True, most of us don’t beat our wives or belt our children. Guns bother us. So does the sight of blood. We’re a peace-loving society. Or are we? The second Maclean’s-Goldfarb Report digs deeply into the raw emotions that shape our social attitudes-and discovers... We're More Violent Than We Think



True, most of us don’t beat our wives or belt our children. Guns bother us. So does the sight of blood. We’re a peace-loving society. Or are we? The second Maclean’s-Goldfarb Report digs deeply into the raw emotions that shape our social attitudes-and discovers... We're More Violent Than We Think


For a people much given to musing on self-identity, Canadians are a sadly ill-informed lot. We suffer from delusions not of grandeur but of grace. We like to think of ourselves as a peace - loving society, held together by warm family ties. When Conservative leader Robert Stanfield and Toronto’s Mayor William Dennison recently admonished American deserters not to stir up trouble here, they were making the common Canadian assumption that Canada is a nonviolent nation compared with the United States.

It is time we stopped fooling ourselves. This Maclean’s Goldfarb Report, the second part of an extensive survey of Canadian life in the 1970s, shows that violence is a matter of almost daily routine in our culture. Worse, the potential for far more violence is clearly present in our social attitudes — especially among English Canadians. There is also good evidence that our family life contains more violence and less love than we pretend.

These are some of the main conclusions of the study commissioned from Martin Goldfarb Consultants, one of Canada’s leading social-research firms. It is based on a statistically reliable national sample taken in all provinces. The charts and statistics on the next pages pose questions about our emotional attitudes to broad cultural and moral questions. The answers can help us comprehend our collective national character.

We need to know how Canadians really feel about love and violence because these feelings are acutely relevant in a time of decisions about culture and society. For the last 10 years or so Canada has been buffeted by the northern edge of a massive social revolution. American catchphrases, like highlights of a weather report, have warned us of approaching storms: “Some New Morality, together with scattered Sex and Violence, will lead to a Permissive Society. The outlook: turbulence within and between generations, followed by a high - pressure zone of Law and Order.”

Leaders in Canadian society — politicians, churchmen, teachers and jurists — react to these warnings in various ways. Some, insisting Canada is a faithful echo of the U.S., demand tougher laws and more censorship. Others argue that the atmosphere here is qualitatively different and that American mistakes can be avoided by granting greater freedoms. The missing factor in this debate has been a knowledge of what Canadians themselves think.

For instance, did you react with disgust and anger last fall when Ted Green of the Boston Bruins was nearly killed in a high-sticking duel with Wayne Maki of the St. Louis Blues during an NHL exhibition game in Ottawa? If you did, you probably think your reaction was shared by practically everybody else. In fact, a remarkably high proportion of people, 39% of all Canadians, like to see fighting at hockey games. The percentage of Canadians who enjoy brawls is even higher among males (46%) and persons earning less than $6,000 (48%), the two groups from which hockey draws many of its fans. Nearly half the people who watch the game positively want violence.

A high proportion of Canadians also want sexy movies. Last August police in Hamilton, Ontario, seized the Canadian-made film Columbus Of Sex, which contains four-letter words and nude scenes. Two of the producers were recently convicted on charges of obscenity. Anyone who agrees with the police action, thus upholding the view that policemen are the proper interpreters of prevailing morality, might be surprised to learn that 53% of Canadians would approve of a movie scene showing a nude female in a shower.

Clearly, English Canadians have much to learn about personal motivations within their own way of life. What’s more dangerous is our lack of understanding about non Anglo-Saxon attitudes. There could be an easy assumption among English Canadians that the French - speaking group would be more likely to start a civil war than the English themselves. The truth is far more English (39%) believe civil war is natural than do French (22%). Many English Canadians, mistaking Montreal’s frequent bombings and bank robberies for a Quebec - wide phenomenon, would probably bet that the French are more fond of guns than are the English. In fact only 4% of French Canadians say guns should be available to everybody; 10% of the English favor unrestricted sales.

Public attitudes to violence reflect similar attitudes within the privacy of the family. “There’s a much closer relationship between love and violence in English families than in French,” says Martin Goldfarb. “English Canadians tend to accept the snapping of emotional bonds — parents fighting or not speaking to each other — as a fairly natural occurrence. The French do not. In other words, English Canada is more inclined to see conflict as a part of love.”

Some Canadians may not like the picture presented by this report. Seeing ourselves as we really are rather than as we wish we were is always painful. But as Goldfarb interprets his findings, it could be dangerous for us to continue living with our delusions. “The molten stuff of violent emotion lies just below the surface of our society,” he says. “If the pressures build up, there are eruptions. The riot at Sir George Williams University, the rampage after the Kent State protest parade in Toronto, the tough tactics of the Montreal mail-truck drivers are signs of the times. We’re already living on the rim of a volcano.” DOUGLAS MARSHALL

What is the meaning of family fights?

Many Canadians believe that a family quarrel can often imply love. As the table below shows, nearly half the population say that a mother and son arguing over his standing in school demonstrates affection; 90% think such an argument is a natural part of domestic life. Says Goldfarb: “This is a clear indication that people generally feel that a child’s school grades are the business of the parent. The parent wants to hold that child accountable for his performance. The conflict that springs from this desire is an expression of love.’’

Among English Canadians, income level plays an important role in the identification of love with certain kinds of conflict. For example, 48% of people making between $10,000 and $12,000 a year said that a mother and father fighting over a son’s use of the car showed overtones of love. Only 25% of people making less than $6,000 relate such a fight to love. “Since poor people are less likely to view tensions within the family as signs of love,” says Goldfarb, “their personal relationships are probably less Milling. For them, a family fight is simply bad news.”

Attitudes about whether or not violence is natural vary widely by age, geographical area, education and income. The people most likely to regard a civil war as a natural development are those aged 25-34 (46%) with some university education (41%). A father and a mother not speaking to each other is considered most unnatural among French-speaking Quebeckers (83%). A high proportion of people aged 45-55 (47%) see nothing unnatural in a married couple’s not sleeping in the same bed after an argument. However, only 26% of their more romantic sons and daughters, people aged 25-34, think it is natural to carry quarrels that far.

Goldfarb concludes from these figures that there is a fair amount of casual bickering, sometimes leading to major fights, going on daily in the average middle-class, English-speaking home. Most educated, well-to-do people are able to perceive this bickering as being wholly or partly an expression of love. But it indicates the degree to which violence creeps into the routine pattern of our lives, and is a symptom of the continued increase in the divorce rate.

What makes a healthy family?

Many Canadians apparently believe family relationships are phony if they are based entirely on love. This attitude is particularly common among English Canadians. The population is evenly divided on the question of whether there is a need for both violence and love in a healthy family — 49% saying yes and 49% saying no. And nearly half the people questioned (48%) believe the family environment is best when there is some violence and lots of love. Some sample comments:

“When you bring up children in a loving home a few arguments don’t matter. Never hit anyone fiercely." (A laborer in Montreal.)

“Any child in a pampered state who has not had a normal family life that included a bit of violence will have a rude awakening when facing the world on its own." (A young Vancouver executive.)

“If there is no violence, somebody is bottling up an emotion. It is bad for a healthy family." (A male manager in Winnipeg.)

“People need violence to see if they love each other." (A grandmother in Quebec City.)

Can we bridge the gulf between our two cultures?

One area of common ground between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians revealed by the Goldfarb Report is burlesque. Roughly the same proportions of each group believe that burlesque shows should be wide open to everybody. This reflects a general similarity of views about public displays of sex. For instance, while the French (50%) are more likely than the Énglish (41%) to approve of a movie scene showing a nude couple in bed, the cultural attitudes are reversed when it comes to canoodling in parked cars.

There are, however, profound differences between the two cultures in their attitudes to violence and family love. For instance, here’s a breakdown into language groups of the people who think the following things should be sold or shown without restriction:

Most French Canadians (61%) believe violence is always bad, while only 38% of English Canadians think so. And although 63% of the French reject the suggestion that both violence and love are needed for a healthy family relationship, a majority of English (52%) accept it.

“French-speaking Canadians are clearly more emotional and desire close family relationships,” says Goldfarb. “These differences in attitude to violence inside and outside the family must affect lifestyles and choices of pastimes. They help explain why understanding the other culture must involve more than merely learning the language.” Goldfarb notes some cheerful indications that biculturalism is working in Quebec. Here is a breakdown of opinion of whether it is natural for parents to sleep in different beds after an argument. What is obviously happening is that the attitudes of English-speaking Quebeckers are gradually being influenced by the French outlook on life.

Is it wrong to show passion in public?

Canadians tend to think that physical expressions of love are most proper in the home, on that legendary seat of romance, the park bench, In a parked car and at the back of a movie theatre. People over 55 are far more prudish than the younger generation. In the older age group, for instance, 56% think kissing in a parked car is wrong while 69% of those under 25 find it perfectly proper. Says Goldfarb: “Analysis shows the greater your income and education, the greater freedom you feel about doing things in the open. It’s significant that 56% of university graduates and only 26% of those with some high school or less believe kissing in the street is proper.”

“Love should be a private thing, not for broadcasting.” (A city planner in Burnaby, BC.)

“A little kiss is good everywhere.” (A saleslady in Montreal.)

Should war toys and sex shows be banned?

A curious response emerges from the table below: nearly half of all Canadians believe war toys should be banned, but only one quarter favor outlawing real guns. We seem aware of the dangers of encouraging violence in children but less ready to deny the violent emotions in ourselves. Also significant are the responses to lotteries and casinos. People tend to find milder forms of gambling acceptable but reject the more lurid versions. Males and people under 25 are far more prone to say everything should be freely available.

Who should teach us how to love?

Most people think the home (92%) and the school (37%) are the right places for children to learn what is and is not acceptable love. Only 27% mentioned the church and 12% said friends should do the explaining. These findings underline the declining role of the churches. Perhaps the reason for this is that 28% of people think religion promotes .violence as well as love and 5% believe religion leads only to violence.

Are we ready for nudes on TV?

People generally find intimate physical relationships more acceptable in a movie, where admission can be controlled to some extent, than on the home TV screen. But a significant number (31%) are ready to accept nudes on television as well. Why is society becoming less inhibited? "It has to do with increasing affluence and more education,” says Goldfarb. “At the lower end of the income scale, only 36% approve of nudes in movies. But 54% of the people in the $10,000 range find them acceptable. Affluence gives people a desire for personal freedoms. The well-educated and wellto-do have faith in their ability to run the show. The less affluent and less educated are more prepared to accept that whoever is in authority knows what’s best.”

Do we enjoy seeing violence?

People are generally reluctant to admit they like seeing violence. But the chart below suggests that many people certainly enjoy it. Analysis of this chart, says Goldfarb, indicates that poorer people don't become as upset by conflict as those who are better off. Almost all (92%) those making between $10,000 and $12,000 are disturbed by pictures of war massacres. Of the people making less than $6,000 only 76% react negatively to such pictures. Goldfarb explains: “People in the lower-income groups are pragmatic about conflict. They are less inclined to say violence is a basic human need but they are also less timid about witnessing it. Violence is something they live with.”

When is love immoral?

The vast majority of Canadians believe love is never immoral. Most of those who have reservations think that love becomes immoral when the sex act is forced. “The responses to this question also pointed up the fundamental differences in the attitudes of men and women,” notes Goldfarb. "Despite women’s progress toward equality, it is evident that women’s motivations are different. In this instance, women are inclined to say love is immoral when other people get hurt. The men are much more selfish and indifferent to the feelings of others.” Some sample answers:

“When you cheat on your spouse." (A middle-aged housewife in Downsview, Ont.)

“If it is done in front of children or in public." (A young Montreal saleslady.)

"When erotic love is practised licentiously." {A watchman in Saint John, NB.)

“I can never see love as immoral in any way." (A young Montreal woman.)

“If it is immoral, it is not love." {A young Vancouver man).

“When two men or two women are together." {A female truck driver, Vancouver.)

"When it is sold.” ( A Montreal manufacturer.)

“It all depends on the time, the manner and the aesthetics.” {A retired Quebec farmer.)

“When it is only sexual." (A Quebec City grandmother.)

Who are the most violent people in our society?

A majority of Canadians believe that violence is inevitable, sometimes even beneficial in our society. Asked whether violence is always bad or evil, 55% of the respondents said no. More than half the population believe violence is in some ways a basic human need; 15% are convinced of this. A breakdown by income groups (see table at right) shows that people in the $10,000 to $12,000 bracket favor violence most strongly. These make up the group Goldfarb calls “the strivers” in contemporary society, wage earners aggressively trying to get ahead in the world. They view life as a tough dog-eat-dog struggle, in which some violent behavior is necessary for survival. A sampling of comments confirms this:

“People need violence, especially in 1970. They have to fight to get what they want." (A young Montreal cartoonist.)

“We are all animals and we also have some of the basic instincts of love and violence." (A middle-aged Toronto salesman.)

“A person has violent emotions that have to be released." (A Winnipeg comptroller.)