- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Feb 1982, p. 237-257
- Amiel, Barbara, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- "Here in Canada, in the Western world, we are inside the walls. Outside the walls are the barbarians." This is an image repeated throughout the address, to emphasize the Free World vs. the not-Free World. The speaker continues to examine the world political situation, especially with regard to countries that are "enslaved." A review of totalitarianism, Marxism, Nazism, and other tyrannical governments. The speaker attempts to enlighten the audience with a review of the state of various prisons, wars, and atrocities in the world today. Our indifference to the Soviet threat. How Canada and our Western nations are "feeding" the barbarians. Our education system as a victim of neo-Marxism. A critical examination of the Western life style, and what middle-class Canada now considers a "right." A reminder of the concepts of freedom and liberty, how we take it for granted but most of the world does not. Poland as the litmus paper of the West's will to survive. A plea to become more aware of what is happening in the world.
- Date of Original
- 4 Feb 1982
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmail:email@example.com
Agency street/mail address:
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- FEBRUARY 4, 1982
How Canada Does It and Other Social Diseases
AN ADDRESS BY Barbara Amiel, JOURNALIST
CHAIRMAN The President,
BGen. S. F. Andrunyk, O. M. M., C. D.
Distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: No one could have guessed that the cute baby girl who was born in Hendon, Middlesex during World War II would, in her later years, attract such appellations from her admirers and critics as: "the toast of the nuke set," "the redneck in a Givenchy dress," "a reactionary Queen Bee," "a fascist bitch," and "the toughest writer and thinker to come along the Canadian pike in a long time."
No one could have guessed that that same baby girl would in 1982 head the list of 141 Canadians who have been named in the World Almanac and Book of Facts as the most widely known Canadians of the present.
And how could anyone have guessed that she would some day be the guest speaker at this historic club which was founded long before her arrival on this planet. But she is here today and it is my pleasure to welcome Miss Barbara Amiel to our luncheon table.
Barbara Amiel has had a most exciting and fascinating career since her arrival in Canada in 1952. On graduation from the University of Toronto with an honours degree in Philosophy and English, she worked for csc public affairs as a story editor and on camera interviewer. After four years with the csc she followed her personal philosophy of "having no allegiance to any piece of earth or particular set of rock outcroppings" and spent four years in Europe and America freelance writing and broadcasting. On returning to Canada in 1972 she became a contributor to all major Canadian magazines and also produced, wrote and narrated commentaries for the CBC on subjects ranging from psychosurgery to the ordination of women. In 1976 she became senior writer for Maclean's magazine.
Barbara Amiel has also co-authored with George Jonas a book titled By Persons Unknown which won the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award for best non-fiction crime book of the year, and in 1980 she wrote and published Confessions which is a personal account of a political journey from left to centre. Her other journalistic awards include two Epstein Awards for creative writing, the Periodical Writers Award and the National Magazine Award.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Miss Barbara Amiel, Associate Editor of the Toronto Sun and described by one of her peers as a "beautiful woman with a capable mind who speaks from the heart with conviction" who will address us on the subject "How Canada Does It and Other Social Diseases."
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for that kind and generous introduction. There are a number of reasons why I have resolved to stop making any more speeches after today. One of the immediate reasons is the pressure those sorts of introductions put on me. One always feels that not only should each speaking occasion require a new speech but also for everybody's sake including my own, a new past. I thought perhaps something like "Miss Amiel is well known for her live and sensuous Greek dances and her vigorous animal husbandry" might be useful.
I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity of travelling across this country and enduring all the classic situations that go with talking to people. I have got up at truly deplorable hours in the morning to confront Vancouver's Jack Webster on television because I have been told that is the place to get exposure for ideas. If one is lively enough one can get up for an hour of television time with Mr. Webster. Mind you, even I was unprepared for the sort of exposure Jack Webster had in mind when he faced the camera lens with me and opened the interview with, "Barbara Amiel, bare your breast." I have, of course, done considerably more in my time for the cause of free enterprise and liberal democracy but still it seemed an unusual moment to demand it of me. Somewhat to the chagrin of the bored television technicians it turned out that Jack Webster was speaking metaphorically. That was a matter of even greater chagrin to the lurking human rights commissioners who were monitoring the interview and undoubtedly perked up on a bit of hard evidence of sexual harassment.
When faced with the inevitable fatigue that comes with the recycling of speeches and the recycling of thoughts in a rather small stream of vortex, I am urged to not be ashamed of recycling. This has been urged on me by many people including my editor at the Toronto Sun, Peter Worthington, who adheres to the theory that a good idea can't be repeated too often. I think, though he has never said it, that behind his recycling theory is the belief that people don't remember what you said the first time around.
It may not be pure cynicism on his part. All print publications have readership surveys which are taken very seriously by publishers. They tell you whether Alan Fotheringham is read more than Peter Newman, or, in the case of the Toronto Sun, more than Peter Worthington. These surveys are the object of much study and intense discussion and can make and break writers and magazine formats. Worthington has never given these studies the respect they deserve. I discovered that recently when upon going through the Sun readership surveys I found that one of our columnists, a chap named Richard Dempsey, had received only a three per cent share of the readership in 1980. "That's not very good," I said to Worthington, "What section does he write in?" "Oh," said Worthington, "We don't have any such columnist, I just made him up." You know, he went up to twenty-five per cent readership in 1981.
My only experience with actually doing the devastating business of recycling speeches came in an utter disaster last year when I went to the annual shindig of the Hamilton Doctors' Association which was organized by a certain Doctor Finn. Dr. Finn had requested a speech on "a light and humorous subject of a nonmedical nature." I am not a vaudeville entertainer and was somewhat taken aback by this request until I looked more closely at Dr. Finn's letterhead and understood his need for light entertainment. His request was not so much a comment on my specialty of social political philosophy as his specialty. The letterhead was quite explicit: "William T. Finn, General Surgeon with Special Interest in Diseases of the Colon and Rectum." It was too much to resist and so I began my speech with an intriguing and rhetorical look at the special interest of Dr. Finn. The next evening in a complete work overload, I took the same speech, for it was humorous and amusing, to the Women's Canadian Club of Western Ontario and was horrified to hear my talk introduced as "Barbara Amiel's answer to 'Where Do We Go From Here?"
In fact, I find that whether I recycle speeches or not, there are certain things I am hell bent on reaffirming. But to be frank and I think probably to the relief of many of you, I am withdrawing from the speaking circuit. It has caught up with me. My voice is certainly not a lone voice, but it sometimes amuses me that when I speak of nothing but holding up the best values and institutions of the Western world, equality of opportunity, due process of law, defence of liberty and individual rights; when I speak out in favour of the virtues of our society--not its vices, not its faults, not its errors, but its virtues--I should be such a minority voice. I haven't the constitution any more, or even the vanity, to try and continue to arouse organizations, groups and individuals to act in their own best interests.
We are a gutless society, and our businessmen, our churchmen, our politicians, our media, and that much endangered species, the ordinary man, are all partners. All share complicity in the destruction of that much under-rated phenomenon called liberty. There is a story that the Hungarian poet George Faludy, who lives in Toronto, tells in one of his poems. It concerns the visit of the ambassador from Byzantine to the city of Rome near the end of the time of the Roman Empire. Outside the walls of Rome the barbarians are gathering; inside the city the Romans are copulating and sporting with glee. The Byzantine ambassador asks the Romans what they are going to do about the barbarians. "Oh," is the reply, "We send them gifts and that placates them." "And if it doesn't?" asks the Byzantine ambassador uneasily. "Well," reply the Romans, pointing to the thick walls surrounding their city, "We have the walls to defend us." The Byzantine ambassador is too polite to point out to the Romans that the walls will not defend the people if the people will not defend the walls.
Here in Canada, in the Western world, we are inside the walls. Outside the walls are the barbarians.
The world today is divided into the free and the enslaved. It is not empty rhetoric to talk of the Free World.
Outside the walls, among others, is the Soviet Empire. It is malevolent, destructive and expanding. It has swallowed up over half a dozen countries since World War II. It has demonstrated that it can move into independent countries like Afghanistan at will. It can send its surrogate troops into Cambodia, Cuba or Angola without any meaningful response from the West. It continues to use slave labour--slave labour that makes the slavery of the old Confederate American South look kind and humane. In its uranium fields and its gold mines and its factories are men and women, millions of them, condemned to die in conditions of unspeakable horror and brutality. Beaten, humiliated, left for days to die in their own excrement, or filled with psychiatric drugs if they are worthy enough to be destroyed in that sophisticated a manner, or more often sent to the labour camps for life to mine the resources and to produce the components for anything from the dear little teddy bears that the Soviets marketed for the last Olympic Games to the Lada cars thrifty Westerners drive. Conservative historians estimate that there were about fourteen thousand executions in Russia during the last fifty years of Czarist rule and about twelve million during the terror of the late thirties alone. It is very difficult to estimate the number of slaves in the Soviet Union today, but certain things can be stated. Among those people lucky enough, if you will, to have actually been brought to trial as a political prisoner, several historians have said there has not been one acquittal since the Bolshevik Revolution.
Outside our walls, of course, are other villains. You see, the barbarians that we are facing are a group of quasi-Marxist, quasi-tribal, quasi-theocratic forces that include many African countries and such countries as Iran, Libya and China, who, whether or not they are permanently aligned to the Soviet Union, promote and endorse ideas and institutions designed to propel the entire world back into the Dark Ages.
The thing to remember about these forces is that they are profoundly reactionary. A Qaddafi in Libya, a Castro in Cuba, a Nyerere in Tanzania may be new in time because they arose in recent years, but their ideas hark back to a tradition that preceded years of enlightenment and liberty. Castro, Mao, Nyerere, the Sandinistas or Mugabe are not progressive forces.
There is sometimes a peculiar confusion in the West that equates progress to whatever is recent or whatever is new, and it is time we understood that progress has nothing to do with the chronology of an idea. Because it pops up this week, because it is new, it can still be profoundly reactionary, harking back to medieval times. And that is what totalitarianism is. Whether it is the tribal totalitarianism of Africa, the African Marxism of Tanzania or the scientific socialism of Cuba, it is a medieval idea in which the ruling power maintains all authority and liberty is virtually nonexistent, where the freedom to practise one's chosen profession, read and write what one likes, move from one farm to another, were all determined by the King's Will. Totalitarianism is feudalism in the twelfth century sense of the word.
Among the barbarians as well is the People's Republic of China with a gulag all of its own--far, far more sophisticated than the Russians. The Chinese understand that slave labour, which they thrive on, is not productive or useful to the economy if it is only extracted by torture. The permanent slave labour camps of China are inhabited by men and women sentenced to something called "reform through labour," who are first physically broken and then psychologically motivated to keep working at it for life.
The first literature on these camps came out in English in 1973 when the French made a deal with the Chinese for the release of a French citizen named Bao Ruo-Wang. He had been sentenced to fourteen years of "reform through labour" and had served seven years of it. He wrote a memoir called Prisoner o f Mao which nobody ever reads and the CBC does not serialize. In the footnote he tackled the question of how many Chinese today are slaves in labour camps. The estimates, he said, vary widely depending on the politics of the person making them. Bao writes that there are even some distinguished authors, intellectuals and academics in the West--perhaps he was thinking of Chester Ronning--who appear to believe that there never was a labour camp in mainland China. At the other extreme are certain Sinologists who affirm that upwards of twenty million are being held in servitude for ideological reasons.
"Obviously," writes Bao, "the Chinese government furnishes no statistics but I can assure the reader from personal experience that the camps exist and their population is colossal." An interesting hint of the possible scale is contained in a phrase dear to Chinese leaders, "Only a small minority, perhaps five per cent, is against us." Says Bao, "If we drop that figure to two per cent it still gives us an estimate of around sixteen million slaves in the "reform through labour" camps.
The next time you are buying goods made in the People's Republic of China you might remember what Bao says about the picturesquely named Grass Mist Lane prison where he was held. Programmed starvation had been introduced as an interrogation technique. His description is as follows: "During my fifteen months in the interrogation centre I ate rice only once and meat never. Six months after my arrest my stomach was entirely caved in and I began to have the characteristic bruised joints that came from simple body contact with the communal bed. The skin on my ass hung loose like the dugs of an old woman. Vision became unclear and I lost my power of concentration. I reached a sort of record point of vitamin deficiency when I was finally able to snap off my toenails without even using the clippers. My skin rubbed off in a dusty film. My hair began falling out. It was miserable. Food obsessed us so completely that we were insane, in a way. We were ready for anything. It was the perfect climate for interrogations. Every one of us began begging to be sent to the camps. No one left Grass Mist Lane without specifically requesting it in writing. There was even a form for it: 'Please give me the authorization to show repentance for my sins by working in the camps."'
The People's Republic of China has not yet reached the military might of the Soviet Empire. It requires a little more time and a little more infusion of Western aid, loans, technology and the hard currency of our tourists. Then they will begin to move in on our walls. There are, of course, all sorts of other unpleasant regimes outside the walls as well--the military dictators of Latin America and the apartheid regime of South Africa. But they differ in one significant way from the barbarians. Unpleasant though they are and as immoral though they are, they do not wish to export their political and economic domination to our shores. The military dictatorship of Brazil is not nice, but it will not export guerillas to Costa Rica. Nicaragua under the Sandinistas will try and export Marxist Leninism throughout Central America. It is the ideology and professed aim of these barbarians to co-operate in a destabilizing of those opposed to them.
This is an utterly crucial difference to understand. It is not a moral difference of any immediate significance for the man who is having his genitals prodded with electric shocks, whether he is in the clandestine prisons of Argentina or the gulag of the Soviet Union, but it does have a long-term significance for both those prisons and ourselves.
Only a free West can help the prisoners of today's left- and right-wing dictatorships. But, unlike forty years ago when it was the forces on the right, the Nazis and the fascists who were trying to destroy the free West, today, for the moment, it is only the forces on the left who are trying to destroy us. To help both left and rightwing victims around the world, a free West must concentrate its attack on the enemies on the left.
Of course the barbarians' aim of world domination has not escaped the attention of the Europeans, perhaps because unlike us they are closer to the walls. In a report last November the European Parliament noted that Europe had become increasingly vulnerable. Since Europe is dependent on imports of energy and most of its raw materials, it can be subdued, if not quite conquered, without all those nuclear weapons the Soviets have aimed at it simply through the shipping routes and raw materials they control. The Soviet Union and its block countries control a good percentage of vital strategic raw materials as reported by various strategic studies. It has been their policy to gain control of those countries from which come cobalt, tungsten, vanadium and magnesium. The Soviets also dominate the shipping routes to Europe. A report passed unanimously by the European Parliament said, "The European Community is perturbed by the vulnerability of its sea links with Africa, the Persian Gulf and other parts of the world." Since the NATO treaty does not cover areas south of the Tropic of Cancer in which the increasing sea power of the Soviet Union, both in naval forces and the merchant marine, presents a growing and calculated threat, it calls on the member states to co-ordinate their patrols outside the zone and to strengthen their naval forces.
I mention this report because here in Canada one is faced with an extraordinary Alice in Wonderland problem. It is still necessary to explain to people why one is ranting about the Soviet Union. When I told somebody about what I was talking about today, he said, "Look, you don't want to sound like one of those dreadful rednecks just going on and on and on about Communism." It is still necessary to explain that the Soviet Union is an active enemy, bent on expansion.
So permeated with left-wing apologies have we become, so busy with our copulation inside the walls, so involved with our pursuit of creature comforts and so utterly devoid of leadership are we, that in Canada, perhaps more than anywhere else in the Western world--in this one area we are the leaders--we dismiss or are indifferent to the Soviet threat. After all, what blood has actually been shed on this soil? What difference does it make to us if Yugoslavia or Albania or another central European country goes to the Communists? What does it have to do with our problems if the Soviets win Central America? Viva Castro! And so, we have decided to help the Soviets in their efforts. For the Soviet Union, the country that is doing everything possible to jeopardize the energy sources of the Western world, we in Canada will turn the other cheek and help them build up their own energy supplies, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer, as was revealed last week with the development of the huge natural gas complex at Astrakhan, which the Canadian Export Corporation is subsidizing with 200 million dollars. We will give them sophisticated technology even though as one oilman reported to me off the record, "Out here in Calgary there is a lot of soul searching about whether or not we should help the Soviets." We will cover up the failure of Marxist economics by helping them avoid its consequences and giving them bank loans, credit and grain. And no doubt here in the audience there are people who have paid an exorbitant fee to hear me and that money is coming from money they have made off the pipeline deal or trade with the Soviet Union.
By now it is evident that the Soviet Union must gain control of Europe to maintain its empire. I hasten to add, not to turn Europe Communist economically. The Soviets know that Europe is only useful if it continues to be productive and socialism has proved to be a giant economic failure. The interests of the Soviet Union are in controlling highly developed countries and having the benefit of their economies so that they can run their own inefficient empire. This simply requires domination through intimidation, perhaps even without occupation. And how do you control, dominate and intimidate Europe? By reducing the credibility and power of the United States. By showing Europe that the Soviet Union controls its access to energy and raw materials and that the United States cannot do much about it. And by encouraging weak allies of the United States, like Canada, to turn against the policies of America and make us, in some ways, as we have become, de facto allies of Moscow.
So we have the situation today. The barbarians are outside the walls and they are being fed by the Canadians.
Our businessmen flock to Moscow and Cuba and China to sign contracts and build up the staggering economies of these countries. I do not know what the motivation of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau is, whose policies (long before his extraordinary approach to Poland) made him a pinup at the Kremlin. Author George Jonas, my collaborator and ex-husband, was in Budapest this Christmas visiting his mother when the Polish crisis reached its pinnacle. He phoned from Vienna, after he had left Budapest, and said, "You know, Barbara, the streets were covered with snow and after all weather knows no political boundaries so that did not surprise me, but the television screens were filled with Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Did I have to go to Budapest to hear Trudeau lecture an imprisoned people on the wisdom of their jailers?" But more important was the reaction that he heard from the Hungarians watching the Prime Minister of Canada on television. They listened to him defend martial law and they had two responses. The younger people said, "He's mad, how could he say that?" And the old people said, "No, no, children, you don't understand. He's not really saying it; the Communists have doctored the television tapes."
Whatever Trudeau's motivation is, however sinister or ideological. it may be, I do know about the motivation of most businessmen negotiating their contracts with the Soviets. They see the bottom line of employment, jobs, profit and dividends. Their myopia and astigmatism blinds them to the reality--that they have far more to lose in the long run than their silk shirts and shareholders. They will lose their freedom. They will lose liberty. They are feeding the world that will devour them and their children.
How, how did it happen? It happened because we, the people, lost our interest in defending the walls. We lost the will. We lost the strength. We listened to the slogans of the barbarians--and this is the core of the problem--we decided that what the Marxists were saying had a point.
The Marxists said our society was rotten, exploitative and degenerate. And we, noticing faults in our society, both imagined and real, decided that what the Marxists were saying about our institutions and values was not untrue.
It did not occur to us that the Marxists' solution was fraudulent or that their vision was distorted, that whatever the wrongs in our society it was not the ideology of theirs that will cure them. It did not occur to our intellectuals and politicians and the whole spectrum of opinion makers who push society in a certain direction that some problems cannot be solved entirely, that the cure may be worse than the disease. Today, whether in Canada they call themselves the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats or that dreadful group of people in something known as the United Church, the solutions they advocate to most of our social problems are neo-Marxist, though being basically illiterate they probably don't even realize it.
Our society is not perfect and this will come as no surprise to many of you. But liberty, you see, that precious child of our liberal democracy only two hundred years old, has one notable side effect. When virtue is at liberty, so to some extent is vice. In a free world there is, alas, more common crime than in a dictatorial system. Dictatorships do cut down on rape, and pillage, not to mention sexual harassment, by the simple expedient of sending people to labour camps for life or cutting off their hands without a trial. The same liberty that protects me also protects members of the Mafia. And so we listened to the barbarians and saw our society as crime-ridden, which it may well be. But we believed it to be a side effect, not of liberty, which it is, and a price worth paying, but of a social malaise and sickness. And so we made the crime problem worse by attempting to handle it with muddled pop-sociology, pop-Marxist programs addressing the "deprived social circumstances" of criminals and the redistribution of income.
We heard the Marxists shout that our society was unfair, that the rich were too rich, and that the poor were exploited. We did not understand that, since in a free society income is measured in money rather than in power, the difference in income between human beings in a liberal democracy is more obvious and blatant, but it is not greater than in a Marxist state like China where the ruling class in a dictatorship has proportionately far more of what the country has to offer than all the people put together below them.
We heard the barbarians shout that our society was unfair in opportunity, which is no longer true. What is true is that the failure of an individual in a free society hurts more because they cannot ascribe their failure to outside restrictions, or to the unfairness of the ruling classes. Failure in our society becomes more the fault of the individual and we have convinced ourselves that even that is unfair, that people should not be held accountable for their inability to become nuclear physicists, millionaires, or to look like Brooke Shields, and that there must be a committee to legislate equality of results or punish achievement.
Of course, some of the vices of our society were and are real, not only common crime but racism. When people are left to their own devices they will often discriminate against groups, whites against blacks, blacks against whites or East Indians, Catholics against Protestants, and my people, Jewish females, against any man who won't marry us. But the great lesson that we learned about racism we learned from the institutionalized racism of Hitler's Third Reich, and from the institutionalized racism of the United States which limited the rights of blacks up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That lesson is that the best a society can do to minimize and prevent racism is to see that the state itself is non-discriminatory, that so long as our society does not have laws discriminating against whites, blacks, Jews or gentiles, we have the best chance for a decent society.
But we listened to the barbarians shout that we were racist, and lacking faith in our institutions we began to truly institutionalize racism. We have instituted laws which discriminate and we call them "reverse discrimination," based on the profoundly stupid and anti-libertarian notion that if you force private citizens to hire, house and socialize with those groups they dislike, you will eliminate racism.
The many ways in which Marxist thoughts have influenced our domestic policies and contributed so handsomely to the extraordinary economic and social mess we are in today is a separate discussion. My concern at this time is more with what it has done to us externally, but I will touch very briefly on what it has done to some of our social policies. We are told there is a shortage of skilled labour, and that is the fault of our educational system which doesn't have all the technical schools we need, so we are about to build all kinds of technical schools. We ignore the fact that there is also a shortage of waitresses, dishwashers and secretaries. A muddled egalitarianism has permeated our society and disseminated the myth that everyone has an inalienable right to be a middle class whitecollar worker irrespective of ability or need. That is what is responsible for too few skilled workers. It is a crisis of social expectations, not of schooling facilities. Why should you be surprised that people think they should all be architects or reading Santayana or working in the civil service, in spite of their obvious indifference to literacy, when that is what we have been suggesting all the time?
Our educational system is itself among the greatest victims of neo-Marxism. We swallowed whole the bolus that if we educated everybody we would end poverty, unemployment and passing racial tensions. If only everybody could have a B.A., we would all be temperate, nice people and listen to Bach and read the Toronto Sun. Of course, in order to make sure that everybody got to university or to a post-secondary institution, we had to get everybody to high school: everybody, so we denied excellence as an elitist concept. We refused to fail people who should have been failed, and we cheated and frustrated our students and our teachers. We handed out masses of diplomas but we could not find the necessary white-collar jobs for the possessors of a B.A. who were unfortunately unable to spell, and we wondered why a B.A. had become worthless.
Our planners in the Ministry of Education had not been blessed with the limited foresight of the mad alchemist, King Rudolph of Bohemia, who in a rare moment of sanity asked his assistant, "If we ever find the Alchemist's Stone that can turn base metals into gold, will gold still be worth anything?"
Though it goes without saying that in a liberal democracy we should be able to see that all our citizens, regardless of their adherence to the work ethic or ability, are neither hungry or cold, that we should have the social programs to support a minimum standard of living, we swallowed the Marxist myth that it was a human right to have middle class housing, irrespective of income, that the poor should not be discriminated against in terms of shelter, that it is to deny a basic human dignity if one builds assisted housing in the suburbs instead of the heart of Toronto's consumer core, which is, I believe, the thought behind the current assisted housing projects near St. Clair and Yonge as well as in the Bay-Bloor area.
This is not only absurd, it is counterproductive both to the society that proclaims it and more importantly to the poor themselves. An apartment at Yonge and St. Clair is not a basic human right. It is not only that society is no longer rich enough for these hairbrained schemes--God knows what tax revenue we lose by them--it is that this is not a positive or constructive approach to eliminating the problem of poverty itself. There have to be incentives to do better in life. It is ludicrous to remove all disadvantages.
Using neo-Marxist vocabulary we attacked our institutions and our society with a vengeance. Foreign investment, multi-national corporations, became evil and exploitative. Without a single thought to the common sense observation that foreign investment under the kind of controls we rightfully hold simply helps the people to develop their own country, foreign investment was mischievously confused with ownership and with the loss of sovereignty of a country.
In addition, since it was necessary to implement the myths of egalitarianism, that all people everywhere should enjoy the same services and standards of living, whether they were in the subsistence agricultural economy of Newfoundland or the rich industrial heartland of Ontario, we initiated absurd systems of transfer payments and lunatic projects to turn areas of our country more appropriate to the farming life of the Hebrides into little Detroits or Calgarys. We penalized success and wealth since we decided that success could only come about at the expense of someone else's exploitation.
Domestically this had interesting repercussions. It meant that as soon as one group--the orientals, the Jews or the manufacturers of plastic goods--began to achieve a high profile, we would talk of quotas against them to bring them back down to their rightful level, as we did with Orientals at the University of Toronto Medical School, or as we did in the last budget by placing a new and lethal tax on the wholesale price of manufactured goods, sending inflation spiralling upwards as the price of every manufactured article in this country had to be increased to feed federal coffers. The successful were only successful at the price of someone else's blood, our legislature argued, not understanding or not wishing to understand that the only way to help the most people in society is to encourage excellence and enterprise, not to reward mediocrity.
And indeed, we transferred this approach into our foreign aid programs, ignoring and penalizing those countries like Taiwan or Hong Kong or Singapore that had demonstrated how with no natural resources they could produce thriving economies based on free enterprise, and instead sent our aid, our dollars, to the bloody dictatorships of Tanzania or Mozambique to shore up the political prisons, the repression and the disastrous collective economic systems that reduce such rich agricultural countries to basket cases.
The barbarians' taunts had become our creed. Our television and our movies were filled with stories about our own impoverished culture. No movies about the world's greatest holocaust, the forty or fifty million dead in the camps of the U.S.S.R. Indeed, if you only look at television and movie theatres this week what do you see? A CBs movie called "World War III," which makes it clear that the Soviet president is just as swell and caring a fellow as the president of the United States; it's only his military that points those nasty SS20s at Europe. An interesting film called "Reds" which is the story of a warm, caring couple who fall in love and support the Bolshevik revolution until their moment of disillusionment. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if we had a movie called "White Hoods," a warm, moving love story of two young, idealistic members of the Ku Klux Klan who support the movement until they get disillusioned at one of the lynchings? God knows, though the Ku Klux Klan is every bit as hideous as the Bolsheviks, it is not nearly as powerful or as malevolent in its inefficiencies, but can you imagine what an outcry there would be if such a piece were produced? Yet there is silence over this land when we give the other side of the story.
We have heard the barbarians' cries and swallowed their language and ideas and in doing so we have not only crippled and eaten away at the institutions inside our own walls, we have lost the spirit to defend those walls. We believe the barbarians may be right. If we learned nothing from Vietnam we should have learned how little helicopters, armies, weapons and those walls count if they are not backed by the spirit of determination and a belief among the people that they are fighting for a worthwhile cause.
Today we talk about the deadliness of our system. What on earth do we mean? We have allowed such talk to wander unobstructed, carelessly, into our language. The deadliness of our system? Of liberal democracy? Of a system that in the history of the world has produced a better standard of living for more of its people than any other in the world? Not perfect. Not able to eliminate all the evils of poverty, disease and dirt, but the very best yet, as yet, that human beings have discovered.
And now, Poland. Forty years ago when Hitler invaded Poland the free world stood up and said "Enough!" We went to war over Poland. Forty-three years later when Poland was ipso facto invaded by the Soviets, we put on a television show in which Henry Fonda quoted Friedrich Engels and Pierre Elliot Trudeau said that it was a shame that too many people in Poland had been interned and too many freedoms were still being broken, as if, had they only interned slightly fewer people and suspended just half a dozen freedoms it would all be okay.
Poland is the litmus paper of the West's will to survive. We must go to war over Poland, not militarily but economically and politically. We must suspend exporting our food, our trade, our technology to the Soviet Empire. We must understand that we are fighting for our very lives. It will mean economic pain--more for them than for us--but whoever said that freedom and liberty could be purchased on an American Express card?
Those of us who care passionately about what is inside the walls, and wish once again to force the people to defend them, can only point these things out. We are haunted by the words of the poet Yeats, "The best lack all conviction, the worst are filled with passionate intensity. Surely the Second Coming is at hand." I won't believe it. The best must find conviction, the passionate intensity, the strength. We are a people still of courage, of stamina, of fibre. God help us, the Second Coming is urgent. It is the resurgence of liberal democracy and our willingness to sacrifice something for it, or we will have nothing to bequeath our children but darkness, wailing, and the terrible haunting sounds of oppression and fear.
The thanks of the club were expressed to Miss Amiel by John MacNaughton, a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.