“Isaac Brock is revered as a fallen hero and the saviour of Upper Canada in the War of 1812. But he did much more.” (Page 2)
Though this quote came straight-out of the introduction, it resonated with me quite a lot. After the entering the planning course, I’ve been convinced that I had to walk one sure path to achieve an overarching goal. This quote empowers me to pursue all that I am curious about, and occasionally diverge from my identity. Isaac Brock was not a prominent Canadian General, he was an athlete who happened to become “the Hero of upper Canada” through millitary brilliance. It’s like a cheesy instagram quote, but with a man’s entire life to back it up.
Canadian Identity: The American dream is apparent to any observer, and is proudly showcased through their patriotism. The “Canadian Dream” on the other hand, is more vague, and open to interpretation. I’ve recently found myself infatuated with ancient civilizations. The Romans in particular. Before its glorious prime, Rome was essentially a safe haven for runaways, criminals, and other rejected members of society. Rome gave them a new identity, and these citizens became ‘Roman’ before anything else. Through this mindset, Rome was able to motivate and gather voluntary troops simply for “Glory of Rome”. Relating back to the quote, I found it fascinating because it insinuated that Canadian’s are ‘humans’ above all else, and not just ‘Canadian’. Isaac Brock was undoubtedly a brilliant Canadian general, but was also renowned for his success in swimming, and boxing. This minor quote gave me a much better idea of the Canadian identity: A nation built by colourful individuals, that encouraged citizens to pursue national pride, and personal liberty.
“For every man who died battle in there, ten men died of disease” (Page 25)
To me, this was both a caveat and an inspirational quote. It’s a reminder that no mater how much power or influence you hold, there will always be sacrifices that must be made. Connecting to the leadership packages we annotated, a good decision is made when the returns clearly out weigh the sacrifices made.
When given context, this quote isn’t as ‘inspirational’ as I made it out to be. This quote was a warning to the young Brock, who was currently stationed in the West Indies. When the Europeans arrived in the Americas, the brought a devastating disease with them. This epidemic tore apart the indigenous population, killing 90% of all natives (PBS). This quote is a painful, yet necessary reminder of the history we’ve built a nation upon. It shows us the cost of Canadian ‘progress’ and allows us to reveals the ugly side of Canada that isn’t talked about enough in Canadian identity. This is especially important in the conversation of reconciliation, which is currently a hot topic within Canadian society.
“In his darker moments, it seemed to him that the whole reason for living was to keep cheating death till it dealt him a hand no mortal – and certainly no soldier – could trump” (Page 37)
I love how scrappy and gritty this quote is, and it reminds me of a tour I took in Portland. Portland was city built upon corruption, scandal, and a populace that wasn’t afraid of acting dishonourably. Eventually, and miraculously, Portland’s identity started to experience a paradigm change. Through some incredible process unknown to me, Portland was converted into the progressive cultural hub we all know today. Though we endlessly critique American culture, this quote emphasizes the historical similarities that we share. This is a clear example of how identity can fluctuates over time.
This passage eludes to the chip on Canada’s shoulder. The first European settlers sought a better life, and risked all to much to participate in the colonialization of the west. The quote seems to portray not only Brock’s philosophy, but also the mental attitude that Canadians held while establishing our nation. It is important to recognize the struggles our ancestors endured, and even more so to learn from them. It gives us a chance to reflect upon our progress, and be grateful for the peace we’ve achieved. It brings a dimension to remembrance day, a holiday held to pay our respects to all Canadians who’ve come before us.
“Isaac chuckled once more. He knew that he was watching history being made; that Nelson had just written one of the most famous letters” (Page 43)
This quote gave me an existential crisis. Learning social studies, I’ve always observed history like it was a television show – filled with characters, different story lines, and foreign lands. Seeing history through the eyes of Brock, I’ve realized that historical figures are no different than us. They live in a different environment, but the differences end there. They have the same biological needs, and process the same emotions that we do. It is surreal knowing that we’ll also inevitably end up in some futuristic history textbook.
This quote bears a striking resemblance to many of the themes in Hamilton. For instance, It captures the want of making your name known, and the fear of being forgotten. It paints the “Canadian Dream” as a romantic quest for purpose, a legacy that exceeds our lifetimes. It also bears a resemblance to “The Room Where it Happened”, which describes the mystery of a process for all those who don’t experience it first hand. Today, I feel that we want to collectively leave a Canadian legacy upon the world. We constantly aim to break social expectations, and pride ourselves on our progressive and diverse range of values. Canada was among the first to legalize same-sex marriage (in 1999), and is currently taking a revolutionary new approach to the war on drugs (supervised injection sites).
“Then, there were the swords. There were Highland broadswords with basket hilts. There were sabres whose blades were so curved that they were useless in battle.” (Page 79)
Brock was a very masculine character, often praised for his physicality and mental toughness. Though he was described as a very pragmatic and peace-loving general, he hated how warfare had evolved. Weapons were being glorified, and were adjusted for ornamental purposes. It’s kinda like being a basketball player who dons a headband and 300$ Lebrons, but get’s his butt whooped every time he’s in possession of an orange ball. To paraphrase this quote for practical purposes “those who are blinded by vanity, lose the battle horrendously but fashionably”.
This quote reveals the Scottish influence on Canadian identity. Much of Canadian’s military was portrayed in the book to be modelled after Scottish tradition. Citadel Hill for example, dresses all of its cadets in highlander uniforms, and strengthens character through Scottish disciplines. They are taught to march properly, shoot a rifle, and even play the bagpipes.
“Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty”
Through Brock’s macho persona, this was a theme that just leaped at me. Brock’s very existence flirts with danger, and he casually walks away from traumatic experiences with class, and dignity. While serving in the Caribbean, he fell ill to a vicious fever that nearly killed him. He made impulsive and dangerous swims that challenged the anatomical limits of humanity. He regularly served in areas plagued with disease, often leaving the British nobility worried for his safety. Upon being challenged by an expert duelist to a death match, Brock was tasked with deciding how many paces they would walk. He requested to duel at “handkerchief distance”. Shortly after Brock made the request, the challenger declined the duel, never to be heard of again. Brock approached death like it was a game of chance, and considered all situations as probable as the next at hitting the jackpot. His mindset made others fear for his well-being, and it made his legacy all the more better for it. I don’t necessarily agree with this theme, but it was exactly the mantra that allowed Brock to become “The Hero of Upper Canada”