Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gross National Sexy

10 things we could do to boost Canada's international sex appeal

Can't we do better than this?
In 1972, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan coined the term ‘Gross National Happiness’, which he touted as a truer measure of a society’s level of well-being than Gross National Product. The notion has since gained some currency beyond Bhutan, with some western academics (notably American anthropologist Jared Diamond) calling for governments to look beyond conventional economic indicators when assessing the well-being of their countries.

The popularization of the concept of Gross National Happiness begs the question: what other possible metrics could one use to rate nation states? Gross National Guilt would be an interesting one, with former Axis powers Germany and Japan obviously on top of the pile, possibly followed by former dastardly colonialists like Portugal and Belgium and recalcitrant former cultural génocidaires like Australia and Canada not far behind. Gross National Pomposity also has potential, although few countries could touch the French in that department.

However, a far more fun one, to my mind, would be Gross National Sexy. There is, of course, nothing scientific about this metric – it’s just a vibe. The winners? Brazil would probably take the top rank, followed by the likes of Spain, Greece, Argentina, Italy, Jamaica, Russia, Israel, Thailand and at least one Scandinavian country. (My vote would be for Iceland.)

Canada, of course, would be way down on this list. We’re not a particularly sexy people and we know it. But we could change all that. Here are ten practical steps we could take as a country that would boost our international sex appeal.

1) Spell ‘Canada’ with a K.

The name ‘Canada’ originates from the Iroquoian word kanata, which translates to ‘small village’ or ‘settlement’. So why did we change the spelling? Whatever the reason, ‘Canada’ sounds plodding and slow-moving, akin to a garbage ‘can’ or a ‘can’ of spam, whereas Kanada with a K sounds oddly exotic. Besides, spelling our country’s name with a K would put us between Jordan and Kazakhstan in the World Almanac, both of which are, if not sexier than us, certainly more alluring and exotic.

2) Make the Carnaval d’hiver a national holiday.

Let’s face it – there’s nothing sexier than a pre-Lenten holiday. Brazilians have their samba parades; the revelers of New Orleans have their brass bands and naughty necklaces; and the fine citizens of Quebec City have their erotic ice sculptures and drunken bacchanals in the old town. Would it be that much to ask of La Belle Province to share this festival with the rest of Canada?

3) Adopt Cree as a national language.

This would really make a difference. Ireland is altogether sexier thanks to the promotion of Gaelic as a national language and some oh-so-gorgeous Sinéad O’Connor tunes in the old tongue, and Israel just wouldn’t be the same without its millennia-old official language, brought back to life by a generation of young and virile kibbutzim. And Cree probably has more claim to being a national language than either English or French, being the traditional language of a vast territory stretching from Labrador to Alberta. That and as Ojibwe author Drew Hayden Taylor explains in his book Me Sexy, Cree is hands-down the dirtiest language in the world.

4) Get rid of the monarchy; bring back Michaëlle Jean.

Mme Jean certainly did her best to boost our country’s GNS during her five years as vice-regent, but that still didn’t quite compensate for the fact that she was a stand-in for the British monarch. And in spite of Will and Kate’s best efforts, the House of Windsor is about as sexy as, well, the House of Windsor. Getting rid of this anachronism and bringing back the elegant, sophisticated former journalist with the sexy accent in both official languages as president would definitely be a step in the right direction.

5) Do something about Stephen Harper.

Regardless of what anyone may think of his performance as prime minister, there can be no denying the fact that Stephen Harper makes the royals look sexy. He’s got to go.

6) Bring back compulsory military service.

This might sound a tad retrograde, but the fact remains that many of the sexier countries worldwide still have mandatory service in the armed forces. Think Turkey, Israel, Thailand and parts of Scandinavia. I’m not sure what it is about conscription that’s conducive to sex appeal, but it’s probably the physical exertion combined with the uniforms.

7) Annex Cuba.

This one would be trickier than the rest, but it’s not without precedent. Newfoundland was an independent dominion until 1949 when it was absorbed by Canada. And the current state of the Cuban economy is not unlike that of the Rock circa 1949 except that Newfoundland had no tourism to speak of. Moreover, parts of Cuba are virtually Canadian colonies anyway thanks to tourism. And it goes without saying that absorbing Cuba into confederation would boost our GNS overnight.

8) Legalize marijuana.

Once upon a time, the Dutch were viewed worldwide as a stodgy bunch of clog-wearing pancake-chomping Calvinists. Not anymore.

9) Promote our real national sport in a serious way.

Contrary to popular belief, Canada’s official national sport is lacrosse, not hockey. And lacrosse, a sport invented and perfected by the same petulant Mohawks who took up arms against the Sureté du Québec and the Canadian military in 1990, is a far sexier affair than our beloved hockey game. Elevating the sport to its intended stature would not only give us a sinewy, bad-ass national sporting brand along the lines of New Zealand’s All Blacks or Brazil’s Seleção but it would also rid us of Don Cherry as a public figure, which alone would be a significant boost to our GNS.

10) Mismanage our economy and watch it all fall apart.

The sad fact of the matter is that the majority of countries that rank highly on the GNS scale are also economic basket cases. Perhaps GNP isn’t such a bad metric after all.

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