Monday, October 3, 2011

Language Divides Us: Quebec

The country where I’m from has two official languages, English and French. The country is Canada, and I’m from the French part, the province of Quebec, on the eastern side. In Quebec there is a big river called the St. Lawrence that comes in from the Atlantic Ocean and goes right down into the Great Lakes and is a major port of entry for imports into the heart of the United States. In the St. Lawrence River there is an island, the Island of Montreal. This is where I live.
                The city of Montreal has a population of about 3 million, depending on what you qualify as ‘the city’, and it gets pretty crowded in the downtown areas. The city is divided nearly in half, with, as a general rule, the majority of Anglophones (English speaking people) on the West side of the city and the Island, and the Francophones (French speaking) residing mostly in the east. In the entire province, Anglophones are the small minority, but on the island it’s pretty much an even split. The culture and lifestyle in Montreal is drastically different than that of the rest of Quebec, and even more so from the rest of Canada.
                Some Quebec politicians dedicate themselves to preserving the French language and culture, and they have been voted in often enough to have legislated laws surrounding that preservation. There is a sort of ‘language policing’ that takes place where fines are given to store owners whose signs do not meet the criteria of having the English wording in a font 2/3 the size of the French lettering. Phone calls are made by government offices to businesses to ensure that employees can communicate effectively in French, new immigrants must attend school in French, and the children of parents who went to school in French must do the same. Many Quebecers are unable to speak English and don’t have the option to learn how through the public school system and conversely, many Quebecers can’t speak French well enough to be employed in the public sector. Needless to say, a lot of the politics of Quebec are tied up in the language issue, and because of Quebec’s size and population, this issue reaches the federal level as well. Quebec has historically received special allowances due to the power of its government juxtaposed to the other provinces. It can make threats, such as the threat to separate from Canada, and it can act in an obstructionist manner in order to reach compromises.
                Being an English speaking Canadian, born and raised in Quebec, I was not brought up with a feeling of belongingness or of strong ties to my province or my country. I do not have a rich history of tradition passed down from generations because my French Canadian grandmother died before I was born, and I know nothing of the families of my English grandparents who passed away some time ago. I learned French in school but I learned it as a subject, not as a living reality. I can conjugate the hell out of verbs and I can take your food order at a restaurant, but I can’t discuss anything in much depth as I never developed a real meaningful relationship with a French speaking person. My linguistic skills improve the more I immerse myself in the French culture through living here, working and getting around, but I lack the skills to fully express myself in the language.
                From where I stand, this reality presents several obstacles in the quest for universal equality. First of all, there is a general separateness that exists between the English and the French within Quebec. There’s a history of oppression and conquest that seems to linger in the minds of the present-day population, an ‘us-and-them’ mentality.  This separation creates a barrier between the two groups of people: there are communication difficulties and cultural differences, and besides some inter-mingling of the mostly younger generations on the island of Montreal, the two pretty much just keep apart. A francophone from rural Quebec is completely alien to an anglo living in a west-end Montreal suburb, and vice versa.This difference can be a scary thing, but if the two swapped places and were born in each other’s shoes we’d have the same result, so what does that say other than we are not in fact different, but rather exactly the same. So the separation is really only a perception, existant only in the mind.
 This emotional political battle between French and English has been a defining factor of life in Quebec and has been a 'presence' in the rest of Canada for generations as well. To cut to the chase: this is something that we’re going to have to get over and get through in order to realize our real relationship to each other, which is that we are one and equal, so that we can start facing and taking responsibility for the real problems in the world, such as the wealth gap, starvation, the child sex trade, animal abuse, pollution, war, crime, mental disorders, slave labour, illiteracy, preventable disease, eutrification, desertification, rape, child abuse, torture, malnutrition, obesity, economic insecurity, suicide, and the list goes on. And on. And on.  
I’m all for equality, but there is a hierarchy when it comes to the relevance of the problems we as humanity are facing. Politicians -those in power- need to be able to use the common sense necessary to address the more important problems first, because with the power we elect to them comes that great and grave responsibility. But these politicians have us instead pitted against each other as they sit atop platforms of language and cultural preservation. So it's up to us to stop participating in these games. We can't depend on the politicians anymore to make the right decisions, and I don't know if we ever could. Maybe the fact that we so blindly followed and trusted their leadership is what got us into and created this mess of a world. We the people now need to start taking the responsibility we thought the government was taking for us because as it turns out, they weren't. So now it's up to us to take responsibility of rourselves and stop participating in the puppet show and start havig a look at what's really going on.
Secondly, doesn’t the preservation of something indicate the fear of losing it?
 I’m an Anglophone, a minority without religion, without tradition, without a culture or a place I feel is ‘home’ for ‘my people’... so is the fear that if they lose the French culture, language, religion (Roman Catholic), and tradition, that they will become like me?
In a way, I am removed from fearing losing that which I never had, and therefore I am not bound by that fear of loss. That fear of loss has consistently tied up a huge chunk of political energy and finances in an un-reckonable juggernaut with no signs of ever being resolved, because in reality there is an established English and an established French population in one province. Point finale. This is not going to change. But we are not the same English and French people who fought on the Plains of Abraham or who wrote the British North America Act; we are altogether different beings living in the present moment and it’s time we stop digging up the past and throwing it out in front of us like a path we have to endlessly walk while the world crumbles around us. We are not defined by our language and we are certainly not defined by our culture because if we fear losing these things that means they can be taken away when, who we are as human beings, as Life, cannot be taken away.
Third of all, we are the product of whatever environment we are born into. So those who are extremists in Quebec would be extremists if they were born anywhere else, fighting tooth and nail for that which they have decided is the ‘truth’ and is ‘right’ because it is what they 'know' and it is apparently ‘who they are’. Culture and tradition have no bearing in practical reality. Culture and tradition do not function on common sense or doing what's best for everyone. Culture and tradition have led people to defend human and anmal sacrifice, female and male circumcision, removing limbs as punishment, rape as punishment, all sorts of oppression and more. Why? Because when that's what you're brought up with it's all you know, but every human being has the opportunity to use common sense over and above tradition and culture, to be able to look at where they stand in relation to the rest of the world, and what the consequences of their actions are. It's easier to do this in some countries more than others, that's why the global system needs to change.
The ironic part is that in the fight to preserve the language, culture, status and numbers they have actually created the reality they fear, but for others. It’s interesting because at Desteni it is said that ‘you create that which you fear’. It’s almost like the law of attraction because so much time, energy, attention and focus is spent on the issue that it actually manifests in reality, just not for those who spent all that time conjuring it up. In this particular scenario   it manifests as a reality for people like me. So my message for those who fear becoming like me is this: I am not subject to the cattle call of patriotism; I am not bound to the history of a people, and I’m not tied by the fear of loss of language or culture... I’m absolutely free to say that the reality we have accepted is bullshit, the status quo is literally insane, and we as humanity need to get over our differences so that we can work together as one voice to change the world because that is what needs to be done.
 In this respect, our politicians have failed us. They have lowered themselves to childish fears and the comfort of living 'the way things are' and stalling the politics of a country to get their way. Politicians are supposed to be our leaders and lead us by example, to show us how to elevate ourselves above quarrelling like children so that we can advance as a species. But they don't.
The Equal Money System is a part of the political platform of the Equal Life Party- a political group that is dedicated to the radical advancement of mankind by placing th principle of what's best for all above the immediate emotional desires of the individual. This is truly responsible government and leading by example. 
The Equal Life Party proposes a change in the economic system as we know it, from a profit-based system of abuse to one that supports all life. This is done by ensuring all being's basic requirements are met, and that the few cannot continue to profit off the majority while the majority struggle to survive. Also, by backing money with life and making it inseperable from life is the realization that all beings are in fact one and equal, and no one has the right to deny that fact.
 In the end, equality has to start at an economic level, because if you don't have money your priorities change pretty quickly. We need to make economic equality our priority if we truly care, and only then can we realize that language and culture don't matter in a world where all are equal.
            I am one vote for world equality, I am one vote for an Equal Money System, and the Equal Life Party has my full support because I support all Life equally and I understand we need to work together to get this done.
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