Every time I visit the United States, I get the feeling that they think Canadians are a nation of Blanche Duboises.

Why? Well, we definitely rely on the kindness of others by providing a social healthcare system and easier access universities and so on.  But we are also responsible for funding our own kindnesses to each other.

Is this a good thing?  Are we living in a self constructed fantasy world?

In case you don’t remember Blanche, she was a character in A Streetcar Named Desire.  She lived in a fantasy world of elegance while mooching off of her sister and brother-in-law (the brutish, Stanley Kowalski).  The morality lesson to Americans was that relying on others has its downfalls.

But maybe Canadians just didn’t get that part of the play.  Maybe our interpretation was that living in a fantasy world where you make no contribution has its downfalls.

Cooperation is a great strategy.  But, it hard to execute.

It is hard to execute because it requires trust.  It won’t work when there is fear of the Blanche DuBoises who want to live off of every one else.

The level of that distrust of the motives of others is what determines whether a society can include cooperation in its strategy.  It takes maturity and a group consciousness to maintain that trust and commitment.  The more litigious the US becomes, the more individualism is glorified, the less likely the US society can work together, seemingly on any thing but war.

The problem is that it isn’t individualism anymore. it is: “me first, and then who cares.”  So, maybe in a society like that, there is plenty to fear from Blanche Dubois.  But I think that fear is way overblown compared to what really happens.

We overly fear the social theft that doesn’t take place and overreact to preventing it.  If we could lose the fear. we are, in Steven Pinker’s words, “The Better Angels of Our Nature” and less likely to rip off the system than we expect.

Then we would fulfill Blanche Dubois desire…”I don’t want realism … I want magic!”  And it would be both.

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