Talking recently to a Polish friend who has lived in both Canada and the United States, trying to explain the vitality of my countrymen to him, I said finally, “Unless you’re an American, you don’t know what being alive is!” To which he gloomily replied, “And no one knows what death is till he moves to Canada.”

Canadians call it blandness and seem to be proud of it, contrasting themselves—nice, quiet folks—with those awful, wild, violent Americans, but my friend told the grim truth: Canada is just a bloody big morgue, a home for nonconductors. Like corpses anywhere, they don’t respond to stimuli. Ask a question—no answer. Send a letter—no answer. Volunteer your services—no answer. For instance, over the years, I have responded to ads for three conservative organizations— no answers. I have heard it said that Canadians are repressed, but I doubt it. Take the lid off and nothing happens, there’s nothing there. How many curious travelers must have groped, in a fog of words, to find something substantial in a Canadian, something beyond the conventions of small talk and the cliches of the moment? Even when a Canadian is drunk (all too often), nothing leaks out.

It’s all because the British founded Canada on a negation. After they had seized Quebec from the French, the British declared (1763) a Proclamation Line running along the Alleghenies, beyond which the American colonists were not to settle or hunt or trade or in any way interfere with the Indians, whose function was to harvest furs for London merchants. What they had in mind was straightforward, the sort of thing that would seem obvious to the British governing class: eventual, gradual, controlled settlement of new colonies beyond the mountains. Definitely not the rambunctious American way: Daniel Boone was beginning his adventures in what is now Kentucky just a couple of years later.

In 1774, the British proclaimed the Quebec Act, which gave to their new colony all the area that later became the Northwest Territory—Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan. Although the American colonies suspected a hostile attempt to hem them in, the Crown had no such intention. But it was a different story after the War of Independence; now the Act and the Proclamation Line suggested that Canada might indeed be used to constrain the U.S., to curb her power by keeping vast areas out of her grasp. Canada’s role (and curse), in short, was to be a negative outpost of the Old World in the New. This is the key to understanding the place.

The icing on the Canadian cake came with the Loyalists who fled north during and after the war and became in large part the new ruling class. No group of American emigres, not even the 60’s people who share some essential characteristics with them, have had such a disastrous effect on Canada as the Loyalists. A sizable, powerful group, they had great influence, and it is from them that we can date the beginning of the resentment of America. Far worse, most of them, especially the influential ones, were genteel, not the kind of tough folks best at building up a new, raw country. They were too good for that, preferring to spend their time looking down their noses at those vulgar, upstart Yankees in their bumptious republic and complain about the servant problem—which may explain why it took so long to settle the country.

The patterns persist, as in the deference the genteel show to Britishers, even to cultivating English accents. So the resentment is evergreen, not only among descendants of Loyalists but also among the educated middle class: journalists, academics, welfare state bureaucrats—in a phrase, the hive. Below that level, Canadians have no social or political influence because the old pattern of a genteel upper class and an unwashed lower class rabble is still in place, maintained by the incredible officiousness that permeates Canadian life.

Within the educated middle class, only one opinion is ever publicly expressed: 60’s-ism, the advocacy of anarchism at home and Communism abroad. All right-thinking people in the U.S.—journalists, academics, ACLU directors, i.e., the hive again—would dearly like to secure a similar unanimity of expression, but so far they have been able to establish censorship only at the centers of free inquiry—colleges and universities—the vibrancy of opinion elsewhere is too strong to submit to intimidation. But in Canada the question never arises because no one in the educated middle class ever expresses any opinions that differ from those of the hive. It is as if the only publications in the U.S. were amateurish versions of The Nation, the Washington Post, or Boston Globe, the only radio and TV PBS at its most leftist.

Ordinary Canadians do not share these views, but they are powerless to advance their own. When the present conservative government was elected with an overwhelming mandate, it was clear that the great majority would have supported conservative policies; after all, that was what they had voted for. But in the face of unanimous, vociferous disapproval from the hive. orchestrated by major media, the government quickly abandoned any attempt to enact conservative reform. It has been hunkered down in its foxhole ever since.

The Tory leader thought that he might fulfill his mandate indirectly by a free trade pact with the U.S. The Canadian economy is in a bad way (there are areas, as where I live, where the unemployment rate is 40-50 percent), and the incredible welfare state system makes it worse. The officially respectable genteel answer is more subsidies, more “job creation” by government—that is, more stagnation. Since a regime of free trade would quicken competition and develop a sense of efficiency and realism throughout Canadian society, it was obviously the expectation of the Tories that some of the most egregious practices encouraged by the welfare state would die away. But it is unlikely that free trade will come to pass because it is violently opposed by the same forces that frightened the government into its foxhole in the first place, for the very good reason that they are the principal beneficiaries of the welfare state.

Theoretically, the welfare state benefits are available to everyone, but in fact they are strictly class-determined. The working class gets unemployment benefits (called UIC: 70 percent of your wage): work for 10 weeks, quit, and go on UIC for a year. The 10-week job is often a government makework project, always a farcical boondoggle. You do not need Charles Murray to tell you what a program like that does to ambition and work habits. For too many Canadians, this is a retirement home for those young enough to work.

Although anyone is eligible for UIC, the genteel really count on grants and subsidies and similar deals, as well as posh administrative jobs, for the big pickings. An example: an application to the federal government for a make-work grant implies certain skills and attitudes uncommon among ordinary working-class Canadians—an ease in dealing with questionnaires, bureaucratic procedures, and officials; ability to conceive and write a coherent and convincing grant proposal; the self-confidence to deal with officials in the first place. Unsurprisingly, the applicant is almost always a local middle-class spark who, once the grant is approved, becomes the well-paid manager who hires the local unemployed at the minimum wage for the life of the grant, usually 10 weeks. So everyone is happy, each in his own way. But while the government outlay has been greatest for the actual workers, it is the middle-class manager who has made the most, and during the rest of the year, while the proles are drawing their UIC, he will be enjoying the fruits of other grants and subsidies, of a bewildering variety and extent.

If the big winners in the welfare state are the genteel, it is ordinary Canadians who are its most immediate victims. UIC is scant compensation for the demoralizing effects of the layabout regime, with its abandonment of ambition and an assumption of a sort of modern serfdom. It is the genteel who, in the name of a compassion that protects them from criticism and befuddles the working class, perpetuate the welfare state, and it is their control of the media, the academic establishment, and the government bureaucracy that enables them to meet any threat, no matter how trivial, with a smothering barrage of indignation. So, when a recent government-sponsored study of UIC recommended some slight reforms, the hive attacks were so violent that the study was withdrawn.

The genteel are the ones who have the most to gain by the maintenance of the Stagnant State—a society in which the condition of contract is giving way to that of status. Competition would upset their cozy arrangements; new, vulgar people would rise, and the diminution, perhaps even abandonment of subsidies and grants would be devastating. As in the days of the Loyalists, leading roles in genteel groups are often taken by expatriate Yanks, America-haters all, the dregs of the dregs that came up here in the 60’s and 70’s. Because they are livelier than Canadians, takers of initiative, Americans quickly become prominent in certain groups and occupations: environmentalism, journalism, education, culture, radicalism. In these situations they engender, against no opposition whatever, a steady output of virulent anti-Americanism and sickening pro-Communism.

For example, the “program coordinator,” an American, of the Center for International Studies at the local “university” (on the level of a bad community college) organized an International Festival of Popular Theatre. Not, of course, what you and I mean by “popular,” but collectively written plays about “social issues,” i.e., propaganda dramas that are supposed to be of, by, and for the people, but are really for hive members. A Sandinista group was featured, and the heady word “populist” was freely imbibed. The real achievement, however, consisted of lengthy, admiring programs about the festival broadcast locally twice, regionally once, and nationally once, always on the CBC, the government radio station which is a hive propaganda organ. There was no criticism of the festival from any quarter. To manage the diffusion and ready acceptance of such poison on that scale is quite a feat, and it took an American to do it.

With one part of themselves, genteel Canadians continue, as of yore, to regard themselves as wise owls from an older world, sent here to restrain the callow, violent savages to the south. The current version is that Canada’s role is to reduce the tension between the “two superpowers” (always a giveaway phrase) by damping down American “aggressiveness.” But another, deeper voice relentlessly whispers into the genteel ear that Canadians— terminally dull, utterly lacking any heroes or even figures of distinction, or the art to sing their stories, in fact a country without any art of any sort—are inferior.

A couple of years ago I heard one of the comrades at the CBC interview Pauline Kael, and I was amazed by the breathlessly servile adoration from a source noted for holding Americans in contempt, until I remembered that the genteel cotton to America-haters anywhere and kowtow to those Stateside, in keeping with their feeling of inferiority and the derivative character of their culture.

Americans rarely think much about Canada. When they do, their thoughts are generally benevolent, and it is not uncommon for them to assume, quite innocently, that one day Canada will join the U.S. They had better think again: for the U.S. to acquire millions of welfare bums, including a few thousand New Yorker readers, would be one hell of a deal.