I am apolitical, lazy and cynical. A perfect citizen for our government. Sheepy and quiet. I vote when they make me believe that it counts, strategic at most, without much hope. I’m Generation X. Self absorbed and unaware on purpose. No future and fuck the world.
October 1970, Montreal was on the verge of a civil war. I saw it all from my high chair. The grownups were preparing the revolution by polishing their clubs, a joint at the corner of their mouths. I have flashes of loud demonstrations, sitting on the shoulders of adults screaming their displeasure of society as a whole. A lot of red and black banners, a lot of single stars on green berets.
Very young, I jabbered words like “proletariat”, “solidarity” or “anarchy.” I knew The Internationale as well as the lyrics from Sesame Street. “«C’est la lutte finaaaaale, groupons-nous et demaiiin, l’Inteeeernationa-a-a-a-leu, youkaïdi, aïdi, aïda, taratatata!!» Well, I knew most of it. In French. Anyway, the Quebecois hippies thought I was the cutest thing.
I learned how to identify the RCMP quickly. I was sent on the sidewalk to pretend to make mud cakes. They were easy to recognize: a big mustache, mirror glasses, leaning on a blue car. You know the video from the Beastie Boys, “Sabotage”? Yeah. Exactly like that. They were not even pretending to read the newspaper. They looked directly at my house. Some of them took pictures. I just had to get inside and yell, “There’s two of them in front!” and people in my kitchen would flee hastily through the back yard.
I watched my mother paint “Neither virgin nor whore” on brick walls. I remember the smell of vinegar and pepper spray on the shirt of protestors. I remember the posters of Che, the fist in the female sign, that little red book. Around me, all hands bore calluses from holding placards. To revolt was normal, necessary, as long as the pigs rule!
I learned how, if you want to stay chained to a fence, you put a metal tube around your wrists, it takes a very long time to be sawn. If it makes a click sound and tin can echo in the phone, it means you are tapped. If you use an eight-inch nail to fix your protest sign on a two by four, when the cops arrive, you just have to pull the cardboard and whack away.
I also learned that going to jail for your ideas makes you a hero but you can’t go swimming in the States anymore. Not until you get the Queen’s pardon, many, many years too late. I learned that being a rebel involves dangers and sacrifices and I started to kinda hate insurrection.
Being the daughter of activists meant that there was always something bigger and more important than me. The Mission before us, the Mission before all. As a child, I wished “raise in arms” meant “to be taken at arm’s length making airplane sounds” and not “At midnight, we’re taking down City Hall!”
My parents were of all struggles. My mother helped feminism advance, fought for the rights of workers and those of the poor. She was against this and for that. She was a great one. A rebel with all kinds of causes.
And I? Well, as soon as I could do nothing, I did. I ran to the comfort of my navel and didn’t get out much. With the occasional signing of a petition and a button with some shitty slogan on the lapel to give myself a good social conscience.
Today, my son is in the streets. Each image of tear gas in the faces of barely pubescent kids; each riot with whistles and sirens soundtracks; each impatient stick against the bridge of a scarfed nose, my heart gets heavier. Not so much by anxiety, though I worry for the fruit of my loins, but by repentance. Had I not given up the fight, this generation would not have to claim as much.
I still remain filled with a sense of Whatgoodisit? I have a feeling of helplessness before the colossal. Because, after all, we don’t have to complain if we compare ourselves to other countries, huh? Huh?
It’s that sort of thinking that keeps people muffled: bread and circuses, hockey and chips. And I stay on my ass while austerity eats away at the leg of my sofa, my salary, my retirement and the future of our children.
I just wanted to apologize to my parents for not having continued the battle. To my son for letting him fight to get back lost social benefits.
Because many of my generation did not want to challenge the oppressors and end corruption. My generation preferred to suck its thumb while missing mom gone trying to change the world.