“A course focused on how to be a good citizen […] can only be beneficial – with, of course, a little chauvinistic flavor: history, culture, Quebec pride. This is how Deputy Prime Minister Geneviève Guilbault described Tuesday, on Radio-Canada, the future course in Quebec culture and citizenship mentioned in François Legault’s opening speech. Chauvin, it should be remembered, means “who has or manifests excessive, blind, intransigent or aggressive patriotism”. Is this the “common value” that we will try to instill in the children in the course which will replace the course in ethics and religious culture?
We felt on Tuesday a concern for the identity formation of youth in the Caquist discourse. The world is changing, a good part of the new generations do not have the same relationship to nationalism as the electoral base of François Legault and we are trying to correct the situation. The Premier talks about protecting the architectural heritage, catching up with the average Ontario salary and instituting this course to generate additional sources of “pride”. By the solutions proposed to this so-called deficit of patriotism, we show how much we approach this generational difference through caricature.
As we seek to generate nationalist enthusiasm, I am surrounded by young adults who wonder what it means to contemplate parenthood as forests burn, which no leader seems ready to tackle head on. to the climate crisis, that this pandemic will certainly not be the last, that the health and social services system as well as schools and daycares are collapsing, that the cost of living is rising, that rents are soaring and that the property becomes more and more inaccessible, that the rich are richer and the social safety net crumbles, that far-right movements solidify, that borders are tightened and that people who fight against social inequalities do in the face of increasing violence, both online and on the street.
There is nothing in these concerns that is particularly pro-Quebec or anti-Quebec, or pro-Canada or anti-Canada. The young people from here who share them are certainly not alone in the world, moreover. Wanting to protect your children is a universal reflex. More and more people are uncertain about living in a world that will allow them to do so, and it should be recognized that we are there. But no.
We continue to speak only of pride in the construction of civic identity, while we should urgently speak of trust – in institutions, in society, in our peers, in the world. And trust, as we know, is always conditional. It builds itself through constant benevolent attention, breaks down through neglect, and repairs itself with honesty.
When confidence in the state is broken, nationalist logic diagnoses a problem of pride, an identity deficit. We wonder whether we should not put more flags in our schools, ensure that their buildings are more “beautiful”, better teach the history of New France there, bring out the women who wear the hijab and these oddballs who talk about unceded indigenous territories. Rather, it should be understood that “pride”, or, better, the feeling of belonging, is necessarily linked to the feeling of security in the present and the future, to the conviction that institutions serve the common good and that this “ common ”includes us. No flag, no national anthem from any country, no pride 101 class can make a child walk with their heads held high if they are experiencing bullying in school and the skills shortage is affecting their experience. learning, and therefore his confidence in adults, institutions, his society.
We often brandish the specter of young people who do not feel like Quebecers even though they have lived here all their lives. We obviously never took the time to listen to them. It is understandable that these people have most of the time acquired an intimate experience of state violence. They have been excluded from school or marginalized by school curricula, harassed by the police, or have been the subject of an abusive report to the DPJ; they were neglected in hospital or suffered discrimination in employment; have struggled to get a job in their field or have seen their parents work tirelessly for pittance, often under insults, because their qualifications have been refused recognition. The government imagines that greater knowledge of Quebec history and culture will necessarily “correct” the identities forged in these contexts. Whereas it would rather be necessary to correct the injustices of the public institutions which led to the feeling of marginalization.
The problem is that even naming these injustices and suggesting rectifying them is too often received as an attack on said national pride – when it is precisely a condition of the feeling of belonging for a large number of citizens. A patriotism which receives any social criticism with an outcry is therefore necessarily a dead end. It is then fair to describe him as excessive, blind, intransigent and aggressive.
If only there was one word to describe this phenomenon… Ah, yes! Chauvinism.