I have been thinking recently about the difference between Canada and the U.S., and especially their relative dynamism.
Its as if the imagined Canadian center of gravity is lower. They like a low center of gravity because they believe it protects them from dynamism. It makes them, they suppose, less tippy. The wind may blow, the earth may quake, but this little house will stand. Having a low center of gravity puts them on good terms with stasis. Movement is expensive (in energy/effort) to achieve, and once you get going, the momentum effect can be formidable. You never know where youre going to end up.
If, on the other hand, you have a high center of gravity, as I am beginning to think many Americans do, movement is the place of safety. This is because, to roll out the metaphor, the mechanics of motion allow the individual to correct against small perturbations that might become larger stability-threatening perturbations. Motion allows Americans to work perturbations out in transit. Canadians huddle, the better to make themselves, as an Elizabethan might say, “unconcussable. With a low center of gravity, they are confident that small perturbations will not start or that theyll “bounce off. Americans accept perturbations as inevitable, and they keep the center of gravity high, the better to “work them out.
The American model bears a resemblance to most sports and especially football. When you are playing football, you never want to be flatfooted. It is actually better, in most cases, to be going in the wrong direction than no direction at all. You are mobilized, and as the game begins to change around you, it is “cheaper (from an energy/effort point of view) to change direction than to “get going. This is, of course, a game that systematically manufactures perturbations, large and small, but even here it is better to be in motion than not. This is why Coach is always yelling at you to “stay on your toes.
When you have a low center of gravity you may let the world swirl around you. You dont need to take constant readings with the sexton or your GPS PDA because, well, the whole point is to ‘turtle. Its for the world to move, not you. Those with a high center of gravity are take readings constantly. They are inherent tippy, and only thus can they hope to remain upright. Stability is not build in. It must be read off the world often and carefully.
In sum, our metaphoric center of gravity will determine whether we move, whether we survey the world, and what we regard as our place of safety. Dynamism comes, in this metaphor, from a basic motor-mechanical decision about the world. Where we imagine our center of gravity will decide a host of other questions: Do we accept dynamism, or, do we fight dynamism. Are we, in response to dynamism, dynamic too or dynamic not. Are we in a “sense and respond mode? Or do we turtle? History and culture gives us our center of gravity and this helps then decides a good deal else about us.
Where am I going with this, you might ask yourself. Very good question. The American in me says that it is better to be writing anything than nothing at all. Canadians are more inclined to just shut up. Its a dynamism thing.
But I was also wondering whether there was a way to think about the relative dynamism of individuals, corporations, countries and corporations without resorting to self congratulation. Some of the readers of this blog will agree that dynamism is better than stasis because it is, most of the time, more productive of human liberty, economic accomplishment, intrinsic satisfaction, mutual tolerance, creativity of several kinds and the most interesting kinds of potentiality. This seems to us so self evident that we are inclined to celebrate dynamic people and institutions, and to scorn their static counterparts. I have done this at least three times on this blog (excoriating cultural institutions, Canadians and corporate naysayers).
But the problem is clear. As long as we proceed in this way, we are inclined to marginalize, perhaps, even stigmatize the static camp. We treat them, to use the language of the recent Presidential camp, as people “who just dont get it.
The result is also clear. Treated in this way, the static camp is sure to react as everyone does in these circumstances: with resistance, defensiveness, and by actually becoming more static. I am wondering if its not better to say they have a low center of gravity and perhaps begin a fund for corrective surgery and counselling.