If you would like to volunteer and join the effort, please contact us at the above email before embarking on any translation work, in order to avoid any redundancies. We cannot accept translations that have not been cleared with us first.
For more useful English-language sources on the conflict, see:
Luc Boulanger July 29, 2012
Original French Text: http://www.lapresse.ca/actualites/201207/28/01-4560286-generation-dolan.php
Caption: This spring students participated in more than one nudist demonstration to protest the tuition hike. PHOTO: ÉDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE
They were everywhere this past spring. They transformed a student crisis into a social debate. And we’ll be likely seeing more of them in the upcoming election campaign. If every new generation comes with its own set of dreams and grievances, Gen Y-ers, ambitious and mature, are not timid about expressing theirs. Make way for the new generation.
Multibillionaire Mark Zuckerberg launched the first version of Facebook at 20 years old and was named Time magazine’s person of the year at 25. At 23, Xavier Dolan, the “Rimbaud of cinema” (according to the French magazine Le Point), has already presented three feature-length films at the Cannes Film Festival. This week, 20-year-old Léo Bureau-Blouin became the star candidate of René Lévesque’s political party.
If age isn’t a factor in determining an individual’s talent or worth, there’s no denying that Generation Y is emerging as a force to be reckonned with, especially in the wake of this spring’s student conflict. Unlike Generation X, thwarted and neglected by the omnipresent baby boomers, Gen Y-ers are taking full advantage and jumping into the public, social and political arena without any warning.
“Whatever you don’t do in your 20s, you’ll end up regretting at 40,” says filmmaker Xavier Dolan. “The future is now. It’s 2012. One year is like five. I read an interesting article this week by Patrick Lagacé who was saying that it’s important to have experience in something other than politics to embark on a career in politics, or in any field really. It’s totally true. But if getting that life experience means waiting 15 years to contribute to a society in need of concrete action now, it’s just procrastinating.”
“The demographic pendulum is swinging back,” observes UQAM media professor Margot Ricard. “There’s a window of new opportunities with boomers starting to retire and the appearance of new technologies. Young people are making the most of it and taking their place at the table.”
Ricard has worked in communications and television for 25 years. She’s not surprised to see rising stars among the student leaders. “They’re brilliant, eloquent and very aware of the future,” she observes. “It’s the first generation in a century that risks having a lower standard of living than their parents in all areas: health, education, the economy and the environment. They know they’re going to have to fight to keep what’s been gained.”
A new fervour
To explain the energy driving 20-25 year-olds, Léo Bureau-Blouin quotes an experienced politician: “Louise Harel said that her parents, who lived through the period in Quebec known as The Great Darkness, were afraid. Her generation (the boomers) stopped being afraid. As for us, the Gen Y-ers, we’re not afraid to make waves and instil a bit of fear ourselves.”
“This generation doesn’t have the engrained humility of the oppressed,” explains Xavier Dolan. “Young people are thinking and acting with a new fervour inspired by the American and global ambition that spills out over the Internet. Social media are empowering this generation, allowing us to spread our ideas, images and dreams. We have confidence and a sense of purpose.”
Even if it means stirring things up and challenging indifference. “The debate on the tuition freeze is very divided in Quebec,” says Léo Bureau-Blouin. “But instead of becoming discouraged and backing down, students persevered in spite of everything. In the end, I think the student crisis has made other generations more sensitive to us, or at least less prejudiced.”
A generation primed and ready
It’s always dangerous to generalize or stereotype an entire generation. However, for many years now we’ve been speaking of Gen Y-ers in less than glowing terms—child-kings, the boomerang generation, geeks, gamers, mega consumers, lazy, anti-social, computer addicts… the list goes on and on. It should be noted that television has contributed to creating these stereotypes. We’ve been watching these tanned, clean-shaven kids on Loft Story or Occupation Double, all the while thinking to ourselves that they would never read a book in their lives.
“We had it all wrong!” exclaims director Yves Desgagnés. “It’s the first generation to have really benefited from their parents’ education in Quebec. Not only because they had access to higher education, but also because we’ve encouraged them to read, travel, stay informed and learn languages.”
But why we didn’t notice them before? “They were hidden behind our own boomer prejudices,” adds Desgagnés. “Certain (older) commentators see themselves as the last generation before the end of the world. But this past spring they had no choice but to take notice of the younger generation, to listen.”
“Our generation isn’t better or worse than any other,” replies Léo Bureau-Blouin. “But we have a chance now to be more visible, to take advantage of more opportunities. All of our professors have said again and again that we’re going to be faced with a multitude of choices after our studies, that our situation is better than ever.”
Advice that surely contributed to the new politician’s decision to launch an election campaign.
Times are changing. In 1990, Gen X-ers saw themselves as a “generation sacrificed to the death of a utopian dream,” according to Dominic Champagne, the creator of the Gen X cult production Cabaret Neiges Noires that cynically mocked baby boomer morals. At the time, commentator Richard Martineau even wrote an essay called La chasse à l’éléphant (elephant hunting), referring metaphorically to the weight of the boomers crushing everything in their path.
Children who grew up with globalization and social networks don’t have this resentment towards previous generations. “The entire planet belongs to them! Their perspectives and references aren’t local, provincial or national, but international!” says Yves Desgagnés.
Gen Y-ers also don’t have an inferiority complex about being Québécois… or about being the second sex. This became more than evident with the controversy surrounding the coalition of comedians and the CLASSE: the young feminists are on their guard. The new president of the college student federation, 19-year-old Éliane Laberge, sums it up in the blog Nous sommes des filles (we’re girls): “This year, there were more girls than guys around the table of the FECQ (federation), so the pressure about women’s place is not something I feel in the federation. Not that much in the rest of my life either.”
Unlike the baby boomers, who were a relatively homogenous group, today’s youth hail from very diverse backgrounds,” explains University of Ottawa sociology professor Diane Pacom. “We can’t speak of them as a unified entity.”
Diane Pacom has been studying youth culture for 30 years. According to her, Generation Y is characterized by two things: fragmentation and ephemerality. “For Gen Y-ers nothing is set in stone. They’re not looking at a lifetime contract or anything permanent, but rather at a vertiginous horizon of infinite choices. Their relationship to the world around them is intense.”
She also thinks that Gen Y-ers are perfectionists who fear failure like the plague. “Look at the student leaders from this past spring. They’re totally different from the May 68 student leaders in France. They’re good-looking, eloquent and super competent—at the height of the crisis they were doing 30 media interviews a day! By comparison, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and company were romantic, dishevelled, chaotic. This precocious maturity concerns me a little. Gen Y-ers seem like adult entrepreneurs. These early adult years are a time for youthful experimentation.”
And making mistakes.
Do it yourself
Writer and actor Jean-Philippe Baril Guérard, 23, codirects the company En Petites Coupures. His theatre productions are aimed at a young audience, the YouTube generation. While many actors wait for the phone to ring, hoping for a role, Baril Guérard advocates the good old DIY formula.
“We don’t apply for grants. We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we don’t want to be dependent on patronage or the arts council. We just fit in where we can.”
That’s exactly what Xavier Dolan did at 18 years old: wrote, directed and produced J’ai tué ma mère with his own money. “I was too young to go to film school,” recounts Dolan. “But I wanted to. Sometimes you have to embrace the exceptional and fragile character of the situation. When an opportunity presents itself, instinct takes over.”
“Our generation doesn’t have a lot of weight demographically,” says Léo Bureau-Blouin. “But we’re not closed in on ourselves either. We have a chance to bridge the gap between generations, not only from a strategic point of view, but also because we don’t really have a choice. We’re all going to be older one day. It’s only a matter of time.”
There are approximately 200,000 youth aged 18 to 24 in Quebec. Of course not all of them are making films or participating in media and politics. But the general context is conducive to change… and to dreaming of a new future. Xavier Dolan’s generation counts on a large number young people who are educated or self-taught, curious and convincing, brilliant and politically engaged.
“We witnessed the dawn of a new century and, at the same time, the death of social projects and collective ideals destroyed by skepticism and individualism,” concludes the 23-year-old filmmaker. “It’s the fate of a disappointed nation that was told to keep quiet. Dialogue no longer seemed possible. People stopped listening; debate, falling on deaf ears, died. That’s precisely what has to change. The possibility, here and now, to reimagine Quebec.”
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.