Justin Trudeau belongs to the Star Wars generation. This is an important thing to know about him. Star Wars featured a brave young kid who ventured out into the galaxy, found loyal comrades-in-arms, confronted evil and blew up a massive death-generating space station once he discovered the Force was with him.
Star Wars inspired a generation. It taught a zillion adolescent kids that noble ideals, a pure heart, a can-do spirit and a gang of trusted buddies can let you accomplish the impossible. Our Prime Minister is a major Star Wars fan. Maybe he believes he's Luke Skywalker.
This week Mr. Trudeau took a group of sick children from an Ottawa hospital to a special screening of the new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was a fantastic, feel-good photo op, because he was completely believable in the part.
As PM, he's the most brilliant image-maker since his father, whose jaunty pirouette behind the Queen spoke volumes about Canada's confident new sense of national identity.
Justin also speaks to the age. He is super-, ultra-relatable, and people love it. They loved the photo shoot in Vogue. They loved it when he welcomed refugees in the middle of the night. They love it when he wades among the people and stops for endless selfies. He cares! Mr. Trudeau truly believes that if only we believe in him, he can make it better – whatever it happens to be. He truly believes that a positive attitude and respectful consultation with all the parties at the table can reconcile all conflicting claims. He's not interested in incremental gains. He's interested in great leaps forward. Transformation is his thing.
It's impossible not to hope he will succeed. The other day I heard him speak when he received the final version of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report (whose every recommendation he has vowed to implement). His tone was heartfelt and sincere. Maybe there really is a way out of this mess, I thought fleetingly.
In a world where so many problems seem so intractable, this gale of optimism is refreshing. Like the Star Wars message, Mr. Trudeau says we can accomplish anything if only we try hard enough.
He has a remarkably old-fashioned, romantic view of government – as an entity led by selfless politicians who, in concert with wise experts and devoted public servants, can come up with compassionate solutions for all our social problems. The fact that governments throughout the Western world have conspicuously failed at this task for the past 30 years does not deter him.
In fact, Mr. Trudeau seems as confident of his ability to rearrange our future as he is of his ability to rearrange his office. "There's a sense that maybe we've reached the end of progress, that maybe it's the new normal that the quality of life is going to go down for the next generation," he told the guy from Vogue. "Well, I refuse to accept that. And I refuse to allow that to happen."
He also believes the great question that animated his father's generation – the question of Canada's national identity – is obsolete, even dangerous. The sooner we discard our old ideas of identity, the better.
"There is no core identity, no mainstream in Canada," he told The New York Times Magazine. "There are shared values – openness, respect, compassion, willingness to work hard, to be there for each other, to search for equality and justice. Those qualities are what make us the first postnational state." Personally, I'm not sure I'm going to like the first postnational state. It sounds to me more like a manual for kindergarten teachers than a call to unity and purpose.
I also wonder what will happen when Mr. Trudeau finds that some circles are hard to square. In a world of conflicting claims and limited resources, sometimes you actually have to choose.
He assures us the environment and the economy go together like paddles and canoes, which is demonstrably not the case. As for truth and reconciliation, plenty of folks want nothing less than aboriginal sovereignty, with their own land and laws, and how do we reconcile claims like that?
The trouble is, it's not a Star Wars world. No matter how optimistic you may be, the Force isn't always with you. Good luck, Luke. It's a cold galaxy out there.