Origins of C.U.S.O 1961

Let’s Amend the Peace Corps Idea and Create a Canadian Venture

[NOTE: This piece was the result of press opinion that young people in Canada were softies.  I submitted it to the magazine Maclean’s in June 1961, but it was not published because they had already run another piece – with a different message – in a recent edition.]

On June 19th, [1961] the Vancouver Sun carried an editorial commenting upon the views of Dr. John I Ross, Dean of St. Andrew’s Hall at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Ross is reported to have remarked upon the university students of to-day: “Unexcited, pessimistic, unmoved by enthusiasm for anything……committed only to be uncommitted……” For the past few months I have been having a running argument with some of my colleagues who, like Dr. Ross, see “… no hope or rebellion.…..nice people, expertly polite.” This is a distressingly frequent opinion.

As I read it, I thought of some students I have known. Of Thora Hawkey, at this moment emerging, I hope unscathed, from the isolated cloisters of the Tenri University in Japan. She had gone, knowing no sentence of Japanese, to spend two years in this centre of a strong, militant expansionist Buddhist sect, with a fellow-Canadian as the only Westerner within reach, knowing full well that every pressure would be exerted upon her for her conversion And I thought of another student, Michael Ames, carrying out fieldwork in a Ceylon village, writing half—jocularly that he was washing elephants to earn some ready cash. I remembered, too, the way my office door was besieged when I announced to my class that I was off to do research in Fiji. The enthusiasts were prepared not only for the glamour, but for the hardships and disappointments. My colleagues in the University had already shown this when we depended on students to do the basic leg-work of research, living with British Columbia Indian families while we supervisors wrote up their data as a survey of contemporary Indian life.

Don’t sell the young people of Canada short. Don’t admit that they’re a bunch of physical and intellectual softies, without the stamina to face a challenge. Of course living is soft in the present condition of Canadian life, and there are many young men and women who would draw back if presented with any other alternative. But it is we, the adults, who have created such conditions, and let us not forget it. Don’t blame youth for our own ambitions and omissions. And if we want youth to be tough—minded, we should provide the openings for them to show what they can do.

At this moment at the University of Toronto, some dozen students, screened down from a group of fifty volunteers, are preparing for service in India, Sarawak, and possibly Ceylon. They will work abroad for a year, with Government and voluntary agencies, on minimal local rates of subsistence. The most exciting thing about this scheme is that it originated with students and is carried out by students, a whole army of them who worked night and day helping organize a drive for the funds necessary to provide the travel and ancillary expenses ($2,000 for each volunteer). The originator of the group which is known as Canadian Overseas Volunteers

Who was Keith Spicer, a graduate student in political science, worked out the idea and received encouragement from Asian officials while he was gathering material in South East Asia for a thesis on Canada’s Colombo Plan. Even with the enthusiasm of his group, however, he found that if he were to make progress (for example, in fund-raising), he needed support from established seniors. His search for such support was one long disappointment, until he found ready recognition and sponsorship from Mr. Fred Stinson, a Toronto Member of Parliament.

Here is the critical question. Can student enthusiasm get the backing it needs from you and me without stifling it? Can we provide the resources, the continuity, and the support, without destroying initiative?

We have failed to recognize the direction of student interest. In the parochialism of our citizenship, we have not fully recognized that the excitement of University life is largely because it is an international life. Important though the domestic issues of Canada may be, they lack the drama and challenge of the issues which confront the peoples of Asia and Africa. Here the fight for survival is real, not hidden behind the achievement of social security. Here the concept of common humanity is put to the test as technicians of many countries and persuasions work for the benefit of others. Here new societies are in the making, examining,  accepting, and rejecting many of the basic social assumptions that we tend to take for granted. And. here is one of the major challenges (together with those others which evoke a response from youth disarmament and control of nuclear fallout) to the future of mankind.

With characteristic imagination the Americans have seized upon this challenge and have based the Peace Corps movement upon it. “Movement” is indeed the right word, for despite the dampening effects of bureaucratization, the Peace Corps floats upon a ground swell of considerable magnitude. There must be literally scores of organizations in the United States, small and large, and mostly voluntary with funds drawn from the income of interested citizens, which are engaged in the task of sending young Americans abroad. The pity of it is that the Peace Corps phrase was ever coined.

For now the notion is inseparably bound up with the idea of Peace, which is the antithesis of war, and implies that young people going abroad are saving the world from cataclysm. While this hope is by no means irrelevant, in many of the potentially host countries, the notion has political overtones. It is inextricably mixed up with the Cold War, and countries can feel that they are being singled out for treatment because somehow their loyalty to the concepts of the West are in question. The American Peace Corps is now making brave attempts to live this notion down.  Read the rest

Marshall Plan #2 for terrorism 2001

Will we Learn?

The efforts of the world at this moment are understandably concentrated on tracking down and punishing.

The big stick, yes, but where is the carrot?

Where is the thought and energy going into long term solutions?

Terrorism is not an accident.  It has deep roots and causes.  If the causes are not dealt with, and if the roots are not dug up, the big stick will simply reinforce the nurturing of other terrorist plants.

It is extremely disturbing that no public thought has yet been announced on this aspect of the struggle. Here are some thoughts…………………  Dear leaders, think about them and do something please.

What happened on September 11th is the latest in anti-Western and anti-establishment terrorism which has been with us since the Second World War, and before.  Those acts which have occurred in Europe or the Middle East have been well documented,  but they occur in all parts of the world. However much we understand and remove the causes, they will still occur until there is a global reform of youth upbringing, and until those youths become adults, which I will not deal with here — see here.

For the sake of brevity and time I will not catalogue factual sources, but only generalize. Those sources are available in any library and on the internet. They are established by analysts from many cultures and from many political perspectives.

 We must be brutally candid with ourselves and at the same time not be sent into a tizzy by historical guilt. We must think of this as a possibility for a fresh and cleansing start.

The balloon of hubris and complacency in the United States was exploded by one blunted and three sharp pins.  Voices have been raised to say things like “it was coming to them”. Such a phrase carries undertones of misunderstanding.  Yes, it was inevitable that something like that would happen. But why? What in particular about the U.S.A? And the U.S.A. alone? Hardly.

The peaceful nature of the U.S.A. tends to hide its internal divisions.  The numerous scholars and travellers who learn about the world outside the continent are hugely outnumbered  by citizens, who, even when they travel, do so without learning. When I asked an elderly American couple, studying a map of Vancouver, “Could I help you?” they turned on me with a “Go away” and pretended not to speak English, as if I were a tout in a souk. (That by the way is by no means typical, although Japanese, Chinese, European and others are much more open to such a gesture.)

In other words for most of its life, the major part of U.S. citizenry ignores the world or treats it at best as a barbaric and untrustworthy nuisance.

The U.S. approaches to social services are primitive when compared to those of Europe. There was even one statement to the effect that the $40B emergency fund would be taken partly from social services – we hope that this is not true.

One hundred thousand individuals gathered before Parliament in Ottawa for a memorial service. Apart from the services in London, similar measures of support took place throughout the world. Very few did CNN mention.  Certainly President Bush and his officials take care to say always “The United States and it’s allies but the powerful visuals of the Moscow public laying flowers with tears before the United States Embassy, or the spontaneous horn blowing and streamer displaying by Polish taxi drivers, tears in France, Germany, Japan, Australia and so many other countries, the arrival of Canadian helpers and material – these count minimally for CNN.  Yet CNN is a fairly accurate barometer of mainstream America.

Yes, United States policy is strong, effective when aroused. Normally, it is strong and mis-effective day to day.  Illustration.  At the very moment of Canada’s support, generously welcomed by the U.S. ambassador, with today’s headline quoting our Foreign Minister “Canada is at War”, the Bush administration institutes an anti-free trade measure imposing, on the basis of wrong arithmetic, a unilateral and selfish  20% duty on Canadian softwood – an act which has nothing to do with a strategic alliance, is a simple reflex in support of certain lumber companies in the U.S. and ignoring the consequent rise in house construction prices throughout the country, to say nothing of the throwing out of work in Canada of at least as many individuals as those killed on September 11th.

This kind of short term focussed policy, ignoring the deeper and wider, holistic, consequences, is typical, not only of the U.S., but of all Western governments.

It is one of the many factors which explains wide foreign and some U.S. distrust and cynicism about U.S. policies, even when other governments are similar in outlook. What’s good for the U.S. is good for the world.  We will refuse to sign international treaties which may make us modify our policies, even though the rest of the world wants them.  We sneer at and starve the United Nations, because deep down we know that we should strengthen it as a true world government, standing above the United States or other individual countries.  When Hitler attacks and the democracies have their backs to the Channel, we will not intervene, because this is not U.S. soil – until the wake up call of Pearl Harbour.  Cynics will argue that if the current death toll had been on European soil, the U.S. would have taken a great deal of time before joining the alliance. Let us hope that such thoughts are an injustice. Let’s hope their implications are never put to the test.

Hubris and isolation (except through the domination of popular culture and the capitalist side of globalisation)  seem to have been justified by results.  Peace and superficial harmony. The ability, not to police the world, but choose the time and place, in U.S. interests, of any exertion of influence.

And there’s the rub.  What are U.S. interests?  It is time we and others stood up and said – “U.S.  Read the rest