DEFERENCE TO AUTHORITY: The Case of Canada by Edgar Z. Friedenberg


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Dissident sociologist Friedenberg (The Vanishing Adolescent, Coming of Age in America) emigrated to Canada in 1970 in protest against the Vietnam War and other infractions of due process, other subversions of rights--only to discover that Canadians have no ""inalienable rights"" and, worse, don't want to know what they're missing. The root of the problem? ""Canadians as such have no tradition identifying government as the source of oppression."" In short--and at length--they're hamstrung by deference to authority. In the arts, ""real drama"" flourishes only in alienated, non-WASP Quebec (otherwise the concerned, responsible documentary is the norm); when abuses of power surface, the response is to deny official responsibility (Mountie-gate) and/or prescribe more authority (the MacGuigan Report on federal prisons); and as for the economy, Canada has invited U.S. domination by its unwillingness to invest in its own development, to take risks or be aggressive. Friedenberg's non-stop indictment of Canadian passivism does have a couple of provocative corollaries: for one, his conviction that thinking of the government as ""a good, Victorian mother"" is an ""almost-Freudian"" barrier to developing a sense of national identity; and, for another, his insistence that ""American culture is rich in just those elements in which Canadian culture is crucially deficient""--look at open, eclectic, culturally-distinct California alone! (And why not let Canadian kids learn, from American TV crime shows, that some people do have civil liberties?) But, in case you're wondering, Friedenberg is not sorry he made the move: schooled in free-thinking, ""Americans can afford to enjoy Canada""--the slower pace, the civility, the privacy, the calm. Just how those qualities would fare if Canadians become more like Americans, he doesn't say.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1980
Publisher: Sharpe--dist. by Pantheon