The Acceptability of the Unacceptable

Unacceptable – Really?

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware.

 ‘For What It’s Worth’ – Buffalo Springfield, 1966

The latest round of student protests has taken us to a place where we have not been for a long time. While it brings back fond memories of idealistic youth and hope for the future, the more recent upgrades in numbers,  defiance and violence are starting to take their toll on the average person in society. They have become cause for true concern.

This AM on one of the French news channels the Quebec Minister of Education declared the continuing actions, especially the violence, ‘unacceptable,’ this being about the umpteenth time she has done so. Unacceptable!  Really? Seems to me they’ve been accepted for about 10-12 weeks now with no signs of stopping. What does unacceptable really mean? If I were a merchant and someone tried to pay me in Monopoly money for some goods in my store, I might say, “That’s unacceptable,” and then NOT accept it. Quebec, its government, the municipality of Montreal, its police force for the most part and, to date,  even its citizens have been accepting this behavior for far too long.

Flashback to the late 60’s, [not drug related, let’s just flashback shall we?] when students seemed to be protesting just about anything. On one occasion a young lady burst into a history class I was attending, declaring that what was ‘happening’ outside was ‘for all of us’ and we should ‘all be out there.’ Hmm, well we sat for a moment in stunned silence, then another moment as she urged us to join her in whatever. It fell to Professor Cooper, who seemed to us to be something 150 years old, to stop her in her rant. In a strong clear voice he told her, “Young Lady! You have had you’re say. Now get out of my room.” She left, class resumed, and whatever was going on outside went on without us. No one left but her. I guess she was ‘unacceptable,’ not that he needed to use the word.

At one point back then, Fall 1969 I believe, some march was in the works, but then Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau refused to issue a permit to march to the students, so it was decided to have a protest march to protest the refusal of the right to have a protest march. [fun times! Maybe you do have to be on drugs to understand . . . ] About 1,200 students massed in front of the Arts Building on the McGill campus for instructions and warnings.

We were warned to stay on sidewalk, because if we wandered into the street that would make this an illegal march and we could be arrested. Once we got to the Roddick Gates the plan was to then en masse step into the street. ‘They can’t arrest us all.’ Hmmm, so innocent and naive we headed out the side entrance on to University, south to Sherbrooke, and the west to the gates where we huddled together and waited further instructions from the guys with the megaphones.  It was at that point when our collective attention was drawn further west to a phalanx of dark blue, rather large guys with helmets and big sticks [Teddy Roosevelt would have been proud] who were marching our way. The Riot Squad had arrived. They lined up in the street in front of us and, well, waited. Meanwhile we, well waited. I took up a very firm position at the back of the crowd against the cement and metal wall and tried not to shit myself as I searched desperately for an escape route. Words were exchanged for a time and then . . ..  [you may take this with all the grains of salt but . . . .] a murmur of laughter went through the crowd, and slowly we dispersed back into the campus with nary a bang but a whimper. According to a rather burly friend of mine who was serving as a ‘marshal’ and had been up front in ‘no man’s land’ trying to keep students on the sidewalk, as the cat calling went back and forth, with students hurling insults, some of which demanded, ‘Who do you think you are?’ one of Montreal’s finest supposedly lifted his shield and in French accented English said something like, ‘Montréal Secret Police’ which had set off the laughter and calmed a rather tense situation.

All laughter aside, however, no one said our behavior was unacceptable. The proactive action on the part of the riot squad made it clear that any action on our part was NOT going to be accepted and we welcomed the easy way out. In our current situation this behavior has not only become acceptable, it has become the norm. The Protestors continue to ‘push the envelope’ and the Government seems to be willing to ‘lick the stamp.’ Is it time for all authorities in Quebec to become proactive in this situation. Time to make this behavior truly unacceptable by NOT accepting it any more.

If not, I vision the time when some 62 year old retired guy will be trying to get from Point A to Point B and have his way blocked by these protests. I vision words being exchanged, the situation becoming physical and him ending up in the hospital.

That will definitely be unacceptable.

— just my two sense

[Previously on this Topic]

[Next on this Topic]

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and, For What It’s Worth

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9 responses to “The Acceptability of the Unacceptable

  1. I’ve never participated in a public protest but I have covered them as ajournalist.

    In 1990 when protests were made about the US Open Golf tournament being played at a site with no african-american members, I recall loud, but law biding protestors being pushed against barricades by sheriff’s deputies and riot squad police.

    I think the establishment respecting the anti-establishment is more of the problem. What causes disorderly protests or riots? Fear. The protestors fear their voices are being ignored. The authorities fear for their lives or property being detsroyed. I think talking can alleivate the fear but neither side wants to hear th other.

    good post

  2. My little foray into public protest was the Quebec referendum of 1980 – how time flies. It didn’t even get heated. We wore Oui/Non buttons showing our allegiance, but that was the crux of it. Basically, I was just following the crowd. I had rights as did anyone else to protest, but it never entered my mind it would escalate to something violent because there was still respect for authority.

    To provide some understanding for the difference today, it may be useful to know the values of the generations. Of course, these are generalizations, but they provide a flavour for the changing times. I did a presentation on this sometime ago to show how the diversity of generations in the workforce causes problems – and it’s largely due to differing core values. This is just taking the latest 3 generations into account, with GEN Y as the current student protesters.

    60s -Baby boomers who grew up during the civil rights upheaval. They were highly competitive workers who were determined to provide a better future for their children.

    80s – Generation X entered the job market during an economic recession and was told they’d likely be the first generation less successful than their parents. Despite that, they were individual thinkers who strived for a good work-life balance.

    The current Generation Y live in a world ubiquitous with technology. They have a pack mentality and believe they should get what they want—now. Raised by attentive boomers who treat them as equals, their core values rest with material comforts. Their loyalties lie with people, not institutions. They have a high sense of entitlement.

    Explaining bad behaviour doesn’t excuse it, and certainly doesn’t make bad behaviour acceptable.

    eden

    • Oh great. Take my next topic will you? Who taught you to think logically and see the big picture? You nailed it.

      We were both wearing those buttons back then. Many of mine are in a shoe box in the basement waiting for the inevitable ‘if you don’t succeed, try till you do’ third one that’s on the horizon.

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