Un Québec Errant by Asa Boxer

The Undynamic Duo: Karl Péladeau and Pauline Marois

Cynicism and Quebec Elections 2014

I have only seen a campaign as cynical as the Parti Québécois is currently running in stories and films depicting evil villains (like Dr. Drainville, Mr. Slea-zay and the arch-villain known only by his initials) who ultimately need to be defeated by the likes of Batman, Superman or James Bond. House of Cards is an example, depicting a menacing main character whose every word is calculated and steeped in ulterior motives. In short, I have never actually witnessed this shameless a level of disinformation in real life.

The PQ party is supposed to deliver the citizens of Quebec a vision of what it means to be Québécois, and all they’ve been able to come up with after 60 years or so of agitation and winning privileges and transfer payments within the Dominion of Canada is a recidivistic nationalism that resembles the reign of Ahmadinejad in Iran when pictures of men’s acceptable haircuts were issued by the government; and even that was a more positive approach than the PQ’s so-called Charter of Values, which is more interested in prohibitions.

Ms. Marois and Charter architect Bernard Drainville

The PQ leadership doesn’t care about Quebec. They just want power. Every choice the party makes is clearly to that end. And the leadership will do anything to achieve that end: it will encourage anger and every base emotion it can bring to a boil. It will stir up xenophobia, set the population against itself and create the necessary conditions under which a nationalist party will be elected with a full mandate. Fuck community. Who cares that things have settled down and people like each other and are getting along since the last referendum? Let’s look around the world and take a survey of how nationalist parties get elected. Hmmm.

The PQ party doesn’t care about democracy either. It confuses majoritarianism (in which the will of the majority has uncurtailed power: see fascism)—which is a far cry from democracy—with democracy. Not once has there been mention of wanting to make Quebec a true and proper republic. This concept is such a no-brainer, it demonstrates how little thought has gone into what Quebec nationalism might actually entail in a positive sense. In fact, positivity is the main feature lacking in the PQ psyche. This party perceives its people as wretched and leaves them with no alternative. (I shall return to this issue shortly.)

Most important, and everybody who isn’t completely delusional knows this, the so-called Charter of Values has nothing to do with religion in general, it’s just a ploy to stir up nationalist sentiment. Those who say otherwise, and I’ve met them, are ignorant and uninformed in the extreme. They do not have time or the inclination to consider what is on the table, and their political consciousnesses are mostly influenced by watching Hollywood action films. They know that some Muslim spectre is afoot and that’s about all. Also people are prone to accepting excuses for their ugliest beliefs, especially this kind where an implicit wink is involved: it would after all be ridiculous to remove the crosses from all the mountains in Quebec because they have historical value. Ditto for all the saints’ names of all the towns in the Laurentians, not to mention the street names. In fact Christianity has historical value here period, so that’s not going to be upset any more than it already has been. The true Québécois are of course historically Catholic. All the charter was designed to do was remind everybody of that. For the truly stubborn, all I can say is, well, at least that was its final result, to remind everyone who is pur laine and who is other. Nobody who was religious beforehand is going to become less religious afterward, right? So it’s just repression. Even more cynical, the perpetrators of this hoax are fully aware that it violates Canadian as well as international law. It could never stick and they knew it when they drafted it. It was not made to change anything, only to upset people and polarise them for political gain.

At every turn, it’s another form of fear-mongering. The latest was accusing full-time students and residents of Quebec who came from another province of perpetrating electoral fraud by registering to vote. Talk about getting things backwards! We’re talking about Canadian civil servants taking it upon themselves and taking the law in their own hands on behalf of a single political party. If that’s not an egregious and punishable crime against democracy, I don’t know what is. When the PQ started its minority mandate, some patriotic transit personnel got into physical altercations with travellers who didn’t speak to them in French. Ever since the PQ lied its way into power by making promises to the student movement it had no intentions of keeping, it has bred racial tension and revived linguistic intolerance. We are seeing humanity creep ever closer toward its worst wherever the PQ finds traction. They haven’t had a Kristallnacht or perpetrated a holocaust, but that said, at least Hitler believed in what he proposed. These folk are far more cynical and not accidentally hypocritical; they know they’re being hypocrites; to them, it’s just politics for the sake of power.

Now back to the wretched Québécois, the exiled victims of Canadian history: “Banni de ses foyers” and “Parcourait en pleurant” les pauvres; “Si tu vois mon pays,” goes the song, “Mon pays malheureux, / Va, dis à mes amis / Que je me souviens d’eux.” Yes, “je me souviens” like the license plate says. And that’s about where Québécois identity has ceased to develop. The song “Un Canadien Errant” was written in 1842 and you’ll notice is not entitled “Un Québécois Errant.”

The fact is, though, Quebec does have a separate and distinct culture. My question is, with such a rich history and so many things to be proud of, why do the Québécois not celebrate their culture with “eux autres”? Why, after all these years, hasn’t some group come along and realised that coercive measures like language police are not the way to go. Basic human psychology and historical example dictate that if you want to encourage people to learn about your culture, you make it look attractive. You certainly don’t make it a chore. And you definitely don’t make laws to force people to like it. You want to make the language attractive? Umm, how about assemble a canon of literature and folk songs? And tales of folk heroes! And … let’s see, how about translate them and disseminate them and get people to want to read them in the original French? That’s worked for a whole shitload of cultures. All of a sudden the rest of Canada would be intrigued with this unique part of their identity and they would desire to know more about it. Or if Quebec were to secede, it would be respected instead of despised.

The Québécois Intelligentsia has let its people down because clearly it hasn’t been doing the business of codifying the culture. At this point, we should have passed the first wave of codification and moved on to the self-conscious stage of self-recrimination and revisionism whereby the Québécois see they are not only not victims but guilty of destroying their native populations, denying their English heritage, unaware of how the Scots and the Irish have informed their architecture and history, insensitive to how the Portuguese, Greek, Italian and Jewish communities have contributed to creating the peculiar cultural texture that characterises Quebec. As a result of not taking the initial steps to celebrate its culture, the Québécois who identify with the current PQ party have remained a wretched bunch of disenfranchised cultureless barbarians with cynical motives like the aptly named Drainville.

As far as a charter or declaration of values goes: that’s a great idea. It would be wonderful if some folk were to piece something like that together and get a discussion going. The world is changing very quickly these days and we could use the conversation. But that is not the domain of the executive and certainly not the domain of the legislative branch. It might be a party charter I suppose, but far better still, it could simply be a project surveying what different communities value. Thing is, this has to happen in earnest. The values we have to question are those that are destructive, materialist and consumerist. We need to consider what role people want education to actually play in the community. We need to figure out what sacrifices we are prepared to make in one domain to improve another.

If a nationalist party showed me how valuable its culture was and how I might fit in to that culture. If it took responsibility for its complete sordid history. If it promised a true republic. If it were able to stare down internationalist economics and guarantee my sense of community. If it showed enough maturity to conduct a real discourse on values. If if if… then, by God, I would vote for it. And I might even be convinced to vote for separation. Because let’s face it, at that point, we’d be the most beautiful place on earth!