Sociologist Guy Rocher, fabric weaver from Quebec

The centenary of Guy Rocher is an opportunity for a retrospective of his commitment and his thoughts which allows us to take note of the luminous and fertile furrow that he traced as the architect of the three major projects for the future of Quebec which are the national education, the national language and the secularism of the State. In doing so, he gave Quebec the impetus to be itself.

Through the strength of his action and his consistency over several decades, Guy Rocher participated in forging the symbolic field of Quebec’s trajectory, in shaping a collective consciousness. In a way, it made it possible to consolidate the collective unconscious of a democratic nation which is emancipating itself. It is rare for a sociologist to reach the very material of society in this way.

The sociological and political symbolic field

I have had the privilege of working closely with him over the past 15 years and I come to bear witness to his contribution. The cornerstone of its social and political commitment: acting for the common good and promoting social justice, two markers of Quebec.

Creating a Ministry of Education outside the supervision of the Church implied the promotion of the right to knowledge for all, boys and girls, and beyond social classes. Deconfessionalizing the Quebec school system embodied a spirit of social justice and aimed at accepting the diversity of religious and civic beliefs in Quebec. All this undoubtedly allowed the advent of state secularism in a fundamental law, which solidifies the heart of the state and proves to be a source of equality and freedom for all citizens.

Another constancy in his thinking is the importance of establishing freedom in relation to authority. “You must not only be educated in authority, you must also be educated in freedom,” he professes.

Acting for the French language means breathing life into a minority nation and the power to say who it is. For the philosopher Ernst Cassirer, the most important symbolic system for humans is found in language.

Guy Rocher’s contribution to the public debate, whether in terms of national language or state secularism, is to highlight, from a sociological perspective, the societal power relationships that drive these issues, which we do not can be reduced to a simple question of individual rights. It therefore made it possible to elucidate a fair relationship between the individual and his community.

In symbiosis with the Quebec psyche

I believe that what makes Guy Rocher in symbiosis with the Quebec psyche is the eclecticism of his thought and his career, which integrate both the French vision and that of North America, through his studies at Quebec and the United States and his postdoctoral research carried out in France.

Conjuring fate — three lives in one

But there is more. Because if Guy Rocher is in tune with Quebec, it is also through the authenticity of his personal approach, since the man who is now a hundred years old believed himself to be on borrowed time all his life. Its destiny is the metaphor of a nation in danger.

Indeed, his grandfather Auguste Rocher died at the age of 36, while his father was 7 years old, while he himself lost his father, Barthélemy, at the age of 39, when he did not was only 8 years old. He carries them within him, because his first name, Guy, is the condensed anagram of the center of Auguste and the Y of the end of Barthélemy.

It is through his longevity and extraordinary vitality that he was able to achieve all his exploits, because he lived three lives in one, to ward off the fate of his paternal ancestors. This son and grandson of engineers contributed to the engineering of Quebec. For a people threatened with extinction, its extraordinary and almost centuries-old commitment is both a snub warding off death and a celebration of Life. It embodies the possibility of overcoming atavisms.

Joy of commitment

Guy Rocher passed on to me the joy of commitment, despite the rebuffs. “The future will be made by those who are more militant. Those who work to change things, whether through politics or not,” he says.

He leaves us hope and the strength to stand. The oxygen of a living Quebec. The courage to be oneself, the desire to accept the Other and to demonstrate social solidarity.

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