Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2: The hell with it....

I'll comment on just a couple of points because there's almost nothing worth talking about in this miserable sheet. It has whole pages dedicated to pictures of our social betters smiling at a party. Who could possibly give a damn?
It has another whole page of pictures of people on ski-doos.

In a quiet display of the bias that runs through our news, we are told that a New Brunswicker was held in a "vile" Lebanese prison. I don't doubt it was vile. Very few prisons are spas.But I have not seen most of our press use the word vile too describe Guantanamo Bay or the CIA torture prisons that exist around the world.

But them there Lebanese? Why, they's jes' iggerant.

The other item concerns city council. They are to decide tonight whether the great plan is to close Main Street to traffic for the summer - or to allow more curbside parking. Is this the result of all their years of study and planning for the shape of Moncton's future? The whole world is desperately replanning the shape and nature of the city, planning in a race against the forces that are changing us, like it or not.

Would it be possible for the TandT to assign a reporter with brains to report on exactly what our plan is? And what other cities are doing? And could they perhaps fill us in on where the various candidates stand on the question of city planning? I mean - would it kill the editors to do some serious reporting, and spare us the pictures of people we don't know attending a party we weren't invited to?

As it is all we get is sloppy trivia to fill up the spaces between ads.

So, instead of the usual, I'll talk, probably for a coule of blogs about the language of signs issue in Dieppe. But, first, let me tell  you where I'm coming from.

I've lived most of my life as a member of a minority. I was English-speaking (of French and Scottish ancestry) growing up in one of Montreal's poorest areas. (Contrary to the myth, the majority of English in Montreal were not rich. Quite the contrary. They were the lowest level of the working class, with francophones dominating the skilled working class.)

The English situation improved beginning in the 1950s with postwar prosperity. But that had nothing to do with getting any favours. English schools in Quebec were designed to prepare their students for high school completion - and perhaps university. Not many of my generation did complete high school. (Nobody in my grade one class, including me, finished high school.) But it was possible and, as better paying office jobs expanded in the 1960s and on, the English public schools could produce graduates to fill them. The French public school couldn't.

The wealthier French (yes, there was a large class of wealthy French) sent their children to private schools where they received excellent education which opened the doors to university and the professions. The French public schools were run on the cheap ( to keep taxes down for the wealthy French who also controlled the school boards and the provincial government.)

Under that system, most French got an education that normally ended in grade nine, and consisted largely of catechism, and of history that was largely propaganda.

That nationalist movement in Quebec was led by the minority of French who were wealthy and who wanted to displace another minority group, the wealthy English.

I came to understand this, partly as a professor of Canadian History, and also in long years as a member of the provincial English rights group, Alliance Quebec, of which I became vice-president and then chairman.

The hatred was built up over generations by a mythical history on both sides. French kids were taught that the English were all rich, and had stolen their money from the French. (Though ours was probably the poorest family on a very poor block, the French kids called us les riches anglaises.) In grade 4 of my English public school, I was taught that we English were rich because we had superior business minds.

I looked around at my classmates, all wearing hand-me-downs, and all eager for a chance to get one of the bottles of free milk at recess. And I wondered. If we had such great business minds, how come we were living in the same district as all those poor French people?

We were raised to hate the French as they were raised to hate us. Curiously, we all loved the same things, Les Canadiens, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau. We all hated Toronto. (I still do. Really. Even though I'm not quite sure why.)

And we poor English, as much as the French did, hated the rich English. They were snobbish. We had and wanted nothing in common with them. Years later, as chairman of the English rights group, I would meet a great many of the rich English. Some of them I came to like. But not many.

I saw the years of nationalist struggle as a campaign led to by the rich of both sides who stirred up the fears and hatred of the poor for their own benefit. I saw my community destroyed by it.

When I retired, I decided I'd had enough of a Quebec that would only get worse. Fear and hatred, once begun, build on themselves.  French Quebec is as fearful now as it was forty years ago, despite all its protective legislation. And I had children that I didn't want to grow up in the hatred I had known. That was part of the reason I chose to move to New Brunswick.

I wanted to live in a bilingual province. As well, French society here seemed very different from what I had known in Quebec. And the English seemed to be cooperative.After Quebec, New Brunswick seemed to me to be civilized.

Well, I did exaggerate a bit on both sides. There are, among Acadians, lingering resentments and fears. There are, among some anglos, attitudes that remind me painfully of Quebec. We don't have a fire. But we do have the fuel. All we need is a match. And it doesn't take very many people to strike a match.

I don't see the issues from the viewpoint of either a francophone or an anglophone. My whole life has been spent as a member of a minority. My viewpoint is the viewpoint of a minority. In the process of being in a minority, I've learned not to hate the other side (except in the case of  Toronto). I've learned that hate is used against us - to benefit somebody else.

New Brunswick still has progress to make as a bilingual society. But a wrong move could wreck the chance of any progress, and set us all back generations. All it takes is one, damn fool and a match.

 And the match here is language of commercial signs. That plays right into the hands of damn fools on both sides.

More on this tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for clarity and the courage to tell it like it is.