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There are these things that only happen elsewhere. That you look at and feel a little pity, a little empathy. That you study from a far, feeling very little concern. These types of things that seem too big, too terrible, too “barbaric”. And yet, these types of things have got a foot in the door of Quebec. And it’s not badly shoed: a big clog, studded, with a high heel. A very pointed heel. And the clog’s toe too, as pointed as it can be. Pointed clogs don’t run through the streets but, with an Anarchopanda running free, it would without a doubt take a little more to be surprised nowadays.
But you don’t have to worry about it. All. Is. Well.
In fact, if I repeat that enough, I believe that I could maybe even end up believing it. It’s sunny, the wind is agreeable. Someone’s mowing the lawn, someone else is walking their dog. On TV someone comments on sports, someone laughs. In the “real world” nothing seems to have changed. It’s too good to be true. And yet.
Since the adoption of bill 78, Quebec has entered into a sort of strange zone, a political Twilight. If you stay in your living room, don’t watch too much media, or if the mass media is your only source of information, nothing seems to have trembled. The rights that we don’t claim can’t really have escaped us. We believe. The people in the streets who wreck casseroles night after night, it’s a little strange. And we’ve had enough of the protests. Can’t wait for the return to comfort, to calm. Can’t wait for social peace. For harmony, order, harps and little flowers. All. Is. Well. We repeat it to ourselves. Ad nauseam.
So we let ourselves be reassured by the government’s smooth explanations that look only to justify the unjustifiable, its unjustifiable irresponsibility. That’s easy. A simple question of word games. Above all of selection. Of presentation too. Of creating the appearance of sense. An impression of benevolence. If you listen hard enough, a lullaby is being hummed very quietly in the background.
So it is possible to arrive at aberrations. The latest contender: the “red square” is a sign of violence, intimidation and a refusal of certain people’s right to education. It was in the air. All the same.
The force of repetition
One idea gets into people’s heads so well. The force of repetition, the hammering. It’s also one of the advantages of generalization, reduction and the art of making symbols say anything. All this together, united in the same supposedly coherent discourse: winning conditions for increasing the marginalization of the movement in the “public opinion” and the polarization of the camps. And yet. It seems to me that this comes from the fact that the said felt square, worn by a lot of people, can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to three (false) labels.
The red square is first and above all the sign of the student struggle, it has become that of those who stand up, those who denounce, those who make sure that Quebec echoes under their steps, saying this isn’t right. Their incessant steps. The red square is the symbol of hope, of courage – or testicular fortitude-, of full right to education for all. It’s that of Quebec in movement, come out, at last, of its apathy and refusing to accept cynicism.
Violence and intimidation are words that, in times with no headway, say everything and nothing. We can’t be fooled. I wear my red square proudly, have for months. I will still wear it proudly because some people are looking to take all that is good, beautiful and strong from it.
Symbols are powerful. When they are attacked it is the sign that we must yell even louder, march even more vigorously, casserole with more spirit. It’s the sign that the times are changing, howling a little with pain and fear.
The movement is violent, I admit it. It caused a rift. There was one before and will be one to come. And it’s an event to celebrate. A fist in the air and a grin. In spite of the truncheons, in spite of the lies, in spite of everything. We are together. All. Is. Well.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.