What are we to make of 100 days of mayhem in Montreal? Étudiants en grève—students on strike. By the commentary in the mainstream media, you’d think the students of Québec were little devils, demiurges bent on bringing evil anarchy to Canada.
Or maybe they were coddled kids with a mistaken sense of entitlement? Yes there’s some of that. But if it were just that, the strike would have fizzled out long before now.
Or does the idea of a free education really have such deep philosophical and political roots in France and Québec? Maybe … but does it run deep enough to pull thousands of young Québecois into the streets week after week?
Ah-ha! The unions must have hijacked the demonstrations—they’re always violent. The Québec unions are there alright, and they’re a lot bolder than their English cousins. But the people on the streets were … and are … students.
Dial down the diatribes for a bit and ask, what do the streets of Montreal look like? They look like Toronto or Seattle during a G20 meeting. They look like Occupy Wall Street. We say we want the young engaged in the political process. But they’re young. Why are we surprised they engage in a way we don’t approve of?
Listen. Our sons and daughters, in Québec this time, are trying to tell us something. Their leaders are articulating it even if we, in English Canada, can’t hear them. No jobs in the future. No money in the money bank. No food in the food bank. Dishonest business leaders. Dishonourable political leaders. The house is burning down and the pumps don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles … to quote an old Bob Dylan tune from the sixties … except the real vandals are not the black-masked kids we see on TV.
Mais c’est la vie, hein? (shrug) That’s way it is, eh? What can you do? But then, maybe that’s the problem.
By the way, ‘demiurge’ comes from the Greek words ‘demos’ and ‘ergos’. Together they mean ‘a worker for the people.’ La lutte continue.
To see how le printemps érable translates into English go to http://www.quebecprotest.com/
© David McLaren, May 2012
Support for the Québec demonstrations is coming from around the world. What’s happening on the streets of Montréal is seen as part of a much larger disaffection.
(Images from www.facbook.com/OccupyCanada—I don’t recall these demos being reported in the mainstream media, do you?)
One of the most brutally perceptive comments is this one from one of the members of the Montréal-based band, the ‘Patrick Watsons’ who said, on CBC Radio’s Day 6 …
“The big turning moment for me … the first night of pots and pans, I walked out in the street and I just saw a community of neighbours. … Before they raised their voice there was a moment of cynicism and quiet because no one believes in anything anymore.
“… [When the banging started] I thought, I got a neighbourhood of people who care about something. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
“… But what really changed my mind was people on radio, especially outside Canada and Québec going ‘spoiled little kids.’ And I was like—Baby Boomers: You used up almost the whole world’s resources in your little life span. You left us an economic system that looks like it belongs in Las Vegas and you’re gonna sit there and tell me that these kids are spoiled when you just left these guys a bill after you caused shit for 35 or 40 years.”
FYI … The origin of ‘les casseroles’
The inspiration for the banging of pots and pans (les casseroles as these are appropriately called, for these pans and skillets also contain a potpourri of complaints) comes from demonstrations against first the Marxist regime of Salvador Allende and then the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. In 1973, middle class women took to the streets and banged their pots and pans to protest food shortages under Allende, although some say the cause of the empty shelves lay with the distributors, not the government. In the 1980s Allende supporters turned the cacerolazo (pots and pans) demonstrations on the Pinochet dictatorship, albeit from the relative safety of their backyards and kitchens, because it was too dangerous on the streets.
(Prof Phillip Oxhorn, McGill University and Chilean-Canadian artist Carolina Echeverria on CBC’s The Current, June 1, 2012.)