I don’t know about all of you, but I have no intention of living my life under a tyranny of majority. 95 per cent of the population could be pro tuition hikes, every province in Canada could have higher tuition, and the blessed Queen herself could be in full support, and I still would not be satisfied until I heard the reasoning behind that small group of dissenters. The government has failed to listen wholeheartedly and actively to the grievances of a significant portion of its own people. They have only further validated the same patterns of ageist discrimination that young people are confronted with on a daily basis. The protesters are not people who just need to be “dealt with,” nuisances to be quelled; they are manifestations of validly-held beliefs and systemic reactions to the institutions that govern our society.
Because the government has actively ridiculed and ignored these protesters, they have resorted to violence. I am firmly of the belief that people are not mean and violent by nature; instead, I see people as acting in response to the mean and bad things done to them. When we deny people the chance to express themselves meaningfully and peacefully, they will embark on alternative paths. When the Quebec government raised tuition fees with minimal student consultation – against the wishes of a significant portion of its people, with little attempt for mutual understanding and reconciliation, with iron fists instead of open arms – the seeds of frustration and violence were sown.
We often forget that there is no economically or politically “correct” answer, at least in the objective sense, to the debate between the student movement and the Quebec government. Bankers who cheer, adults who dismiss younger generations as inherently idealistic, and radical students themselves who run on one-track minds have greatly misunderstood history, institutions, and the power of free will. Within reasonable limits, we choose our governments, we choose our tax rates, and we choose our priorities. We have public health care because we willed it so. If some choose free post-secondary education as their ultimate ideal, then they have every right to do so. It is not only validly held, but also feasible.
Let’s stop talking about rights and wrongs, the hooligans and the responsible, or even the young and the experienced, and lets begin to take all ideas and possibilities seriously. The day when we learn to call our dissenters our “dreamers” will be the day we finally appreciate our incredible agency and resolve as human beings.
Max Zidel is a U3 Political Science and English Literature student. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org