The Cultural Revolution
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Nov 1973, p. 94-105
Campbell, The Honourable Alexander B., Speaker
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An answer to a student's letter requesting information for a school project. The issue of topic is the cultural and economic environment, and a change in attitude towards Canadian and regional culture. A consideration of our style and quality of life. A move away from the past "apologetic" nature of our culture. The issue of what P.E.I. residents see as a lack of material affluence compared with other parts of the country. The fallacy that rapid industrialization necesssarily produces a better quality of life, and a discussion of that issue. Challenges to be faced in a rapidly changing technological environment. How to create balance in one's life while dealing with change.
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8 Nov 1973
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Full Text
NOVEMBER 8, 1973
The Cultural Revolution
CHAIRMAN The President, Robert L. Armstrong


Mr. Minister, My Lord Bishop, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. Brackley, Cavendish, Stanhope and Dalvay, all beautiful beaches with great sand dunes on the north shore of Prince Edward Island, beckon tourists each summer from across Canada and the U.S.A. Here the visitor can feast on delicious fresh lobster. Lobster suppers were $4.00 during the past summer and with the generous servings of extras, just forget your diet program. Think of succulent steamed clams (you can dig them yourself), and mouth watering Malpeque oysters. For the game fisherman there is nothing like the prospect of a battle with the great blue fin tuna. They range in size up to 800 pounds or more.

Among the delightful places of interest are the fabled home of Anne, heroine of Lucy Maude Montgomery's book, Anne of Green Gables, which stands hard by the Haunted Forest and the Lake of Shining Waters.

There are the Woodleigh Replicas near Kensington, which include large scale models of famous castles, cathedrals and many other fascinating attractions of legendary, historical and literary significance, and there are endless other beauty spots on this island, so aptly described as the Garden of the Gulf.

Charlottetown, the capital city, is known as the Cradle of Confederation for it was there in 1864 that the founding fathers first met in the historic conference which led to Canada's birtb as a nation three years later. The Confederation Centre of the Arts built in 1964 stands as a memorial to that conference.

The Province of Prince Edward Island, the spawning ground for Confederation, went through a rather protracted courtship before consenting to unite with the new nation and in 1873 that union was consummated. Now in 1973, the rest of Canada joins with Prince Edward Island in the celebration of its centennial of that union. And it is to this end that we are honoured today by the presence of Premier Alexander Bradshaw Campbell, known to all and sundry as Alex, as our guest speaker. Premier Campbell is a resident of Summerside, the place of his birth, and is the son of a former Premier, now Chief Justice Thane Campbell of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island. He attended Dalhousie University, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree, followed by a degree of Bachelor of Laws from the Law School of the same university.

Premier Campbell was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in February 1965, and in December of that year was chosen leader of the Liberal Party, which he led to victory in July 1966, and again by a much wider margin in May 1970.

The Island is so sensitive to political issues that recently when Premier Campbell obtained a haircut in a rural riding, two young local reporters accepted this as a sign of an impending election. Our speaker did not specifically deny the rumor but said he would make his intentions known at an early date. The speculation snowballed from there. I understand a denial has been issued but other signs in the future may start the political rumour mill humming again.

About two months ago, Premier Campbell was referred to in one of our financial newspapers as the leader of the Conservative Government of Prince Edward Island. Needless to say, this unforgivable faux pas was brought to the attention of the editor in clear and unequivocal terms. Not only was it pointed out that he leads the Liberal Government but also that he is the Dean of Canadian Provincial Premiers.

It is indeed a high privilege to present to this audience the Honourable Alexander B. Campbell, Premier of the Province of Prince Edward Island, who will speak to us on the subject "The Cultural Revolution".


Last week I received a letter from a student in a neighbouring Province seeking information from me to assist in a school project.

I would like to read this letter to you in its entirety:

"I am doing a school project on P. E. I. I found the suggestion on the back cover of Canada and the World.

The title of the project is as follows:

'P. E. I. Create a balance sheet listing the changes P. E. I. must accept and those things P. E. I. might have to give up in order to keep up with the growing affluence of Canada.'

I would appreciate receiving any available information from you that you feel would be relevant for my project.

Respectfully yours, etc. "

"Create a balance sheet . . . changes P. E. I. must accept . . . those things P. E. I. might have to give up . . . keep up with the growing affluence of Canada." How can one respond to such questions, cope with the assumptions made in the very nature of the questions themselves, and explain that perhaps we, in Prince Edward Island, don't necessarily accept as valid the desirability of Prince Edward Island keeping "up with the growing affluence of Canada".

To answer such a request may indeed be difficult, but I intend to try, using the forum of The Empire Club. This, then, is my answer to a student's letter.

I suppose a "balance sheet" as suggested on the back cover of Canada and the World refers almost exclusively to income and expense and would largely ignore some of the very meaningful environmental and cultural considerations which today are assuming more and more importance to more and more people throughout the world.

It is for this reason that I have chosen the-perhaps overworked but still useful-phrase, "Cultural Revolution", as my subject today. A revolution still in its incipient stages, but hopefully, about ready to blossom out into full bloom.

Over the past several years, all of us as Canadians, and as members of the North American cultural and economic environment, have been to a greater or lesser extent party to a significant attitudinal change towards our culture.

Some would suggest that there has been a dramatic change in our perception of the world and ourselves within the world. Others have observed that there has been an almost complete about-face in a relatively short span of time. Still others have suggested that such change reflects upon the human ability to adapt and adjust in the face of threats to our very existence. Such are the optimistic views of the human experience with the environment. Others are not nearly so optimistic.

In her sometimes frightening book No Island is an Island, Anne Simon quotes from a letter by Morton Hunt. "It is a curious and disheartening fact that although nearly everybody today is aware of pollution and is concerned about it, the awareness and concern have not yet affected inner feelings enough to make restraint and self-discipline automatic."

I referred to Mrs. Simon's book as being sometimes frightening. Anyone who has read this expose of the land use dilemma facing a small part of this continent, cannot help but be seriously concerned about the direction in which we appear to be headed. Anne Simon's total work comments upon the difficulty, often seeming impossibility, of individuals to act in a collective fashion to protect themselves from their own abuses.

Mrs. Simon deals almost exclusively with the specific problems of land use or if you prefer, land abuse. Such, however, is but one manifestation of a larger consideration, a consideration of our style of life or quality of life. Over the past few years, many of us have increasingly begun to question the direction and meaning of our society as it has developed over the past several centuries. Many of us may not have entered into this examination of our society with full understanding of the background to our concerns. But most Canadians have recognized to a greater or lesser extent that despite much of the so-called progress of the affluent society, essential ingredients to a meaningful life seem to be either entirely lacking, or at best, difficult to grasp.

In my Province, we have found ourselves in somewhat of a favoured situation. In many respects, we have been observers of the passing scene. That is, we have not participated to the same extent as much of the rest of the nation in the trend towards rapid urbanization, dependence upon the machine, and devotion to the materialistic life style. In fact, Maritimers in general, and Islanders in particular, have been on occasion tagged as backward, behind the times or rustic in attitudes and approaches towards things "modern". More often than not, in the past, we have tended to be apologetic of our rural background and lack of sophistication.

Even with, or perhaps, because of, this background, I have over the past few years sensed a very dramatic change in attitude on the part of Prince Edward Islanders towards the on-going rush for so-called modernization. In the late 1950's, and up until the mid or late 1960's, most Prince Edward Islanders, and certainly most Prince Edward Island politicians, strongly advocated the need for our Province to become industrialized, to establish job-producing industries at whatever cost, to pull Prince Edward Island up by its bootstraps and bring our Province into the glories of the twentieth century.

This attitude, I believe, was largely in response to the material affluence we, as Prince Edward Islanders, could see outside of our Province. With the advent of television and other means of mass communication, we were able to see at virtually first-hand how our North American neighbours seemed to be developing a more luxurious way of life due to increased industrialization, more and higher-paying jobs, and generally a greater material affluence.

However, what we have witnessed in very recent years is the apparent fallacy of the belief that rapid industrialization necessarily produces a better quality of life. We, in our Province, are beginning to realize and appreciate that our slowness in keeping up with our North American neighbours may well have been a blessing in disguise.

Let us for a moment examine just what it is that is virtually rocking the foundations of the modern, urban and highly industrialized society all around us.

Louis Mumford, American historian and philosopher, has written extensively on the question of how modern society has developed to what it is today and has commented, with insight, upon the ugliness and emptiness of much of our modern world. Referring to the New World from the time of discovery and conquest, Mumford had this to say:

"How is it that the period of terrestrial exploration and settlement was conducted with such flagrant brutality, with such disregard for traditional human values, with so little regard for the future, though it was usually in the name of a better future that so much of this effort was made. And how is it that the development of science and invention, with its intent to liberate man from the burden of heavy toil on a meagre subsistence level, imposed new burdens, new diseases, new deprivations, in a routine that has lacked all direct contact with the sun and the sky and other living creatures, including his own."

A pretty harsh commentary on North American man and his society. Yes, harsh, but showing a clear understanding of our beginnings on this continent and coming uncomfortably close to defining the direction our society has subsequently taken.

Mumford compares man's ideal association with nature and the cultivated countryside, which he considers as an essential foundation for a full human development, to living in bondage to the machine.

"The missionaries of mechanical progress cannot entirely ignore the older passion for nature that still survives as an essential part of our New World heritage; for they have invented a prefabricated substitute for the wilderness, or at least an ingenious equivalent for the hunter's campfire. That ancient hearth has become a backyard picnic grill, where, surrounded by plastic vegetation, factory-processed frankfurters are broiled on an open fire made with pressed charcoal eggs, brought to a combustion point by an electric torch connected by wire to a distant socket, while the assembled company views, either on television or on a domestic motion picture screen, a travelogue through an African game preserve, or scenes with grizzly bears in Yellowstone. Ah! Wilderness. For many of my own countrymen, this is, I fear, the terminus of the pioneers' New World dream."

We, in Prince Edward Island, are fully familiar with this modern phenomenon. We receive, as our guests, thousands of these modern pioneers who come for two weeks to our campgrounds in a frenzied effort to escape from their ordinary lives-people who will drive for thousands of miles under almost unbearable traffic conditions, in order to live a little closer to nature and hopefully, eventually, grow a little closer to their fellow-man.

However, these examples are largely manifestations of the problems of modern society. Behind, or at the root of what we can see on an ever-increasing scale, lies our dependence upon the machine, a worship of technology and the kind of power and monetary structure which flows from that dependence.

During the past few centuries, the older traditions of a variety of artistic skills and a rapport or oneness with the land and the sea, has been largely replaced by a system that has given primacy to the machine, with its repetitive motions, its depersonalized processes, its goal of consumption and quantity rather than quality. From this process has emerged a parallel process of translating traditional working and living values into a new political and economic power-a power increasingly based upon the strength of money and those material things money can purchase. What we are only now beginning to fully realize is that in seeking material pleasure too constantly, the capacity for enjoyment or fulfillment decreases and eventually becomes exhausted.

In terms of the North American continent, the large metropolitan areas of the United States have more closely reached the final stage in this process. However, if we examine the Canadian scene closely enough, we can see signs of this physical and spiritual rot settling into a number of our Canadian urban centres with a troubling spill-over into many of our more rural areas.

The process of identifying political and economic power with that of monetary and material achievements has been condensed into a brief formula: manual work into machine work: machine work into paper work: paper work into electronic simulation of work which has been progressively divorced from any vital or organic function of human activity, except where it furthers the newer system of power. As a consequence, progress has come to mean simply more power, more profit, more productivity, more paper prosperity, all of which are convertible into standards concerned only with size or magnitude rather than quality or excellence.

One of the most striking things about this perversion of power is its almost total indifference to other human needs, norms and goals. It seems to operate best in what is, historically speaking, an ecological, cultural and personal wasteland. For any gains, in human terms, which might have come from this process are largely offset by wasted resources, depleted natural environments, crowded slums, and worst of all, by the degradation and depression of successive generations of human beings. At virtually every stage of mechanization, whether in its crude and early stages or in its final form of eliminating the labourer altogether, the human costs have been heavy, and many, many negative human reactions have taken place. We have all witnessed examples, although perhaps not identified as such, of this human deprivation. We have witnessed the terrible increases in the incidence of alcoholism, the advent of drug dependency, the protests, marches, strikes and human alienation. Such activities, in my view, can largely be traced back to either human beings virtually giving up in futility, or human beings striking back in anger and confusion at the loss of dignity and meaning in their lives.

Mechanization or industrialization of this sort has really only left man with one all-important mission in life: to conquer nature. To conquer nature, in this context, means speeding up every natural process, hastening growth, quickening the pace of transportation, and breaking down communication distances by either mechanical or electronic means. To conquer nature is, in effect, to remove all natural barriers and human norms and to substitute artificial, fabricated equivalents for natural processes. It means to replace the immense variety of resources offered by nature by more uniform, constantly available products spewed forth by the machine.

From that general concept of conquering nature, a series of minor or subsidiary concepts may be postulated. One, that there is only one efficient speed, faster; two, that there is only one attractive destination, farther away; three, that there is only one desirable size, bigger; and four, that there is only one rational quantitative goal, more. Anything standing in the way of attaining these various goals has been characterized as signs of human backwardness and inability to function in the "modern world". In the same way, any institution or way of life which does not support these various machine and industrialized nations or resists change or efforts to conquer nature is viewed as a threat to those who ride the relentless road of industrial progress.

As early as 446 B.C., a Greek poet, himself probably echoing many unrecorded fables, pictured the Golden Age as one when "the earth bore neither fear nor disease, but all things appeared of their own accord; for every stream flowed with wine, and barley-cakes fought with wheat-cakes to enter the mouths of men." Although there is no mention of the machine in that early Greek's concept of Utopia, that dream-wish concentrates on the unlimited joys of a full stomach and an effortless existence which people frequently associate with automation. Another commonly expressed wish over the centuries has been that of finding some mechanical substitute to take over the burden of painful human toil.

It is this effort to meet a recurring dream of the Golden Age or of Utopia that poses a paradox in both our early efforts at mechanization and its ultimate expression in automation. With the advent of mechanization and intense industrialization, we found that in order to justify the heavy capital investment necessary to create automatic machines and all those things that go with automation, it was necessary to invade distant markets for the sale of our goods, to standardize tastes and buying habits, to destroy alternative choices, and to wipe out competition from smaller industrial competitors which were more dependent upon face-to-face relations and which were more flexible in meeting consumer demands.

Even in the very early stages of mechanization, the number of workers needed to produce the final product was reduced, and the number of operations performed by any one labourer was likewise lessened, with a consequent loss of intelligent participation, as well as initiative, in the process as a whole. In recent years, we have seen the very dire results of this process of removing the individual worker from a meaningful and intelligent participation in the production of goods.

Rather than judging the success of mechanization on what physical and spiritual gain might be brought to man, we have judged the success of mechanization in terms of lessening the ratio of man-hours to the units of production, until finally, with complete automation, only the minimum supervision of the whole plant remained, while the "work" left is little more than that of inspection and repair.

Many who have studied this growing dilemma of the modern industrialized state have expressed the view that meaningful work is one of the many activities that has stimulated man's intelligence and enlarged man's bodily capacities. In this sense, work, in all its aspects, has played a decisive, formative part in the enlargement of man's mind and the enrichment of his culture. These people ask what merit is there in an over-developed technology which isolates the whole man from the work process, reducing him to a cunning hand, a load-bearing back, or a magnifying eye, and then finally excludes him altogether from the process unless he is one of the experts who designs and assembles or programs the automatic machines. Such a process makes difficult, if not impossible, the give and take that has existed hitherto between human beings and their environment, with the resulting degeneration of responsive and responsible intelligence. The notion that automation gives any guarantee of human liberation is wishful thinking.

A further question that must be asked is how long can the physical structure of an advanced technology hold together when its human foundations are crumbling away? Much of this has happened so suddenly that many people are hardly aware that it has happened at all. Yet, during the last generation, for many Americans and Canadians, the very bottom has dropped out of their lives; the human institutions and moral convictions that have taken thousands of years to achieve have virtually disappeared before their very eyes. Surely it is not too drastic to suggest that what we see happening in the United States in respect of the "Watergate Affair" is a prime example of foundations crumbling.

To this point, almost all that I have suggested to you could be described as negative and pessimistic. However, I believe so firmly in the resilience of man that I am convinced it is possible to successfully resist-or even back up-and begin to make intelligent and selective use of the various technological and industrial facilities and improvements that the affluent society has brought to us, instead of allowing the technical world to exert control over mankind.

The challenge is clear. We must recognize the dangers inherent in a frenzied, unheedful push towards that would-be Golden Age or Utopia which supporters of mechanization and industrialization suggest is attainable. I suggest that it is largely illusionary and that the closer we come to that goal, the less meaningful our lives become. We must endeavour to identify those advances which have helped in the past and can help in the future to eliminate a number of the debilitating and crushing problems we fade and, at the same time, not lead ourselves into the mindless, repetitive and de-humanizing aspects of the affluent society.

We must be ever observant and careful that we don't view progress in modern terms as necessarily a means of providing a better life for ourselves; we must be wary of jumping heedlessly into modern methods and approaches without fully understanding the potential consequences; we must understand and respect our past and appreciate what that past has meant to us and has done for us; we must recognize the value of a slower, more human society in terms of the development of man; and we must balance change with what we think society and mankind within society should be.

Balance, to my mind, is the key word. We must carefully examine change so that we are able to discard those aspects of change which would be detrimental to our way of life, and, at the same time, take advantage of those aspects of change which will enhance and improve our quality of life.

This is a very difficult and very challenging task. Given all of the facts and an opportunity to study and think about the issues, I firmly believe that we can collectively achieve that balance and, in the process, build a better society.

Premier Campbell was thanked on behalf of The Empire Club of Canada by Mr. Arthur E. M. Inwood.

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The Cultural Revolution

An answer to a student's letter requesting information for a school project. The issue of topic is the cultural and economic environment, and a change in attitude towards Canadian and regional culture. A consideration of our style and quality of life. A move away from the past "apologetic" nature of our culture. The issue of what P.E.I. residents see as a lack of material affluence compared with other parts of the country. The fallacy that rapid industrialization necesssarily produces a better quality of life, and a discussion of that issue. Challenges to be faced in a rapidly changing technological environment. How to create balance in one's life while dealing with change.