Thursday, August 16, 2012

Young Québécois need to work more?

So this week's cultural/political meme is the reaction to François Legault, the leader of the CAQ (does caquiste sound as bad in french as it does in english?) said that young Quebeckers need to work harder and be more like their Asian or Jewish counterparts.

As a middle-aged curmudgeon, my first instinct was "damn straight!"  I deal with a lot of these young Quebecers in my job, idealistic college-age men and women, on a daily basis.  They are pretty fun, lively people but very entitled and painfully uneducated in basic life skills.  There is also that sense of entitlement that is some mix of their age (generation Z?), their culture (despite the Révolution Tranquille, Québec mamas still do everything for their kids, it seems) and their sphere of interest (educated environmentalists often do not get their hands dirty).  As the administrator, I am often the bad guy when I tell them basic realities.  At times, I think a good year at a work camp would be of great benefit to all of them.

However, when I started to think about it, despite their soft bourgeois sensibilities, I realize that they actually work quite hard.  Many of them are full-time students who are also working 20-30 hours a week at the same time.  They also volunteer for many non-paying activities and participate in trainings and workshops that can take up an entire weekend.  They haven't chosen money-making career paths, but they are certainly putting in the hours and the sweat to put themselves in a position to fulfill their ideals and help improve the future of Québec.

Perhaps m. Legault was referring obliquely to the student protests and this was his way of courting the votes of the frustrated suburbanite voter who couldn't undersand or sympathize with their movement.  You may have many criticisms of the student protest movement, but I don't think you can say they were lazy.  For the students that I spoke to, their anxiety was all centered around feeling very strongly about the cause but also feeling really stressed out that they couldn't finish their studies.  There was nobody who was "yay! no school!" (which would have been my reaction).  In terms of political engagement and activity, the Quebec student movement is arguably the least lazy population in all of North America since Bush invaded Iraq.

I know that droput rates are really high here, and I know that I am talking about a very small statistical slice of people (and quite possibly outliers).  However, when I look around at Quebec society, it's not the young people who are not working hard.  To me, it looks like the middle-aged people who are the ones not working hard.  The dozens of pot-bellied dudes standing around a street being repaved, all sharing their expert opinion while two of them actually spread the tar.  The STM workers who refuse to get up out of their chairs at the Metro kiosks to come to the interior side to talk to a customer.  The guys at the plumbing supply store who can't even be bothered to say "what can I do for you?" before they steer you to the wrong overpriced, cheaply-made product.  And finally the fleshy, pink-faced politicians who all look way too much like they have been overfeeding from the public trough.

So m. Legault, I think maybe you were pointing to the wrong age group.

Working hard to take down another plate of poutine à l'italienne (okay, cheap shot, I know, but come on...)

No comments: