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French Canadian Common Sense
Quebec Rejects Secularism

Another defeat for Kemalism: French Canadians roundly rejected a draconian new law preventing all state employees from exhibiting “conspicuous religious symbols” at work.

Published on: May 21, 2014
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  • qet

    Excellent! I say this as an agnostic who deplores the will to totalitarianism masquerading as “secularism” in the US (and, apparently, in France and Quebec as well).

    • Monkish

      There is nothing “totalitarian” about seeking to obtain the approval of the voting public for maintaining or establishing religiously neutral public services and schools. What is a mark of totalitarianism, however, is the misuse and abuse of powerful words with definite meanings to bend the worldview of the populace to conform to a sinister agenda and distort common sense and ordinary ethics (c.f. Arendt and Klemperer’s “Language of the Third Reich”). Not too far off from what you are doing in this comment…

      • qet

        No. Remember the proposed law that gave rise to Berger’s article. When the idea of religious tolerance, of pluralism, of fundamental fairness, of a commitment to a modern, secular society, descends to the point of outlawing the personal wearing of religious symbols; when the pursuit of justice is actualized in the legislation of a definition of “conspicuous”; then it is safe to say that this is symptomatic of a totalitarian impulse. Such a descent into the minutiae of ordinary, everyday life; such an impulse to set oneself up as arbiter of what particular colors, shapes and sizes of jewelry and apparel another may wear out of the house; when all this is accompanied by hysterical claims that to permit a person to wear a piece of clothing or jewelry outside of these State-approved dimensions and specifications is a violation of another’s fundamental human right–this is the very definition of totalitarianism.

        • Monkish

          If your conception of “totalitarianism” can’t make the distinction between French Laïcité which bans religious symbols only as they intrude upon the socialization of children in STATE schools and the exercise of government in PUBLIC administration and a surveillance state like that of Nazi Germany or post-WWII East Germany where a coercive state tried to regiment every aspect of human existence, private AND public, from religious dogma, to family life, politics and education, then I contend your understanding is deeply flawed. Perhaps you should read Arendt, or Walzer: totalitarianism and authoritarianism are not the same and coercion of the civic-Republican kind a million light years in theory and social effects from the type of social engineering practised by fascist or communist regimes. Distinctions are important. Neither the PQ nor any party advocating laicite is advocating a system remotely resembling this straw man of yours. You can dress it up anyway you want, it’s still a Reductio ad Hitlerum.

          • qet

            I have read Arendt and Walzer and many others besides. It is rather you who are practicing the reduction you accuse me of practicing. You have reduced totalitarianism to the finished form of Nazi Germany and(maybe) the USSR. Perhaps you can answer, at what point did Nazi Germany become totalitarian? 1944? 1938? 1933? Is it a requirement of a totalitarian state that its officials wear swastikas? Yes, distinctions are important, but if you mean to suggest that totalitarianism is a qualitatively unique state, a quantum level at which it is possible to arrive only by a jump from another level across a historical gap or abyss, then I disagree completely. I mean “–ism” as a tendency. At no point did I define Quebec as “a totalitarian state.” I maintain that it is a manifestation of a totalitarian tendency to regulate religious expression so closely as the Quebeckers were trying to do. Your own description of a religous symbol–a crucifix or a yarmulke in this case–as constituting an “intrusion” upon the “socialization” of children” to me reflects an attitude that, if shared by enough others, constitutes a field for the possible–possible–emergence of a totalitarian state. No, I am not calling you a totalitarian, but I am arguing that your apparent support for such a descent by “the State” into the minutiae, the interstices, of social life, indicates a less than optimal (in my view) respect for pluralism. And as for surveillance–well, I don’t know what is going on today in Quebec, but here in the US we are trying awfully hard, it seems, to build ourselves into a Panopticon.

          • messy1a

            The answer is the enabling act of 1933, which was passed by a slim majority of the riechstag after the building was blown up.

      • Bart Hall

        Two examples. One popular-culture, the other official. In 1989 in a major restaurant along the main route from Montreal to Quebec (la 40) the paper placemats were covered in jokes, two of which were… “Why did Hitler kill himself? He finally got his gas bill.” and “What’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza? The pizza doesn’t scream when you shove it in the oven.”

        Even worse, back in 2005 or so armed agents and Provincial Police raided Jewish stores in Montreal, in the middle of Passover, stripping them of Passover foods, leaving many of Montreal’s 100,000 Orthodox Jews to fast for the rest of Passover. The offending foods were not labelled in french.

        Several months later Ha Mossad brought agents into Montreal, set up a massive weapons smuggling system, and instituted two years of intense community self-defence training. They do the same for any significant population of Jews they believe are potentially threatened with pogrom. Not-quite-full disclosure: I am an evangelical Christian who worked for my friends’ families as a Shabbas Goy and who speaks enough Hebrew to be polite.

        To this day the level of anti-Jewish sentiment is astounding.

  • Wayne Lusvardi

    “Je me sourviens/Que ne sous le lys/Je crois la rose” apparently was the full slogan.

    Translated literally in English it means: “I remember/That born under the lily/I grow under the rose.” The Lily refers to the floral emblem of France and the Rose the emblem of England.

    So it means that while Quebecans were born French, they prospered as citizens of the British Empire.

    Paraphrased: they were born secular and dictatorial in control of all aspects of life/but they prospered as religious and democratic.

    • gabrielsyme

      Not so- the France that birthed New France was “the eldest daughter of the Church”; she loved the Faith and was vigourous in sending missionaries throughout the world, including the first to be martyred in North America. It was only after the conquest of Quebec that France fell from its loyalty to God.

      The Great Britain that replaced France as ruler over Quebec did not have the same fealty to the faith, but to its great credit, gave religious freedom to the Quebecois, and permitted them a large degree of self-governance and maintenance of their institutions.

      • Wayne Lusvardi

        Right. Using Kierkegaardian dichotomies, Quebec is not “Either/Or” secular/religious, but “Both/And” secular/religious.

  • Bart Hall

    I lived in Québec for thirteen years (1978-’91) and ended up speaking the language with near-native fluency. They have been unable yet to come to terms with the fundamental dilemma of their society, which is this: Because their birth rates have utterly collapsed their non-immigrant (québécois pur-laine) demographics are simply dreadful. Thus the attempts to *force* french on immigrants, especially the children.

    My sons were part of that. Because neither parent was educated in english in *Canada* (we were born in the States) the boys had to go to school in french. No problem — that’s a big reason we moved there. However, even though my sons had native fluency in french they’ve never *thought* nor behaved like québécois pur-laine. Québec is consequently faced with the intractable problem of either a) keeping their language but losing their culture because of millions like my sons who don’t “think” the right way, or b) remaining pur-laine (pure wool) and losing their language as fewer and fewer children are born into french-speaking families.

    Little wonder most of the province is cranky, volatile, and confused.

  • Monkish

    Mustapha Kemal was responsible for setting up a system (the Dinayet) that has, for almost a century, guaranteed generous public funding to Mosques and all the financial perks and job stability of a civil servant to Imams. So it’s high time Berger stopped labeling “Kemalist” all those US secularists who wish to sever institutional ties between the Church and State. It just makes him sound ignorant and monomaniacal. And at a time when the freedom of assembly, press and separation of power are being dramatically curtailed by an increasingly despotic Erdogan (all the experts agree that his party’s “moderate Islamism” is dead), it’s a little unsavoury to be banging on about a much diminished and peculiarly Turkish form of secularism.

  • amoose1961

    Wake up readers! Berger is not a scholar but a Frankfurt School disciple. He is a social marxist to the bone. He is intent on squashing all religions especially Christianity. His style as l have pointed out many times is predictable and he does not fail us in this piece.

    • amoose1959

      Beware of the Conditioners and their artificial Tao.

  • Gary Novak

    These are interesting issues, but when it comes to Canada, I find the most curious curiosity to be single-payer healthcare. I am not the first to point out that the VA scandal in the U.S. is drawing renewed attention to the problem of wait times in Canada. Universal coverage has a way of being Wertrational (ideological) but not Zweckrational (effective). Everyone is covered, but not everyone is treated on a timely basis. But while we’re in the waiting room, we can applaud the reported instance of French Canadian common sense.

  • 013090

    “It is perhaps unfortunate that history has regaled Canada with a
    negative identity, as the only grouping of British colonies in North
    America that did not join the United States.”

    Not true, you are forgetting the two colonies to the south, West and East Florida.

  • Bushman

    Le Kemalisme? What a turkey! You know they don’t have a clue when they compare Quebec with the middle east. Stick to burgers and fries and the American way, Peter.

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