Written by Nick Naej
Edited by Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au
A recurring theme of Canada, and especially Vancouver, is that we are all very nice people. Having travelled across Canada and along the west coast of the United States, it’s very clear that this is a true fact. When it comes to our interactions with people, we hold the door open, we smile and say hello, and most of all, we say thanks to the bus driver, even if he was an ass. As defining as our niceness is as a nation, our niceness also leads to our inferiority to other countries in terms of business and our strive for business.
Being the nice people that we are, we are often too polite and too scared of confrontation. When there is something on someone’s teeth, we let them roam around and about their day without a clue that there is something there. We are far too polite to deliver embarrassing or humiliating news to the people who we love and need it the most. As a result, a status quo is developed of niceness and politeness, adding a veil to a love-needed scene.
Relating to our scene, people are too nice to say what’s really on their mind when evaluating someone else’s work. We take a look at it and we tend to nod and say, “Good stuff!” We would go on with our lives while the other person is clueless on how to make their things better. Encouragement is not the main thing they are looking for – if the passion is there, there is almost no need for encouragement because their project is a self-powered machine. What they do need is words of constructive criticism, if it is necessary. Constructive criticism will not only help them grow as an artist, but it helps them grow as a person and helps develop the overall scene with higher quality work. This gray boundary of what is necessary and what isn’t is too difficult to define, especially with the widening scope of what really belongs in street culture and what doesn’t.
As we become more accustomed to a lowered state of confrontation and a higher state of niceness, this becomes the equilibrium – the nicer it becomes, the harder everyone tries to work back towards the equilibrium. People are resistive towards constructive comments and it further reinforces the perception that constructive criticism is not welcome, not even in the slightest. People don’t fully grasp exactly how important constructive criticism is, especially for the independent scene.
The niceness also relates to the lack of positive aggression towards striving for greater success. We are far too nice to bump someone else off because they are not pulling their part, or to achieve what they need to achieve. In some ways, this is a good and a bad thing – good in pragmatic terms and bad in success terms.
Reps and agents down south look up to the north more often than before – they are scouting for more talent. With Canada producing more talent by the day, more and more of our undiscovered talent is flying south of the border. The talent is here, but the reason why our talent leaves is because of the lack of personal development and the lack of opportunity.
Our talent needs to stay home and our scene needs to grow. But how can we do this when niceness is something that we take pride in and is actually something so good that we have going? What defines us as a nation also inhibits us as a nation.