Posts Tagged “John Ralston Saul”

08w07:4 John Ralston Saul on Canadian Culture in 1986

by timothy. 1 Comment

Culture: A Mirror and a Weapon (Excerpt) | John Ralston Saul
From Culture: A Mirror and a Weapon by John Ralston Saul. Found in “You’ve Got Ten minutes to get that flag down…”: Proceedings of The Halifax Conference:A National Forum on Canadian Cultural Policy (Conference took place in September 1985, and the book was published in 1986;; partially browseable on Google Books). Occasional comments on content by me footnoted:

This is not to argue that Canadian culture cannot make money or that it is not produced by a group within the community. It can and it is. But that has nothing to do with the role and importance of culture. Financial profits are artistic communities are by-products of culture, not the reasons for it. Only a great dominant culture can afford to concentrate on by-products. We are obliged to be extremely careful in the ways we choose to build our own mythology and to protect it, not only against the force of America, but also of France and of England, all three of whom perceive us a being worthy of their cultural leadership.

Culture, in all places and at all times, is a mirror for the nation out of which it emerges. Those who create should not claim for themselves the reassuring status of a specialized community. Their role, after all, is to provide a reflection of all of the communities within the nation. This is not to say that writers must sit down with the hand of socialist realism upon their shoulders. We, as individuals, may produce thousands of images for thousands of reasons. Nevertheless, each of those images, each of our reasons, will reveal themselves as part of our society’s reflection of itself. The farmers, the garment makers, the teachers, each have their jobs and their lives; but their reflection of themselves in in our hands. Whether the CBC or McClelland and Stewart make money out of it, whether the creator is compensated by a pension plan is of interest to the individuals immediately concerned, but irrelevant to a people’s reflection of themselves.1 That is, irrelevant to culture.


The remarkable thing about Canada’s culture is that despite unprecedented pressures from the United States, England and France, despite a branch-plant class of Canadian citizens who work partially or entirely at cross purposes to the national interest, we continue to run our country in our own very peculiar way and to produce ever greater amounts of accurate cultural reflection.

While the American novel sinks into degenerate university methodology or verbose facility, and the English novel into provincial regret and the French novel into perfected navel gazing and paralyzed language, the Canadian novel, English and French, appears young and strong, charged with a tough clean language and an unforgiving eye. Much of the same could be said for our painting or our poetry or, for example, our theatre, if you were to compare the force of a Tremblay or a Murrell with the helpless self-indulgence of the West End or the endless droning on of revived Broadway musicals. But if all of this is true, if our culture is perfectly healthy, what then is our problem? Because we do indeed act as if we have a great problem.

Perhaps it lies with the curious psychological blanket which we seem determined to lay over our culture. Worse than constantly attempting to define our efforts, we also insist upon making those definitions in relationship to three other nations. And yet, as we are not ancient, self-indulgent, declining ex-colonial powers struggling through the last steps of European nationalism. Nor are we the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, brandishing riches and nuclear force on the one hand, while slipping into poverty on the other thanks to an inability to deal with 60 million ex-slaves and Hispanic immigrants. It is therefore somewhat lunatic to expect our reflection of ourselves to resemble theirs of themselves. We are, despite our standard of living and our democracy, more like a third world country than anything else. And if we are to find soul brothers beyond our borders, then we should be looking for energetic, lean, aggressive, self-criticizing language and thought patterns, almost free of self-indulgence, almost free of proselytizing mythology. Friends with those sorts of qualities we are far more likely to find among dissidents of Eastern Europe or of Central and South America; among the creators of Australia and New Zealand or other smaller democracies.

It makes no sense for us to chase after the indifferent shadows of ex and current super powers. Our own reflection is a complete and adequate picture. It is the portrait of an outsider. Of a third world. A provincial body. I use this word – provincial – with enthusiasm and pride. Provincialism has always been a strength for the creator. The great imperial urban centres have never been hot beds of creation. Their citizens have always been too satisfied with the fast and easy excitement of their environment. They mistake fashion and sophistication and knowing the right people for creation and culture.2 They are too carefully political, too basely ambitious. They specialize in salon art3 and closed conversations disguised as fiction. The best of those who wish to write and paint flee these places. Those who wish merely to succeed stay, and indeed arrive from all points. Even within the borders of the great powers the creative impulse comes not from New York or Paris, but from the provinces. It was no accident that Flaubert stayed in Rouen and Twain in the south; that Cezanne fled to Aix and Byron to Italy.

These very cities – which live off the creativity of the provinces and corrupt all who are drawn into their arms – are the places that Canadians seem obsessed by measuring themselves against. The imagined brilliance of New York, London and Paris is forever before our eyes while we remain indifferent to, for example, the Spanish world, which is alive with real ideas and questions and is, incidentally, the second world market for books.

On top of our search for false relationships, we have laid a second, even more suffocating blanket. The culture of this country – an accurate reflection of the people – is in constant production or is ready to be produced. But it is not allowed to reflect. It is not allowed access to the technical means of reflection; that is to say, to the systems of distribution.

The Americans, the English and the French, despite their vocabulary of cultural superiority, go to great pains to secure their international cultural power through a hearty concentration upon the structures of culture – or ‘entertainment’, as the Americans say. Through this control they sell their own cultural products and therefore their ideas; which in turn sells everything that is a part of their own reflection – everything from their cars to their foreign policy.

The Americans are quite right to perceive their ‘entertainment business’ as an assault force. Culture is the most powerful weapon of any nation. To reduce culture to some sort of arcane middle class activity for those who have the luxuries of high education and spare time is in fact to abdicate control over our entire destiny.


But if our culture is so vibrant, how is it that, despite massive governmental aid, Canadian efforts to make headway in the distribution of our own culture continue to fail and to lose money, while foreign efforts to sell us their cultures (plus a token amount of our own) seem to succeed relatively easily? Why are we so ineffective? So amateurish? The answer to a great extent is that we are struggling within a system created by foreigners and therefore designed to work in their interests. This bias is not apparent in any written rules which could be identified and therefore changed. This bias is endemic to the system itself and therefore invisible to a legislator. Our obsession with specific legislation and specific support programs leads us blindly into a maze where only those who laid out the paths can find their way. The existing system dictates by a thousand unidentifiable signs, by its very breath, by its cadence, exactly which cultural elements will be able to find their way through to the Canadian public. It is worth adding that we are the only democracy in the world to have entrusted its culture delivery systems in this way to outsiders.

The governmental support programs – legislative and financial – which are intended to change this situation, in fact confine us ever more narrowly within our own marginality within our own country. We are increasingly the special case. The delicate flower. The only way to change this is through sweeping – not specific – legislation, which in one radical step would place us and our interests at the centre of our own society, while removing the foreigners to the margins.

But even if it is true that no other democracy except Canada accepts cultural marginality within its own borders, why is it that we need such radical legislation to establish a normal situation? No other country has needed to deal with culture in this manner. The answer is that no other democracy is in our situation: twenty-five million people4 sitting on the border of the century’s most powerful nation and culture. Our situation cannot be compared to others when we search for solutions because no other democracy exists under the kind of cultural pressures which we experience every day. Our solution must be specific to the Canadian situation, but aimed at creating a system not unlike the kind which makes it possible for national cultures to exist in other medium-sized or small democracies.


If we believe that no governmental action will be taken to put Canadians at the centre of their own cultural structure, or if decisions are being taken which we feel will dangerously damage this country, then we are perfectly capable of action and must therefore act. If the bureaucratic mind is so attached to the concept of ‘cultural industries’, why are we, the employees of those industries, so loath to engage in industrial action? We are able, for example, to shit down all the communication systems. Cable systems. Film distribution systems. Book distribution systems. What’s more, we can shut down these systems selectively: blocking foreign interests while allowing Canadian interests to function. Furthermore, we are surrounded by politicians obsessed by image. We can deal with their images in many ways.

We must not be trapped into a bureaucratic frame of mind which makes us believe that our only avenue is the negotiating of ‘deals’ in a ‘professional’ manner with governments and civil servants. It is these deals, these little victories, which have convinced us that the only marginal success is possible. It is this desire to appear professional which makes us afraid to dirty our hands. Is it not remarkable that we are more concerned about our dignity than were the nationalists in the oil industry?

If we believe that our culture is vibrant, then we should not waste time discussing that culture. Instead we should be engaged in action which shows we do actually believe that vibrancy to be real. If we do our job as the reflection of the people, then the people must expect us to stand up and use, in their defence, the talents which make us the creators of their reflection – that is, the talents of public words and public images and public actions.

1. Consider that now (22 years later in 2008) the following Canadian television shows: Little Mosque on the Prairie, Corner Gas, and MVP, which offer some sort of reflection of Canadian life.
2. Susan Sontag and George Steiner come immediately to my mind.
3. The art of the Whitney and the Venice Biennials.
4. In the twenty three years since, the population of Canada has increased to 33 million.

06w38:1 The Address to the Electors of Terrebonne

by timothy. 0 Comments

The last Goodreads was of John Ralston Saul’s keynote address to the annual Couchiching Conference, and as you may have heard by now, at the 1:22:48 mark (chapter 47 of the m4a file), he brings up Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine’s ‘Address to the Electors of Terrebonne’ of which he says, it is ‘the single most important document in the creation of Canada, and the most beautiful and the most intellectually moving’. Those of you who’ve read his work extensively will have noticed his fondness for this text, and in the Couchiching audio, he goes on to ask the audience, ‘how many of you’ve read it?’ He expresses dismay at its obscurity, noting that ‘I keep hoping that if quote it people will quote it back to me.’ Had I been in the audience, I would have asked, ‘where do you find it?’

Indeed. You’d think it’d be on the internet if it was such a big deal and all. Of course, this lack of net-accesilbility as of last week just prompted me to find it and post it, since that’s part of what Goodreads is about. So, for your Canadian political self-education, here is the newly posted and freshly translated (by yours truly) ‘Address to the Electors of Terrebonne’. – Timothy


The Address to the Electors of Terrebonne | Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine
“Education is the first benefit that a government can give to a people. In the past there were schools that the Legislative Council closed. Public money would be better spent on their reopening than on bribing a police force which everyone repels and abhors. The establishment of our colleges everyday makes lies of these false and injurious assertions, preferred by the prejudiced and the impassioned, that the ignorance of Canadians comes from their pretentious indifference to education.”

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emailed by Timothy on Thursday 21 September 2006 @ 9:28 PM

06w37:1 John Ralston Saul at Couchiching

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Last month John Ralston Saul gave the keynote address at the Couchiching Conference held in Orillia Ontario. The theme of the conference was progress, the talks and presentations organized under its title of ‘Wedded to Progress: For Better, For Worse’. It ran from August 10-13, and Saul delivered this talk on Sunday August 13th the title of which is ”Rediscovering the Sense of Action and Leadership’.

It is available through the following two files: the first, m4a, is encoded in Apple’s AAC format and has the advantage of being indexed into chapters. The second mp3 is chapterless, yet available incase your system won’t play the AAC file. -Timothy


Rediscovering the Sense of Action and Leadership | John Ralston Saul
m4a file is 55.2 MB; mp3 file is 53.5 MB; talk runs 1hr56min. Introduced by Pamela Wallin; JRS begin at 7:38min ; question period moderated by Wallin and begins at 1:15:54

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emailed by Timothy on Saturday 16 September 2006 @ 2:56 PM

06w05:2 An Open and Reasonable Soceity?

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2006 week 5 number 2 (an open and reasonable society?)

In the remarkable chapter Images of Immortality found within John Ralston Saul’s 1992 bookVoltaire’s Bastards he says this while tracing the development of artist heroes:

When Romanticism began to flourish in the late 18th Century and the ego began to grow until it dominated public life, people abruptly found Raphael far too modest a fellow to have been the father of the perfect image. So they tended to fall into line with the description of the technical breakthroughs which had been provided by Vasari in his Lives of the Painters, written shortly after the actual events. In other words, they transferred the credit to an irresponsible, antisocial individualist, Michelangelo – a veritable caricature of the artist in the 20th Century. If we were ever able to create a reasonable, open society, Leonardo would no doubt cease appearing to us as an overwhelming, almost forbidding, giant and the credit would be switched to him.

Since that time, Marcel Duchamp (analytical, reasonable) has overtaken Picasso (irresponsible, antisocial individualist that he was) as the greatest artist of the 20th Century, and Leonardo has inspired one of the most read books in the history of the world. Although there is a ton of political evidence to the contrary, perhaps we are witnessing the transition toward a reasonable open society after all? Slowly the balance is shifting so that the President of the United States says ‘Americans are addicted to oil’ and these five words become a headline (as it did yesterday on the Drudgereport), representing as they do a significant shift toward reality from a man famously blinded by ideology.

This Leonardo angle comes by way of the Martin Kemp interview link herein, in which he also complains about art writing. After they talk about his Leonardo book, they get to talking about contemporary art, and Kemp says the following:

AFH: What do you think of all the writing generated by the art world?

MK: There is a lot of writing generated that is redundant. When I was a graduate student, I used to review exhibitions and I found that sitting on the train heading in to London to see the show, I would be writing the review before I arrived. At one point when I was working in Glasgow, I did a review for the Guardian of a nonexistent exhibition, which consisted of all the popular words and apparatus. It was a critical account that stood independently and I then dropped in a spurious artist in to the framework. You see a lot of writing like that allows the machinery to go on by just dropping a name into the mix along the way.

AFH: Do you think this kind of writing is destructive to art or artists?

MK: One thing that has happened very dramatically is that artists in the educational system have to produce more written work as part of their degrees. That has had an effect on artists and artistic production. I think many artists are automatically thinking about how the work will be written about when they are making it. It is not necessarily that they plan, but they can’t stop doing it. That hyper-sensitivity to the written word and what artists need to say about their own work, knowing they will be interviewed, often goes alongside a very self-consciousness about how work will look in reproduction, how it will be discussed, how artists need to justify their own work in the media. The issue is how to corral the artists and the critics into one arena that represents the work well.

This leads me to post the Jerry Saltz article from the end of December, wherein he talks about being a critic. Personally my own experience with writing criticism slanted me toward thinking it wasn’t worth it. Better to let people make up their own minds about things. There’s a difference between criticism and publicity afterall, and no artist wants real criticism. Such genuine critique comes from someone like John Carey, where in the last link this is said about the art world: “Approved high art, Carey insists again and again, is too often simply a marker of class, education and wealth. ‘It assures you of your specialness. It inscribes you in the book of life, from which the nameless masses are excluded.’ Yet ‘the characteristics of popular or mass art that seem most objectionable to its high-art critics — violence, sensationalism, escapism, an obsession with romantic love — minister to human needs inherited from our remote ancestors over hundreds of thousands of years.'” It seems to me that in an increasingly open and reasonable society, professional artists would be derided for their unreasonable snobbish attitudes. But that’s just me.

Finally, a link to a Daily Show clip on Crooks and Liars. They offer two video feeds, one Windows and the other a Quicktime, but the quicktime one doesn’t work as a type this (maybe later?). The clip goes over the James Frey debacle, pointing out that while political lying is pooh-poohed, Oprah’s humiliation is that she ‘forced Americans to read, when they really didn’t have to’.

– Timothy

Universal Leonardo | Ana Finel Honigman
The interview with Martin Kemp. But check out the website mentioned there:
“‘A project aimed at deepening our understanding of Leonardo da Vinci through a series of international exhibitions, scientific research and educational resources. Explore the web site for details of the exhibitions and to discover Leonardo’s fascinating thought and work in the realms of art, science and technology.’ “

Seeing out loud | Jerry Saltz

What Good are the Arts? | Michael Dirda

The Daily Show: Oprah vs News | Crooks and Liars
“Why does James Frey get tougher treatment than our government? Well, I’ll tell you why. Because he misled us into a book we had no business getting into. So thank you Oprah for giving us a glimpse into political accountability and punishing the one unforgivable sin our society. Forcing Americans to read … when they really didn’t have to.”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 01 February 2006 @ 2:28 PM

05w29:2 Letter from St. John's | London Bombings

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 29 number 2 (Letter from St. John’s | London Bombings)

Craig Francis Power has written me a couple of letters from St. John’s, the latest deals with the latest controversy with The Rooms and Gordon Laurin’s firing.
Now, while the news channels today are creaming themselves about being able to devote another full day to the crumbs fed to them by the London police, we should remember that in the long run, visual culture and literature is where a society’s memory lies, and certainly not at the news desks of CBC and CNN, where they tell us that today’s bombing occurred two weeks after the first round. No shit. I wasn’t born yesterday.

Goodreads began partially because of what I read by John Taylor Gatto in an autumn issue of Harper’s magazine a couple of years back:

After a long life, and thirty years in the public school trenches, I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves.

And that stayed with me. Then, last winter’s readings of John Ralston Saul drove the point home:

“There is no reason to believe that large parts of any population wish to reject learning or those who are learned. People want the best for their society and themselves. The extent to which a populace falls back on superstition or violence can be traced to the ignorance in which their elites have managed to keep them, the ill-treatment they have suffered and the despair into which a combination of ignorance and suffering have driven them. […] It’s not that everyone must understand everything; but those who are not experts must see that they are being dealt with openly and honestly; that they are part of the process of an integrated civilization. They will understand and participate to the best of their ability. If excluded they will treat the elites with an equal contempt”.

London Bombings
Bombers in London are suffering from a lack of imagination, by which they can’t relate to society at large. I’m reminded of something Mark Kingwell wrote ten years ago discussing crime statistics in the U.S. and noting that for some the conditions of poverty were so severe that going to jail was a step up, guaranteeing shelter and three meals a day. (Such motivations have also led many people into the military over the past couple of centuries as well).

One then begins to see that these suicide bombers are trying to escape their lives. And, as the media would like us to think – they all appear normal, aren’t in dire poverty. They always come across as a middle-class, albeit in some cases, lower middle class. Instead, we have a situation analogous to the suicides of Canada’s north, where the Inuit children, after years of sniffing gasoline for cheap and brain-destructive highs, are hanging or shooting themselves. We have a pretty good idea as to why those kids are self-destructive, and that is because ‘they have no culture’, the story being that the misguided intentions of a century ago to assimilate the native populations did terrible damage to their sense of self as a culture, and in effect, destroyed their imaginations. The imagination of themselves and their place in the world, in the grand scheme of things.

And so, I want to say that suicide bombers are suffering from a lack of imagination. That they are choosing to die, and to escape into the paradisiacal world (the only thing, one imagines, that has preoccupied their imagination for years) rather than continuing to live their dreary, industrialized, modernist, post-modernist, (or whatever other name we throw at it) lives.

Those of us who despise reality television and other aspects of pop culture choose do so because we feel that we have better things to occupy our imagination – great books, the art of contemporary galleries – ‘cinema’ as opposed to Hollywood blockbusters…. but if you’re a child of immigrants, and don’t identify either with your parents or fully with your peers, and instead your imagination is stimulated by religion …. it doesn’t seem to be so mysterious now does it, why these kids would do what they do.

We imagine ourselves, develop ambitions, or at least have plans for the future – next vacation and so forth. Imagining ourselves and our place in the world is terribly important in helping give us a sense of context, and in carrying out our daily activities. Our love for stories feeds this sense of imagination – and we feel more alive when our life is echoed in the imagination – it is a resonance chamber by which we build symphonies of meaning.

The Rooms
The tension in St. John’s is one of two imaginative visions: an elite version (which I suppose would be Laurin’s camp) and one down-home version (the CEO’s camp). Now, admittedly, I’m not in St. John’s and am only working with what I’ve read (today’s links) but let’s look at it according to Saul’s take on elitism. I believe, as does Saul, that people want what’s best. That only seems like common sense. Yes, the elites, and especially art-elites, do form a sort of tribe which treats people outside of it with an element of contempt. They think they are engaged in what’s best. They think that the lobster-trap craft folk are uneducated and misguided and have the blinders on towards ‘what’s best’. Hence, tension.

Ok, that being said, it does seem to me that Craig Power has a point where he writes, “Newfoundlanders have a reputation for being stupid, inbred and drunk. With the events of the past week and a half, is there any reason to wonder why?” having set it up by saying, “Wanda Mooney, a career government administrator, has been installed as interim director. … I don’t know what this woman’s knowledge of art history or contemporary art practice is, but I do know that if you Google her name, you find out that she used to be the woman you called if you wanted to rent space or book a reception at the old provincial gallery. How this qualifies her to run the gallery on even an interim basis, I don’t know, but I can hardly wait to see this visionary at work.”

Perhaps that’s unfair. But the point here is that according to the attitude among artists in St. John’s, the Board of Directors and CEO are suffering from a lack of imagination, one that in itself is contemptuous of the public at large. One that assumes tourists want to travel to foggy and cold St. John’s to see a bunch of folk-art crap, when they could be treated to the best of what contemporary culture has to offer.

But, the point I’m trying to make by bringing up London and my thoughts therein are that treating The Rooms with the contempt with which it has been treated, first by the Provincial Government, which kept it closed for a year, and now with Laurin’s dismissal, is stunting the imagination of Newfoundlanders, a place which so far has imagined itself as backward and victimized, and been rewarded by doing so by a Kevin Spacey movie. Laurin’s purported vision to give the citizens of St. John’s the quality of culture they deserve (that is, the best) and to resist mediocre crap, is admirable, and it’s unfortunate that another Maritime art scandal has resulted in the process. But here we also seem to be dealing with the backlash of ‘the excluded’ toward the elites (who have excluded by obscurantist writing and snotty attitudes for a century now) by treating them with ‘an equal contempt’.

Let’s just say that nobody has a monopoly on the imagination, but London also illustrates that it’s important to foster the best imaginations society has to offer.


Letter from St. John’s 2 | Craig Francis Power
“In his brief tenure, Laurin had already formed alliances with Newfoundland and Labrador’s artist run centres, not to mention its experimental musicians, dancers and writers. There was a real sense of excitement amongst all of us. We actually believed that the provincial gallery, long a bastion for the cultural vacuity of Christopher Pratt (NL’s answer to Alex Colville), would begin to take contemporary art and artists more seriously. I, for one, feel like the biggest sucker in the world. […]Newfoundlanders have a reputation for being stupid, inbred and drunk. With the events of the past week and a half, is there any reason to wonder why?”

Artists ‘mortified’ by sacking at St. John’s Rooms | CBC Arts
“Newfoundland and Labrador’s arts community is ‘mortified and deeply embarrassed’ by the recent firing of Gordon Laurin as director of the province’s art gallery, according to an artists group.Gabrielle Kemp, director of communications of Visual Arts Newfoundland and Labrador (VANL), told CBC Arts Online her group is vexed by Laurin’s dismissal just two weeks after the province’s landmark art gallery, The Rooms, opened. “

Director’s exit stuns community | James Adams (G&M)
“Laurin was hired for the job just a little more than a year ago, following a lengthy search. A graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, he’d been director of Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax since 1998. In the spring of 2004, it was expected that Laurin would be overseeing the move of the art collection into The Rooms, but that March the provincial government announced it was postponing the opening of the facility by a year, to June 29, 2005, to save an estimated $2-million.”

Interview #2 | On the Go
“The Room’s is living up to it’s controversial beginnings. Remember the enormous fight over building on top of the Fort Townsend site. Now, within two weeks of our new provincial Museum, Archives and Art Gallery opening, the director of the Art Gallery has been sacked. Gordon Laurin, the now former director, will not comment. Dean Brinton is the CEO of the Rooms. He’s the man who fired him. Here’s part of what he had to say to the host of Weekend AM, Angela Antle.”Aired Friday, July 15, 2005 | Real Audio File

Interview #3 | On the Go
“When the news came out on Friday that Gordon Laurin, the director of our new Art Gallery in the Rooms was sacked, many people were shocked, if not outraged. Now the province’s visual artists are getting together, having meetings and making phone calls to find out what happened at the Rooms and what happens from here on in. VANL, The Visual Artists of Newfoundland and Labrador is an advocacy group for visual artists. That group held a meeting today, and then two of it’s members came by our studio. Elayne Greeley, is the chair of VANL’s advocacy committee. Tara Bryant is a member of the board. Ted began the conversation by asking Ms. Greeley what she’s learned since Friday about why Gordon Laurin was let go. Here’s what she said.

Q: What is important about this dispute for the people who aren’t working artists, the people listening to us right now?
A: Do they want a cultural institution that represents their culture in an accurate and in an informed way, or do they want a watered down version of programming and culture that is aimed at a less informed audience? An art gallery is a research institution as well as a space that presents work, right? So we’re talking about curating, we’re not talking just about a pretty space to hang artwork, we’re talking about representing the culture that has happened as well as presenting the culture that is existing now, and how it is going to move into the future’. [7.32/9.33] “Aired Monday, July 18, 2005 | Real Audio File

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emailed by Timothy on Thursday 21 July 2005 @ 1:49 PM

05w22:1 The Collaspse of Globalism

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2005 week 22 number 1 (The Collapse of Globalism)


John Ralston Saul’s ‘The Collapse of Globalism’ | Timothy Comeau
“Ah the isms, can’t live with ’em, can’t have good arguments without them. And for the past thirty years, we’ve seen a flourishing of isms, one that could almost be said to have sprung from the fertilized soil of the World War’s dead a generation prior. To some they were flowers, to others they have been weeds. And JRS is one who’s seen them as weeds. I’ve come to find them somewhat noxious myself, which is one of the reasons that I’ve grown fond of his thinking, and over the winter I read most of his books. It is also for that reason that I was particularly excited when I learned in March that he had a new book coming out. There was also a geeky pleasure to know that with the publication of a new text he’d be speaking in Toronto at some point, which turned out to be sooner rather than later. JRS spoke at U of T’s MacMillan Theatre a week ago now, which I eagerly attended and like the keener I am took a seat dead centre in the third row because lectures for me are more exciting than rock concerts. “

The Collapse of Globalism by John Ralston Saul | Paul Kennedy,,2102-1616368,00.html
“There are few middle-of-the-road voices to be heard here. Egged on, one suspects, by their publishers, authors participating in this debate tend to advance a more extreme – or, shall we say, more dramatic – picture of events. Just recently, the foreign-affairs correspondent of The New York Times, Thomas Friedman, published his new book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Globalised World in the 21st Century. Deeply impressed by the communications revolution and the free flow of capital, and reinforced by interviews with high-tech entrepreneurs from Boston to Bangladesh, Friedman argued that globalisation is intensifying, making societies ever more ‘flat’ – that is, conforming more and more to free-market western practices. This debate is now joined by the Canadian philosopher John Ralston Saul, with The Collapse of Globalism. Saul has written various books of fiction as well as non-fiction, and he brings a great breadth of literary and cultural knowledge to his task. But he has his own axe to grind in this debate over globalism, and his own arguments to advance. […] But his story is about the losers or, better put, about the backlash against globalism and globalisation. And he is striving, yearning, faltering and then rising to find what Hans Kung, the great German theologian, described as a ‘global ethic’ to help us pick our way through the debris of the 21st century. The Collapse of Globalism is an angry and, I think, an unbalanced book, for the same yet opposite reasons as Friedman’s. Each is groping a particular part of our elephant of globalism. For his part, Saul sees, not the ‘flattening’ of our world, but the increasing storms and dislocations, and the increasingly powerful movements and protests against unbridled capitalism, especially in the developing world. And he means to frighten the reader, not only to his point of view, but to take action. This is a sort of manifesto, rather like Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring, or Donella and Dennis Meadows’s Club of Rome report, The Limits to Growth.”

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emailed by Timothy on Saturday 04 June 2005 @ 2:38 PM

04w51:2 John Ralston Saul on Citizenship, Education, and Bilingualism

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 51 number 2 (John Ralston Saul on citizenship, education, and bilingualism)

Upon Receiving an Honorary Degree from U of Ottawa | John Ralston Saul
“This privilege of freedom – which you haven’t been able to fully enjoy – comes with obligations. [They] have to do with your becoming full citizens, not simply with your becoming specialists, and they certainly do not have to do with you becoming someone who may earn a bit more money than others because of university training. This creation of the citizen is at the centre of the idea of public education in Canada. We are an egalitarian society, not a class-based society. […] I hope, in spite of the cost of education, that you have managed to use a good part of your time in order to read well beyond the books which were necessary for your courses, that you’ve been thinking about things that go well beyond what you’ve been specifically educating yourselves for and that you’ve been wasting the maximum amount of time pushing each other in debates and disagreements. […] On the other hand, if you haven’t been doing this for the last four years, I can reassure you of one thing: you’ve got about another 70 years […] on average, ahead of you to continue your reading and your debating and your thinking that you hopefully started in university. You’ve been preparing yourselves for the reality of truly living for the next 70 odd years. […] You’re not in a platoon going out to the frontline. And yet, they’ll talk a great deal to you about loyalty. In fact, a certain kind of disloyalty is essential to the success of a democracy, because disloyalty in normal peace time activity is a citizen’s strength. It’s all about talking and disagreeing and being disagreeable in public because you don’t want to conform, because you are not loyal to what others say you’re supposed to think. […] If you get into that habit now of being a tough-minded, disagreeable citizen, known as somebody who is not afraid to speak out in private meetings or in public or anything in between, then you will see that life is not about simply being there for the working hours, it isn’t simply about fulfilling the tasks which have been given you, or about getting the form right. Life is about something much more interesting and that. If you’re willing to take the risks, you’ll be in a position to change the way in which things are normally done. ”

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emailed by Timothy on Wednesday 15 December 2004 @ 3:14 PM

04w46:1 John Ralston Saul on Journalism and Public Debate

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 46 number 1 (John Ralston Saul on Journalism and Public Debate)

This is really great. – Timothy


Inaugural Joseph Howe Lecture | John Ralston Saul
“If we look around at the 20 odd western democracies, we can see that they are the best-educated societies civilization has ever seen. […] What’s more, we live more than 75 percent longer than we were living 100 years ago. That means we have a great deal more time. We are not in any rush. […] So here we are with high education, long life, stability and fairness. That suggests that there is no need for enmity. No need for false populism. No need for malevolent division or unnecessary division. There is certainly no need for yellow journalism and false populism. And we have another advantage -– all this remarkable technology. It doesn’t make us think any faster, but it allows us to get the nuts and bolts of life into place a great deal faster than ever before. That means we have even more time to educate ourselves, to live, to be stable, to be fair, and above all to think and to discuss and to argue. ”

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emailed by Timothy on Monday 08 November 2004 @ 7:45 PM

04w40:3 John Ralston Saul

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Good Reads Mailing List | 2004 week 40 number 3 (john ralston saul)


LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium Inaugural Lecture | John Ralston Saul
“So long as an NGO – which could also be defined as a corporation of social reformers – remains outside the democratic system, it has no real political levers. Its activists are not there, in the people’s Chamber, to clarify the cause. And there is no practical link between the problem they are devoted to and the real action required to deal with it. PR victories – which NGOs so often win – cannot be converted automatically into law. Nor should they be. Again, we live in democracies. But the result is that there are no direct practical links between the public debate and government action. The public therefore becomes discouraged about the effectiveness of politics because politics appear to be unresponsive to the public debate. And because of their disconnection from the formal political process, the corporations of social reformers themselves begin to look naive. […] In other words, so long as a good cause remains on the outside, it may actually give comfort to those who oppose it. A cause really only makes ethical, utilitarian and social sense when it and its proponents are integrated into the democratic process. This withdrawal of the social reformers from that democratic process is certainly a change in our society, but I don’t think it was inevitable or is eternal. It is merely a side effect of corporatism.”

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emailed by Timothy on Friday 01 October 2004 @ 12:53 PM