For those who follow the news up in the Great White North these are actually tumultuous times out here in the tundra. In la belle province of Quebec university students have been rioting in the streets for several weeks over proposed tuition increases that the government wants to push through on them.
A little background: Quebec maintains the lowest tuition rates for post-secondary education throughout Canada, mostly as a result of the Rest of Canada (RoC) sending it money in exchange for the "privilege" of having the French live amongst us. Despite this endless suckling at the federal teat, the universities there are still tight when it comes to budgetary demands and so the provincial government decided to raise tuition an average of less than $1 a day for the next few years. Yes, less than it costs those students to buy coffee each morning before class.
Except that they haven't been in class. Rather they've been out on the street protesting. It's not only that they are violently against increase in tuition but they are now against any tuition whatsover. And when I say "rioting" I mean rioting. These are not peaceful demonstrations. What's more, the students have taken their "strike" position quite seriously, calling those students who want to continue to go to class "scabs" and physically blocking them from entering their schools.
In the face of this the response of the provincial government has been, well, wimpy. Pleas for calm have gone ignored. After meeting with the leaders of rioters the education minister resigned when she learned that the students' version of negotiations meant "Give us everything we demand unconditionally". Yesterday police finally broke up a blockage of rioters with tear gas in order to allow students to return to class only to have the teachers at that particular school announce that they couldn't teach for the next few days due to the psychological trauma those actions had caused them! This is not suprising given the general leftist tilt that Quebec has always suffered from. Apparently even the head of the teachers' union has expressed sympathy for the rioters and their goals.
This, for me, is the difference between the right and left sides of the political spectrum nowadays. Consider the two extremes in the United States. First came The Tea Party, a libertarian right wing political group dissatisfied with the elction of BH Obama and his socialist ideals to the presidency. After initial demonstrations which were almost never violent the movement got down to work, joined the Republican party and got members elected to office at various levels of government.
Then came the left wing equivalent, the Occupy Wall Street movement. They too started with demonstrations but unlike the Tea Party they quickly settled into a daily pattern, sitting on public land (thereby denying the tax paying citizens of the area, supposedly the folks they were there to demonstrate for, use of that land), smoking drugs and demanding all sorts of things that no mature economy could provide. And then when it got cold they went home. No joining the Democrats. No running for public office.
They were, after all, casualties of the nanny state in which people forget how to do things for themselves or how to seize initiative and instead sit back and whinge until the government does it all for them. Not for the OWS protestors are annoying things like elections and democracy. They would much rather stamp their feet, make their demands and then stare incredulously when society does jump to attention in order to satisfy their whims.
As bad as OWS was, the Quebec experience is far worse. What we are witnessing in Quebec is the end of what the welfare state does to a generation that never heard the word "non" (they're French, eh?) said to them. Until now they have shouted and received what they were shouting for. It is not a far stretch to saty that they understand that the government is constrained not by ideology but by financial reality, one they have no comprehension of. Why not riot if eventually their demands will be met without any compromise?
These are the future leaders of Quebec. And in the US, the OWS protestors would like to think they are the future leaders of society in the United States, the kind that walks into the corner office without having had to work their way up from the mail room. If these are our future leaders, then I weep for that future.