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Josée Legault August 14, 2012
There are mornings like this.
We wake up. We read our papers. And then, all of a sudden, a title attracts our attention, but not for good reasons…
So much, in fact, that we reread it and, for several seconds, we think that we have misread it. Really misread it.
This reaction was inevitable this morning in seeing the headline of Le Devoir: “Young Quebeckers think too much about the ‘good life’, believes Legault”. Excuse me? Not this “Legault”, in any case.
And, reading the article, it was even worse.
It gave off the impression of a combination of moral paternalism, facile populism, antiquated prejudices, and so on.
The expression “the good life”, ok, we know where it came from during the student strike. But here, it has not come from a commentator. It comes directly out of the mouth of a person whose ambitions are nothing short of becoming premier. Which is another story…
So, youth and Quebeckers have a problem with their values; not putting in enough effort. At least, according to the head of the CAQ. And at least, says François Legault, compared to Asians… Good, good, good.
A little bit more and we would feel like we were before a diluted version of the embarrassing tirade of this obscure “col rouge” [trans. note: literally “red collar”, one of many terms that some opponents to the social movement have used to describe themselves] candidate.
Or furthermore, those views already held by the ex-Premier Lucien Bouchard—the lucid-in-chief himself and political mentor of François Legault.
We should recall, with a sad memory, that in 2006, Mr. Bouchard, while being interviewed by TVA, suggested that Quebeckers do not work enough. This provoked the ironic reaction of Jacques Parizeau: “once again, Quebeckers have disappointed Mister Bouchard.”
We should also recall that the priest-like excursion of the former premier gave rise to various parodies, such as this delicious one, by RBO. But as the satirical magazine CROC said: just because we’re laughing, it doesn’t mean it’s funny.
Gaffe, conviction or provocation?
So, either this declaration if a gaffe on the part of Mr. Legault.
Or either, he really thinks it. Which would inscribe him perfectly in a certain right-wing discourse, one which confuses collective wealth with individual wealth; throws clichés around here and there regarding populations that are not sufficiently productive; on the competitiveness of the Asian countries, especially China, etc..
And there, we have trouble understanding how, if he became Premier, he could speak with “young” Quebeckers in the future without the latter sending him to look elsewhere if they are.
At least, of course, this must not be a kind of provocation. Like a clumsy and ill-advised attempt, of an inveterate populist nature, to try and profit from the popularity of this vision of things among a certain segment of the electorate. These hackneyed clichés, also unfounded, that we heard until their saturation point during the student strike of this past spring.
Clichés of the kind that the “youth” are spoiled children, brats, etc. etc., etc.. In short, everything that was used, in public discourse, to discredit the strike and the people who made it.
Later this morning, in order to justify himself, the CAQ leader wrote this on Twitter: “I am not pointing the finger at young people. Instead, we must discuss the values that we are transmitting to them. We live in a consumerist society.”
And then this: “This is not a criticism against young people. It’s a criticism against the values that we, as parents, we transmit to our young. We need more transmission to our youth of the values of effort and exceeding oneself.”
And yet, what he said about the “young” seems to be precisely what he said.
In short, in hearing this many clichés about the “young” and cultural communities in a single occasion like this, we are not quite sure if we should laugh or cry.
Without considering the fixation that Mr. Legault also seems to have on the profession of engineer as the key to success and happiness.
The political risks of populism, huh…
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.