Watch the whole thing. This is a Canada so different from the Canada from the one we’re in now, the Canada that now sits in a deep, dark, chilly trough dug by our illegitimate prime minister, Stephen Harper.
The gender politics in this video may be a bit antediluvian, but I’m going to overlook that.
At about 37:00, Cohen recites his poem The only tourist in Havana turns his thoughts homeward. I’ve always liked this poem, but the line “let us govern Canada” seems particularly poignant right now, even if he was being fully ironic.
Come, my brothers,
let us govern Canada,
let us find our serious heads,
let us dump asbestos on the White House,
let us make the French talk English,
not only here but everywhere,
let us torture the Senate individually
until they confess,
let us purge the New Party,
let us encourage the dark races
so they’ll be lenient
when they take over,
let us make the CBC talk English,
let us all lean in one direction
and float down
to the coast of Florida,
let us have tourism,
let us flirt with the enemy,
let us smelt pig-iron in our back yards,
let us sell snow
to under-developed nations,
(It is true one of our national leaders
was a Roman Catholic?)
let us terrorize Alaska,
let us unite
Church and State,
let us not take it lying down,
let us have two Governor Generals
at the same time,
let us have another official language,
let us determine what it will be,
let us give a Canada Council Fellowship
to the most original suggestion,
let us teach sex in the home
let us threaten to join the U.S.A.
and pull out at the last moment,
my brothers, come,
our serious heads are waiting for us somewhere
like Gladstone bags abandoned
after a coup d’état,
let us put them on very quickly,
let us maintain a stony silence
on the St. Lawrence Seaway.
At university in Montreal, Cohen, always unorthodox, got himself elected as president of the debating union and then refused to call any debates.
“Montreal is still small enough to have one or two late night centres and into this funnel is drawn everyone who happens to be up that night, or at least a representation of the various groups operating in the night, and groups operating in the night always have a certain kind of interest, and a certain kind of ritualistic atmosphere. And into these places, these special places in the city… is drawn this very urgent cross section of people who have somehow committed the first rebellious act [you] can perform…refusing to sleep. That’s the real rebellion against life and the generative process, that’s the real human idea: I refuse to sleep, I’m going to protest the idea of sleep by turning night into day…” (33:00)
“I think there should be a place for unwanted hair in our society. A hair museum… I think there should be hair asylums… college beards abandoned for careers… a man should be able to go into one of these hair asylums and, you know, review his whole life.”
“You only have four or five friends; you’re lucky if you have that many.”
Above, looking like the love child of Dustin Hoffman and Mark Ronson.