I’ve never been one to engage much in political protest. At the risk of sounding cynical, this is because I have seen little evidence that it actually works, except in the most extreme circumstances. This is probably just an artefact of the time period in which I grew up; during my lifetime, I have seen protests against NAFTA in the early 90s (which did nothing), protests against globalization in the late 90s (which also did nothing), protests against the US Supreme Court-mandated victory of George W. Bush in 2000 (which did nothing), the largest protests in history against the Iraq War in 2003 (which did nothing), protests against Stephen Harper’s prorogation of Parliament in 2009 and again in 2010 (in which I personally participated and which accomplished, you guessed it, nothing) as well as an endless string of protests against negligence on the Environment (which have done nothing) and a nigh-infinite number of labour disputes that have ended either in management victories or government legislation. In every case, I have seen waves of protestors lap-up against powerful vested interests, and get smacked down once again. It has been (on this continent at least) an unimpressive showing*.
So when I first heard about the student protests in Quebec (or what might, more properly be called the most recent wave of student protests in Quebec), I turned a jaded eye to them. My cynicism was augmented by the fact that I already pay more than three times as much in tuition fees as students in Quebec would even with the increase. How dare those little wankers protest such trivial problems while we in the English-speaking provinces just take them in stride?
It was only after a few months of continued unrest that I noticed just how stupid this line of reasoning actually was: one does not magically stop being exploited just because someone, somewhere is more exploited than they are. Indeed, it got me to thinking: You know, maybe if we Anglos weren’t willing to stand for this bullshit, we wouldn’t have to pay so much in tuition either!
Quite frankly, either education is a right or it’s not; I’m inclined to say that it is. Moreover, either we have a civilized country or we don’t. I’m inclined that we should. So I wish bon chance to my friends in Quebec.
*This might be changing; the Occupy movement, at the very least, looks like it may have managed to change the national conversation on taxation, at least in Canada.