Il y a environ 120 ans, j'étais aux études en cinéma à l'Université de Montréal. (J'ai commencé très tôt.) Pendant ma deuxième session, j'ai fait une dépression. J'ai ensuite abandonné.
J'ai abandonné les études, j'ai abandonné les amis, j'ai abandonné les sorties, j'ai abandonné le travail, j'ai même abandonné Montréal pendant quelques mois...
Je m'apprêtais à retourner à la vie quand c'est arrivé. Autour de moi, un mouvement qui s'éveille. Dans la rue, des gens qui manifestent. Ils ne sont pas d'accord, ils ne sont pas contents. Et un jour je me joins à eux. Moi, l'agoraphobe, moi, l'éternelle silencieuse, je marche, le 22 mai 2012, avec plus de 100 000 personnes dans les rues de la ville. Moi non plus, je ne suis pas d'accord, je ne suis pas contente. Notre colère gronde. Ce n'est pas une colère enragée, qui court et mord aveuglément autour d'elle. C'est une colère réfléchie, débordante d'idéologie.
Merci pour cet éveil.
Merci pour vos mots.
Merci pour vos idées.
Merci pour vos convictions.
Merci pour votre persévérance.
Merci de me montrer que, peut-être...et si...si jamais on réussissait? Si jamais on changeait quelque chose? Ne serait-ce qu'une vague qui laisserait à jamais sa marque quelque part? Une note dans les livres d'histoire pour dire que nous étions là, que nous pensions et que nous agissions, que nous ne sommes pas restés assis à regarder bêtement le monde autour de nous.
Merci de faire partie sans le savoir d'une renaissance personnelle qui a trop tardé à venir.
Note: si vous voulez aider les étudiants, vous pouvez faire un don à la campagne Je donne à nous. Il y a eu plus de 3000 arrestations depuis le début de la grève, en février 2012.
The past months have been rather...intense. If you've been following, then you should know I live in Montreal (That's in Quebec, that French-speaking province of Canada).
Up until recently, education tuition fees were frozen, meaning they were not increasing yearly as in most other places. Our government has decided to have none of that: let's thaw out those fees and boil them up, giving us a hike of over $1400 over 5/7 years. The numbers keep changing because they make tiny changes here and there in a one-fourth-assed attempt to make us happy (or to get a tiny brains confused by all the numbers, who knows?).
You might know that the currently leading party at the province level is the Parti Libéral du Québec, the Liberal Party of Quebec. Now, do not make the mistake of thinking that "liberal" here means what the likes of Fox News means when they say "liberal". Our Prime Minister Jean Charest, previously of the Conservative Party of Canada, has moved there by taking advantage of the existence of a thing called neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, meaning "new liberalism", is a doctrine that aims to make sure economy does not evolve past how it was around the end of the 19th century by defending the money-having elites in the name of their liberty to own everything and screw the rest of the world.
When everything started around February, I was, to be honest, not caring much. You see, Mario, my beloved partner, is bipolar, and entered a manic episode also in February, and then spent a few months in the hospital. It greatly affected me and, for a while, I cared about that much more than about any social crisis. He is much better now. He is out since late May and has gone back to work recently. I have, of course, devoted much time since then to following what is going on.
Much has been said on the topic, by the media, in the media and basically everywhere you can go in this city.
The arguments in favor of the hike are familiar. They remind us of how we, as a society, are convinced that the current capitalist economic system is a fatality composed of inevitable elements. Of course, fees are going up. The price of everything is going up! Bollocks.
Bollocks for two reasons. First, like I hinted at earlier, the economic system can (and, eventually, it will, unless humanity goes extinct very, very soon) change. Prices constantly going up are a component of this system. In a different system, it is possible that prices would still go up, but it is not necessary. A parenthesis on the subject. If the prices are going up, then there are two possibilities: either all prices are going up at the same rate (so, for example, if the yearly salary of a teacher goes up by 2%, then the price of four tomatoes of the same type should also go up by 2%); or different prices are going up at different rate (the way things currently are. For example, the teacher's salary could go up by 2% while the tomatoes go up by 150%). In the former case, one can wonder just what the point even is. If everything is going up at the same rate, we find ourselves in a Pinball Scoring situation. Maybe last year you earned $40,000 and this year you earned $200,000. Woah! You're so rich! Except you're not because everything quintupled. In the latter situation, what happens is that the price of some things go up much faster than others. Generally, in a place like Quebec, salaries (while salaries are an income to those receiving them, they have to constitute a cost for someone) have increased much less in the past couple of decades than the price of other things such as housing. What this means is that certain things that were normal back then have become more difficult to have today, while things that were a luxury at the time are pretty normal today. An example of the latter would be most electronics. Of course, when you are very rich, the changes in pricing are not very significant. You have the means to absorb the difference. Except there are people who don't. It might be that x years ago, a family of average size and average income was able to send all its children to university, and that a family in the same situation today is not.
End very long parenthesis.
The second bollocks-causing aspect is a very ideological one. There is an excellent video on the topic of hikes that was done by the IRIS (Institut de recherche et d'informations socio-économiques, which means Institute of Socioeconomic Research and Information). Sadly, the video is in French, but I will offer a paraphrase of one of their points. The current problems are caused by two different visions of higher education. In one vision, the one held by the current government, the purpose of universities is to make research. Be careful, this means a specific kind of research: the one that is financed and praised by companies, for example pharmaceutics, to find ways to make lots of money very quickly. It is a university that serves capitalist interests, including those of its attendees, who are investing (actual money, not only time) not necessarily in their personal interests or in their society, but in their future "wallet", like true entrepreneurs.
The other vision is the one I hold. It is certainly held by at least some of the students taking part in the protests, but I cannot speak for all of them. For us, university serves a more social purpose. While it can definitely help prepare you for a paying job, it is not its only role. Its role is instead to transmit society's knowledge, its history, its culture (in the sense given to the word by social sciences: all that a society makes and uses to make things - languages, customs, art, etc.). University is thus an investment made not only by individuals, but by society as a whole. We decide that it is important to have universities of quality to transmit our cultural baggage, to better society as a whole and/or so that future generations can see what a fabulous place this is.
A second parenthesis: it might sound very patriotic, but it is not xenophobic. After all, it can be part of one's culture to believe that other cultures are also awesome, and that neither is truly "better" than others, they are merely different for a variety of factors. Besides, when I say that we transmit our culture and knowledge, it does not mean exclusively local ones. For starters, no culture is a closed space. They all absorb elements of other cultures. Think of it as transferring the whole of human knowledge rather than as Patrioversity 101: Why Places That Ain't Can'da Are Horrible, Eh?
This has been going on for longer than I expected, so this will become a series.
[Note: throughout this post, like in future ones, I use "university" as synonymous with upper education. This is not quite accurate in Quebec, where Cégeps take in part of the "job" done by universities elsewhere. I am using university simply because it is simpler and shorter.]