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Here is a recent conversation. The order is first to last. E-mail addresses have been deleted to protect my correspondents' privacy:
Since you aren't from here, or at least you have spent time away from here, you may be able to understand what I'm talking about. I have been struggling for years to diagnose what, if anything, is wrong with Regina, with Saskatchewan and with Canada.
The general underlying problem here, I conclude, is that people are smug. SMUG: Having excessive pride in one's accomplishments. This is why people here — in Regina more than any other Canadian city I've lived in — simply do not recognize problems when they exist. They are not moral lepers, but they are morally tone deaf and morally colour blind.
They have zero capacity for self-examination and self-criticism. Two examples are the medical system and drivers. Saskatchewan, especially Regina, may have the worst in the world. Yet people here believe they have the best. Contrary evidence simply is ignored. And one had better be careful about saying a discouraging word since the skies are not cloudy all day — even if it's raining.
Lt-Gov. Gordon Barnhart gave an entertaining speech at the 90th Anniversary banquet of the Kiwanis Club of Regina last Friday evening. He is a real booster for Saskatchewan. Sadly, however, much of what he said is not true. This is disturbing for someone who is touted as being, "an acclaimed historian." Acclaimed by whom? What else does he not know?
At the banquet, I mentioned Sandra Greenough to you. She was an evangelist for the power of positive thinking. Her theme was "career passion". She trademarked the phrase. She made a presentation to our Kiwanis club one Valentine's Day. I looked her up just now and was surprised to discover that she is dead. Sandra was only 51 years old. Maybe she was run down by one of Regina's drivers. Maybe she was treated for cancer, or stroke, at the Pasqua hospital. "It is with deep sadness and great joy that Sandra's family announces that she went to her heavenly home on Friday, August 22, 2008." Apparently, you can send Sandra an e-Mail message from her website.
Lt-Gov. Barnhart told us that radiation for cancer treatment was invented right here in Saskatchewan. Really? I thought Madame Curie started treating cancer with radiation. She won two Nobel Prizes for her work with radiation. Since she and her husband both died of radiation-related illnesses, her papers are so radioactive they are kept in lead boxes, and radiation is generally recognized as being the number one cause of cancer, I would think twice about using radiation for anything, especially treating cancer. Medical radiation is the number one source of radiation today too. There could be something fundamentally wrong with cancer treatment. But what do I know?
I maintain that smugness is the underlying disease in Regina, in Saskatchewan, and in Canada. Others, who didn't come from here, have noticed the same thing. Regina may be ground zero for the smug. Regina may be even more smug than Saskatoon (but I doubt it). Pat Fiacco is the right mayor for Regina. Here we ignore problems so we don't have problems. We have a positive attitude, even if we do complain about everything, especially the weather.
Being smug may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins. I'll have to look it up. Sure enough, Pride is #7.
Tell me what you think.
No reply, yet, from Len.
I had a great visit with your mom the other day. I read the letter [above] to her. We discussed the movie The Reader as well. Peter has mentioned that your father was always seeing things in Saskatchewan that could be done differently to improve them or to solve some chronic problem. But his efforts were frustrated.
[I have a friend who came here from NYC to teach at the U of R. When he first came to Regina, he told me, he could see all sorts of things that could be done differently and improved. But he was always thwarted. "We don't do it that way here," he would be told. After a while, he stopped having such ideas. He was in Regina for 34 years. Then, after he retired, he moved away, hoping to be free at last of Regina's mind-control.]
Throughout my life, I have found the same thing. [Mind-numbing and mind-death are painful, for those who think.]
[Before Tommy Douglas (who is a saint to some) and the CCF took over Saskatchewan in 1933, there were Liberals and Conservatives. Afterward, there were Liberals and the CCF. Who were the CCF? Here's another clue: From 1933 onward, Saskatchewan voters elected the CCF to go to Regina and the same voters elected Conservatives to go to Ottawa. Then, in the early sixties, the CCF joined the big labour unions in the East to become the NDP. After having created Heaven on earth in Saskatchewan, Saint Tommy moved to Victoria, BC. where the climate is better.]
Saskatchewan is extremely conservative, despite being "the home of Canadian socialism"; the "not invented here" syndrome is firmly entrenched; "nails" that pop up are hammered down; thought control is as pervasive and oppressive as it was in the Soviet Union; the élite stays in power decade after decade and nothing changes. This is my diagnosis. What do you think?
Excellent — your assessment is right on. Smugness is a disease that has taken root everyhere. The disease can however be controlled and even corrected by massive doses of the truth.
It is expensive medicine , as the smug bodies fight back with the usual denials, self interest propaganda and spin and try to marginalize or demonize the source of the truth as being "non team players."
The reward can be high, particularly now.
There are many opportunities in these obvious tough times. – Lean times knock down, or out, smug fat cats and lightweights, sub par complacencies and old perceived ways of doing things. It seems that talent, merit and out of the box thinking that delivers results is part of the natural renewal process. Hitting those that can not see because of past practices, entitlements and non performing "politically correct" or smug indoctrinations — politely, but effectively, between the eyes with an intellectual two by four — could be the natural and necessary tool of choice under the circumstances. (It will always be a challenge to suffer a smug fool’s follies politely but it will always be worthwhile.)
Just a side bar on smugness. Smugness and stupidity are linked. The SS factor is a deadly and malicious force for evil in any body politic.
Yes, I've noticed that too, Sieg. Years ago, I attended a seminar at the University of Regina. One of the speakers, Father Sadowski from Fordham University, asked me during a break, "Is this really a university?" "Yes," I answered. "Why?" "Because I've never met so many stupid people," he said. As you know Jesuits are generally considered to be pretty smart. I had coffee with Father Sadowski one afternoon a few months later in a restaurant in the World Trade Centre several years before they blew it up. That was a brush with greatness.
I have decided that people here in Regina, in Saskatchewan, and in Canada suffer from "INVINCIBLE SMUGNESS".