Die or fade, Quebecers and fear

““To liquidate the peoples […]we start by removing their memory. […] And the language? Why would they take it away from us? It will be nothing more than folklore which will sooner or later die a natural death.” […] No one knows what will happen. One thing, however, is certain. In moments of clairvoyance, the Czech people can see the image of their death up close in front of them. Neither as a reality nor as an inevitable future, but still as a completely concrete possibility. His death is with him. »

In this passage from Book of laughter and forgetting (1978), Milan Kundera could very well have written “the Quebec people”. People in both senses of the word. That, cultural, of a community of destiny with a singular identity forged over a long time with the help of a common culture and language, which give meaning to events and to the fact of living in a certain territory. Language and culture say who we are, how we exist.

The political aspect refers to citizens who organize themselves and strive to live together. Citizens make choices for their present and their future, with all the responsibility, courage and uncertainty that action implies. To choose is to decide; to decide is to exist and assume it.

At the moment, the leader of the Parti Québécois (PQ) is being criticized from all sides for his comments about the contempt and abuse suffered by French Canadians. Failing to be able to refute them historically, we say that it is dated. We are in 2024, now looking to the future; we should turn the page, resentment is no longer relevant. These criticisms appear very strange, coming from people and parties who – rightly – are ardent defenders of the oppressed and historical justice.

Strange: the injustices of the past, even the distant past, should be regularly recalled, except those suffered by French-speaking Canadians.

It is also said that there would no longer be room for speeches of fear in the political public space. However, we constantly talk about fear: fear of a nuclear conflict, fear of rising mercury, sea levels, inflation and the far right, fear of the debt of young people and households, fear for our children who have become too anxious, etc.

This objection is all the more ironic because it comes from the very people who for decades have used fear to reassure Quebecers.

From 1976 to 1995, the campaigns of the federalists (French-speaking and English-speaking) were essentially campaigns of fear. And there is no doubt that this will be repeated if the PQ is elected and holds a third referendum in the coming years. We will come out with the same refrains, the same nonsense. “Quebecers want to eat three times a day,” says Denis Coderre.

On the contrary, Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is right to mention the current and real threats to the Quebec people, both from a cultural point of view (decline of French, uncontrolled immigration) and from a political point of view (federal interference). in provincial areas of jurisdiction). Since we are talking about existential consequences here. By tackling these subjects, PSPP brings out the old demons which, deep down, have never left its people.

Let’s make no mistake: there is nothing coincidental in all this. With, in particular, the son who strives, in Ottawa, to complete the work of the father, the Quebec people are entering a phase in their history where they “can see up close before them the image of his death, like a a very concrete possibility.

Unable to resolve to fully exist or to completely disappear, the Quebec people believed they could be politically autonomous and remain themselves within the Canadian federation. But the illusion, revealed in all its splendor by the failures of the CAQ government, has had its day. He now comes up against reality, which PSPP only names. Remember that the approaching time of choice is disturbing. The reflex is then to shoot the messenger.

The next referendum campaign will be one of fear. The same goes for the electoral campaign which will precede it. It cannot be otherwise, since death scares Quebecers. Also exist.

It remains to be seen what they fear the most.

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