Returning to Eastern Canada after a few years away, it is striking how bizarre it all is politically. Political correctness rules; prejudices are deep.
Why? I think it is because Canadians tend to be too respectful of authority. If someone in authority tells them a thing is so, they do not question it.
This goes back to the country’s founding. Canada was loyal when the rest of America split away from the European motherlands. Loyal acquiescence to established authority is the essence of Canada as a nation. Toronto is perhaps the acme of this: “Toronto the Good,” always earnest. I smile every time I pass by the sign for Temperance Street. That’s Toronto. Political correctness is just the new orthodoxy, as moral improvement once was.
This respect for authority can be Canada’s strength. So long as the ruling elite is trustworthy and capable, it makes things efficient. Toronto, and Canada, often function like clockwork.
Until recently, the Canadian elite was indeed generally trustworthy and capable. The old idealistic, ill-paid Canadian civil service, the civil service of Lester Pearson. The old Bay and St. James Street establishment who sent their sons to spartan and competitive conditions at Upper or Lower Canada College, McGill, Western, Dalhousie or Queen’s to sink or swim, and above all to learn self-discipline and the trick of deferred gratification.
But that has changed. Since the 1960s, the idea of learning discipline has long been out of fashion. No more drafting young men to war; no more corporal punishment in the schools; no more spanking; no more sexual abstinence before marriage. As a result, I think, Canada’s elite has learned to be less responsible, more self-indulgent. With no tradition of questioning authority, this puts Canada in jeopardy.
Things are still holding together reasonably well—a good system can carry on for some time on pure momentum. But gradually, we seem to be seeing more corruption in our politicians; less restraint in our judges; less service in our civil servants; less honour in our politics. The system, in sum, is growing decadent.
The American ruling class is no doubt as corrupt; but their population is less servile. They should fare better. Europe may or may not be as corrupt; but they at least do not define themselves by their loyalty.
Canada seems doomed to a long, slow decline: culturally, economically, politically.
Americans already seem to be rebelling against this self-indulgence in the elite. If they do, rejection of self-indulgence becomes a new orthodoxy. Canada may then embrace this as it embraces all orthodoxies. The Canadian ruling classes should then straighten themselves out over a generation or so.
Still, such thoughts don’t encourage me to return from my self-imposed exile.