Where Is Here?
After having been raised in the northern town of Huddersfield and educated in the northern bastions of Sheffield and Liverpool, (plus marriage in September 2001) I decided it was time to move on, and get out and sample some foreign culture. So I travelled west to the edge of the commonwealth, and have been living (and working) in Toronto, Canada since October 2001.
Toronto is comparable to somewhere like London consisting off several towns and ethnic quarters joined together into a huge amorphous blob. The multicultural nature of Toronto is striking with many quarters such as China town, little Italy and the Greek quarter to name but a few. Almost everyone has come from elsewhere. Canada has a spectrum of cultures, a hotchpotch of immigrant groups who supplanted the continent's many native peoples (sadly, who's plight after being nearly wiped out and pushed to the undesirable areas has been conveniently forgotten.)
Chinatown is an immensely appealing neighbourhood especially on weekends, the sidewalks, already crammed with open-air food stalls, overflow with hundreds of people eager to shop, eat and socialize. Live crabs and a whole variety of sea creatures are sold. Personally I find it uneasy watching people tearing crabs apart looking for the perfect specimen, but I guess this is one of the products of coming from a society hidden from its food chain.
Toronto, like many American cities is laid out on a gridiron with very long straight streets that cross each other on a grid. A place can no longer be referred to, for example, as being on "Bathurst" as it is god knows how many miles long, instead places are described as intersections such as Bathurst and Bloor (That being where I have spent many a fine hour - Honest Eds - a massive discount store, lit up like the Blackpool illuminations from the outside)
In culture the United States remains the most potent external influence on the Canadians. The Americans have created a popular culture so powerful that it envelops not only much of Canada but much of the world. At a guess ¾ of the mass media here is of American origin making Canada a marginalized form of the US trapped under its influence. I find the American media disturbingly self-centred, especially since after 9/11 (this being how people refer to the terrorist attacks in New York). Television is like a state run propaganda machine; "American Strikes Back" and "America's New War" are amongst the provocative headlines CNN has had constantly along the bottom of its screens. Under their seemingly self imposed muzzles no suffering of the Afghan people (or anything that could be even construed as anti-American) is allowed to be screened. It is easy to become engulfed under conspiracy theories after the barrage of the American media. I read an article in one homeless magazine that put the emphasis of the problems on oil. For example did you know George Bush was set up in Business by no other than Osama bin Laden's father, and Afghanistan is the potential gateway to the vast untapped oil fields in Chechnya. George Bush. Like his father has declared the oil-dependent American "way of life" as non negotiable. Rather than reduce their dependency on the black drug they want to ensure their "fix" continues uninterruptedly. Next time you sample the American media be careful it is not all coke and McDonalds and a final warning - cultural sovereignty is not a uniquely Canadian affair.