One Last Drink Before the War (Le Devoir)

By David Desjardins
Originally published on: December 20, 2014
See original French version here: http://www.ledevoir.com/politique/quebec/427274/un-dernier-verre-avant-la-guerre

Closures. Cuts. Reductions. Freezes. Increases in workloads. Confrontations. Week after week, the political and social reality builds up like a storming sky, souring our moods with the promise of a grey winter, followed by at least a few seasons of discontent.

Or maybe not?

Take a look at the ambiguous poll of the week, in which, in sum, Quebecois people seem to say both one thing and its opposite. It seems that they approve of most of the government’s austerity measures while at the same time feeling dissatisfied with them.

Next, try to predict what the social climate will look like in the coming weeks.

Michel David reckons that it is without a doubt because we have not yet felt the repercussions of these measures that such a large portion of citizens feels favourably towards them. This is a good explanation: the survey could very well wither when the diagnosis and its treatments will be accompanied by side effects.

But this approval of measures that seem to push the limits of the system to the edge of implosion also raises other issues. And it is above all the result of a very effective public relations campaign that finds its audience in the growing contempt of a whole section of the population towards public services.

For their cost, which is sometimes exorbitant, it’s true. For their lack of efficiency. Also very much because we act more and more as clients and less and less as providers of these services.

And so, we want more for our money. Like at a store.

And, like at a store, we are victims of the propaganda of publicity, with the government making us swallow their measures as a population used to sales, and to purchasing power stimulated by the production of most of our junk in developing countries.

As with Black Friday, as with Boxing Day, we only see what we obtain and what it costs. The promise of the advertisement. Not what is hiding behind it.

This is how we convince the masses that general practitioners only work about a hundred days per year. And if this calculation omits days spent in the hospital, at the university and on administrative tasks, that changes nothing. This is a bit like how we mock the conditions in which the shirt that was sold for $15 was made, sewn in a decaying factory in Bangladesh.

But no, it’s not the same. The doctor will still be rich after we have docked 30% of their salary.

Except that this phenomenon has the same blind spot. We see what we want to see. Here: the mirage of the family doctor.

In the same vein, there will be few people to cry for teachers who will soon be affected by increases in their workload and in the number of students in their classrooms. They have already long been subjected to the scorn of parents who give in to this same idea of clientalism, wanting their little treasure to have access to all the considerations due to them as offspring of taxpayers.

Understand this well: it is in this contempt that the government will find support.  It is the same with the entirety of the civil service, who are presented offers in the form of declarations of war at the same time as they affirm that they hope to avoid confrontation.

But it is coming, this face to face confrontation. And it won’t just be unions. What is coming will be more profound. The Coiteux, the Leitãos, the Couillards, the Barrettes and the Bolducs are in the process of attacking not just our services, but the ideas that underlie them. The government can very well try to make us believe that this consists only of responsible management, but we can see it preparing for war.

Already, it is dividing the population that cannot see any further than its own propaganda.

As it did with the students in manufacturing the crisis in 2012, the government is drawing into the street the groups who do not offer their unanimous support, who commentators will mock by treating them like spoiled children. And we will forget that in the wings, it is something else that we are in the process of sabotaging. Something big, but which right-wing ideologues curse.

This idea that the state is not a boutique. That we are not its clients. That medicine is not a transaction. That education is not the purchase of school supplies. That employees of the state eat and that the jobs that we create in that sector are not less valuable than those that we subsidize at a high cost in the private sector.

That is where we are headed. Towards a face to face confrontation between two visions of the world. Built from scratch by a government that divides to rule, while play-acting the benevolent father in the family.

In the meantime, there will be Christmas. There will be the holidays. The occasion for a last drink before the war.

 

***

Translated from the original French by Language and Dissent, a collectively-run blog supporting the anti-austerity struggle in Quebec. These are amateur translations written by volunteers; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may have their flaws. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us via email (languageanddissent [at] gmail [dot] com). Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.

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