For the sake of argument


Farley Mowat June 7 1958
For the sake of argument


Farley Mowat June 7 1958


Farley Mowat

The topic of Canadian American relationships ought to be extremely popular nowadays since there is probably no other single factor influencing our society which is of greater import to us. We should be thinking and talking about it with the same kind of vigor that we devote to discussions of hockey, sputniks, baseball, stocks, new car models, and the other vital elements in Canadian civilization.

of argument

We should be doing this—but we are not. It is almost more than a casual conversationalist's life is worth even to raise the subject in most gatherings of Canadians. I have the impression that the taboo on discussions of our relations with the Yanks is second only to the taboo which prevents overt recognition of the shortcomings of Canadians. But taboos do not spring spontaneously from the human soil—they are planted and carefully nurtured to maturity, and so it has been with this one. I do not know who planted it (though 1 suspect an adroit bit of propaganda culture on the part of American-owned Canadian businesses) but I do know who the gardeners are. They are my own flesh and blood—my fellow writers, radio commentators and other pundits of that ilk. For decades now’ the majority of them have been using their talents effectively to support the taboo by stifling general interest in the subject. Their methods are simplicity itself. They have taken what is essentially an emotionally charged subject and they have systematically bled it of all passion until the corpse has become a repellent travesty of an issue.

The recurrent theme in their work has been that we must never, never allow our blood to become heated by the mere fact that w'e arc being engulfed by a foreign power. Most of them, of course, do not really admit that the engulfment is a fact, but even those few who cannot evade this truth attempt to soothe our natural distress by offering us a version of that famous gem of passive philosophy: “When rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”

Well, 1 refuse to buy their brand of pap. I am a simple soul, and an emotional one. and I labor under the delusion that honest rage is one of the most invaluable weapons that the human animal possesses; that it was given to him for a purpose, and that if he fails to use it continued on page 59

For the sake of argument—Farley Mowat continued from page 15

“I have only contempt for those who demand that all fierce pride of country be driven out”

in his own defense he ceases to be an animal at all and becomes a vegetable.

As a natural consequence of this belief 1 also suffer from chauvinism, if you want to call it that. I have nothing but a great contempt for those of my peers who demand that all fierce pride of country be driven from our souls in the interests of brotherhood — particularly brotherhood with the Americans. Brotherhood is a fine ideal of course, but when it is only a synonym for subjugation, then it is something to be eyed askance. Not that I am an isolationist. I foresee the day, and I pray that it will come, when calculated miscegenation will crumble away all national boundaries and all racial barriers. But in the meantime 1 am not willing to substitute the kind of unity that comes with political and economic chicanery, for the substance of my dream of one world. Right now I am nationalist, and a red-hot one at that.

There is no need for me to list the formidable array of incontrovertible facts which prove conclusively that we are rapidly being engulfed by the United Slates. Despite the best efforts of the professional apologists and propagandists of radio, newspapers and magazines, these facts are undeniable. Even the most brotherly amongst us is uncomfortably aware of them. But there is a need for me to attempt the restoration of some honor to my caste, by speaking out against this monstrous cult whose symbol is the benevolent image of our good neighbor to the south.

Let’s get roaring mad

Rape is NOT inevitable, and even if it were there is no power on earth that can force us to take it lying down. I say that it is time we stopped affecting a spirit of Christian resignation in the f¿\ce of a systematic invasion of our rights and lives, and that it is time foins to pick up the first weapon which comes to hand and take a lusty smite at the enemy within our gates. 1 say it is time we stopped turning the other cheek, and got roaring mad instead. I say that it is time we recaptured something of the primitive instinct for survival which motivated our forefathers in the war of 1X12. I say it is time to tell our tooiational mentors of the writing and radio worlds to go and peddle their brand of tranquilizers to someone else.

As concrete evidence of the fact that we are not really the nation of zombies which our political and economic guardians would have us be. 1 say that we ought to immediately start defending that famous undefended border. Let us begin to recognize that border for what it really is—not a symbol of enlightened civilization, but a symbol of gutlessness and shame.

I make this suggestion from a unique position of strength—an almost unassailable one as far as my critics are concerned—for they will find it impossible lo dismiss me as a jealous little fellow who just isn't getting his cut from the rich cake with which the Americans are bribing us. 1 am getting my cut all right, and a fine fat slice it is too. Ninety-four percent of my income comes from the U. S. My income from my own country is, of course, a mere pittance since ! am not beholden to the economic majes-

ties w'ho hold the power of life and death over so many Canadian writers. I am —and 1 am proud of it even in these dangerous days when such a one is automatically suspect—a free agent.

I might, of course, he attacked on the

grounds that I am biting the hand that feeds me—except that this is obvious nonsense for. by assaulting the Americans. 1 am biting nobody’s hand but my own. If my United States readers become irritated with me they can simply

consign my books to the remainder shelves and forget about them and me as well. Vet. oddly enough, there is no sign of this happening. On the contrary, the more outspoken I become on the subject of Canadian-American relations.



‘What’s your name again, honey?”

the better the Yanks seem to like it.

This apparent anomaly intrigued me so much that I made a private investigation to find the whyfor. The results are revealing, and they bear strongly on the thesis of this article.

1 discovered that a very large proportion of our unconscious enemies have come to despise Canadians as a spineless, weak-kneed collection of nonentities who would not lift a hand in their own defense if John Foster Dulles was to arrive in Ottawa tomorrow and peremptorily take over the portfolio of foreign affairs. They have reached this conclusion only partly as a result of actual contact with Canadians. For the most part they have reached it as a result of reading what Canadians themselves have written about the relations between the two countries.

“Listen,” one of them told me. "Maybe what we’re doing up in Canada isn’t much better than what the Russians are doing with some of their satellites—but as long as there’s that great big chunk of real estate to the north of us, occupied only by jellyfish, what else would you expect us to do?”

What else indeed?

Or, as an industrialist told me (with an Eisenhowerian metaphor): “When you fellows begin to kick against the pricks, we’ll pull in our noses—not before.”

Tourist propaganda to the contrary, the fact is that many Americans have about the same measure of respect for us that they have for the Congo pygmies— less perhaps, for ihe pygmies still know how to shoot an arrow in their own defense.

The obverse of the coin is that, on those too-rare occasions when even the jellyfish becomes a little stubborn, the Yanks display the first seeds of a grudging admiration.

What would be the ultimate result if relations between the U. S. A. and Canada reverted to the normal pattern which exists between most sovereign peoples?

Obviously, and this is the thing that really bothers some of our political and

economic leaders, we would suffer a sharp and immediate blow in the pocketbooks of many of our larger corporations and business concerns. To some extent this would be reflected on the rest of us. But this transition period of tightening our belts while we became men, instead of slaves, would not last long. The crux of the whole matter is that we no longer vitally need the United States, while she still needs us very much indeed, and will go on needing us more and more as time progresses. We are her last frontier, and if we had the courage to build a fence across her path—a fence fitted with toll gates—we would almost certainly find that we could have our cake and eat it too.

The argument that we are absolutely dependent on U. S. capital investment to keep us going is one of the more grotesque of the many falsehoods which are used to keep us in line. We have no need to kowtow to Wall Street for the rest of our existence. A strong, touchy, and independent Canada (how that strains the imagination) would draw as much foreign capital as we could use and, what is more important, it would do so largely on our own terms. We would find that we no longer were engaged in trading off our mineral resources in exchange for a handful of poorly paid subordinate jobs for some Canadians. We might even—and the prospect is staggering—find Canadians directing, operating and owning their own industries and natural-resources developments.

If we should begin to display some nascent signs of guts, I am convinced that the net result would be real betterment in the human relations between us and the Americans. Even the American tourist (upon whose good will so much of Canadian policy is predicated) would be pleased with the change—once he had gotten over his first annoyance at discovering that Canada was no longer a dependent state of the Union.

But, much as I hate to admit it. I must acknowledge that I am not really an expert in economics. Very likely Í

shouldn’t have dared to trespass in that sacred field at all. However I can at least point out that there are a score of nations in the world, some of them of miniscule size, who treat Uncle Sam with a cold reserve and who nevertheless reap material benefits comparable to, if not superior to, those for which we have sold our souls.

As for the intellectual and cultural advantages of a divorcement from the U. S. A.—well, those are both bad words in the lexicon of my Canadian peers, and consequently they are so suspect that I would ho wise to leave them alone. Furthermore the defense of the American way of life (epitomized by what J. B. Priestley calls “admass”) by its paid and unpaid proponents in Canada is so absurd that an argument on -that score is almost always bootless. My call to arms is therefore based, almost in its entirety, on the material benefits which would accrue to us with independence. And I must admit, too, that I am half afraid to sec admass vanish from Canada for fear that it will leave nothing more substantial in its place than a great, hollow, echoing vacuum. (I except Quebec, Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island, where admass has not yet become totally ascendant.)

If we are to evade complete subjugation by the United States, if we are ever to become what we so pathetically and dishonestly call ourselves—a great nation in our own right—then it is time we raised the llag of revolution. It may well be past time, but what of that? A good revolution would at least rescue us from the status of the living dead and stir the lethargic blood in our slack-walled arteries. Let us revolt, and do it now— not with guns and bombs, which are unpredictable and dangerous weapons, but with our emotions and, if we still possess the use of them, with our minds as well. Let us rekindle the famous Biblical wrath against the oppressor and the invader, and go on a fine old-fashioned emotional rampage. We could begin by violently demolishing the myriad shibboleths with which the oracles of the good-neighbor cult have bound us. Try it—it is easy enough, and it is great good fun. Here are some examples:

“We must not be intemperate at what the U. S. A. does, for it is not an entity. but only a polyglot mass of human beings who, individually, are delightful people.” Sure enough! And by the same token does the existence of a lot of delightful Russians set the seal of sanctity on Communism?

"We must retain the good will of the U. S. A. at any cost, as a shield in the battle between East and West. If we

antagonize the Americans they will either abandon us, or take us over by force.” Assuming that we do need protection, we will get it from the U. S. A. regardless of whether or not we close and barricade our borders. The Yanks have no choice but to defend us—but let’s let them pay the shot. The profits they have made out of Canada in the last decade would very nearly equal their entire military budget for a year. As to the fantasy that they might take us over by force—can’t you picture the attempt being made?

"We owe the Americans a debt of gratitude for all that they have done to develop Canada.” This is equivalent to claiming that you owe your money lender a debt of gratitude for the privilege of paying him an exorbitant interest.

“We cannot exist economically without the closest integration with the American economy.” Who is “we”? If this pronoun refers to many of our industrialists. mining promoters and business entrepreneurs, there may be some truth in it. If it refers to the rest of us it is balderdash.

"Without the good will of the U. S. and entry into its lucrative markets, our standard of living would fall like a stone.” It might too, for a while. But then — who knows — we might learn to compete with the rest of the world as a grown-up and independent nation no longer in need of guidance from the hand of a domineering and primarily selfish nurse. We might even reduce our colossal trade deficit with the United States (that sterling symbol of how we benefit by being tied to the American economy). We could probably even continue to afford a new car every year together with all the rest of the trivia which admass has led us to believe constitute the only true criteria of happiness and success.

“Because wc arc such close geograph ical neighbors, with a common boundary, and because the U. S. A. is more powerful than we are, we must bow to the realities of accepting U. S. direction and leadership.” Try that one on a Frenchman, substituting German for American. For that matter, try it on Tito, with the U. S. S. R. in place of the U. S. A.

These are only random samples of the easy targets which the proponents of Canamericanism put up before us. Remember, though, they are seldom entirely vulnerable to logic alone. In order to knock them over like so many sitting ducks, you require a surcharge of emotion. Let the adrenalin flow, the eyeballs bulge, and the red blood mount into the head — and we may yet be free. ★