Jun 102012

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Hedges thinks Quebec protest is big enough to infect Canada and move south to the USA!

EXCERPT:  If the street protests in Quebec, the most important resistance movement in the industrialized world, spread to all of Canada and reach the United States, there remains the possibility of hope.

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I gave a talk last week at Canada’s Wilfrid  Laurier University to the Congress of the Humanities and Social  Sciences. Many in the audience had pinned small red squares of felt to their  clothing. The carre rouge, or red square, has become the Canadian symbol  of revolt. It comes from the French phrase carrement dans le rouge, or  “squarely in the red,” referring to those crushed by debt.

The streets of Montreal are clogged nightly with as many as 100,000 protesters banging pots and pans and demanding that the old  systems of power be replaced. The mass student strike in Quebec, the longest and  largest student protest in Canadian history, began over the announcement of  tuition hikes and has metamorphosed into what must swiftly build in the United  States—a broad popular uprising. The debt obligation of Canadian university  students, even with Quebec’s proposed 82 percent tuition hike over several  years, is dwarfed by the huge university fees and the $1 trillion of debt faced  by U.S. college students. The Canadian students have gathered widespread support  because they linked their tuition protests to Quebec’s call for higher fees for  health care, the firing of public sector employees, the closure of factories,  the corporate exploitation of natural resources, new restrictions on union  organizing, and an announced increase in the retirement age. Crowds in Montreal,  now counting 110 days of protests, chant “On ne lâche pas”—“We’re not  backing down.”

The Quebec government, which like the United  States’ security and surveillance state is deaf to the pleas for justice and  fearful of widespread unrest, has reacted by trying to stamp out the rebellion.  It has arrested hundreds of protesters. The government passed Law 78, which  makes demonstrations inside or near a college or university campus illegal and  outlaws spontaneous demonstrations in the province. It forces those who protest  to seek permission from the police and imposes fines of up to $125,000 for  organizations that defy the new regulations. This, as with the international  Occupy movement, has become a test of wills between a disaffected citizenry and  the corporate state. The fight in Quebec is our fight. Their enemy is our enemy.  And their victory is our victory.

This sustained resistance is far more effective  than a May Day strike. If Canadians can continue to boycott university  classrooms, continue to get crowds into the streets and continue to keep the  mainstream behind the movement, the government will become weak and isolated. It  is worth attempting in the United States. College graduates in Canada, the U.S.,  Spain, Greece, Ireland and Egypt, among other countries, cannot find jobs  commensurate with their education. They are crippled by debt. Solidarity means  joining forces with all those who are fighting to destroy global, corporate  capitalism. It is the same struggle. A blow outside our borders weakens the  corporate foe at home. And a boycott of our own would empower the boycott across  the border.

The din of citizens beating pots and pans  reverberates nightly in cities in Quebec. The protesters are part of what has  been nicknamed the army of the cacerolazo, or the casseroles. I heard the  same clanging of pots and pans when I covered the protests against Manuel  Noriega in Panama and the street protests against Augusto Pinochet in Chile.  Quebec Premier Jean Charest, who despite Law 78 has been unable to thwart the  street demonstrations, is the latest victim. I hope the next is Barack Obama or  Mitt Romney; they, and Charest, are puppets manipulated by corporate power.

The importance of the Occupy movement, and the reason I suspect its encampments were  so brutally dismantled by the Obama administration, is that the corporate state  understood and feared its potential to spark a popular rebellion. I do not think  the state has won. All the injustices and grievances that drove people into the  Occupy encampments and onto the streets have been ignored by the state and are  getting worse. And we will see eruptions of discontent in the weeks and months  ahead.

If these mass protests fail, opposition will  inevitably take a frightening turn. The longer we endure political paralysis,  the longer the formal mechanisms of power fail to respond, the more the  extremists on the left and the right—those who venerate violence and are  intolerant of ideological deviations—will be empowered. Under the steady  breakdown of globalization, the political environment has become a mound of  tinder waiting for a light.

The Golden Dawn party in Greece uses the Nazi  salute, has as its symbol a variation of the Nazi swastika and has proposed  setting up internment camps for foreigners who refuse to leave the country. It  took 21 seats, or 7 percent of the vote, in the May parliamentary elections.  France’s far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, pulled 18 percent of  the vote in the first round of the presidential election. The right-wing Freedom Party in the Netherlands is the third largest in the parliament and brought down  the minority government. The Freedom Party in Austria is now the second most  popular in the country and holds 34 seats in the 183-seat lower house of the  parliament. The Progress Party in Norway is the largest element of the  opposition. The Danish People’s Party is Denmark’s third largest. And the Hungarian fascist party Jobbik, or the Movement for a Better Hungary, captured  17 percent of the vote in the last election. Jobbik is allied with uniformed  thugs known as the Hungarian Guard, which has set up patrols in the impoverished  countryside to “protect” Hungarians from Gypsies. And that intolerance is almost  matched by Israel’s ruling Kadima party, which spews ethnic chauvinism and  racism toward Arabs and has mounted a campaign against dissenters within the  Jewish state.

The left in times of turmoil always coughs up its  own version of the goons on the far right. Black Bloc anarchists within the  Occupy movement in the United States, although they remain marginal, replicate  the hyper-masculinity, lust for violence and quest for ideological purity of the  right while using the language of the left. And they, or a similar  configuration, will grow if the center disintegrates.

These radical groups, right and left, give to  their followers a sense of comradeship and empowerment that alleviates the  insecurity, helplessness and alienation that plague the disenfranchised.  Adherents surrender the anxiety of moral choice for the euphoria of collective  emotions. The individual’s conscience, a word that evolved from the Latin  con (with) and scientia (knowledge), is nullified by personal  sublimation into the collective of the crowd. Knowledge is banished for emotion.  I saw this in Yugoslavia. And this is what happened in Germany during the Weimar Republic. The Nazis, who knew whom they could trust, forbade recruitment from  the Social Democrats. They understood that the bourgeoisie liberals of that  political stripe lacked the desired ideological rigidity. But the Nazis embraced  recruits who defected from the Communist Party. Communists easily grasped the  simplistic, binary view of the world that split human relations into us and  them, the good and the evil, the friend and the enemy. They made good comrades.

“Comradeship always sets the cultural tone at the  lowest possible level, accessible to everyone,” Sebastian Haffner wrote in his book  “Defying Hitler,” which more and more looks like a primer on the disintegration  of the early 21st century. “It cannot tolerate discussion; in the chemical  solution of comradeship, discussion immediately takes on the color of whining  and grumbling. It becomes a mortal sin. Comradeship admits no thoughts, just  mass feelings of the most primitive sort—these, on the other hand, are  inescapable; to try and evade them is to put oneself beyond the pale.”

William Butler Yeats, although he saw his salvation in fascism, understood the deadly process of disintegration:

and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is
loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction,
while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Those of us who care about a civil society, and  who abhor violence, should begin to replicate what is happening in Quebec. There  is not much time left. The volcano is about to erupt. I know what it looks and  feels like. Yet there is a maddening futility in naming what is happening. The  noise and cant of the crowd, the seduction of ideologies of hate and violence,  the blindness of those who foolishly continue to place their faith in a dead  political process, the sea of propaganda that confuses and entertains, the  apathy of the good and the industry and dedication of the bad, conspire to drown  out reason and civility. Instinct replaces thought. Toughness replaces empathy.  “Authenticity” replaces rationality. And the dictates of individual conscience  are surrendered to the herd.

There still is time to act. There still are mass movements to join. If the street protests in Quebec, the most important  resistance movement in the industrialized world, spread to all of Canada and  reach the United States, there remains the possibility of hope.

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