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Jerry Beaudoin, Primary school teacher June 2, 2012
I’m truly astonished every time, after more than a hundred days of student outcry, that I’m still reading such spiteful and condescending clichés about students in comments on various social networks.
Sometimes, they’re called tyrant children; other times, it’s said they’re working the system. These deeply flawed arguments made by some show that, most of the time, this debate is more emotional than rational. In fact, briefly comparing the situation of today’s youth with that of their predecessors illustrates how completely unfounded some of these claims are. Whereas their parents, who benefited from education that was practically free and had access to free public services, are fighting passionately for lower taxes and hope for a gilded retirement paid for by generations to come, today’s students see imposed on them, blow by blow: higher tuition fees, rising prices, that they will have to retire later, that they’ll probably have to meekly accept fees for certain public services, and that they alone will have to pay the debt that their predecessors have bequeathed them. And we dare call them tyrant children? Spoiled babies? Really?
In fact, it’s quite remarkable that, despite the how bleak young Quebecois’ future may look, many among them maintain the will to fight for their place in the world. We have to admit they don’t have it easy. Demographics are working against them. It will always pay off at the ballot box for the government to develop programs for the older generation rather than investing in youth, which the Charest government has readily grasped. But shouldn’t a truly responsible administration go beyond partisan considerations, rising above the fray and having a vision for the future?
But instead of being a visionary, Jean Charest is using political strategy to distract from his series of fiascoes. Divide and conquer: that’s his motto these days. “Politically, we can’t afford such a compromise”, Minister Courchesne let slip during talks with the students. That statement speaks for itself. For the Liberals, the student dispute has become nothing more than a political game. I believe nonetheless that certain Liberal deputies and ministers wish privately that they didn’t have to keep riding this law-and-order wave. Unfortunately, it really seems to work. A portion of the population appears to really eat up the half-truths and misinformation put out by the government.
Jean Charest’s strategy is easy to make out. He is attempting to demonize the students’ side by painting them as violent and egocentric simpletons who consider themselves entitled. He has the same attitude toward the Parti Quebecois. At this point, faced with an impasse on the issue, it seems as if there’s no way out. When Pauline Marois’ party urged the premier to find an exit strategy that would satisfy both parties, it was quickly accused of wanting to hike taxes. “Taxes”: a word that practically sends shivers through Quebec’s humble homes. Be that as it may, I am utterly convinced that if one were to tell the Quebecois that their taxes were to be raised by 5% but, in return, they wouldn’t have to wait over twelve hours for emergency-room care and would no longer have to worry about bridges falling on their heads, the very large majority of the population would favour the increase.
But, faced with such negligence and incompetence in administering Quebec’s affairs, even those of us furthest to the left may be reluctant to dig deeper and deeper into their pockets. And this is understandable. Who wants to pay for highly lucrative contracts given to Mafia members, or for childcare for government supporters? On the other hand, raising taxes for the wealthiest would undoubtedly be more in line with everyone paying their fair share. But since many among them are significant contributors to the Liberal party…
True, since I’m in my early thirties, I might be seen as one of the “tyrant children” myself, even though I’m in the job market and my primary focus is on the generations that will follow me. For some, healthy debate and solid argument seem to be an unattainable goal. Nevertheless, as a society we should live up to the challenge of developing together, across social strata, rather than trying to divide citizens with wedge issues.
In the short term, we can only hope for a speedy election to try to cool off this climate, tainted by all of the many conflicts and scandals that have peppered the last few years. And for the future, let’s hope for inspired and inspiring governments that bring people together. As Lamartine wrote: “Creators disdain destruction”. The time is come in Quebec to take our place among the creators. The era of division and destruction must come to an end: now!
Translated from the original French byTranslating 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 email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.