"ON RESTING MERRY IN 1948"
AN ADDRESS BY DR. B. K. SANDWELL, B.A., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.C.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H. Howse.
Thursday, December 16th, 1948.
HONOURED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
Our guest of honour today, Dr. B. K. Sandwell, Editor-in-Chief of "Saturday Night" really needs no introduction to a Toronto audience and I feel that I would be very remiss if I trespassed on his time with any long introduction.
B.K. as he is affectionately known to all his friends in the publishing world, has had a brilliant career as a journalist, freelance writer and author.
He also spent four years as Assistant Professor of Economics at McGill University, and two years as head of the English Department at Queen's University, and in a few moments I think you will agree he is truly a man of letters.
High honours came to Dr. Sandwell in 1925 when he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. The subject of Dr. Sandwell's address today is "On Resting Merry In 1948"--he does not seem to have left much time--personally, I have not the least idea what that means or what he is going to talk about, but having heard B.K, speak on many former occasions, I know we have a treat in store; his ready wit and brilliant satire interspersed with much profound wisdom is always very refreshing.
I now have very much pleasure in introducing Dr. B. K. Sandwell, B.A., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.C.,--in short, B.K.
Mr. President, Ladies and Fellow Members of The Empire Club: What a poor thing is the ordinary human speaking voice when placed in competition with the kind of thing that we have just heard and that you are going to hear again in a few minutes. How can I have the nerve--I, who have nothing of any real importance to say to you, who am really a hyphen, an intermission, so to speak, thrown in between the two main portions of the programme--how can I have the nerve to stand up and tall: to you even about a Christmas Carol, for I must assure you, Mr. President, that the words of the title of my address are taken from the words of a Christmas Carol which begins "God rest you, Merry Gentlemen", and which I thought would be more particularly appropriate for me to use in an address to the male Members of the Empire Club on the one occasion in the year in which they have their lady friends with them and might therefore reasonably be in some danger of dismay.
This Club, for many years, has recognized the impossibility of being merry at Christmas time without including the fair sex in the proceedings of the merriment, and this occasion, this annual event, is one which I think should be encouraged and which I am determined to encourage by making my remarks as brief as possible.
I was going, Mr. President, to talk to this audience about the causes, the basis for merriment which exist in these closing weeks of the year 1948 and I wasn't going to confine it very strictly to that because, after all, we shall very shortly be in the year 1949. I thought perhaps I should say a few things about the power situation in Southern Ontario, about the prospective difficulties of the Berlin air lift when the snow really settles in Berlin, about the alarming rise in the prices of everything, and about the still more alarming indications that possibly prices may be about to stop rising, about the use of the veto in the United Nations, and the very fortunate fact that we don't need to use any veto because our side has a majority in the United Nations, about the lack of peace in China and about the equally alarming prospect that peace may be established in China by people of whom we do not wholly approve.
It seems to me that all those subjects would make a good foundation for an address on resting merry at this particular moment of the year, and it occurred to me per haps that was too large a subject for a hyphen intermission speech which I feel should be limited very strictly to fifteen minutes, and I decided to talk about oleomargarine.
I don't want to treat that as a frivolous subject. Oleomargarine is a subject of deep social significance. Most of you, I am convinced from the conversations I have had with some of you, don't even know how to pronounce it. There is no reason why you should know how to pronounce it, seeing you were prohibited by law from asking for it. But now that we are no longer prohibited by law, I have hastened to consult the dictionaries and encyclopedias and I have found that it is pronounced with the "g" being hard, as in the expression, "Give us some", and the "i" short. It is not Mar-jarene, but Mar'-garine. I give you that on the authority of the Oxford Dictionary and I will back the Oxford Dictionary against- anyone.
It may interest you further to know that the derivation of the term comes from a Greek word meaning "pearl", and I have not yet found anybody who has the slightest idea what connection there is between pearls and oleo. But one thing about oleo is that it is a substitute for butter and, Mr. President, here we get to our ground for making merry, for I believe this to be the first time in the history of Canada that there has been a nation-wide rejoicing over no more substantial cause than the fact that a new substitute for something has been made accessible. Eight column headlines on the front pages of all the newspapers. Interviews with the leading clergy, farmers, economists, social service workers of the country-all of them enthusiastic about the great privilege we are about to enjoy in being permitted to consume a substitute for butter and, Mr. President, I draw certain conclusions from these circumstances.
I draw the conclusion that we have entered into the great age of substitutes and that from now on probably most of the reason we shall have for thankfulness and thanksgiving merriment at Christmas and rejoicing at other seasons of the year will be the provision of some new substitute for something we used to have plenty of before but don't have now.
Before I leave oleomargarine and go on to some of our substitutions, may I remark that even the fact we are to enjoy oleomargarine is due to the actions of a substitute for Parliament. Parliament enacted that we shouldn't have oleomargarine, but Parliament didn't disenact that enactment. Oh, no, Parliament goes around the corner back to the Supreme Court and says, "Now we are in a nasty position, will you kindly get us out?"
Substitutes! Substitutes all over the place. Let us take first of all, because this is the good season for it, let us take the subject of the Arts and let us, since this is a musical luncheon, let us think a little about music. Mr. President, the Canadian air is filled with noises transmitted by radio or hurled forth from records, noises which purport to be music but which are really only a substitute for anything that can properly and scientifically be regarded as music. They are not a bad substitute. They are very much like margarine--not a bad substitute if you can get the real thing. But your presence here today, your presence here to listen to these singers and musicians whom we have with us is an evidence that you know the difference between music produced by a human being to be listened to by other human beings with no other intervening mechanism than the waves of the air that exist between the producer and the consumer. That is music. The other things are just substitutes. Nice substitutes, as I say, when you can't get to real music. It is nice to be able to turn a dial and listen to the imitation stuff but it is a substitute, and you know it. If you didn't know it, in spite of the fact I hope you all cheerfully pay your $2.50 license fee for your radio, if you didn't know it you wouldn't be here.
I was reading the newspaper this morning when I sat down to scratch a few notes to shorten up this address which, as I say, started out by being a long address on all the problems of the world, I was reading the newspaper and it occurred to me that the newspapers are greatly affected by this deterioration from the real thing to substitutes. I can remember-a few of us can remember• few of the members of this audience can remember• time when newspapers chiefly contained news. I am wrong there. Of course I should say they chiefly contained news and advertisements. What I mean is in the editorial columns they chiefly contained news. Now, Mr. President, half of their space at least is occupied by stuff that I, personally, cannot bring myself to consider as news in any shape, form or quality. Pages, pages of comic strips. Nice comic strips. I study them, I enjoy them. But hang them all-they are not news! Syndicated articles dealing with every conceivable subject except what happened yesterday and what is going to happen tomorrow and at the present moment our two evening newspapers are busy outscooping one another on the Life of the Founder of Christianity, which happened some considerable time ago and cannot therefore be regarded as a matter for current news communication.
And some of the more grievous substitutions-substitutions in which I fear we all have something of a hand--we are developing, I am afraid, a substitute for Patriotism. I don't know what it is. I don't know what to call the masquerade as Patriotism. Oleomargarine is not allowed to masquerade as butter. Some of the others do masquerade as that for which they substitute. I have no doubt oleomargarine would if we allowed it to. I don't know what the substitute for Patriotism does masquerade as. I can remember a time when Canadians wanted their country, their Canada--this is away back in the '90s, when we used to talk about the 20th century as being Canada's century--I can remember when they wanted to talk about their country as being great and powerful and generous to use the power and the greatness that Nature endowed her with for the general good of Humanity. Now, we don't seem to care. The Government doesn't seem to care and most of us don't seem to care very much how small Canada remains, how limited its population is in relation to its size and its natural resources, provided that nobody is allowed into it who might conceivably compete with us in our particular line of industry or business or other effort.
I am a little ashamed to lay much stress on that point today because I am an Editor and I suppose editors are in less danger of immediate competition from immigrants or refugees from Czechoslovakia or Latvia, or displaced persons, we are probably in less danger of immediate competition from them than some of the other occupation which flourish in this Dominion. After all, you have got to be in Canada for a few years before you can do much in the way of writing editorials about it, though I did have a young man in my office the other day who came over on Mr. Drew's scheme and who wanted to start in, not only writing but broadcasting immediately for the benefit of the people of Canada. I thought he was a little premature.
Whatever this substitute is, whatever this new attitude toward our country, this satisfaction with its comparative insignificance, this willingness to have it stay a matter of twelve and a half or thirteen or, if the French-Canadians work very hard at it, a matter of twelve or fifteen million people by our own natural increase, this attitude is so radically different from the attitude that used to exist in this country. It is not, I tell you, Patriotism. Patriotism is a much broader, more generous, more hopeful thinking than anything like that.
One more thing--the hyphen is spreading out into a clash--one more thing and I am through. We are developing, I think, a substitute for work. One of the functions, the primary function of work is to produce things that are needed, but a most important secondary function of work is to maintain the self-respect of the working individual, to make him or her feel that he counts for something, that he is worth more to the community than what he costs the community to keep him alive. Canadians used to feel that they hadn't justified their existence unless they had done a very substantial job of work during their working years. I remember when as a boy I first came to Toronto I was a little shocked by running up against Torontonians who assured me they had never taken a day's holiday in their lives. That, I thought, was unreasonable. That, I thought, was carrying the fashion of work to an unreasonable extent. I even went so far as to suggest perhaps if they had taken a week now and then they might have clone better work when they got back from the vacation.
How different are things today! I read the other day that the employees of the Insurance Department of the Province of Saskatchewan were on strike. They were on strike, among other things, for higher wages. I never knew anyone to go on strike for lower wages. As far as that goes, I am all with them. We all want to get all we can for our work. Whether they were entitled to the wages they were getting or were asking, I haven't any idea, but I approve of their demanding more. But, Mr. President, they were also demanding a working week of thirty-seven and a half hours. I sat down to figure out and with a little multiplication I found that there was 168 hours in a week. Supposing that 56 of those hours were devoted to sleep, which I think is plenty in a province like Saskatchewan, with its fine climate. That leaves a matter of 112 working hours in the week. And, My Friends, the employees of the Insurance Department of Saskatchewan don't want to devote more than 35 of those 112 hours to work, because let me point out, while they work or will work if they get it, those 37Y2 hours in the week when working, they get at least two weeks' vacation with pay and also a certain allowance for illness which in the Civil Service accumulates and then you really have an illness and enjoy yourself. I think on the average they would not work more than 35 hours for their week's pay.
It occurred to me to wonder whether even in the God blessed Province of Saskatchewan where Nature is at times so bountiful and on occasions so unbountiful--I understand they are taking a census of the grasshoppers--whether 35 hours work in a week or even 37 1/2 hours work in a week at the business of a Civil Service Insurance Department, consisting in the tremendously brain-taxing job and the laborious physical labour of totalling up columns of figures, looking into documents and examining certificates and saying that certificates held by this and that insurance company are adequate to this and that requirement, whether that does constitute the kind of a clay's work, the kind of year's work that the Saskatchewan citizen ought to be proud, and then I came to the conclusion that in Saskatchewan and some other parts of Canada and in the Insurance Departments and in some other occupations in Canada there must he developing a new substitute for that function of work, the function of maintaining the self-respect of the individual.
Carlyle--I always like to end with a quotation and Carlyle is a good man to quote from, a 19th century man who did not know anything about our modern conditions Carlyle did say that all work, even cotton spinning, is noble. Work is alone noble. A life of ease is not for any man nor for any good.
I hope we shan't go too far in this business of substitutes, particularly in the matter of work.
I thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Ladies and Gentlemen, up until a few moments ago I had been prepared to move a very eulogistic vote of thanks to our guest-speaker, when it suddenly occurred to me that we have at our head table today Mr. Napier Moore. Last year on this occasion Mr. Moore was our guest-speaker and his subject was "How to Make a Christmas Speech". I just thought it might be very appropriate if we asked Mr. Moore if he would kindly tender the vote of thanks today and he might perhaps m a few words tell us whether Mr. Sandwell followed any of his rules.
MR. SANDWELL: Mr. President, I rise to a point of order. I was not permitted to say anything about Mr. Napier Moore's speech last year.
MR. NAPIER MOORE: Mr. President, Mr. Sandwell, do you call that the Christmas spirit?
Mr. President, it is quite true that a year ago I did reveal something of the technique of making a Christmas speech. It is likewise true that today's speaker was pre sent on that occasion. But nothing is further from my intent than to insinuate that there is any connection at all between that coincidence and the fact which is so well established over a long period of time: the fact that if, as with fine carpentering, you take a subject and Sandwell you get a highly polished result that is very pleasant to the touch.
Mr. Sandwell, on behalf of The Empire Club and the ladies may I express to you what I believe we all feel, and I, too, can spring a quotation. I shall use the line from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "I can no other answer make but thank you, and thanks, forever thanks."
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Moore, and may I add my personal thanks to you, "B.K." for a wonderful address.