Canada - How to Realize Our Ideals
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
" What will the industrial life of Canada be twenty-five years from now, in the commercial and industrial war with the people of the south, with the great Australian Commonwealth, with the nations of Europe waking up, and with the old nations of China and Japan commencing to wake up? It will be just what her young men will make it, if they apply themselves from this time forward to make themselves masters of industry."—Hon. Geo. E. Foster.
THE purchasing power of the individual Canadian is at the present time about double that of a citizen of the United States, and about fifteen times greater than that of the average Spanish-American. Of course this high standard may be lowered upon the rapid increase of our population, but the manufacturing and commercial possibilities of the people, now so well to the fore, can at least be imagined when they have multiplied twelvefold. The possession of great resources is, however, a very different matter from the successful operation of them ; and the capacity for lofty ideals is quite different from their realization. Neither of these desired ends can be attained by leaving to chance that which demands the most careful attention. Let our ideals ever lead us on and upward, but never bring us to that place where our efforts cease. To feel the need of national effort and ambition too strongly may not be wise, but to look complacently on the achievements of the past is to doom ourselves to failure in the morning of life.
Nothing can express the secret of a nation's success or the danger of its failure better than the words of Lord Rosebery respecting national self-complacency : " A great trained and intelligent population, capable of sustained thinking on public questions, is essential to success in the modern world. The nation which is satisfied is lost ; self-complacency is a fatal gift. A spirit of honest dissatisfaction is essential, as opposed to complacency." If Lord Rosebery spoke this to Englishmen of England it is quite as applicable to this side of the Atlantic.
The following comments on his words are worthy of repetition: " Complacency has no more place in the life of a growing nation than in the life of a growing man. No matter how great a man's achievement may be, if he has the right spirit he never indulges in complacency, because he is always measuring what he has done against his possibilities, and taking account of himself, not by comparison. with his competitors, but by comparison with his ideals. This is true of great nations. One of the obstacles against which China has to contend is the complacency of her people, the almost invincible self-satisfaction with which they are clothed, which shuts the minds of a great majority against any honest comparison of the condition of the country with the condition of other countries.
" There is too much censorious and thoughtless criticism in this country. There are too many people who, without mastering the facts of any situation, are ready to condemn tho policies of men and of parties, the attitude of individuals and of the country. We have had enough of this kind of captious, irrational, unmanly criticism—a criticism which is essentially effeminate knowledge. It is not the expression of judgment ; it is a combination of importance, ignorance and conceit. There has been too much of this kind of criticism, which has bred an attitude towards public men that has sensibly diminished the dignity attached to their position, and, therefore, their influence.
" We do need, however, another kind of dissatisfaction ; that noble discontent which measures the achievement and attainments of the country with the highest possible standards, and which eliminates self-complacency by making the nation understand how little it has accomplished compared with what it ought to have done. A happy people is contented, but never satisfied ; it appreciates what it has secured and is grateful for what has been given it, but it is never satisfied with what it has done.
" Our people have put themselves in the fore-front of the modern world by virtue of their energy, their intelligence, their strong handling of their resources but he is a very blind citizen who does not carry in his heart the burden of unsolved problems, and on his conscience the shame of unredressed wrongs. We do not want a discontented country, but we do want a dissatisfied country ; a country entirely free from self-complacency ; a country fully aware of its own defects and resolutely determined to overcome them ; a country which finds joy in its ideals, not in its attainments." The sentiments expressed above are equally applicable to Canada and are worthy of being pondered by the Canadian people.