In Case You Did Not Hear The Music

“[A]nd those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I have had a post brewing for a while now, and while I’ve had trouble getting back on track, recent events have made it difficult for me to delay any longer. I may have drifted a little, but I began this blog with a series of posts on the perils that confront social democracy in the midst of an international financial crisis.  As I see it, the perils are two-fold: firstly coming in the form of a regressive return to dangerous kinds regionalism, ethnocentrism, and repressive authoritarianism, and second, as an abdication of our social democratic principles in the face of a globalizing neoliberal ideology dominated by multinational corporations that masquerades as objective good government. Now, a growing protest movement in my native city of Montreal has come to represent a powerful form of popular resistance to this trend.

What began as a small student resistance to tuition hikes on March 18th, 2011 in Montreal has blossomed into a movement that has garnered international attention from the press (see articles in The Guardian and the NYT), and parallel solidarity protests all over the world (including TorontoLondon, and New York). More importantly, it has seen marches of over 250 000 people – the biggest protest rallies in Canada since the Iraq War – and on May 22nd, the 100th day of the student strike, I was present at the largest display of civil disobedience in Canadian history in response to a repressive law passed to squash the protests.

Moreover, what began as a group of students organized by their unions has attracted the sympathy of people of all ages and walks of life who understand that this movement cannot be divorced from the false austerity that our irresponsible government has imposed. Our provincial government – like the Canadian federal government, and many other governments around the world – has given away billions in corporate tax cuts while cutting social programs in a bid at austerity. I will touch on this notion of false austerity in a coming post, but suffice it to say: Canada is not Greece, and important questions must be asked about where the money we DO have is going.

The reason that this movement has accrued so much varied and international support is that it resonates with those who are dissatisfied with the political failure to represent actual citizens (the Occupy movement is one such example). It is absolutely unthinkable that Jean Charest, the premier of Quebec (or any other major leader for that matter), would have waited 100 days to address the concerns of the business community (a point made in an excellent short article in the Toronto Sun), but it took him that many days to sit down with students who had put 250 000 in the streets twice. The youth of Quebec have called our societal priorities into question, and they deserve our dedication and support as they call their government into question. A government that has mismanaged public funds, bullied and condescended to their own youth, and attempted to restrict the civil liberties of their citizens. This is democracy in action, and a population prepared to fight for their social democratic principles in the face of a false austerity that would continue to expose us to the whims of multinationals rather than address the needs and desires of whom it is purported to serve. The music is ringing through the streets of Montreal, and it is being heard all over the world. Through collective action we may take a stand against domination and repression.

In coming weeks I will continue to post on this subject. If you’d like to read more, check out this great piece by my good friend Ethan Cox.

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