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Pierre-Marc Tremblay June 1, 2012
(The author of this piece is owner and president of Convicia, the corporation which administers Pacini, Commensal and Commnsal&Cie [Montreal restaurants]).
Original French Text: http://www.lapresse.ca/debats/votre-opinion/201206/01/01-4530876-ecoutons-les.php
The longer the student conflict has dragged on, the more we have heard people talk of spoiled children, of entitled ego-driven brats who want it all, right now. Youth initiatives have no credibility: they are only expressions of the attitude of, “me, me, me.”
If that is the truth, well then, mea culpa. I am one of those irresponsible parents who raised one of those children who are owed everything. But, really, I think we are overdue to get beyond these cliches and simple labels. By persisting in our views, we solve nothing and we accomplish nothing except to reinforce intergenerational barriers.
I see young people who have values and who defend them with conviction — youth who are rising up against real waste. Above and beyond the increase in tuition fees, they are speaking out against a world of widening inequality, whose institutions and politicians have been corrupted. They are repulsed by anti-social and anti-environmental policies, repeated economic meltdowns and scandalous financial crises. They are demanding a redefinition of the rules that govern communities. They are demanding greater social justice and better distribution of collective wealth. They are demanding an end to waste, lies and half-truths. They are calling into question the society they grew up in. They have dreams and ambitions. Can we really blame them? Weren’t we young once too? Doesn’t every generation seek to fix the errors of the previous one, while building on the good things?
We employ many students in our restaurants, some of which have been hurt by the conflict. Before the students, we called for better balance between work and fun, for flexible schedules and for the possibility of working outside the office.
So it’s not surprising that these values are more pertinent than ever for these independent and free-spirited youth, completely plugged into technology and completely open to the world. They cannot settle for the status quo or routine. They refuse archaic structures and rigid hierarchical authority. They demand inspiring, evolving, organic leadership, based on competence and openness. And when we provide it to them, they bloom and they rapidly develop their autonomy.
Rather than judge them, we should rejoice. We raised them better than we thought, and today they are the bearers of a change that is more than necessary. Rather than treat them with condescension, we should be proud of them. They are waking us up from our collective sleep. Over the last few years, we have been more or less passive in the face of unacceptable evil. Today, these students give us the desire and the energy to do what must be done.
It is time to seek out the common good. I say to the government and to all adults that arrogance and paternalism should never drive our behavior.
More than ever, we need to talk to and to listen to each other, in public spaces as well as within families. As author Stéphane Laporte recently wrote, “a government has the duty to love its youth, as parents have a duty to love their children.” Let us love this new generation like we ourselves wanted to be loved by the generation before us.
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 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.