This post is part of the LRC’s 25 year anniversary project. We are asking our readers for the most influential Canadian books published in the last quarter century. For more information, click here.
Are there other ways of thinking about the environment and about globalization—ways which come out of a different world view? The answer is yes. And Richard Atleo’s indigenous philosophy is an eloquent example of this possibility—this invaluable possibility—of imagining our reality differently. Over the last half-century we have seen again and again that Western civilization has great difficulty limiting itself, let alone stopping itself, even when faced by self-destruction. We can only see limitation as sacrifice and loss; as the opposite of progress. Atleo’s approach—the Ahousaht approach—has an idea of limitation built into it. And so yes, the ideas we need today may not have roots in Athens or Rome. They may emerge from experiences here. And because limitation is imagined in the indigenous view as an integral part of the philosophy, there is no suggestion of sacrifice or loss. Instead everything turns on concepts of balance. Rather than loss, this approach produces a completely different view, in which progress and stability are made into one.
John Ralston Saul is an award-winning essayist and novelist. From 2009-2015, he served as President of PEN International and is currently the Co-Chair of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. His latest book is The Comeback (2014)