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May 31st, 2018

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09:49 pm - Reflections on Quebec nationalism
1) The thing I needed most to understand about Quebec nationalist / separatist / independentist movements is an analysis I found that separated these movements into three groups:

a) Focused on the survival of Quebecois language and culture

b) Focused on political independence / the creation of Quebec as a capitalist state independent from larger Canada

c) Focused on decolonization / anti-imperialism / liberation more broadly - concerned, among other things, with how the United States was advancing an imperialist capitalist military agenda using Quebec's national resources (e.g. during the Vietnam war).

(c) is absolutely convincing to me, which is why it's a little discouraging that it's hard to find, now, any trace of that left-wing decolonizing fervor. Maybe it's there to a greater extent than I realize - and, on the other hand, I suspect that it wouldn't have had its moment in the sun in the late 60s to early 70s without the tinderbox of the Vietnam War, the American Civil Rights movement / the Paris 1968 unrest, the vast social / economic inequality between Anglophones and Francophones.

2) One of my Big Questions, I think, is whether the xenophobia in Quebec separatist movements is inevitable - whether it's possible to have a separatism that's non-xenophobic or whether that's doomed from the beginning. The nationalist logic is that English is the language of success in Canada as a whole and in North America, so allophone immigrants in Quebec (those who don't speak either English or French) are going to choose to learn English and not French as long as they're not absolutely forced to learn French, so immigration inevitably leads to more people in Quebec who speak English rather than French - and hence who are decreasing the chances for the continuance of a Quebec that's majority-French, the continuance of Quebecois culture, and the movement for an independent state in Quebec.

But that's exactly the same thing that British racists and French racists and Scandinavian racists say about immigrants. So is there a meaningful difference there? Ehhhh. I have much more sympathy for the idea that Quebecois language / culture is in danger of disappearing than the idea that the French language / culture is in danger of disappearing; that's just numbers, plus the fact of living in a majority-Anglophone country and next door to a majority-Anglophone country that has more cultural, economic, and military power than anywhere else in the world. But allophone immigrants in Quebec are required to educate their kids in French, and there are other legal and social measures that I think make the problem much less serious than the fearmongers would suggest. And, more than that, I think a non-racist nationalist movement would have to reckon more seriously with immigrants as people who deserve the same rights as anyone to work, to raise their kids, to try to make good lives for themselves - rather than just as a potential oppositional voting bloc.

3) I'm keeping a tally of how many times I yell "YOU DON'T GET TO ABSOLVE YOURSELF OF BEING COLONIZERS BECAUSE YOU'RE ALSO COLONIZED" into the depths of the McGill Library.

3a) Not really, because the 3rd floor is a zone silent avec collation: silent zone with snacks. (As opposed to the 6th floor, a silent zone without snacks.)

4) There's an aspect to this that kind of feels gross and concern-trolly to me, like, "let me, an Anglophone Quebecker who doesn't even live here anymore, tell you how to do your politics better." It is perhaps slightly ameliorated by the fact that I'm writing a novel and not a polemic. I am never going to 100% feel like a person who is allowed to write this book. But, like, Americans criticize China and Russia and Israel and Venezuela (etc., etc., etc.) all the time! And when I walk down Sherbrooke or St. Laurent I feel so so convinced and passionate about what I love about this city and - if there's anything I want to accomplish politically with this book, it's to make the argument for decolonization-as-in-(c) and multiculturalism not as things that are in conflict with each other but things that are both worth fighting for.

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