Here's something that doesn't make sense: On one hand, we know that racism is still a big deal (you can't argue with it -- studies show it still turns up in everything from jury decisions to hiring practices), but how many outright racists do you actually know? How many people at your office fling the blankets aside each morning and scream, "TODAY I SHALL OPPRESS A BLACK MAN!"?
Probably not that many. So we have the seemingly impossible situation of a world with a lot of racism and not many racists (and no matter how anonymous you make the poll, you can never find significant numbers of people admitting to being racist). Science suggests it's because all of us are a little more racist than we think.
And Canadians being the nicest people in the world may be a rumour that got out of hand, a rumour started by a Canadian no doubt:
See, no matter how much we make self-deprecating jokes or talk about how we suck and play the role of the lovable loser, experiments show that deep down, we think we are nicer and more generous than we actually are. Psychologists have long known that people tend to think they are more altruistic than the world in general, but researchers weren't sure if that was because we overestimate how great we are or because we underestimate everyone else. Hint: It's the first one.
Although the above information is from a humour site it still contains elements of truth. Indeed, what we find so funny is "funny because it's true."
It may very well be that we humans are prone to racist impulses that can be masked or tamed but no so easily defeated. If that is the case then the we as a nation need to stop and reflect upon this if we are to insist upon creating a multi-racial paradise or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof. That paradise may turn out to be fantasy; the reality, hell.
And the altruism of the common man is more myth than fact. Self interest is a very powerful motivator. If there is nothing or little to be gained by being nice then humans are disinclined to behave that way.
This is why I tend to roll my eyes every time I am told that immigrants come to Canada to contribute to her success. Hogwash! They are here for personal gain, not to help us Canadians out as if we need their help in the first place. If they were so inclined to help a people then they would help their own by staying in their respective nations to work to improve their lot in life and those of their fellow countrymen.
A chapter in the book Superfreakonimcs debunks scientific studies that claim to prove that altruism is a dominant characteristic of humanity. It does this by spotlighting the problem these studies had but failed to take into consideration; that the subjects were being watched and they knew it. Armed with this knowledge they behaved in a fashion that would make them look good to those conducting the study. Remove this awareness and people acted differently and not very altruistic at all but were guided more by self interest.
This is why I feel immigration, as well a multiculturalism, oftentimes is regarded favourably by Canadians in polls and surveys. It's because Canadians are responding in the way they think they should to appear favourable to those asking the questions. They know they are being watched and their answers recorded. And on a grander scale they know the world is watching too since inevitably their nation will be measured against other countries. But in confidence and in the real world Canadians' attitudes contradict what is alleged in polls leaving one confused as to how favourable Canadians view immigration and multiculturalism. If I may so inclined as to answer for them I have to say, not very.
I'll be away from a computer for a week. Comments will not be seen until then.