Girl: “Hey Johnny. What are you rebelling against?”
Marlon Brando, as Johnny: “What d’ya got?”
—The Wild One, 1953
With Bill 78 the Charest government continued along the theme of Father Knows Best, which apparently he does not any more. This is not to be for or against Bill 78; this is to suggest it was unnecessary and as the past two weeks have shown, unenforceable and crowd provoking to boot. Quebec already had sufficient laws on the books, like the good old Essential Services Board which could have been used to keep the damn schools open [and to keep the CEGEP ‘teachers’ in their classrooms instead of collecting their paychecks while helping to keep students from getting into those classrooms] way back when to ensure the finish of this school year for those who wished to attend. If homework is an essential service as it was declared c. 2004, then school is more so.
As well, to date, even in the face of Bill 78, the Montreal police in particular have shown remarkable restraint, or an admission that they are overwhelmed by the whole mess. Sure, they can handle [kill] one guy with a knife when there are three of them, they can handle [kill] a homeless guy and an innocent bystander, and they can handle [shoot two innocent LaurenHill High School students while stopping, c. 1996] a bank robbery. Bill 78 served to make the police official escorts of the ‘declared illegal mob.’ Wonderful, just wonderful.
But what to make of these youths who have, are and apparently intend to continue to defy, ignore, scoff, and/or laugh at just about any and all laws? Why are the usual authorities helpless and why are the students so unafraid? The authorities, like most of the adults who are upset by the students’ actions are from a very different generation, one is which ‘father did know best.’ As part of the famous Baby Boom generation, they learned something very quickly, as Landon Y. Jones pointed out in his book, Great Expectations, 1980, – patience. The world was singularly unprepared for their arrival, and they kept on coming for 18 years. Most of that generation had to wait for just about anything. Overcrowded schools went to two a day sessions with one group of students in the morning and a second in the afternoon. Dedicated teachers toiled through both sessions. Churches, back when people went to church, held masses on the hour from 7AM through 12 Noon every Sunday. Even television, in the dark days of Black and White a lot like the world back then, had but a few networks and maybe a few local channels. True, eventually these institutions expanded to meet the growing need, but it was those who followed who reaped the benefits of these spoils as the Boomers moved into the adult world where, once again, they waited- for colleges, jobs, raising families and now to retire. But, they did have their ‘causes.’ As their institutions evolved, so did their world view and things like racism and the Vietnam War came under attack. Perhaps no generation before or since has ever had such idealism and had helped to enact such significant change.
This current generation, the one that so delights in marching through the streets nightly, now with their new ‘musical touches,’ is at least two generations removed from the Boomers. They were raised by those who benefited most from the expansions made to accommodate the Boomers, and the world welcomed this current generation with open and ready arms. They grew up in the age of technology. From the time of their birth they have been surrounded by things that the Boomers could only partially imagine. Cable and satellite TV, the internet, cell phones, smart phones, instant messaging, MP3, er, MP4, Facebook, Twitter were all part of their upbringing. While this must have been extremely entertaining, it could also be troubling, because of the simple question, “What next?” Hard Harry lamented in Pump Up the Volume, , as to how all the great novels had been written, the important ideas already thought, the best inventions made. Imagine how this current crop of young people in Quebec must feel, in light of all that has developed since 1990? The question then becomes, ‘What is there left for us to do?’
What seems left to do is to take a simple dispute over a tuition hike freeze, justified or not, and to define it as the crusade for this generation. Throughout the ‘negotiations,’ the student leaders refused to budge one cent on the possibility of any increase. That is why the talks broke down this week. To them who have been raised surrounded by wonder, there appears one thing missing – a potential legacy. What is left in their world to change? So this has become ‘about democracy,’ the ‘Quebec spring,’ ‘about free education,’ ‘the government’s fault for not negotiating,’ [well, actually for not understanding what the student leaders meant by ‘negotiating’ as in giving them what they want with no bending on their part.] These new world Beavers have dammed themselves up in newly defined lingo which the older generation does not understand. In his criticism of Bill 78, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of CLASSE actually wondered what would happen if someone died opposing this law. Quite a stretch from and an insult to those who have died, and still are dying, in the ‘Arab Spring,’ to suggest someone bite the bullet over $1700.
Every youth generation of the 20th century had its ‘cause celebre,’ by which it defined itself and left its mark on the modern world. In the 1920s it was a hedonistic rebellion/celebration after WWI that led to changes in styles, music and the arts. Those of the 1950’s had the Beat Generation, the Cold War and Jack Kerouac – a rejection of traditional values. The Boomers had Civil Rights, the Peace Movement, the Space Race, and in Quebec the Quiet Revolution – all rejections of traditional practices and limits. Even the oddly named Gen Xers had the beginnings of the technological revolt which expanded communication and knowledge.
What cause, then, is left to this first generation of the 21st century, these well endowed ‘rebels’ but to walk the streets each night, without even a predetermined course, safely escorted by police, and accompanied by their own ‘marching band.’ Quite a legacy, indeed.
“And that’s all I have to say about Vietnam,” Forrest Gump, 1994
–Just My Two Sense