Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Language of Fear is the language of losers

Again, a lot of my impressions may be because much of my information on the candidates' positions is coming through the english media (and even that is basically about 45 minutes a day of CBC radio one), but I am noticing a real trend with the sovereignist and francophone stances coming from the the candidates and especially the PQ.  They are coming from a place of fear.  They talk about the french language being in jeopardy on the island.  All their proposals are negative ones.  Don't let people do this, fine people for doing that.

This kind of thinking is the thinking of losers.  A loser is someone who has already lost, has a tendency to lose and spends most of his energy worrying about the repercussions of losing and how to avoid them.  The winner is thinking about the next victory, enjoying life and planning for future challenges.  We all walk between those two extremes to some degree.

It's very odd that these politicians have such a loser mentality.  They are the ones who have already won.  They succeeded in throwing off the oppressive yoke of the old english and catholic establishment and turning Quebec into a unique society, dynamic and independent and deeply culturally different from everyone else around it.  They have created an entire generation of francophones who are deeply connected to their cultural roots, history and language.

Instead of pride and confidence, they react with contempt and insecurity.  They ignore their idealistic students and they put laws in place to suppress the minorities who come here to participate in their rich society.  They treat immigrants who want to come and be a part of this rich society with suspicion and disdain.  And then they wonder why they all want to move to Ontario.

How about some positive laws?  How about expanded french language programs?  How about government assistance for immigrants who want to work in the civil service to help them learn french?  How about a corp of translators to help immigrants navigate the provincial and municipal bureaucracies (which makes for great jobs for fully bilingual members of those ethnic communities, thus further embedding them in Quebec society)?  How about scholarships for francophones to go to english CEGEPs and universities so they can then increase the opportunities for english-speaking service companies to install themselves in Quebec (like the thriving videogame industry here)?

This province has so much potential.  We have an incredibly motivated and integrated youth who are more deeply connected to their polity than any other province in the country.  We are a creative powerhouse (Cirque de Soleil is the tip of the iceberg of cultural exports we could be selling).  We have skills in agriculture, industrial development and resource extraction.  We breed great soldiers.  We have the urban jewel of North America in Montreal (probably the second-most fun city to visit in North America after New Orleans).

Bref, Quebec is a kick-ass place that should be kicking more ass and stop cowering in a corner worrying about who is or isn't speaking french.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Voting in Quebec, a pleasant experience (unlike the election itself)

Though the Quebec election has been pretty frustrating for the most part, with the major parties deliberately avoiding the crucial topics like corruption, student tuitions, the economy and the environment and instead focusing on emotional and divisive calls to nationalism, the actual act of voting here in Quebec is quite pleasant.

My wife and I decided to take advantage of the advanced polling option and so we went out after dinner to our polling station, a few blocks away.  It was held in the common room of an old folks home.  There was a very short line-up.  Unfortunately, my wife forgot her wallet at home.  We debated about what to do and then asked the woman at the door if we had any options.  It turned out that I could attest (assermenter) to her identity, which involved a little bit of paperwork.  I had to prove that I knew her name, her address and her birthday and then I had to sign a document.  She then voted.

We left and had walked about two blocks when we heard somebody yelling. I turned around and there was the préposé (the official in charge).  He had come running after us.  At first, I thought that I had left my ID there, but it turned out that my wife was also supposed to sign a paper.  It was the first time any of the people working there had encountered this situation, so they hadn't realized it until after we had left (my wife had found it a bit funny that she didn't have to sign anything).

So we went back and finished the paperwork.  Everybody was exceptionally friendly and polite during the entire process.  The whole experience was very pleasant, with a sense of civic responsibility that one can sometimes forget about.  The two people working there were francophones but spoke good english and were apologetic about speaking french when they learned my wife is more comfortable in english. 

It's easy to forget what a warm and open society Québec is when your exposure to it is through the news media.  I am grateful to live in a democracy where I can both make a choice as to who will lead us and interact with the other people in my community in a way that reminds me the pleasure of living in a gentle and civic society.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hey Quebec Anglos, stop voting (or not voting) from a place of fear

I know the CBC and other anglophone media love to emphasize this stuff for the sake of controversy or whatever is driving their agenda these days, so I may simply be reacting to media hype.  On CBC Radio 1 they are now having this inane series called "None of the Above" which purports to examine why anglos in Quebec aren't voting.  Then they go and inteview people who complain that nobody represents them. 

It drives me bonkers when I hear this argument.  It's actually code for "these people are all francophones and therefore they don't represent my interests."  It's true that none of the leaders are addressing the concerns of the anglophone majority and many of them are actively supporting policies that are antithetical to anglophone concerns in Quebec (growing the hated OQLF, planning for a referendum, restricting growth of english schools, etc.).   The biggie is separation.  Again, I don't know if this is actually real or just the media creating, but it has become kind of a deal-breaker issue.  This plays big time outside of Quebec to the idiots in Ontario or the even bigger retards in the west who love to get angry about Quebec even though they do not have a fucking clue about anything having to do with anything here.

[Aside: I have to rant about this, because it makes me so crazy, but here is a prime example of the kind of stupidity I am talking about:  Unfriending Marois on Facebook because she is "a politician whose only goal in public life is to break up the country that I live in."  Okay, what the fuck?  Really?  Let's review the logic one more time.  You hate separatists and all that they stand for.  They stand for an independent Quebec nation based on their cultural values.  So therefore you hate their cultural values.  So why do you want them in the country that you live in?  How do you propose to keep them in Canada if you hate everything they stand for?  Should Quebec be like a giant amusement park controlled by the Federal government where anglos can come and look at the quaint Quebeckers with their emphasis on the arts and education instead of the hard realities of pure commerce?  It's like you are a big family and everybody hates one aunt who married into the family, but if she tries to get a divorce everyone is outraged because that will "destroy" the family.  Is this just a geographic argument then?  Should we just round up all the French-Canadians and ship them out somewhere so Canada can keep the land and resources and the Québécois can keep their culture elsewhere out of our hair?  Talk of "destroying Canada" is just a bullshit argument and anybody who brings it up needs to get slapped.  If, as you read this, you are thinking right now that Quebec separating is "destroying Canada", please feel the virtual stinging slap of either my open hand or my back hand, depending on how I feel at the moment.  Then when you have stopped reeling, come to your senses.  Okay, I feel much better now and so should you.]

I got distracted from my main point here, which is that as an anglo voter in Quebec you should just ignore all the talk about separation and a referendum.  Look at your candidates from a practical perspective and choose the one that fits your economic and political positions the best.  The main thing is that WE HAVE TO GET RID OF CHAREST.  The corruption that he has allowed to flourish must be stopped. It's far and away the biggest problem in this province, it's why our roads are so bad, why our publics works projects are so shoddy and slow, it's tangentially responsible for all kinds of other inefficiencies and high prices that we suffer here.  If you are a leftie environmentalist like me, vote Quebec Solidaire.  If you are more of a rightie business-type (who might have voted for Charest in the past), then vote for the CAQ.  I can't really support Marois--her stance on immigration and other cultures reflects a profound and problematic racism of ignorance in Quebec and I don't really see the PQ doing much about the corruption since they were deep in it not so long ago themselves--but she is still a better choice than Charest if you are more of a centrist.

Quebec is stagnating and it has been allowed to stagnate because voters playing it safe have allowed Charest and his cronies to remain in power.  They have done nothing for anybody, except their mafia developer friends.  It's time for him to go and the anglos in the West Island can help by knocking out a few bricks in the wall this election. 

Do not worry about a referendum.  It's not going to happen.  The PQ will not get a majority and if they do, they will see the moment they start talking about actually doing a referendum what a mess it will create for them politically.  Marois is just parrotting to the powerbrokers in her party to appease the old guard who actually fought for sovereignty back in the day and can't accept that they have lost that war (despite having won many great battles).

Go vote.

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...)