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- I find it difficult to tell stories about people sometimes,
but today's guest has no such problem.
I first met Evan Hadfield on a trip to the Arctic.
He is a man who somehow has the ability to de-escalate any argument.
Or maybe all Canadians can do that, I don't know.
His channel is called Rare Earth, and he travels the world telling human stories.
Evan, it's all yours.
- On Rare Earth, we like to take symbols from a country that maybe you've not been to yet
and show how they fit into the bigger picture of your own life.
And because Tom caught me at home, I want to do this on my country, on Canada.
And more specifically I want to do it
on a sexually repressed, hypocritical, guilt-ridden, prostitute-visiting mama's boy,
our 10th Prime Minister.
He's a good example of how you don't have to be
great at being a person to be a great politician.
What drives someone to become a politician?
To me it always seemed like such a terrible job.
Nobody likes you, and it really doesn't make as much money as it seems.
There isn't even really that much power in it.
It's kind of like being a dentist with bad pay.
But there is something you get as a politician
that you can get unlike almost anywhere else,
and that's a legacy.
Canada's wartime prime minister is not a man we all remember fondly.
He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on how Asian people
would never be able to integrate into other societies
only to then watch them integrate into his society.
Even though he was our wartime prime minister and he hated the Nazis,
because of his love of the occult, he kinda felt like this Adolf guy
might be the one to lead Germany to glory.
A lifetime bachelor whose only sexual relations
came from prostitutes that he then beat himself up over,
he regularly took advice from the ghost of his dead mother,
and potentially even that of his dead dog.
There's some other stuff too, but you get the picture.
That's our most successful guy.
William Lyon Mackenzie King.
He's dead now.
Everyone in this story is dead now.
Except me, I guess, depending on when you watch this.
But at one point he was Canada's longest serving prime minister.
He ran the country through the Depression and the Second World War.
FDR was President for 12 years, but Mackenzie King was Prime Minister for 21.
And he would have been elected again had he not aged out.
By any definition, he was an incredibly successful politician.
And that's the heart of this.
I'm not gonna bore you with his economic plan,
I'm not even gonna click-bait you with his racism and blind eye towards Hitler,
because neither of those were truly the purpose behind King's civil service.
They weren't why he became a politician.
What I want to talk to you about is the driving force of legacy
and the value of being weird.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Weird isn't a very concise term.
There is no scientific definition of weird.
This is Tom Scott's channel and "weird" simply won't do.
But he was.
Pretty much everybody who knew him agreed to the point that his nickname was Weird Willy.
He was a firm believer in the occult,
going so far as to study his shaving cream for political omens.
Churchill and Roosevelt clearly couldn't stand him
even though he'd done virtually everything they'd asked.
In pictures they look strained just to be around him.
Which makes sense:
he was a generally uncomfortable guy to be around.
Between his Norman Bates-style relationship with his mother
and his constantly replacing dead dogs named Pat with live dogs named Pat,
he built a name in Ottawa as one of Canada's most eccentric men.
But despite his faults, King was a political mastermind.
The voting public didn't really care about his personality,
so long as the war, economy, and Quebec were all managed well.
What they wanted was Canada's promise of peace, prosperity, and good government.
And King could provide it.
In spite of his faults, no one would deny that in a time of incredibly basic polling,
he always somehow seemed to understand the will of the people.
But I supposed he was built a bit differently,
after all, government is rarely a first choice, but for King it was a calling.
He believed that his dreams were visions, and he followed them.
To him his life's divine purpose was to restore his family legacy.
And if it took ruling the entire country to do so,
that's what he was gonna do.
From a young age King was obsessed with his famous grandfather,
also named William Lyon Mackenzie, just without the King,
which is in itself a joke because his defining moment came
in trying to free Canada from the monarchy.
So, you know, no King in the name?... you get it.
In the mid-1800s with Mackenzie as the mayor of Toronto,
rebels hiding out in the US declared themselves
the Republic of Canada, and invaded it.
Their intent was overthrowing British rule in favour of an independent state,
or, depending on how the Québécois fared, states.
Once free of British tyranny, these states would presumably be gobbled up
by their neighbour to the south,
but it wasn't to be. Britain won.
William Lyon Mackenzie's memory, and the Republic he stood for, died with little fanfare.
He remained in public life but was essentially forgotten.
It's possible he'd remain that way to this day if not for his grandson.
At his grandfather's graveside in Toronto, that weird occult mama's boy
began a journey that would redefine this country.
It would redefine the legacy his ancestor left behind.
Sure, it wasn't yet a fire, but his grandfather's rebellion had sparked something in Canada.
Soon afterwards we'd be voting for our own prime minister.
King would be the 10th.
And really his timing was perfect.
It would be an American century and it didn't take a fortune teller to see that.
Canadians had been warming to the idea of a new mother country,
a new empire to bow to.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Republican ideals
that had driven those rebels less than 100 years before were stronger than ever.
Having been dragged head first into World War I without a vote,
devastated by indifferent British generals,
Canada was ready to change best friends.
We may have won the war, but Britain had asked us to give everything for her,
for a war that meant nothing.
In a population of under eight million, over half a million of us went to Europe.
My family died in Europe.
The next time we'd vote, we had a leader who wasn't afraid
to say no to Britain, to say no to conscription.
We'd never be forced into war without a vote again,
not for Britain, not for our new friend America.
Mother could no longer come calling.
To the people, that right had died in Ypres.
But to Mackenzie King, it died with his grandfather.
Those days were over.
Whether it was through his own backbone or the will of his voters,
King led us into a new era.
He saw himself not as a person but as a vessel for legacy,
and in turn we voted for him,
not as a person, but as a vessel for legacy,
just ours, not his.
William Lyon Mackenzie King was not a good person.
He wasn't even really good at being a person.
He was weird, nobody liked him, and he died alone.
But he changed this country's future
because there's one thing you can get as a politician
unlike anywhere else, even if you're weird,
and that's a legacy.
And that's the point of today's episode.
The drive that leads us to glory.
Maybe it was just a case of 'right place, right time',
perhaps he was little more than an expression of the changing national mood.
I'm certainly not saying that the key to good politics
is poor behaviour or acting strangely,
but it worked in its time.
When you strip everything away, Mackenzie King's grandfather wanted
Canada and the United States to be friends.
A strange man sacrificed his whole life towards personal ends,
and as a result, here we are: friends.
A weirdo may have led us there, but it doesn't really matter who he was,
and he knew that,
because the legacy remains.
Thanks for listening, everybody.
This is Rare Earth.
- Seasons One and Two of Rare Earth are online now from Japan and Cambodia.
And Evan is working on Season Three right now.
So, go watch and go subscribe.
I would recommend starting with his video about the Last Elephants of Cambodia.
And that's it. That's this run of guest videos.
Unless disaster has struck, I will see you next week.