John Ralston Saul

John Ralston Saul
John Ralston Saul
  • Born: June 19, 1947
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Profession: Writer, Political Philosopher

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121

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John Ralston Saul, CC OOnt is a Canadian writer, political philosopher, and public intellectual. Saul is most widely known for his writings on the nature of individualism, citizenship and the public good; the failures of manager-led societies; the confusion between leadership and managerialism; military strategy, in particular irregular warfare; the role of freedom of speech and culture; and critiques of the modern economic situation. He is a champion of freedom of expression and was the International President of PEN International, an association of writers. Saul is the co-founder and co-chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a national charity promoting the inclusion of new citizens.

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A referendum is little more than a "rumour of choice." The idea behind the mechanism, ever since its first modern manifestations two centuries ago under Napoleon, has been to replace democracy with the sensation of democracy. That is: to replace the slow, complex, eternally unclear continuity of democracy, and all the awkwardness of citizen participation, with something clear and fast which allows those in power to impose their agenda. Through an apparently simple question with a one-syllable answer, those who ask can get a blank cheque from the citizenry; that is, if they choose their moment well and come up with a winning question. Voters, Voting & Elections
All the lessons of psychiatry, psychology, social work, indeed culture, have taught us over the last hundred years that it is the acceptance of differences, not the search for similarities which enables people to relate to each other in their personal or family lives. Minorities & Women
As you would expect when individualism is based only on opportunity, no one asks what happens to those who have neither the financial nor the political clout to exercise their tiny portion of that opportunity. Miscellaneous
Canada was built from its very beginnings on the belief that public leadership in the economy and on social issues would be as effective and cheap as anything done by the private sector. States. Nations & Nationhood ;Social Sciences
Capitalism was reasonably content under Hitler, happy under Mussolini, very happy under Franco and delirious under General Pinochet Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
Civilizations do not collapse because the citizenry are corrupt or lazy or anti-intellectual. These people do not have the power and influence to either lead or destroy. Civilizations collapse when those who have power fail to do their jobs. States. Nations & Nationhood
Elites quite naturally define as the most important and admired qualities for a citizen those on which they themselves have concentrated. Citizenship & Patriotism
Freedom: An occupied space which must be reoccupied every day. Freedom & Liberty
In a society of ideological believers, nothing is more ridiculous than the individual who doubts and does not conform. Miscellaneous
Modern capitalism is masterful at producing services people don't need and in large part probably don't want. It is brilliant at convincing people that they do need and want them. But it has difficulty turning itself to the production of those services which people really do need. Not only that, it often spends an enormous amount of time and effort convincing people that those services are either unrealistic, marginal or counterproductive. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism
Moral crusade: Public activity undertaken by middle-aged men who are cheating on their wives or diddling little boys. Moral crusades are particularly popular among those seeking power for their own personal pleasure, politicians who can't think of anything useful to do with their mandates, and religious professionals suffering from a personal inability to communicate with their god. Morality, Ethics & Conflict of Interest
Neither Capitalism nor Socialism can pretend to be an ideology. They are merely methods for dividing ownership and income. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism
Our elite is primarily and increasingly managerial. A managerial elite manages. A crisis, unfortunately, requires thought. Thought is not a management function. Management & Managing Government
Questioning is the great strength of democracy; the ability to doubt without losing face Democracies & Republics
Societies either roll on blindly to disaster or they find the inner strength to stop themselves long enough to find ways for reform from within. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
Socrates was executed … not for his megalomania or grandiose propositions or certitudes, but for stubbornly doubting the absolute truths of others. Capital Punishment, Dealth Penalty & State Execution
The better the citizenry as a whole are educated, the wider and more sensible public participation, debate and social mobility will be. Any serious rivalry from private education systems will siphon off Élites and thus fatally weaken both the drive and the financing of the state system. That a private system may be able to offer to a limited number of students the finest education in the world is irrelevant. Highly sophisticated Élites are the easiest and least original thing a society can produce. The most difficult and the most valuable is a well-educated populace. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The pinning on of stars reaches its full cynical significance when sanctified valor and bereaved families are used to lend dignity to wars stupidly fought. The courageous and their families are drawn into a circular trap. The sacrificed soldier was valorous under the orders of a commander who has rewarded his effort. The battle was therefore worth fighting. Courage made it worthwhile. The basic rule of war - that it is fought to be won --- has been forgotten. War & Peace
The rise of democracy was driven by the citizens' desire to escape from the paternalistic and arbitrary charity of those with money. They accomplished this by replacing charity with a fair, balanced, arm's-length system of public obligation. The principle tool of that obligation was taxation. Taxes
The strength of representative democracy is its ability to slow down those in power who wish to govern by blank cheque, but also those not in power who wish to yank the state about on the sole basis of their self-interest. Democracies & Republics
There are two fairly standard approaches to political power used by those who seek it. Some seek power with the assumption that the citizenry are the source of legitimacy and are to be treated with respect. Others concentrate on identifying whatever insecurities there are within the citizenry and on exploiting them.' Power
A Big Mac - the communion wafer of consumption.
Anglo Saxons: To blame for everything.
Armaments; extremely useful for fighting wars, a deadweight in any civil economy.
Bankers - pillars of society who are going to hell if there is a God and He has been accurately quoted. Society ;Religion & God
Democracy is the only system capable of reflecting the humanist premise of equilibrium or balance. The key to its secret is the involvement of the citizen.
Dictionary - opinion expressed as truth in alphabetical order. Truth
Either God is alive, in which case he'll deal with us as he sees fit. Or he is dead, in which case he was never alive, it being unlikely that he died of old age. Religion & God
Everyone has an equal right to inequality.
Freedom - an occupied space which must be reoccupied every day. Freedom & Liberty
Humanism: an exaltation of freedom, but one limited by our need to exercise it as an integral part of nature and society. Society ;Nature ;Freedom & Liberty
If allowed to run free of the social system, capitalism will attempt to corrupt and undermine democracy, which is after all not a natural state.
Marx was fortunate to have been born eighty years before Walt Disney. Disney also promised a child's paradise and unlike Marx, delivered on his promise.
Money is not real. It is a conscious agreement on measuring value. Money, Coins & Minting
Nothing is absolute, with the debatable exceptions of this statement and death. Death
Only when God was said to have died did various leaders, professions and sectors risk pushing themselves forward as successors. Religion & God
The citizen's job is to be rude - to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of doubt.
Unregulated competition is a naive metaphor for anarchy.
You can always tell you're in deep trouble when people start thinking money's real. Money, Coins & Minting