VIDEO: What does the PQ have in common with this screaming lady?
A follower on Twitter sent me the strange video below of a woman on the Métro screaming at fellow passengers and giving them the middle finger for daring to address her in a language other than French; it's a safe assumption that the offending tongue was English.
Now, at first glance, you might think that it's just a morbidly fascinating, potentially viral video of a disturbed individual incoherently ranting about nonsense on public transit when she should be getting treatment in a mental institution (thanks again for the deinstitutionalisation plan, Brian Mulroney). But I choose to read a bit more into this.
My friend Barbara Kay recently argued that "mentally disturbed people often take 'reasons' for their paranoia from vibes in the general atmosphere." I knew Barbara was onto something, but I wasn't totally convinced of her "vibes" argument until I saw this video.
The woman in question repeats a slogan that is frequently used by Parti Québécois (PQ) leaders and other ultranationalists, and is used in a long-standing government campaign (supported by the Quebec Liberal party as well) to encourage French in the workplace: "Ici, c'est en Français que cela ce passe!" There are variations to the oft-used slogan, from the more colloquial "ici, c'est en français que ça se passe" to the more business-oriented "ici, on commerce en français." The latter is the slogan created by marketing firm Bleublancrouge for the government.
If politicians, leaders, repeat slogans enough, they start being adopted by their flock, and the sheep start seeing the spin as reality. Of course, there are many languages used in business in Quebec and no amount of government intervention (short of a genocide) will ever change that. But the "ici, c'est en Français" line sounds strong and definitive, and reaffirms a sense of pride that insecure nationalists have about their language (which, statistically, has been doing just fine, but that's besides the point).
This screaming woman on the Métro is only repeating what PQ and Liberal governments have been promoting for years. Her tone is loud and aggressive, but having government tell the population, "here, we speak French," isn't exactly delicate, diplomatic or the least bit welcoming either.
If, for instance, this woman were to lunge at an Anglophone passenger, I wouldn't blame the PQ for that. Fostering a climate of intolerance toward linguistic minorities isn't quite as irresponsible inciting violence against those minorities, but it certainly doesn't help. For that reason, I rejected the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste's argument that I helped foster a climate of hate that led to Richard Henry Bain's election night shooting, which killed one man. Even if I were hateful toward Francophones - a charge I will always vigorously deny - no reasonable person could accuse me of having blood on my hands because of the actions of a lone, deranged man.
When government enacts policies that are inherently repressive toward whole groups of people, however, that is an action that can have real-world implications. It legitimizes, more than a radio host or newspaper columnist ever could, the demonization of Anglos and other linguistic minorities, and discourages civil exchanges between citizens with equal rights.
This video isn't shocking - we've seen countless reports of such anti-Anglo incidents. Instead, it is simply honest. It's an honest reflection of the nationalist discourse in Quebec, which is fueled less by a sense of pride in the Québécois culture and the French language than a disdain for English and the perceived threat that it poses to this society.
It may seem ridiculous, at first, to suggest that a screaming woman on the Métro could have anything in common with Premier Pauline Marois and fellow language zealots. But when you examine the current political climate in Quebec, it is clear that the only thing separating the screaming lady from our nationalist leaders is a little tact and a big wardrobe allowance.