One of the most interesting journeys I’ve undertaken for years was a recent trip to Sweden (see page 34). As a Canadian nationalist, not the least of Sweden’s fascinations for me was the fact that it’s the only country I can think of which has protected itself against Americanization without becoming anti-American in the process.
At the turn of the century, one fifth of Sweden’s population emigrated to America (and “American fever” is still a recognized entry in Swedish dictionaries), but the awful leverage of materialistic anticipation which has turned so much of Europe into an outpost of the American empire has made little headway there. Any thoughtful comparison of the Americanization of Canada with the immunity of Sweden adds to the realization that we have, in this country, blindly been concerned with only one side of an equation.
The conquest of any nation takes place not on battlefields, nor even in business boardrooms, but in the soul of its people and the minds of their leaders. Colonization is not an iso-
lated act. Conquest requires surrender. (Without surrender, colonization is ultimately impossible, as in Vietnam, for instance.) The choice between surrender and resistance is dictated not by material resources or available manpower, but by a state of psychological abdication that Canadians have succumbed to and the Swedes have not. We’ve never seemed so rabbit-scared as a nation as we did in August during the government’s panic over Nixon’s protectionist policies. As Northrop Frye, the eminent
literary critic, once noted: “Our country has shown a lack of will to resist its own disintegration. Canada is practically the only country left in the world which is a pure colony — colonial in psychological terms as well as in terms of mercantile economics.” Novelist Hugh MacLennan has taken another approach, comparing Canada to an about-to-be-ravished woman. “When a Canadian says, ‘No,’ ” he has written, “it’s said the way a woman says ‘No’ — or yes, for that matter. And you have to know a woman pretty well before you can accept her statement as an affidavit. There’s something feminine about the Canadian mentality. And then, too, there’s the well-known saying that you might as well relax and enjoy it.”
The unhappy fact is that if the American conquest (and the U.S. poured yet another billion dollars in direct investments into Canada last year) is based on American strength, the Canadian surrender is based on Canadian weakness. Surrender is essentially the admission that something is lacking and a willingness to take the chance that the conqueror will be able to supply it.
The Americans are in the process of taking us over not because they want to be our conquerors but because we want to surrender. It’s that terrible ingrained uncertainty in us, the absence of knowing who we are and why we are here, that is gradually depriving us of our nationhood. And it’s that uncertainty that we must dispel. ■
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