Newfoundland mob mentality

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Time for a bit of non-fisheries-related Friday gab.

Recently reading a blog insisting it is my patriotic duty to buy tickets for a Great Big Sea concert reminds me of how generally myopic we can sometimes be about our culture — to the point that if you don’t follow the group mentality around these parts the idea is that you ought to be drawn and quartered, and hung up for all the masses to see.

I’m not a Great Big Fan of Great Big Sea and never really have been. I very much respect GBS’s marketing prowess and longevity, and also appreciate their efforts to draw positive attention to this province. And I can certainly respect a fan who wants others to be fans. But they are just not my cup of tea musically so I won’t be in attendance.

Hopefully I won’t be tried at Supreme Court for high treason.

In the meantime, it got me thinking a little bit about some of the other bastions of collective Newfoundland mind-conscription we have seen over recent years.

For instance, nobody is allowed to say a disparaging word about Republic of Doyle. I was in the company of someone recently who had the audacity to suggest it was a mediocre television show when looked at through the lens of being JUST a television show (except Sean McGinley — that guy is just a damn fine actor). It’s a great piece of exposure for St. John’s and everybody around here loves the whole “hey look, there’s the gas station I drive past every day!” thing, but it was argued that the show is not amazing television on its own (and I don’t think it’s meant to be). So why does the power of Christ compel ALL of us to love it unconditionally? Unless it’s because our provincial AND federal tax dollars are paying for it?

For a few years there, even the former premier had a cult following.

To speak any kind of ill of Danny Williams was akin to uttering blasphemy against our lord and saviour and could end up getting you stoned outside the city gates. You couldn’t have any kind of rational conversation about the merits of the premier’s rule (and it was a rule, not a government) with anyone. The guy did some good things, but he also screwed up more than a few things as well — but you couldn’t talk about the latter without being drowned out in chants of, “We got it! Weeeeeee got it!”

You’re not allowed to be against the seal hunt (I am pro-sealing for the record, but I made that choice on my own) without getting suspicious glances.

In years past we were taught at different times to have a somewhat derisive attitude against mainlanders even though 30,000 of our own people are mainlanders (here’s a hint: they live in Labrador).

We all have to be frothing-at-the-mouth IceCaps fans at all times, and unabashedly support whatever the most successful NHL team is with a Newfoundlander playing on it (see the number of Red Wings fans around here in 2008 and Bruins fans in 2011).

I’m sure the list could go on and on, but I think you get my point.

Collectively, I love the spirit of Newfoundlanders and their determination to take anything that remotely reflects who they are and put it up on a pedestal for all to see. It’s admirable in many ways.

I’m just not a fan of the “like it — or else” gang mentality that sometimes goes with it.

Even though it’s part of everyday life,  I hate being told how to think, what to like, what not to like, what to buy, where to buy it and what to do. And I certainly don’t appreciate when my Newfoundland “patriotism” gets questioned if I don’t follow suit.

Now go get a copy of The Navigator.

Or you’re a bad Newfoundlander.

Jamie Baker is the managing editor for The Navigator magazine,

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Recent comments

  • MrsB
    January 31, 2016 - 08:04

    These are my thoughts exactly. I never knew the word for it- mob mentality. I simply call it idolatry. This is simply the only way people define themselves, so an affront to anything Newfoundland is an affront to them. It's so silly. I was born and raised there and was amazed when I left how happy a person can be living somewhere else where people get to know you and not just define you by how much you like the traditions of your province or not. I never liked most of the traditional food or music or customs of NL, but was never free to say so. I find the hate towards anyone who thinks and feels differently is disgusting. I don't miss the island at all but I do love my family who are all still there. I just wish they thought of themselves as individuals and others as individuals and not a collective with "traditional rules" we must adhere to. By the way this is not only a Newfoundland issue, I find this is a rural issue. Small towns and places made up of small towns are pretty much community idolaters. They don't know anything else and they don't want you to either.

  • Skipper Jamie
    April 15, 2013 - 14:36

    Jeremiah: I know the people you speak of, hope I'm not one of them. I still love fish and chips, Quidi Vidi Honey brown, Wonderful Grand Band (the REAL legends of local music, along with maybe Ryan's Fancy), Ray Guy, Jumping Bean Coffee, Codco (especially Andy Jones-driven skits), old-school Irish Descendants, new-school Hey Rosetta, salt beef (not the vacuum packed stuff), traditional motorboats and bad accordion tunes played during a party in a super-warm kitchen! Does that count? Frank: Props to you for having the Cajones to speak your piece! And Erin: I appreciate your view as well. It makes complete sense. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home, after all. ;-)

  • Jeremiah
    April 13, 2013 - 13:45

    There is a group of Newfoundlanders who are so jealous of the success of their fellow citizens that they do everything in their power to distance themselves from anything Newfoundland. This group of small minded indivuals thankfully make up a small % of the population. You wouldn't be one of this group, would you, Mr. baker.

  • Frank David Abignail
    April 13, 2013 - 10:32

    Hear hear! I have felt the same way recently with regards to Canadas "Searchlight" contest to find Canadas next "Best New Artist" . Every day on my Facebook newsfeed I would see "Go here and Vote for Sherman Downey" appear over and over. So I clicked, and I listened, but what I heard wasn't very good music in my opinion. In fact, I found Shermans music downright campy, and devoid of anything even closely resembling a "hit". Yet no newsfeed post ever suggested I listen to the music, or vote for who I thought should win, only "Vote for Sherman! Support Newfoundland talent! With the message often wrapped in some kind of Newfoundland Republic flag. It got to the point that I knew to even suggest we vote without bias instead of with blinding patriotism, I would have to don my flame-suit for fear of being seen as an unpatriotic dissident. So much so, that I don't think Sherman and the Ambiguous Case are in fact "Canadas Best new Artist" but instead only receive the award for having "Canadas most regionally rabid supporters". Props to you Mr Baker, for having the cajones to say what some of us (though no where near enough) are thinking.

  • Erin C.
    April 13, 2013 - 09:19

    I appreciate that point of view, but here's a slightly different one... Things that might not have elicited an emotional response from you while you're living in the thick of them, in Newfoundland itself, can actually reduce you to tears when you've been exiled to the mainland for the better part of a decade. "McMurdo's Lane," I often say during Republic of Doyle, lower lip quivering. For instance, aside from Partridgeberry-Apple jam, I don't think I ever ate Purity products, but, upon encountering a bottle of Purity syrup for sale at the Newfie store in Brampton, I may or may not have rocked it gently back and forth like a baby. I never sought out Newfoundland traditional music much when I lived in the province (although it was around me at all times), but up here, I drive my car around with "Cocksiewalksiedixiebird" and "Mussels in the Corner" pouring merrily from my open windows. Someday I hope to move back, but I know it will be in the distant future. For now, I have hard tack and syndicated episodes of ROD to keep me company.