My comment to “Welcome to Underachiever Island”

by Yule Heibel on July 5, 2008

Welcome to Underachiever Island is the name of an article by Carolyn Heiman, in today’s local paper.  Although I swore I’d abstain from the paper’s “sound off” functionality, I couldn’t resist leaving a comment after looking up the backstory behind Heiman’s piece.  I’m especially intrigued by Michael Ross, who sparked Roy Weston’s letter, and wonder if he is the same Ross who worked in Israeli counter-intelligence?  Fascinating story.  Anyway, here’s my comment, which I’m blogging as a mnemonic for myself (the paper’s sound-offs disappear very quickly):

Was it a bit of an underachievement (editor’s cut?) to leave out what prompted Mr. Weston’s letter?  Weston wrote in response to a letter by Michael Ross (see, which in turn objected to a thoughtful article by Dave Burwick, an American living in Canada (but preparing to return Stateside) (see

Anyway, point is this: that Ross’s letter objected to Burwick’s defining Canada’s western terminus at Vancouver, and leaving out Vancouver Island (leading Ross to ask, rhetorically, what are we, chopped liver?).  Ross listed all the talent that Vancouver Island has produced (and a subsequent writer to Roy Weston pointed out the our talent leaves because we don’t have the facilities and infrastructure to support it — he wrote that Weston should ask himself why Michael Fox is no longer his neighbour in Burnaby).

I’m actually really more intrigued by Michael Ross, who prompted Roy Weston’s letter: is he the author of The Volunteer? (see  If so, Wow!, that’s another high-achiever right here in Victoria.

Anyway, fun article — I’m sure this will rile some people, especially Vancouver Island’s misunderstood geniuses, of which we have an overachievement, er, I mean overabundance!

I was tempted to add that the long long list of overachievers who left Vancouver Island should also have included Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, but I decided not to get into that Victoria-Vancouver rivalry again (the latter seem to believe that he is “theirs”).  Decided to abstain. Not.  <haha>

PS/edit: can I just add that Dave Burwick’s article (the one that led to the letters by Michael Ross and Roy Weston), called Goodbye, Canada, is one of the nicest things I’ve read by an American writing about Canada?  And that, ironically, it answers (before the question was even asked!) the debate raging around the “sound off” on our local paper here?  (Incidentally, they censored or deleted or blipped my comment — it hasn’t appeared, even all these hours after I posted it.)  So, thank you Dave Burwick for writing this, on the differences between Canadians and Americans:

Our differences are embedded in our genetic codes. While the U. S. Declaration of Independence promotes “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the British North America Act talks about “Peace, order and good government.” One led directly to “manifest destiny” and aggressive individualism, the other to “manifest tolerance” and one of the most accepting societies the world has known.

It’s easy to be open when you live in a homogeneous society like Denmark (no offence to the Danes). It’s far tougher in immigrant-rich, multicultural Canada, where diverse cultures must learn to live harmoniously. And Canada’s successful cultural connectiveness has produced many wonderful things: A global perspective, a willingness to compromise and social benefits like universal health care (yes, even though it’s not perfect).

Some Americans would say, “That’s all very nice, but the result is that Canada is a bland society with little edge.” I say they are wrong. There’s plenty of edge here — just look to the ice. It took me a while to figure this out, but one day, as I watched my 8-year-old, skating with his Leaside Flames teammates, I had an epiphany: Hockey is not just the national pastime and passion, it’s the embodiment of Canadian values. It’s about work ethic, team play, physical conditioning and mental toughness. It’s also about knowing when to leave all of that on the ice and move on.

Which leads me to the most important thing Americans can learn from Canadians: How to know when enough is enough, when it’s time to just be content with your life. Family and personal passions are more important to Canadians than work. People seem to know when the balance of life is just right. Their moral compass seems to always point to “true north.” (full article)

Additional PS/update: I love the discussion on this topic over at Vibrant Victoria’s forum.  As usual, aastra makes all the right points, very similar to Michael Ross’s, too.

{ 1 comment }

Jarod Clark July 6, 2008 at 7:52 am

The title alone engages the audience.

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