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Francis Dionne Montreal June 19 2012
The trivialization of violence is spreading in Quebec society, or so we are told. “Casseurs,” intimidators (i.e. strike supporters, demonstrators and general protesters) are poisoning the collective mind, which once upon a time was pacifistic (i.e. submitted to authority).
Out of the blue, Quebeckers, either manipulated by the subliminal subversive content in artworks or simply imitating their fellow citizens’ anger, have naively adopted a violent culture. Spontaneously, without giving it a second thought, they’ve taken to chanting revolutionary slogans. They’re shattering the eardrums of respectable citizens with their pots and pans, “dehumanizing politicians,” breaking windows of financial institutions that symbolize general dispossession, and throwing rocks at helmeted, masked and over‑armed police officers who “are doing an excellent job.”
This type of discourse employed by the Charest government is a troubling example of a reality reversal: the oppressor becomes the victim and vice versa. This rhetoric is often used by the reactionary elements of society to present themselves as victims of collective movements or individuals who dare call into question their privileged position.
When women are called castrators by men, when African Americans are berated for racism against white people, when Quebeckers are stereotyped in the ROC’s newspapers, when the poor are presented as profiteers by the media elite, and when society as a whole is treated to lessons in morality from the Quebec Employers Council, we see the same mechanism at work: a reversal of roles in the real balance of power through the demonization of the victim.
When this strategy is employed by questionable political regimes, it consists in using fear (example: Jean Charest and all his ministers’ systematic repetition of the word violence in the media whenever they are talking about the student conflict) to divide the population into two camps, usually for electoral purposes. Order against chaos, the status quo against the popular will to change the prevailing order.
And what is this order? The neoliberal ideology, so dear to our political and economic elite, dehumanizes not only our politicians—transformed into foot soldiers for The Almighty Market and transnational capital—but also all individuals (here, society no longer exists). Every human being becomes a function of the market, a commodity, and is obliged to accept this role, because in the neoliberal view the market is democracy.
In this plutocracy, wallet size is directly proportional to decision-making power. Individuals invest in their “human capital” by paying for university education and health tax. Those with low “human capital,” due to lack of financial resources, can expect to perish in silence or be beaten down for speaking up.
When citizens decide to rise up against this dehumanizing system, to confront this initial state of violence, they are clubbed, pepper-sprayed, gassed, shot at with plastic bullets, arrested, imprisoned and criminalized. Skulls are cracked, teeth are shattered, livers are torn open with plastic bullets, and eyes are taken out with stun grenades.
And when repression doesn’t work, certain fundamental liberties are suspended so that the above list can be repeated all over again, but now under cover of law. Just to be clear: the first stage of violence is the state imposition of a dehumanizing ideology; the second stage is the protest that can become violent; and the third stage, finally, is the legal, legislative and physical repression unleashed against the protest movements.
Violence is a reality of this world and probably always will be. The important thing is to understand how and to what ends it is being employed. From now on, there is no denying that Jean Charest is using and trivializing the violence of his own creation with one goal in mind: to get more votes.
Translated from the original French byTranslating the printemps érable.
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