Mot au sujet d’Hamilton Fish et du Nation Institute.
Mettre en contexte : New York City 1985 / Blocus du Nicaragua par Reagan / Rapide évocation de certains participants / Réactions après ma lecture (Alan B.).
Ma première prise de parole politique live.
J’en ai déjà parlé, j’en suis certain, mais où ?
THE QUIET EXILE AND THE DISNEYWORLD SYNDROM
OF SELFCENSORSHIP CONSIDERED AS A BASIS FOR A NATIONAL CULTURE
by Rene-Daniel Dubois
The country where I come from is called Canada. It’s a rich, immense and peaceful country. I’d like to be able to tell you that the country where I come from is called Quebec. In that case, my country wouldn’t be as large nor rich as Canada is but I believe the chances of living longer in such a country would be much better than they are now.
It’s not just a matter of name.
For quite a long time, the occidental record for suicides has been held by Sweden. The figures published last summer by the United Nation’s Health Organization show that Quebec, still part of Canada, is now the portion of the industrialized world where the suicide rate is the highest. Apparently, there is something somehow difficult to go through, when you come from where I come from.
I’m telling you this because, in this meeting, the life, the struggle for life that I can feel every time I meet the participants to this Dialogo, underlines what I am: almost a ghost.
Where I come from, your chances of meeting soldiers in the streets are very low. And when we hear about how much money our Defense Department is spending, we know, without even having to think about it, that these sums are not going to be spent against any “interior enemy” but to enable the Free World to cope with the coming Russian invasion. Or for the Peace Corp of the United Nations. Most of the immigrants to Canada I know had, as information on that country before they came to it, only the image of a nation that sends powder milk around the globe when there is an earthquake. And I’m afraid these images are also the only ones many Canadians, including Quebecois, have of themselves as a group: people who pay taxes in order to maintain Liberty and to feed their self-indulgence with powder-milk they send overseas.
I’m not saying that sending powder-milk to people who need it is bad. I’m just saying that it’s not enough.
Canada, for most Canadians and, I believe, most foreigners who ever happen to think about this vast land they sometimes would hardly be able to locate on a map, is a kind of a “Switzerland of America”. We have in common with Switzerland cattle, mountains and snow. We seem to miss only chocolate. But how much we resemble Switzerland doesn’t really matter, does it? What is important is the image we have of ourselves. And here’s what I can tell you about how much I feel different than I would if my country was really what I think should be the “Switzerland of America”.
For more than two centuries, we – the Quebecois – have been losers. Our people – my people: the French people – were left behind after the British Invasion by the colonial administrative elites who went back to France. And the Catholic Church agreed with the new masters for a new “power dispatch”. And then, British merchants came in. Then, a crowd of Loyalists who were running away from the American Independence War. Of course the word “American” is wrong. There were Independence Wars in many other young countries in our hemisphere. But none of them took place on the northern side of the border of what is now called the U.S.A. And here’s my first point: the country where I come from never fought for it’s independence. The white people who took that territory from the people who were there before were to be either abandoned there or to arrive there, escaping from an Independence War.
Taking the risk of going somehow much too far, I would say that Canada on the whole is a reserve. A reserve of people waiting to do something positive in common: which they haven’t, yet. My country is a huge shelf on which people were forgotten.
But, a century ago, the guys who made a Revolution beyond our southern border, got pretty rich and powerful. And they knocked at the door. And entered the reserve.
My people, the one abandoned by those who returned to France long ago, were then confronted with the two enemy brothers at the same time: the one who revolted, succeeded in his Revolution and got rich and powerful, and the one who had flown away from the revolt and was also getting rich and powerful, helped as he was by his father who stayed in England and was pretty famous at that time.
Early in the 60’s, in Quebec, we made what we called the Quiet Revolution. We came out of the churches, built schools owned by the State instead of the clergy, nationalized electricity. Made huge social improvements. In 1976, we elected a sovereignist party, le Parti Québécois. The result of the referendum on sovereignty that followed that election, four years later, was negative: my people, the people of Quebec, who gave themselves a flag even before Canada had it’s own, accepted the arguments presented by the central government. In my words, the choice was: are you willing to make the first positive move of your history, together? No.
I’m not saying here that those who voted “NO” were cowards or corrupted to the bones. I think inside each Québécois and Québécoise there was a tremendous struggle and that the will of peace, quietness, won.
That referendum was held five years ago. Now, even if 40,5 % voted “YES”, you can’t even speak about independence. It is almost a taboo subject. Once again, we have proved to ourselves that we can’t do it. We’re losers.
A few months ago, during a discussion, I was looking for the name of a writer from Quebec province who would still be living in Quebec, over 50 years old and still creative. I really thought I was going to get crazy when I realized that nor me nor the friends I was talking with could name a single one. Nobody who could meet that description.
I do not think that phenomenon is new, nor due to the result of the referendum. I think these two facts – the result of the referendum and that absence – just come from a common root: we are, as a people, denying to ourselves the right to exist. We refuse, as a people, to attain maturity. The writers who shut up are just one more way of expressing what the whole people expressed at the referendum.
As an artist, a writer, I feel pretty concerned by these matters. There is no reason why a people who can achieve quietly even a revolution can’t be ready to disappear the same way, as I think it is now slowly happening.
Having observed for a while, and discussed with other writers the mechanisms of that early silence of the writers, I’d say Canada not only gave the world such fabulous inventions as hockey, smoked meat and bar-b-q chicken, but also a new kind of very efficient exile: the quiet one. The one nobody ever speaks about because it’s made of silence. The silence you feel invaded by when your people – maybe yourself ? – prefer death to risk and don’t want to listen to anybody whose speech could shake your quietness.
Ghost Culture and its corollary – the potential of vanishing without anybody noticing – is the price that has to be paid for working as hard as we have for not being part of this planet’s struggle, for having stopped thinking about the fact that it’s not because we live 400 miles away only from NYC that we are Americans. High drug and medication consumption, alcoholism and suicide are symptoms of our schizophrenia as well as the physical or quiet exile of so many artists who, in such an individualistic world, seem to have no choice but to label all those symptoms “personal”, thus making my country a pretty rich market for psychiatrists, psychologists and drugs dealers.
The key question of Quiet Exile is not “Shut up or get out” but “Why should someone put himself into the creation anguish, when it is so easy to sleep and just dream? Or, if your dreams start speaking about things you’d rather not hear about, just sleep. Sleep.” Forever.
(“People want to have fun” is the at least Canadian equivalent to “change your speech or shut up”.
How do you think Samuel Beckett, for example, could have kept writing if, for years, he had been told by most of his people: “Gosh, are you heavy ! Instead of writing WAITIG FOR GODOT, why don’t you try SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE ?”)