McKibbin’s Pub affair, freedom of expression, society of snitches
The right to be let alone
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“All civilized systems of law confer upon the people, as against their governments, the right to be let alone. That is the most comprehensive of rights and the most valued by civilized men.”
— Justice Louis D. Brandeis
The above statement highlights the heart of the sickness whose symptoms were once again in evidence through the McKibbin’s Pub affair of the past week. We must come to a point in Quebec where we decide once and for all what kind of a society we are. Is our Quebec to be a reflection of our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects freedom of expression in article 2 and makes sacrosanct our private domains in article 7, or is Quebec to be forever a society of snitches and inspectors with a citizenry constantly being scrutinized and supervised?
That is far more important than any debate about the ramifications of Bill 101. It is time for responsible and resolute voices in our public life, be they in elective office or in media, to put to rest once and for all the canard that the language law was important — and only needs occasional tweaking — for the sake of social peace. Social peace cannot be established and perpetuated on a foundation of a lie, and it can never be legitimized when one of its organizing principles is the contraction of rights of part of the people.
The only thing that Quebec’s language law did was to allow nationalist politicians to make political capital by demonizing non-francophones and making francophones feel helpless in the advancement of their own lives. Self-abnegation became the order of the day as successive governments of whatever party took more and more prerogatives onto themselves. The nanny-state was born.
French was never imperiled in Quebec, but by making francophones feel that only government could ensure their language interests, the law created a mindset that allowed state fiat to dictate our lives in all manners and forms and government by elected representatives was replaced by the “benign” dictatorship of the statocrats.
Perhaps the insipidly trivial nature of the objections to McKibbin’s decorative signs will finally make Quebecers see what an Orwellian mind-control society we have allowed to be created. Perhaps the coarse venality of it all will finally sink in. Perhaps people will finally stand up and say enough to being homogenized, pasteurized and sanitized. Enough of inspectors telling us what to eat, where to smoke, how to walk, how to play the sports we love and how to talk. A free society is about the freedom to choose. And the open battleground of free ideas.
It was heartening to hear so many French voices this past week say “Ca suffit!” Enough! For silence and inaction in the face of a system that does not work is nothing less than complicity in perpetuating the injustices of that system. It is time to stop being a cowardly, silly, little people. And it is time to stop our submission to the snitches of the state. Let’s reassert the consequence of our individual sovereignty.
It is perverse to accept that the Office québécois de la langue française has set some kind of precedent for state control that implies normality. It does not and never did. Those in our vaunted intelligentsia who submit to that obscenity would be ready to accept a wrong committed on the back of another wrong simply because our society was silent on the first one. By that reasoning why bother investigating and overturning wrongful criminal convictions like Truscott, Marshall, Morin, and Milgaard since “precedents” had been set with the first one?
A society that runs between the raindrops, populated by citizens that dare not care, ruled by governors who can no longer tell right from wrong, is a society that is guilty of the perpetuation of a bodyguard of lies. We can be better than that. We can do better than encouraging innuendo, rumour and guilt by association so that agents of the state can perpetuate their existences by weighing our every action, every communication, every contact, tampering with their intent and then using it to our individual detriment. This is not the basis for the perpetuation of a free society. It is a recipe for adherence to the most smug biases in order to avoid any governmental oversight or inquiry.
Edward Gibbon once wrote that, “…a civilization begins to decay when its governors are occupied only with vices and voices they seek to demonize…” By that, or any other standard, Quebec may be quickly rotting away.
Beryl Wajsman is president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal, publisher of Barricades magazine and host of Corus radio’s “The Last Angry Man” on 940 Montreal