That particular description of government is the one used by China to explain the rather special economic and political freedoms of Hong Kong versus the more totalitarian nature of the mainland. It’s a common phrase – for China. One country, two systems.
But it has never been that simple. Not for China. Not for Canada. Hell, we have the French/Anglo dichotomy at the very least. Then there there is the east/west, north/south, First Nations/everyone else differences and the never-ending list of factions, groups, ethnicities and cultures (at the very least). We are a big country with a lot of ‘officially recognized’ differences.
We can also construct similar descriptors to explain the different systems of rural life versus the more regimented and limiting structures of the city. Country folk do not have many of the common urban living systems and we have employed a few uniquely different systems as well. Seriously, dude, country life is way, way different.
And I am not talkin’ just the country-bumpkin stuff this time. This ain’t about flowers and ravens and oyster gathering vs transit and queuing. Or trading pies for eggs at the local market. This is considerably more freedom, real liberation, real life. Really different.
Let me list a few topic headings that are totally different in small-town or rural Canada vs the big city: traffic, parking, time, ease, friendliness. Police-state mentality, patience, security, health-care. Rule enforcement, alienation/isolation/loneliness. How about ambient noise, intrusive noise and simply silence..? Air. Water. Trade. Mileage. Fashion. Expenses. Amount of time worked to pay for life. Amount of free time.
The categories list is endless and, almost every time, the differences show up in favour of rural or small community living. Well, for me, anyway.
Then there is the just-plain weird city stuff, the stuff that has no rural correlation. Like road rage, gang-related violence in public places and even (what!?) Craigslist paranoia.
Someone advertised something the other day, I wrote and asked for the address so that I could go see it. “I’ll give it to you when you are on your way. For now, it is just North Delta. Here’s my number. Call me when you are in the neighbourhood”.
“OK. But that’s weird. Why are you doing that?”
“I can’t just give out my address anymore these days. People come into my yard and steal what I have advertised. I want to know when you are on your way and then I can suss out if you are a real customer or not.”
My point is (leaving aside the wacky stuff) that we have two systems, too. In fact, we have three or more if you count the various forms of the underground economy. Or the multicultural communities. Or the 1%-ers. Or the newly emigrated. Or First nations.
But back to the visible systems: at the very least there are those who exclusively use money and those who use only plastic. And there are those of us that mix the two. And there is a lot of ‘off-the-books’ transacting going on all over as well. There are those who shop online and those who have never done it. There are those who trade and barter and those who are knee deep in accounts an record keeping. And debt. Even different cultures within our country seem to be able to transact in foreign ways that are outside normal Canadian channels. We are a mish-mash of systems.
Not counting crime which, I understand is a trillion dollars a year industry in Canada all by itself.
All this is not that unusual. I have been to many countries and it is always the same. One country and a myriad of systems. There is a Sheriff of Nottingham in every country and more than just a few Robin Hoods countering his system any way they can. For fifty-five years I played in the official straight and narrow Canadian economy exclusively. Then I went feral and added the free and natural forest/ocean largess to my unconscious accounting and larder. Then a bit of favour-trading and the odd bit of barter were integrated into my life. As my garden grew, so did my trading and barter account. Then I found that credit card use constituted a ten percent premium on my purchase and so I have been dealing primarily in cash for the last few years. Recorded and receipted, of course, but cash nevertheless. But I also indulge in a bit of scavenging/salvaging now and again, too.
The really big change economically speaking has been a return to old hippy, anti-materialistic values (within comfort and reason, of course). We are simply not keeping up with any Jones’s in any status category whatsoever. And we avoid debt like the plague. We haven’t changed systems so much as dropped most of them by participating less.
Conclusion: Canada is at the very least two countries, with ten or more systems (that I can see – and that is not counting the ones that I can’t see) and growing. Big city living is just one of many and, to my mind, it is like high-priced retail shopping compared to a country free-store.