Dr. Dawg

Canadian banknote lulz

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Between the conception
And the creation
…Falls the Shadow. ~T.S. Eliot

I’ve commented about this hilarious silliness before. (Well, not so hilarious for those of non-neutral ethnicity.) I just had no idea at the time how much more there was.

Drawing on focus-group discussions and workshops with Canadians in six cities, the consultant found strong support for themes of “diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance of others/multiculturalism.” Eventually, 41 image ideas covering several themes were tested and given scores.

And there was the rub. Because the act of selection nullifies the perfect plenitude of diversity. Inclusiveness must always exclude. “Acceptance of others” is negated by depicting some but not all of those others. And, of course, “other-ing” explodes the notion of “acceptance” in the first place.

So, surprise!

The images that were finally approved for the reverses of the five new bills — the last two denominations, the $5 and $10, are being released later this year — lack reference to Canada’s diversity of ethnicity, culture and colour.

People, in all their glorious panoply of continually shifting ethnicities and “cultures,” are a problem. Depiction freezes, privileges, isolates and renders absence as well as presence. Small wonder we’ve ended up with things, instead:

The final images that were chosen all appear in the original 2008 lists. The $5 note will show robotic arms built for space programs and the $10 note, a train. The $20 note depicts the Vimy Ridge memorial in France, while the $50 has a picture of an icebreaker. The Queen and prime ministers occupy the fronts of the notes.

But what might have been a somewhat complex anthropological cautionary tale then plummets into sheer farce:

— Images of hockey were rejected by some as they would “glorify a violent sport.”

— A suggestion to depict ice wine was rejected by some because “alcohol should not be shown on bank notes.”

— Proposals to depict “safe cities” and Canada’s so-called “no gun” culture were rejected because the theme might not endure over the lifetime of the bank notes, e.g., cities might become more crime-ridden.

— Aboriginal art was snubbed by a few participants because “enough had been done by way of promoting aboriginal art.”

— Images that included snow “may become more controversial should global warming progress,” and are best avoided, said some.

— Pictures of wind turbines and solar panels were rejected because “clean energy is a controversial concept.”

A camel, they say, is a horse designed by a committee. But they didn’t have Canadian focus groups back then. One can imagine the convos: “Looks like a genetically-modified horse. That’s too controversial. Ships of the desert? We don’t have any deserts! Are the people who’ll end up using them ethnically neutral?” Etc.

And the icing on this cake:

The reasons for early rejection are not clear in the heavily censored documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“Heavily censored?” Heck, I’d be censoring, too. There is only so much public embarrassment that even a healthy human being can tolerate.

[H/t Emmett Macfarlane]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on February 10, 2013 12:26 PM.

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