“We forgive a child who fears the dark. The tragedy is when grown ups are afraid of the Light.” Plato
In 1967 we celebrated Canada’s centenary. It was a busy happy year, epitomized by Expo67, where the world came to party. The excellence of the Expo67 was “Canadian normal” – “We fight to stay on top” was the caption of an RCAF poster I will forever love. Expo67 is on my list of ‘things-to-thank-for” when Thanksgiving comes. On the list I allot space to “things-to-thank-for-in-advance”, the optimist that I am! There lingers a Centennial Project I tried to do but it remains pending. It didn’t happen because it was thinking right at the wrong time. It was to be Canada’s gift to all: a “World University” as I called it then. The time was “wrong” because the world was engulfed in the CoId War.
I was thrilled to bits about it and like a cock on a bright morning I crowed to wake up all, for support. I sent the idea to the Centennial Project Portal, but also to PM Lester Pearson, to Judy LaMarch the Minister in charge of the Centennial, and to opposition parties. I received a restrained but positive response from the Liberals; and fantastic support from Tommy Douglas and Grace MacInnis.
The MacInnis response was like a cold shower on a chilly morning. In all the provinces but BC there were groups pursuing the “World University” as a Centennial Project, she told me. She helped me contact these WU groups too. It turned out that the groups and I were not birds of a feather and could not flock together. Some wanted to teach Capitalism to the “developing nations”; others were on the Religion track and wanted to save souls ...
My vision was and is for a patch of wilderness where to build and operate the WU. It to belong to humanity because it is not to be owned by any one, only paid by Canada. It is to be land of the free, all around – tuition fee free, and free of shackles, a secure home for Reason. Sejour was to be temporary, a year or less, entry only by invitations apportioned by a formula to reflect the population of each nation. That is for the Students.
As for the “Masters”, to start the ball rolling, the WU could invite an equal number of Nobel and Lenin prize laureates. The Lenin Prize was the counterpart of the Nobel Prize for the Communist half of the Earth. Thereafter Masters were to be nominated and selected by departing Masters and Students.
A super special feature of the WU is a standing invitation for a week’s stay extented to all heads of States, including “dictators”. This, in addition to the WU facility for issuing special invitations to any Head of State or anybody else they would like to interact with at any given time.
The “curriculum” to be open, in the style of Norbert Wiener of MIT who was at his best walking about the campus swarmed by students and followed by a stenographer recording his every word. WU Masters can do formal lectures and discussions, or play chess with students. To mingle with everybody, in any way, for any reason, would be their mandate.
The idea is to have bright youth connect with the great minds of the world. The likes of Bertrand Russell, Jean Sibelius, Pablo Picasso, Friedrich Nietzsche, Buckminster Fuller, Niko Kazanzakis, Albert Einstein ... These youths, after rubbing elbows with the greats would carry the aura of the WU throughout their life, spreading the word around. That is the Idea.
An argument against it was that dictators wouldn’t let their “subjects” attend such a WU. Hurrah! The WU will keep on issuing them invitations, publically, and “they” will have to answer publically, even if with silence, while the World is looking on, attentively! No it is not blackmail, I call it “Whitemail”, and hope you will too.
The WU was “impractical” at the time because it would interfere with the mighty Cold War. Characteristically, I recall warriors counseling us god-fearing folk, to not enter into discussion with atheist-socialists because they are intelligent people and would out-argue us every time! The Cold War was not for “may the right side win”, it was for Globalization.
Canada’s Pavilion in Expo 67 was an inverted pyramid, precariously standing on its apex, pointing Downwards, and this has since proved prophetic, sad to say. Doing the WU would start us inverting the pyramid to point Skywards. It is time for the World to have a New Agora ...