Thursday, 6 September 2012

On the Quebec student strike

One essential aspect of democracy is that when an elected leader starts acting crazy and no longer represents the will of the people, he should be promptly replaced. This is what happened recently in Quebec. Jean Charest, the premier of Quebec, saw it fit to raise tuition fees by 75% over five years. This policy was an assassination attempt on the moral and cultural life of the people who elected him. Showing a robust survival instinct the students of Quebec took to the streets in massive numbers and signaled the alarm call for all residents of the province. Elections were triggered and Jean Charest was promptly replaced. Stunned and humiliated he made his way to the garbage dump of history, tail between his legs. One moral of the story: there's no de facto democracy in areas where people don't know how to conquer the streets and impose their will. 

1. Philosophical Background

One unfortunate paradox of debating the question of the value, form and future of education is the total lack of culture of many of the parties involved in the conversation. Unfortunately for her destiny, Canada has a conservative federal government which is nothing more than a sordid assembly of accountants who probably didn't take any philosophy or political science classes, much less study ethics or critical thinking. Or, if they found themselves enrolled in such classes by some accident of fate or bureaucratic misunderstanding, they promptly fell asleep on their desks on the first day, after eating their own boogers and launching paper airplanes at their classmates. 

Education should not only be accessible to everyone, but the government and civil society should actively encourage people to get a higher education. There should be numerous scholarships as well as decent housing available to all students. You don't want an anonymous warehouse worker to make more money than an English or physics student and brag about how the latter can't even make ends meet and lives in a cage of debt. 

It is to these repugnant sub-human masses of twisted bodies and minds we call "political leaders" that we have to prove the intrinsic value of education. However, one only needs a modest intelligence to discern its great significance, and the following arguments are revealed once one scratches the surface. 

Education has an Intrinsic Value: Education is not a means for a different end but it is a good in itself. Education is not only access to information and the formation of skill and abilities which can be used once the students hit the job market. It also involves the cultivation of a strong moral character, of people who are conscious of their autonomy and strong willed. Such moral and social education is intrinsically good because freedom is intrinsically good and an uneducated person cannot be free (like a stillborn cannot be free). 

Democracy demands education: In a democracy all people have the right to vote and determine political power. In order to vote meaningfully they need to be able to acquire information and think critically about ethical and political issues. The acquisition of such cognitive skills is part of the purpose of education.  

Duty culture and knowledge: Our universal cultural heritage is growing. We have a duty to preserve the cultural treasures of our past and thus create the preconditions for future cultural growth. We don't want our libraries cluttered with dusted books no one reads but packed with living people articulating great ideas. We need to keep the communications channels open with the great thinkers and artists of our past and celebrate them. They are our guiding lights. Without them we are left wandering in the dark.

2. Timeline

The student strike began in February of 2012, in response to a proposed 75% tuition hike over the next five years by the Québec provincial government. As a result of active social engagement and respect for people's rights, Québec residents pay some of the lowest tuition in Canada.

The student demonstrations were massive, ranging between 100,000-300,000 people. 

In his awkward confusion, Liberal Premier Jean Charest tried to use a strategy from Prime Minister's Harper playbook: he attempted to make the strike illegal. All across Canada, Stephen Harper manages to get away with declaring all forms of national strikes and protests illegal. While this might have worked in the domesticated and placid provinces of English Canada, it didn't work in Quebec. On May 18 the Government passed Bill 78, an emergency law that attempted to manage how protesters conduct their demonstrations and ensure students who wanted to attend classes would not be barred from entering schools. Passing this sinister bill was like throwing gas on fire. It was an act of political and moral suicide for Jean Charest and his party of clowns. In what has been called "The largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian History," between 400,000 and 500,000 people marched in downtown Montreal on May 22.

Student protests continued during the summer, still attracting massive support, between 50,000-150,000 people.

On August 1st. Lieutenant Governor Pierre Duchesne dissolved the National Assembly, at Premier Jean Charest's request, and called an election for September 4, 2012. Jean Charest declared: "The streets have made a lot of noise. It's now Quebecers' turn to speak."

Sure enough, on September 4th the Quebecois spoke clearly and kicked him out of office. The Parti Quebecois gained power, based in part on their promise not to raise student tuition. 

After the defeat, dazed, confused and rocked to the core, Jean Charest resigned as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party.

3. The Irrational Reaction of English Canada

The coverage of the events in Quebec by the media in English Canada left a lot to be desired. But more troubling was the primitive reaction of many English Canadians. Instead of increasing the pressures on their own provincial governments to decrease and eventually eliminate student tuition, they complained it wasn't fair that the Quebec students paid less tuition. Their cries remind me of a group of inmates who are jealous of their friend who managed to escape and now has real sex with curvy, beautiful women while they are still trapped in the cage of endless masturbation and transvestite eroticism. Or, these degenerate Canadians also make me think of a group of used up whores who are jealous of the fact that their coworker enjoys the love and respect of a handsome decent man and desperately attack her with sulfuric acid.

Such a sorry bunch of caged, tied and disgraced monkeys makes you gag with repulsion. These ignorant souls are trapped in a collective coma as a result of relentless conservative propaganda and life in the abject conditions of wage slavery. 

One of their grunts they call arguments goes like this: we work here in English Canada, we are hard working people; the Quebecois are nothing but lazy socialists. Why should they enjoy the fruits of our labour? Let's just assume for the sake of argument that the residents of English Canada work harder. What kind of work are they doing? Is it the authentic work of someone who feels part of a wider community and is glad to help towards its goals. No way! What community? What goals? No, we deal here with wage slavery, work motivated by the blind instinct to survive and the most rudimentary form of individualism, we deal with tears and gritting of teeth. It's work done in a totalitarian state, in a perfected system of domination, of slaps and spits on all forms of freedom or real autonomy. They are not allowed to do anything, for fear not to ruin the fragile economy. This is the most bizarre, repugnant and inauthentic form of totalitarianism. Everyone is paralyzed with fear not to piss off the new God on the block, the Fragile Economy. If you dare to take over the streets and protest against injustice and inequality you'll incur the wrath of the Fragile Economy. It will rise like a behemoth and stomp on your head. "Stop the protest" it will say "I'm The Fragile Economy and you shall bow to me!" These agonized screams are the screams one heard coming from the torture chambers of the Spanish Inquisition. That explains the resentment. It's the blind hatred of the disgraced slave. Servants secrete resentment: a phenomenon brilliantly theorized by Friedrich Nietzsche. The slave is too weak and feeble to take on his master and decides to take on those who desire authentic freedom. 

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that I am a middle-class Canadian with an income of $4.000 per month. Should I give 20% of my income to help students get a free education? Hell yeah! Why not make it 50%? I mean if I have a job that's meaningful and rewarding and I have all the necessities of life, why not help a young Canadian get an education and enrich his own life? Damn, I would be happy that he wants to learn and be part of a national, proud community rather than play games and watch TV all day. 

What explains the English Canadian's reluctance to pay taxes which helps their own youth? I think part of it is the huge gap between them and their national government, a sly, hypocritical, deceptive band of crooks. The federal conservative government is unable (or unwilling) to infuse any authentic sense of community into the population. Rather, it enjoys keeping the electorate atomized and divided. The Tories drown the electorate's collective consciousness in a pre-cognitive and repulsive individualist and capitalist propaganda. English Canadians are profoundly alienated from each other and from their government. For instance, if their national government keeps spending their money in such monstrous ways (like helping the students of Quebec), then why don't they change it? Why don't they ask the Federal Government to stop offering Quebec special treatment? It's because they have no government and no will. Any kind of positive action is foreign to this submissive populace, a passive rubble which is used to barking from inside the cage but unable to venture in the real world. They only hiss, and cry and whimper like guinea pigs.  

Meanwhile, the people of Quebec teach all of us a lesson about community, pride and authentic work. And, most of the time, authentic work starts by conquering the streets. Once a framework which guards an evolved people's real values is in place, no one will curse and complain and grit their teeth about high taxes. Those taxes will be used in support of the national explicit will; a self-conscious and proud will which is the result of a healthy public education system. 

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