymous said...

Dude. 55% of 'mericans believe that god created the earth 10,000 years ago with all species in their current forms.

Suddenly the witchcraft, extraterrestrials and mirror thing doesn't sound so bad (especially when you consider that those are probably seriously overlapping subsets).

Anonymous said...

I read these statistics, and my PEI-honed instinct is to think, "85 percent of Canadians can't resist giving a sarcastic answer to a dumb question. Even on a survey form."