AngryFrenchGuy

Speaking of cultural ignorance: A letter to Manjit Singh

with 75 comments

Dear Mr. Singh,

It’s with great interest that I read your letter in Thursday’s Gazette in which you attempt to school the « culturally ignorant » members of our National Assembly about the Sikh kirpan.

First of all, I want to congratulate you for your willingness to go beyond murky statistics and to boldly dare to make up numbers on the fly when you write that there is an « extremely high » probability that none of our lawmakers « would be able to provide a coherent answer » if asked explain the significance of the kirpan.

Most people are not willing to admit that the statistics they pull out of their asses are solely based on prejudice and ignorance. Your self-awareness is commendable.

Your brief historical primer on the kirpan was very informative. I’m sure the democratically elected members of Québec’s National Assembly will be relieved to learn that the self-appointed clerics of Amritsar, Punjab settled this matter in their name all the way back in 1922.

Indeed, why indeed should Québec, Ontario, American Homeland Security or the United Nations for that matter, have any laws regarding the kirpan at all since the wise men of Amritsar have proclaimed that the dagger is not a knife. Someone should also tell Manjit Mangat.

But as McGill’s chaplain and the president of the Interfaith council of Montreal I trust you are familiar with the many other laws of our province that violate the religious commandments of our fellow citizens. Think of the religious rights of all these poor Catholic children forced to learn about evolution, the ultraconservative Muslim clerics forced to send their daughters to school and the Mormon men prevented from marrying multiple underaged girls.

Men like you need to speak out and explain to the lawmakers and people of Québec that in today’s multicultural world, the rules of unelected religious leaders override the laws of our democratically elected legislators. Because. Just because.

I was profoundly moved by the story of the kirpan as the symbol of the Sikh’s determination to not let others impose their religious tenets upon them, and impressed with the way you use that story to argue that Québec must let Sikh’s wear their kirpan’s anywhere they want to. I was also impressed by your splendid demonstration that not giving special treatment to Sikhs who visit the National Assembly was a double standard. Remarkable.

But what truly blew me away me was your boldness and courage in choosing to lecture Québec’s political class about their need to « educate themselves about new cultures that are coming to the province » in English, a language the vast majority of your fellow citizens do not speak, read or understand!

Speaking of cultural ignorance…

God bless you, Manjit Singh.

AngryFrenchGuy

Written by angryfrenchguy

February 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm

75 Responses

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  1. Well, all of this is quite relative, isn’t it?

    I would like to invite you all to pick up a dictionary and look up the word “bilingualism”. You will see that it doesn’t mean being able to mumble something in a language not one’s own: it means to speak a second language fluently, AT THE SAME LEVEL you speak your mother tongue. In that sense, pretty much all of Canada, including Quebec, is mistaken. The real percentage of people in all of Canada who are bilingual is probably around two.

    How do you define a person that speaks English? Personally, I don’t think one’s English has to be perfect in order to be able to say that person speaks English, while I don’t think it is sufficient to mumble a few words of English to be able to honestly declare oneself a speaker of English. That is extremely relative.

    And as for the StatCan numbers, put yourself in the francophones’ shoes. When asked such a question, many of them deny they actually speak English even when they do, for various reasons. One is that many of us are sick and tired of getting English-language communications from our dear government when we have checked that stupid box innumerable times. Another is that many francos don’t want to admit that they do speak English because they don’t want to add to the majority so highly regarded by the federal government and some of the participants to this conversation, for obvious reasons.

    Finally, being “unable to interact with the continental majority” and “not speaking English” are two very different things, at least to those who know how to read. I think adski mixed these two things up as being one. Like I said, some people have the tendency to believe things just because those things are consistent with what they wish to be the truth.

    AngryFrenchGirl

    February 28, 2011 at 10:09 am

  2. By the way, I wonder how this conversation could start out with a so-called visible minority wanting to have rights over and above the so-called majority’s rights and quickly end up debating, for the umpteenth time, whether the francophones of Canada (a quarter of the country’s population) should be allowed to hang on to their language. Beats me…

    AngryFrenchGirl

    February 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

  3. One more thing. Somehow, I don’t get how it is unexcusable that a supposed two thirds of a province’s population is “unable to interact” with the continental majority when it seems perfectly excusable, at least to some of the participants to this conversation, that, following the same logic, nearly all of the continental majority is “unable to interact” with a whopping near fifth (the portion of the county’s population who reportedly doesn’t speak English) of the same country’s population. And if one considers that the minority (French speakers, according to some who shall not be named) should have special rights because of their supposed handicap (as some people perceive Sikhs), then the advocates of English ruling the country are in a ridiculously shameful spot right now.

    I guess the notion of minority can be promoted when it suits you and swept under the rug when it doesn’t…

    AngryFrenchGirl

    February 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

  4. Antonio : «Is it treated as a federated state by Canada?

    Canada does not act like a federation. It often acts like a state with its own laws and beliefs that run contrary to Quebec’s own.»

    Hence the permanent crisis with Quebec…
    Quebec is the only part of Canada that still clings to the original federative deal.

    The day we finally quit, we can all agree that Canada was one big hoax (“supercherie”) from day one.

    Raman

    February 28, 2011 at 11:21 am

  5. AngryFrenchGirl: “The real percentage of people in all of Canada who are bilingual is probably around two”

    What if it’s 0%? Does not knowing French impact the lives of any of these people? Does it impact their lives as much as not knowing English impacts the lives of many Quebeckers? Is there any anxiety and insecurity over language in the RoC, or are things rather chill? Is there any anxiety and insecurity over language in Quebec? Why is language a non-issue in the RoC, while it is THE issue in Quebec?

    These are the important questions and answers to these questions shed more light on the problem than pointless comparisons of rates of bilingualism across Canada (and across demographic groups), especially considering that the numbers are never 100% accurate and sometimes not even relevant to begin with.

    AngryFrenchGirl: “whether the francophones of Canada (a quarter of the country’s population) should be allowed to hang on to their language”

    I think they should be allowed, and I think they are allowed to, especially if you consider the affirmative-action schemes implemented to help French, like Bill 101 and the OLA.

    But you’re asking a wrong question again. The question: “should we be allowed to do this and that?” is a wrong question given that nobody is preventing you from doing anything, let alone speaking French to whoever you want, wherever you are. The right questions would be: In a province where 80% of the population is Francophone and the legal framework protects French, why do I still feel angry and insecure about the language? At this point, am I even concerned with linguistic survival, or just with linguistic dominance? Are my rights the issue, or is it about my privileged status? Am I defending the legal measures because I feel they are protecting my culture, or am I defending the measures because they are protecting my entitlements at the expense of others? Am I acting altruistically for the sake of the collective, or selfishly for my own sake? Is it about equality, or is it about me being a maître?

    Once you answer these questions honestly, once you accept the answers and learn to live with them, maybe you’ll stop tilting at windmills and become a HappyFrenchGirl instead.

    adski

    February 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

  6. Adski,

    In the most recent poll on the subject, 79% of Quebeckers (not just the francophones) said Bill 1010 was “necessary”

    Do you suspect that all of them entertain the dark thoughts you surmise Angry French Girl hides secretly behind what she actually says?
    That’s an awful lot of people to be paranoid about!

    I mean, I understand that you have legitimate fears. After all, you are part of a threatened minority: Anglos in N-America. And what with French-Canadian history’s continual genocidal rampages. (Louis Riel, we all know, had to be stopped before he chased all the Anglo-Canadians off their ancestral Saskatchewan lands and park them in reserves.)
    No doubt about it, anybody in your position would develop a healthy and legitimate persecution syndrome.

    But we swear: We’ll be nice from now on.

    Raman

    March 1, 2011 at 2:08 am

  7. I meant, of course, «Bill 101».

    Raman

    March 1, 2011 at 3:46 am

  8. “That’s true, but it does not mitigate the unethical aspects of 101 at all. And it proves that a majority can sometimes act in an unethical way too, for whatever reasons (be it retribution, hubris, or vanity that drives one towards power).”

    Haha! As if people are jailed or tortured or killed due to bill 101. Please. Maybe you need more gun violence up there in Canada so you would have something real to bitch about.

    M. Bergeron

    March 2, 2011 at 4:00 pm

  9. “Je me demande si on voit beaucoup de kirpan au Capitole à Washington….”

    Certainement pas. C’est un couteau, point.

    M. Bergeron

    March 2, 2011 at 4:30 pm

  10. is it possible the mr. singh makes a good case for religious tolerance? If some town in the saguenay can keep the cross then why not the kirpan. I think most french Quebecois are racist and xenophobic. when you only play with your bellybutton for hundreds of years it makes the world appear very small.

    chuck

    March 2, 2011 at 5:06 pm

  11. “I think most french Quebecois are racist and xenophobic”

    You are demonstrating the very prejudice you are accusing others of displaying. You must be a conservative Republican, this is how they behave.

    M. Bergeron

    March 2, 2011 at 5:17 pm

  12. M. Bergeron “Je me demande si on voit beaucoup de kirpan au Capitole à Washington….”

    Certainement pas. C’est un couteau, point.”

    I have to say that I don’t find the kirpan argument interesting enough to even form an opinion on it, but if your argument is safety, then shouldn’t stainless steel knives (and forks) be banned in the cafeteria of the Assemblee Nationale too, with only plastic utensils allowed?

    AM

    March 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm

  13. “Haha! As if people are jailed or tortured or killed due to bill 101. Please. Maybe you need more gun violence up there in Canada so you would have something real to bitch about.”

    M. Bergeron, I guess it’s all settled then. Anglos, as you point out, have nothing real to complain about. But then sovereignists aren’t getting tortured either so have nothing to real to complain about either, no?

    AM

    March 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm

  14. Regarding the kirpan, one very simple rule should apply to all such cases :

    Whenever a religious rule comes to conflict with a civil rule, the latter should prevail.

    -Rules that came down from your imaginary friends in the sky concern you and the other ones who see them. Civil rules and laws concern everybody. Period.

    “Reasonable accommodations” were meant for people with real handicaps. Not chosen ones, like your personal beliefs.

    Raman

    March 2, 2011 at 11:16 pm

  15. « I have to say that I don’t find the kirpan argument interesting enough to even form an opinion on it, but if your argument is safety, then shouldn’t stainless steel knives (and forks) be banned in the cafeteria of the Assemblee Nationale too, with only plastic utensils allowed? »

    Interestingly, this exact argument was given to me once by an American pro gun lobby supporter.
    I guess the recent butter knife school massacre in Oregon proved his point. (Or was it a steak knife? They definitely kill faster, with those little teeth.)

    And what about shoes? I can definitely clobber someone to death with a sturdy shoe. Are we going to forbid shoes at the Assembly then? Huh? Huh?!

    If this incident proves a point beyond discussion, is that we should allow daggers and machine-guns at the Assembly, or ban shoes, if we are to be coherent.

    Raman

    March 3, 2011 at 12:10 am

  16. The barring of the Sikhs from the Assembly on account of the kirpan is small potatoes. It could have happened anywhere. Kirpan is a knife after all, and the security had the right to act the way they did.

    More telling was the unanimous passing of Beaudoin’s motion a few days later. That’s when I felt we were back on familiar Quebecois ground, with all the exaggeration, overreaction, and politicization of anything “foreign” or non-conformist.

    adski

    March 3, 2011 at 10:39 am

  17. “is it possible mr.singh makes a good case for religious tolerance?”

    Hum… Maybe he also includes a delicious recipe for blueberry cheesecake in his letter…

    The fact is he does neither.

    By the way. Manjit Singh and Saguenay’s mayor are on the same side in this debate.

    I think they’re both wrong.

    angryfrenchguy

    March 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm

  18. …un événement encore plus intéressant a eu lieu lors de la consultation parlementaire chargée d’étudier le projet de loi 94, visant à encadrer le port du voile intégral, alors que l’Assemblée nationale recevait le Centre culturel islamique de Québec (CCIQ).

    Parlez-en à Benoît Charette, le député péquiste de Deux-Montagnes. Pour ce que j’en sais, Charette est un homme courtois qui tend la main aux gens qu’il rencontre, et dans le cas qui nous intéresse, à la représentante du CCIQ.

    Toutefois, cette dernière a carrément refusé de lui serrer la main. Pour des raisons religieuses, évidemment.

    La suite est encore plus intéressante.

    Dans la présentation de son mémoire intitulé Plaidoyer contre une législation injustifiable et potentiellement discriminatoire, la représentante du CCIQ a accusé le Québec de ne pas faire assez pour intégrer les immigrants. Le Québec pratiquerait la « discrimination systémique à l’embauche », il se rendrait coupable d’exclusion, de racisme.

    Ce discours victimaire, nous y sommes habitués.

    Mais au terme de la séance, Benoît Charette a posé une question embarrassante.

    Après avoir rappelé avec tact à la représentante du CCIQ qu’elle avait refusé de lui serrer la main, il lui a demandé si le fait que certaines communautés culturelles refusent ainsi les mœurs de la société d’accueil ne contribuait pas au moins partiellement à leurs problèmes d’intégration.

    [quoi?! Le devoir de « compréhension de l’autre » devrait opérer dans les deux sens? Quoi?!! Horreur!! Scandale!! Non, mais, pour qui il se prend, lui?..]

    La représentante du CCIQ a patiné un peu. Le cœur de sa réponse était toutefois sans ambiguïté : le député Charette aurait dû être au courant des rapports entre les sexes commandés par la religion musulmane (et de la conception particulièrement rigoriste qu’on semble s’en faire au CCIQ).

    Je résume : selon elle, c’est à la société d’accueil de transformer sa culture pour accueillir « l’autre ». En gros, ce serait désormais à la société d’accueil de s’intégrer à ses immigrants, plus l’inverse. Dans la langue de bois multiculturaliste, on appelle cela « l’ouverture à l’autre ».

    http://www.24hmontreal.canoe.ca/24hmontreal/chroniques/mathieubockcote/archives/2011/01/20110126-153843.html

    James

    March 3, 2011 at 2:53 pm

  19. Great article by Bock Côté. I appreciate that, finally, some intellectuals like him and Facal dare break the taboos that the do-gooding, correct-thinking, self-hating multicultural mindset has imposed on critical discourse around all issues concerning immigration and minorities.

    Here’s a great quote from C. Lévi-Strauss, which perfectly illustrates this current pc orthodoxy:
    «Or, toute notre époque est là : on ignore des faits sous prétexte de défendre des valeurs.»
    («This resumes our era: We ignore facts in order to defend values.»)

    And here’s an anecdote to illustrate:

    A friend of mine used to work for Hydro-Québec International, and frequently worked with foreign engineers here as well as abroad. He is someone well-traveled, who speaks three languages fluently and has a working knowledge of a few more. Someone who has always loved to learn about other cultures: a taste he acquired from also very well traveled and multilingual father.

    During his career, as part of his different international contracts, he often had to partake in “cultural awareness” type workshops, where he and other local HQI employees were schooled on how to respect the cultural prerogatives of their foreign colleagues. (How to behave with men and women, etiquette, things to avoid saying, etc.)

    Once, during an umpteenth workshop, he happened to remark on the fact that, whenever he was sent to work abroad, he was taught how to respect the local culture; and whenever foreign staff came to work here, he was again taught how to respect the foreigners’ culture.
    He asked what he thought was an innocent question : “Do they ever learn how to respect our culture?”

    That got him to be condemned as “racist” in that workshop report.

    Raman

    March 3, 2011 at 3:34 pm

  20. I’m sure Mr. Singh would agree that the members of the National Assembly would do well to register at the Toronto workshop described in the article below. Heck, I’m sure that, according to all the vigilant minds who prowl here for confirmations of québécois racism, we all should!

    http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=2758198

    White & guilty: ‘Whiteness’ workshop helps expose your inner racist
    by Johnathan Kay, National Post · Friday, Apr. 2, 2010

    Sandy, Jim and Karen work at a downtown community centre where they help low-income residents apply for rental housing. Sandy has a bad feeling about Jim: She notices that when black clients come in, he tends to drift to the back of the office. Sandy suspects racism (she and Jim are both white). On the other hand, she also notices that Jim seems to get along well with Karen, who is black. As the weeks go by, Sandy becomes more uncomfortable with the situation. But she feels uncertain about how to handle it. Test question: What should Sandy do?

    If you answered that Sandy’s first move should be to talk to Karen, and ask how Jim’s behaviour made her feel, you are apparently a better anti-racist than me.

    That, for what it’s worth, was the preferred solution offered by my instructor at “Thinking About Whiteness and Doing Anti-Racism,” a four-part evening workshop for community activists, presented earlier this year at the Toronto Women’s Bookstore.

    My own answer, announced in class, was that Sandy should approach Jim discreetly, explaining to him how others in the office might perceive his actions. Or perhaps the manager of the community centre could give a generic presentation about the need to treat clients in a colour-blind manner, on a no-names basis.

    The problem with my approach, the instructor indicated, lay in the fact that I was primarily concerned with the feelings of my fellow Caucasian, Jim. I wasn’t treating Karen like a “full human being” who might have thoughts and worries at variance with the superficially friendly workplace attitude.

    Moreover, I was guilty of “democratic racism” — by which we apply ostensibly race-neutral principles such as “due process,” constantly demanding clear “evidence” of wrongdoing, rather than confronting prima facie instances of racism head-on. “It seems we’re always looking for more proof,” said the instructor, an energetic left-wing activist who’s been teaching this course for several years. “When it comes to racism, you have to trust your gut.” »
    (…)

    Most of the other 13 students were earnest, grad-student types in their 20s — too young to remember the late 1980s and early 1990s, when political correctness first took root on college campuses. The jargon I heard at the bookstore took me back to that age — albeit with a few odd variations. “Allyship” has replaced “solidarity” in the anti-racist lexicon, for instance, when speaking about inter-racial activist partnerships. I also heard one student say she rejected the term “gender-neutral” as sexist, and instead preferred “gender-fluid.” One did not “have” a gender or sexual orientation; the operative word is “perform” — as in, “Sally performs her queerness in a very femme way.”»
    (…)

    Read it all, it’s worth it!
    I guess this is the kind of contribution to québécois culture that our self-righteous Canadian lesson givers wish us to adopt when they school us on tolerance. (Maybe more so if we replaced the word “white” with “French”.)

    This said, what’s sad to see is how noble and just causes, like anti-racism, can so easily turn into clueless witch hunts. As I grow older, if I have one disappointment concerning the way our world is run, it is definitely in the area of the intellectual moral orthodoxies that almost invariably come to replace factual critical thinking.

    Raman

    March 3, 2011 at 5:53 pm

  21. Intéressant Raman,

    It reminds me of this thing I read in the McGill Daily last year that argued that requiring people to identify their faces when receiving government services was an attack on the rights of the transgendered (!!??!).

    angryfrenchguy

    March 3, 2011 at 7:47 pm

  22. @Raman

    “And what about shoes? I can definitely clobber someone to death with a sturdy shoe. Are we going to forbid shoes at the Assembly then? Huh? Huh?!

    If this incident proves a point beyond discussion, is that we should allow daggers and machine-guns at the Assembly, or ban shoes, if we are to be coherent.”

    Relax Raman, you are making the same point I was, namely that it is not as simple as saying “well, they don’t allow knives on planes, so they shouldn’t be allowed at the Assemby”, or alternatively that “well, they are allowed in other parts of the building, so why not in the parliament (or is chamber??) itself”.

    Off topic, but there is a lot more than just shoes. I watched a documentary on prisons recently, it is very frightening what kind of weapons people are able to make from things like plastic tray pieces, toothbrushes and even tightly rolled paper.

    AM

    March 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm

  23. The “rights” discourse has been completely hijacked.

    Playing on a majority’s apparently bottomless well of guilt has become a key tactic in advancing some communities’ interests. And that’s exactly the trump card ethno-religious minorities use to further their own. Like Mr. Singh and the World Sikh Organisation of Canada here; after the Orthodox Jews, the Muslim associations, a whole host of fringe Christian organizations and others. And that’s exactly what many Anglo rights entrepreneurs also try to bend to their own cause: Trying to get everybody to see them as a defenseless oppressed minority: trying to turn the advancement of privileges for them into the protection of fundamental rights.

    In all those cases, the real goal behind the tactic is to further a form of communitarianism: One through which some groups seek to secure exceptional rights excluding them from having to abide by the same democratic rules as everybody else. Usually, that is done in order to consolidate those groups by veering them off the common path of society. This is why those demands will usually concern the “rights” to separate schools, separate languages, special clothing, separate holidays, separate menus, etc. All these have one thing in common: They help further tag their members and segregate them from the rest.
    (I’m reminded of AFG’s interview with the Hassidic shool bus driver here. He was quite frank about this issue.)

    Those demands have nothing to do with suppressed rights. Whether we talk about religion, culture or language, nobody is being forced to morph into a member of the majority, or to completely abandon their identity. The only thing they are asked to do is to function within the common democratic political community, instead of creating parallel, self-segregated societies within it.

    Multiculturalism encourages this behaviour, of course, at the risk of eventually completely “lebanizing” the societies (as in Lebanon). I.e., ending up with a society of societies, where all the subgroups’ members live in waterproof tanks, meeting with other groups less and less, marrying, eating, praying and doing all their activities separately from each other, only among themselves. All to the great delight of community leaders who encourage it: It’s all more power to them!

    French philosopher Paul Thibaud nailed it in a recent article. He said we made a conceptual mistake when we made multiculturalism an ideal, to be politically promoted. Multiculturalism is rather the normal state of a democratic society, which will always be socially and culturally heterogeneous. But policies should not encourage further dismemberment: Quite the opposite, they should create commonness among the diverse communities that compose society. And that is done through common schools, non-segregated workplaces, non-segregated unions, commonly shared civil institutions, etc. And also through secularism.

    Maybe Canada figures it can afford to take the multicultural risk: After all, common Canadian values do include 1) the English language, 2) American pop culture and 3) not liking America.* And after all, those are quite universally appreciated, and may very well remain common values, even after Canada becomes nothing more than a loosely sown patchwork of subcommunities, that otherwise think it is taboo to intermarry.
    A small society like Quebec cannot afford such disintegration of its social fabric. Nor can most societies, as European ones are painfully starting to realize.


    * (I’m not saying that’s what’s sums up Canadian culture.)

    Raman

    March 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm

  24. The English-language writer Neil Bissoundath, who now lives in Québec City, is going to be on Radio-Canada today. For the first time in years he is going to discuss his book Selling Illusions: the cult of multiculturalism, in which he argued that: “to preserve the heritage of Canada’s many peoples, the policy nevertheless creates unease on many levels, transforming people into political tools and turning historical distinctions into stereotyped commodities. It encourages exoticism, highlighting the differences that divide Canadians rather than the similarities that unite them.”

    http://www.radio-canada.ca/emissions/le_21e/2010-2011/chronique.asp?idChronique=137967

    angryfrenchguy

    March 5, 2011 at 10:09 am

  25. It’s cool that you’re back, AFG.

    I just thought I would mention B.Dubreuil & G.Marois recent book, which is tangentialy related to your post – interview here:

    http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/politique-quebecoise/201103/05/01-4376407-limmigration-un-faux-remede-pour-leconomie.php

    And much more directly related to your earlier post:
    https://angryfrenchguy.com/2008/04/14/quebec-immigration-policy-false-advertising-or-lying-to-your-best-friend/

    Tancrède

    March 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm

  26. While my spoken english myself is really rusty (but some yankee friend called my accent ‘real cute’ ^^ ehehhe), I can read and comunicate in an english that a few other pals commented as as good as natives, so…

    And I don’t hate anglos at all as a rule, only natioracist jerkasses and such, nuance.

    But we must uphold the Law 101, and all that.

    Quebie, centrist, etatist and sovereignist.

    the Ubbergeek

    March 6, 2011 at 5:13 am

  27. Welcome back AFG, long time no blog. You are my favorite anglish blog and wift out you i don t realy read english.
    But i try…

    Marvel

    March 6, 2011 at 7:20 pm

  28. Bienvenue, AFG ! On s’est ennuyé de vous ! L’avenir français et laïque du Québec a besoin de votre contribution. Ne lâchez pas.

    James M.

    March 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm

  29. Et merci, AFG, parce que tu as été le premier à me donner un signe de l’existence de Bernard Adamus.

    Raman

    March 7, 2011 at 2:27 am

  30. Raman: “And that’s exactly the trump card ethno-religious minorities use to further their own. Like Mr. Singh and the World Sikh Organisation of Canada here; after the Orthodox Jews, the Muslim associations, a whole host of fringe Christian organizations and others. And that’s exactly what many Anglo rights entrepreneurs also try to bend to their own cause: Trying to get everybody to see them as a defenseless oppressed minority: trying to turn the advancement of privileges for them into the protection of fundamental rights.”

    It is also the trump card of a socio-linguistic group of French-speakers in North America, known in Quebec social science as “Francophones”. A 2% minority, an island in the sea of English, a dying language and culture… The narrative is very similar, and “rights” are used as a euphemism for privileges by francophones and by non-francophones alike.

    Speaking of minorities – “a minority is only thought of as one when it constitutes some kind of threat to the majority. A real threat or an imagined one. And therein lies the fear.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMoOuls0pcI)

    This applies perfectly to the debate about the place of religion in Quebec. The inflexibility and overreaction of the Quebec majority to anything “alternative” is rooted in fear and anxiety. This fear makes the majority reluctant to accept anything that does not acquiesce to the model of social order established in the 1970s after a long-lasting and exhausting struggle to boot out the “English elite”. Anything that doesn’t adhere to the Model (like participation in an institution, religious or secular, that is not part of the established order and offers an alternative worldview, life style, or loyalty) is seen as a compromise far too risky, one that involves some form of intellectual and moral independence of a non-francophone, something that may potentially bring back the “English elite” set-up, with the “Ethnic elite” replacing the “English elite” at the helm and relegating the Francophones from the “Maîtres chez nous” status back down to the “Nègres blancs” one.

    In Quebec, the anxiety of the majority over losing its majority status is probably worse than the anxiety the Quebec minorities can ever feel on account of the majority’s actions. The tactics the Quebec majority can resort to are (fortunately) limited to such petty schemes as barring of minorities from the national assembly, never-ending unanimous parliamentary motions and declarations about the primacy of French and about laïcité, threats of 2 years of compulsory francophone cegep, threats of more OQLF cops out on the streets, infinite threats of separation that never seem to materialize… These petty tactics are not be trivialized as they do bring inconvenience to the lives of many people, but they are still trivial when compared to the fear of the majority – one that is deep-seated, unrelenting, and very uncomfortable to bear.

    adski

    March 7, 2011 at 10:41 am


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