Almost two years ago I made this post, which is uncanny in its applicability to the current Quebec student protests.
A play without a hero
People might point to Quebec’s emergency legislation as proof of the fact that the government is in the wrong. Sure, it is in the wrong, but not in comparison to the student protesters, only in general. The students also happen to be in the wrong.
Misguided would be a great adjective to describe both parties. Anytime a Western democracy passes an emergency powers law it makes an unwitting admission that its legislators have no idea of the history of their own polity. It is an admission of ignorance. Not just of practicality — the fact being that these laws and efforts never work to their intended effect. More importantly is the total ignorance it shows with regards to the history of laws of this nature. Their absence and repeal, over time, is one of the main benchmarks of progress on the road to the prosperous and flourishing society we find ourselves in today. Those in the Quebec legislature cannot argue, without betraying ignorance to the seriousness of crises past, or the relative lack of seriousness of the student protests, that this is a crisis worthy of an emergency powers law. Moreover, there are laws on the books. Not to point out the obvious but, somehow, up to this point in recent history, Quebec has been a relatively orderly place.
The students are more obviously in the wrong, that is to say their wrongness is more conspicuous. They seem to realize that there is a state and that the state has interests. What they are painfully unaware of is that they are not an oppressed minority standing up for itself, but rather, an incredibly fortunate group merely protecting their interests.
Wrapping yourself in righteousness
Were these students aware they were receiving essentially a corporate hand out from the state, at the expense of the rest of society, and wanted to protect themselves from their subsidy being reduced, they would draw up a public relations campaign that painted themselves as an oppressed, hard-working minority “up against it” as it were by the penurious provincial government “going back” on its word. Moreover they would paint the issue in light of its fairness, its justice, cosmic justice! It would be a brilliant way to brand your interest group and to deceive the public who may or may not know better or who may or may not take the time to find out.
It just so happens, by way of happy accident, that the student protesters have painted themselves in this optimal public relations light: the unwashed, hardworking low men and women on the totem pole, simply fighting for what is right.
The truth is a neat little proof of the fact that, independent of whether age bestows wisdom, those lacking the former don’t possess the latter. I feel partially obliged to write this now since, at twenty-six, my ability to make such statements with any credibility is expiring.
Because the students actually believe what they portend on their placards and signs, they actually shout their slogans with conviction, not in sole interest of fulfilling their interests, but also in interest of supposed and phantasmic cosmic justice. They’ve been tricked by lightswitch enlightenment; the light is on, but nobody is home. Such is the privilege of privilege — the ability to inculcate yourself in the belief that what has been given to you is deserved.