Peace, Order and their Discontents: The Tragically Hip
The Tragically Hip, as a rock band made up of Caucasian Anglo-Canadians from Ontario, epitomize the danger of Eva Mackey’s ‘Mountie myth’: the idea that Canadian multiculturalism ‘implicitly constructs…a core English-Canadian culture’, as an unmarked centre around which the country’s other cultures orbit peripherally. Yet analysis of the band’s 13 studio albums from 1987–1998 reveals that their music speaks persistently on the socioeconomic aspects of Canadian identity. This chapter uses theories of cultural and socioeconomic criticism to argue that the Hip’s oeuvre shows a tension between the Canadian values of ‘Peace, Order, and Good Government’(laid down in the British North America Act, 1867), and a set of ideologies – including consumerism, neoliberalism, and unquestioning nationalism – against which these values oppose themselves. On the one hand, the Hip’s lyrics invent and sustain myths of Canadian identity based on ‘POGG’ (peace, order, and good government). Many Hip songs narrate response to historical moments in which these values come under threat from forcesAmerican cultural, political, and economic hegemony. On the other hand, the Hip’s lyrics demonstrate a corresponding awareness of how peace, order, and good government embody their own antitheses: how pride in a peaceful society can introspectionlead to self-absorption and withdrawal from political engagement (‘Poets’, ‘Fireworks’); how devotion to order can be taken to a Hobbesian extreme (‘Wheat Kings’); and how the ‘good’ in ‘good government’ can devolve into self-righteousness, prudishness, and small-mindedness. While the Hip wield their music against threatening ideologies associated with America, the axe has two blades, and one points at their own role in constructing and perpetuating Canadian identity myths and counter-ideologies.