The Canadian Archetype

I am an immigrant living in Canada. Years ago, I decided to move here, and I could not be happier with my decision. If you are like me, which means if you are someone who enjoys observing and analyzing his surroundings, then living abroad is great fun. As an outsider, sometimes you see things that the locals simply won’t. Purely based on my observation, I think Canadians often have difficulty explaining what makes them unique. They intuitively know that they are special, but they cannot put it into words. Have you ever wondered why?

I see many great Canadian brands suffering from the same symptom, failing to articulate and leverage what makes them unique. Here is a relevant excerpt from Ikonica, Jeannette Hanna’s book about iconic Canadian brands:

-Why can’t we create powerful brands?

-Don’t you think Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire and RBC are powerful?

-But they are not world-class brands!

-But, Four Seasons is Canadian!

-Yeah but it is a luxury niche brand. We can’t create mass-market brands.

-How about Blackberry?

-Yeah, but…

The above dialogue gives us some hints about Canadians:

  1. Canadian brands (just like Canadians) are chameleons: Abroad, not many people know that Four Seasons, RIM and IMAX are Canadian, because these brands just blend in with their surroundings. Having the ability to combine does not mean to be bland. It is quite the opposite: It means possessing the intelligence to analyze your surroundings and adapting accordingly. Canadians have the unique ability to go with the flow and respect local culture. That is why wherever they travel Canadians (individuals, group of people or companies) can be accepted as locals. That is not a coincidence. There are so many Canadian celebrities. But everybody thinks they are American. See it yourself.
  2. Canadians are warm and social people. Mrs. Hanna’s book offers many great examples and analysis. As mentioned above, abroad they just blend in. At home, Canadians try really hard to make foreigners feel accepted. The underlying motif (both at home and abroad) is the “sense of belonging.” Although Canadians are not exceptionally nationalistic, many of them proudly carry maple leaf tattoos. Though it sounds controversial, there is an archetypal explanation for that.
  3. National brands like Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons embody the Canadian culture: Not flashy but always reliable. Not expensive but truly accessible and egalitarian. Not setting trends but always convening community. They might be “no-frills brands,” but they are also outstanding citizens. It is unacceptable, or even a taboo for a Canadian brand to thrive at the expense of communities.
  4. Canadians love self-deprecating humour. 2010 Vancouver Olympics Closing ceremony had an archetypal moment that Canadians will always remember: During the Opening Ceremony, one of the legs of the cauldron malfunctioned and the torch ceremony did not take place properly. That could be perceived as a huge scandal all over the world. But what did Canadians do? They made fun of themselves during the closing ceremony. (Watch this video from the 35th minute.)

So what do we do with all these? How do they help us define the Canadian archetype? Is there something deeper that we should see? Well, maybe the below tale of Nasrudin Hodja, the famous Turkish, fictional sage could help us broaden our vision:

“Nasrudin used to take his donkey across a frontier every day, with the panniers loaded with straw. Since he admitted to being a smuggler when he trudged home every night, the frontier guards searched him again and again. They searched his person, sifted the straw, steeped it in water, and even burned it from time to time. Meanwhile, he was becoming visibly more and more prosperous.

Then he retired and went to live in another country. Here one of the customs offices met him, years later.

“You can tell me now, Nasrudin,” he said. “Whatever was it that you were smuggling, when we could never catch you out?”

“Donkeys,” said Nasrudin.”

Sometimes the answer is so obvious that we cannot see it. We look at it, live in it without even noticing it, like a fish not noticing that it lives in water. That is the beauty and curse of the collective unconscious and archetypes. Now, let’s turn to Dr. Carol Pearson’s theory to connect the dots. According to her archetypal theory, all of the above are traits of the Every person archetype, one of the 12 dominant unconscious energies. Here is how she explains this archetype:

  • Every person individuals are most fulfilled by helping others belong and fit into the group. Naturally empathetic, unpretentious, and resilient, they often demonstrate their common touch and can motivate others to try hard to do their best. They’re usually excited and challenged when everyone needs to pitch in and solve a problem.
  • Every person organizations often are very successful at providing a sense of belonging and human dignity to others; creating hard-working teams that take pride in their work, fostering real camaraderie among employees.

Every person does not want to stand out; s/he wants to share the success. Every person does not want to be alone doing expeditions; s/he wants to belong. Every person does not want to alienate others (Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others do unto you.); s/he wants them to feel supported. I once read a research, which said that Canadians feel “outward inferiority, inward superiority”. That is perfectly in line with the Everyperson archetype. Now take another look at the self-deprecating humour, the ability to blend and the maple leaf tattoo. Everywhere you look, you will see the great Canadian archetype: the Every person.

By sookie from Toronto, Canada [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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