The sources of community pride: Three recent examples

Many people will say they are proud of their community or province or country for very specific reasons but it is rare to see almost universal pride over anything.  One guy who watched Paul Henderson score in the 1972 Summit series talked about how people pulled their cars off the road and got out and hugged each other.

I have witnessed three recent examples of this kind of pride of place.  The first involves Brazilians and soccer.  I got married in 1994 to a Brazilian a couple of days before the World Cup final.  Her family and I watched the final match against Italy in my little Fredericton apartment on Biggs Street.  They were overcome with emotion – so much so that my brother-in-law had to leave watching the game in overtime and he went out on the street and cried.  When it came to the penalty kicks, my father-in-law also vacated the premises leaving my mother-in-law to shout out the scoring from the apartment window.  After the final penalty kick and the Brazilian victory, there was an overflow of emotion like I had never seen.

I saw a pretty similar version of this recently in Moncton.  People were stopping police officers on the street to give them hugs.  There was a massive makeshift memorial.  7,000 people joined a run to show their support.  It was visceral and highly emotional.

The third example was more isolated but an interesting example.  A young lady 20-something from Saskatchewan came to New Brunswick a couple of years ago as part of group and was asked to speak briefly on the economic resurgence of Saskatchewan.  Her voice wavered and she was emotional talking about the province’s revival – about young people moving back, about immigrants flocking in.  She was very specific about the role of natural resources development in her province’s economic revival.  She didn’t equivocate.  She didn’t parse words.   She was very clear – oil, potash, uranium, etc. had helped the province get back its sense of pride.

Obviously this third example is different than the first two.  There were no massive displays of emotion in Saskatchewan when big industrial companies announced they would be investing billions in the province.  No one set up makeshift shrines in honor of industry.  But I have talked to dozens of folks in that province and they have been changed as province – I suspect you could find some folks who don’t like all the new immigration.  Others who dislike resource development.  No doubt.  But overall the province is a very positive place – as evidenced by the sky high approval of their Premier.

I just find the concept of community pride interesting.  Brazil has lots of problems but this one relatively trivial thing – kicking a ball around – can bring them together more than any politician or celebrity ever could.   The events in Moncton unlocked emotion and love of community that many probably never knew was there in the first place.

I go around Atlantic Canada and talk about people fighting for their communities – it mostly falls flat.  The idea of promoting business and big, evil corporations doesn’t lend itself to outbursts of positive emotion (in fact in many cases quite the opposite).  But the economic foundation – that most of us take for granted – doesn’t just happen.  The weakness of the NB economy over the past six years didn’t just happen.  We can and should do better.

But it’s a weak message.  I suspect it will be a very long time indeed before a young 20 something New Brunswicker goes out to Saskatchewan and makes a speech about how proud they are of the NB economy resurgence.