Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Angry Young

The student protests roiling through the streets of Montreal are not about spoiled young people who want something for nothing. They are about a generation who know they are paying the price for their parents' folly. And the protests stretch far beyond the old streets of Ville Marie.

In Greece and Spain youth unemployment is 50%. In Canada it is 14% -- twice the national average. And Stephen Harper has just informed the young that, if and when they do find jobs, they will have to work until they're 67 -- unlike their parents who get off the bus at 65.

No wonder then that the kids in the streets of Montreal are talking about more than just student tuitions. It has gone way beyond that. Graeme Hamilton reports in The National Post:

So it was somewhat jarring halfway through the march to hear, in English, “1-2-3-4, this is f—ing class war, 5-6-7-8, organize to smash the state.” Rachèle Gagné, a 20-year-old political science student at UQAM, explained that the words she and her friends were chanting used a little poetic license. “Not literally smash the state,” she said. “But this has become more than a student fight, it is a fight against the government and the state.”

Stephen Harper was nine years old when student riots in Paris almost brought down the French government. That was the same year that violent clashes between the police and young people disrupted the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Mr. Harper demonstrated this week that his knowledge of history -- Canadian, economic or otherwise -- is jejune. If he knew anything about history, he would know that the angry young can bring governments down.


karen said...

I like the sign in the photo: "Sorry about the inconvenience. We are trying to change the world!"

I hope they do.

Owen Gray said...

We should all hope they do, Karen. God knows, they deserve better than what they've got.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

You would do better to compare the Quebec Student protests and the Chilean Student protests and not bring in the broader social protests in Europe and Isreal, which are largely economic.

The Chilean protests have been largely ignored in North American. The Quebec protests have similarities. They have gone on longer than most student protest. They are mostly in defense of more accessible and equitible university education. In other words they are a defense of a cultural view. In Chile, the students even went so far as to chant "keep our Socialist Society".
Canadians like to try to compare the Quebec students with those in the rest of Canada. But in Quebec University tuition was low because the University was seen as a social good and not a means for a individual to gain economic and social status. In the rest of Canada the University functions on the principles of business, charging "what the traffic can bear", even if it creates large debts for graduates. In Quebec, the University is a social benefit which should be available to all
The stuggle of Quebec and Chilean students is a struggle to maintain the cultural values of their societies, resisting the business model of the University and defending the broad access to the University for the benefit of the society.They are protesting more for future students than for themselves.

Owen Gray said...

I totally agree with you, Philip. If you were to look at my graduation yearbook, you would notice that most of us were first generation Quebecers and Canadians.

The doors of the university were open to all who had the qualifications to attend. The financial standing of any student was less important than the student's drive to succeed.