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State Fundamentalism and Being a Real Quebecker
Christopher C. Goodfellow
April 20 1999

"If Bahamians are to indeed be one people, then the pettiness of which political party one supports has to stop being the benchmark that determines whether one's contribution to the national debate is worthy of acceptance. It cannot be that all considerations are rejected out of hand, simply because the person proposing them is not of the political persuasion of the party then in the seat of power."

The above appeared in an editorial this week in the Nassau Guardian newspaper published in Nassau Bahamas. It is interesting in relation to Quebec where it would appear that in certain circles there is an active debate being conducted as to "who is a Real Quebecker".

This debate seems to have been re-awakened out of some comments by Bloc MP Suzanne Tremblay casting doubt on whether "vedette" CÚline Dion was really a real Quebecker. In fact this debate has prompted editorials and comment in the Montreal Gazette as well as debate this past weekend at a Bloc gathering in Rimouski. It appears everyone is chipping in their two cents including Parizzeau and Bouchard.

This would be laughable in any other circumstances.

But we all know it isn't. It gets to the heart of the matter. You are or you aren't.

Now I've been fortunate to have additional insight these past few weeks. I picked up a book last month by Geraldine Brooks, the former Wall Street Journal Mid-East correspondent. The title of the book is "Nine Parts of Desire - the secret world of Muslim women". It is an interesting little book of the author's personal experiences and viewpoints of Muslin fundamentalism and its impact on the lives of women in the Middle East.

And it also got me thinking about Quebec just about the same time as this debate about who is a real Quebecker hit the pages.

We all hold prejudices. It is a natural human condition and based more out of fear and ignorance than anything else. Most of us educated in the liberal western tradition fortunately recognize sooner or later there are no absolutes. There is no black and white. Acceptance of differences is one of the great accomodations we must make in life. All great civilizations go through periods of social change and evolution and learning to adapt to change is something we all must struggle with in life.

As we approach the millenium it is worthwhile to keep in mind we have experienced the century of greatest change in recorded history. The great scientific and technical advances that have taken place are truly stunning. The evolution in what is acceptable social behaviour between the end of Victorianism and the acceptance of open gay "marriages" and families incorporating children from two or three marriages have left many of us confused.

The only consistency in all of this is change itself.

What I came away with after reading Brook's book was not only a sadness for the plight of Muslim women but an understanding of something that perhaps I had been reluctant to accept.

That fundamental Muslims hold an entirely different world view and in their world view there is no change. There is no evolution. It is simply written.

Because of our tradition of accepting and flowing with change in the West we assume that by force of argument that sooner or later that others who do not agree with our point of view will change and come around to our way of thinking. We should not delude ourselves. Fundamentalism is very alive and well and growing. It incorporates an entirely different world view apart from our own and no matter how much we might wish for it to change, it will not change. It is embedded in historical roots so deep and profound, it is pointless to attempt to argue with it. It is resolute.

Fundamentalism exists in other religions, even in Christianity and anyone who has experienced an exchange with a very convinced Jehovah's Witness or Southern Baptist knows full well the depth and profoundness of their convictions.

But fundamentalism can take other forms as well and this is where we come back to Quebec. We federalists assume that eventually we will break the rigidity of thinking of convinced separatists. I have always held this view that eventually our fellow citizens of a different persuasion would see the light and come around to accept that being part of a bigger entity made it bigger for everybody.

Well after reading "Nine Parts of Desire" and listening to this developing debate of who is a real Quebecker, it is perhaps we federalists who must see the light.

What we have here in Quebec is now a deeply rooted and profound state fundamentalism. It is resolute. It will not change.

Simply put, convinced separatists have an entirely different world view from the rest of us. No argument how reasonable or how persuasive is going to change it. No agreement, no constitutional amendment and no compromise is going to change it.

The state fundamentalism is so profound it has become blind to anything else. The decline of Montreal. The oppressive taxation. The emigration of the most talented and bright Quebeckers . ...and yes now to the point of defining who is a real Quebecker.

Despite words to the contrary, it has been made abundantly clear there is no place in Quebec for anyone who disagrees with the state fundamentalism. Even the mullahs are there in place. Whether it is Landry castigating Jean Monty, Tremblay castigating Dion or Parizeau castigating the ethnics, it is a complete blindness to the concept of an inclusive society of diverse opinions.

It is simply written. Period.

We must understand that. More importantly we must accept this different world view no matter how personally offensive it might be.

So it is really pointless to have this debate on who is a "real Quebecker". Debates are intended as forums to air views with the objective of finding consensus and accomodation with a view to change in a democratic society.

It is impossible to debate fundamentalism. It is simply written.

The Nassau Guradian editorial makes clear:

"There will always be differences of opinion on any given topic at any time. This has to be recognised and accepted by those who would call themselves leaders, as well as it should be acknowledged by the general population. That will determine if and how the people have matured, how receptive they are to change and how ready they are for real progress. "

Like Bahamians who are divided on colour; Quebeckers are divided by language.

Real Quebeckers are those that make a place for all at the table.

Everyone else is a bigot - pure and simple - and forget the debate.



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