Why do Canadian elites accept such mediocrity from their “betters”?

John Ralston Saul suggests it’s because of their personal insecurities.


The Colonial Mind

Perhaps this intellectual vacuum in public policy is also an echo of the colonial undercurrent I keep coming back to. Leaders in colonies can rarely absorb local culture – their own culture – into the way they think. At some profound, unconscious level they think and act as if they find themselves accidentally in the colony. Accidentally or temporarily. Their citizenship is an inexplicable emotional accident. Their real culture is that of the empire. Or, in the words of economist and philosopher Amartya Sen, “the colonized mind is parasitically obsessed with the extraneous relation with the colonial powers.” It is their responsibility to echo the empire’s culture in order to keep standards up in this provincial place. How do you keep up standards? By ensuring that your models for thought come from there not here. By educating yourself and your children in their manner, if at all possible in their schools and universities to reflect their idea of standards, by imitating their policies, invoking their heroes, holidaying where they holiday, following their fashions, drinking their wine. Does this sound silly? Of course. Almost nothing is sillier than a colonial mind at work…

Fear and Self-Loathing

Canada’s leaders hate to hear any suggestion that they still suffer from colonial reflexes. They are convinced of their sophisticated worldliness. After all, only a sophisticated, worldly person could understand that the destiny of a smaller country is to have its interests defined by the empire of the day, indeed by outside influences in general.

At its core is a personal insecurity that cannot be intellectually explained or dealt with. This may as easily involve a physically strong, well-educated, rich person as the opposite. In fact, the insecurity is more likely to blossom in successful persons because they quickly run up against the elite’s confusion over its own purpose.

Such uncontrollable insecurity in turn produces a profound self-loathing. The sufferers can rarely identify or express their emotional state as either insecurity or self-loathing. And so it must be expressed in a compensatory manner. Sometimes this takes the form of aggressive cynicism, as in, nothing basic to their own origins could be worth struggling for. Sometimes the sufferers search for an individual or a cause they can adore and so emotionally attach themselves to. This must also inevitably involve an important foreign element. In the shadow cast by what they accept to be a greater force, their insecurity is assuaged…

In practical terms, insecure people living in smaller societies find emotional security through the acceptance of their inferiority before another civilization

A Fair Country: Telling truths about Canada, John Ralston Saul, Viking Books, 2008, p. 230-2.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: