Another World Is Possible

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Graffiti In Nantes, France

I’m taking classes at university and I feel like I belong in a museum. The big museum of failed and forgotten ideals. Move along, nothing to see here.

It started last summer when I attended a macro-economic class. The prof enjoyed hanging out at Wall Street on his spare time during the weekends. Unsurprisingly, he was the type of person to get super excited about the stock market (in which we should definitely all invest), RRSPs (a must for all Canadians), saving bonds (deemed too conservative) and other financial products. His eyes were sparkling when he was talking about trading stocks. Never mind it was only a few months after the big economic crisis that rocked the world in 2008. Capitalism is alive and well, he claimed. The values to adopt are the American financial model and the pursuit of growth. No other system worked, right? So why question the “best” way for individuals to seek happiness?

Sure. I mean, what do you expect from a North American economy (and business) prof? He was bound to be in love with liberalism. Yet, it was certainly the first time of my life I heard someone praising the mechanism of aggregated supply and demand, as well as a form of neoliberalism that did leave millions unemployed. But after all, maybe he was pushing his point.

I’m currently attending a class on globalization. First it is interesting to notice how current courses are in Canada. In France, we barely touched the Algerian war of independence (which took place in the early 1960s) for instance because it was considered to be “contemporary history” and as such, we would lack the required distance to analyze it. In Canada, no such second thought. Profs don’t seem to have any problem analyzing the current war in Iraq or in Afghanistan, even though it seems to me that it’s hard to have an unbiased opinion without much hindsight.

And in these classes, a lot of ideas and paradigms are presented as universally accepted and almost commonsensical. For instance, the current liberal globalization just exists. It is mentioned as if everybody on earth at one point did agree on it. Communism and Socialism failed. Yes, they did. No further explanation, that’s just the way it is. It is as if both ideologies are exactly the same and as if the fall of the Berlin wall and the subsequent disintegration of the USSR sounded the death knell of any alternative to liberalism.

Have you ever heard of ATTAC? ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens) is an activist organization for the establishment of a tax on foreign exchange transactions. Granted, it was founded in France (you know, far away in Socialist and useless Europe) but it now exists in over forty countries around the world. It’s by no means a left-wing fringe group — at least I thought so. But the way the prof talks about it, it sounds like they are a bunch of bearded old hippies with flowers in their hair who foment the revolution.

Shit. I was one of these hippies fomenting the revolution.

During the 18 years I spent in France, I protested, went on strike and demonstrated. I was run after by cops and tear-gassed (yet, never been arrested). I made signs, used a microphone and happily sang revolutionary songs. In every way, I was your typical French teenager.

Obviously, when I came to Canada, I mellowed a lot. First, I didn’t know the culture very much and you can’t fight against what you don’t know. Second, I was very much aware of the fact I was now living in North America, the birthplace of liberalism. Blindly rebelling against it didn’t seem to make any sense.

Canada is pretty peaceful. Unlike France, there are few protests and demonstrations (although our Prime Minister managed to anger Canadians enough to stir up a national protest last month). It lures you into a sense of tranquility. Yet, I can’t help thinking that there is more to life than owning a house with a white picket fence and having 2.5 kids. It’s not because my life is somewhat better here than in France that I forgot about all the socio-economic problems around.

The economic gap, both within the so-called developed countries and between the latter and the rest of the world is driving me crazy. And so does the lack of basic labour laws in North America (and don’t even get me started on the U.S. health care system!). Neocolonialism and the power that all the “Bretton Woods” organizations, such as the IMF and the WTO still have in this world. The fact that the world is ruled by a lucky few and that we all stand by, watching, as decisions are made way above our heads.

I have nothing against “peace, order and good government” nor against “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but I do see some issues in the world we live in. And I doubt that the current political model we use as well as this view of globalization will do much to solve them. So yes, I’m still fighting. It starts by peacefully questioning the current world order and realizing we shouldn’t take it for granted.

As they say, “another world is possible.” No, seriously. I believe in it, anyway.

 

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

16 Comments

  1. o wow can you write a load of crap and just strike it out again? when I was in my 1st year of 2ndary school Tippex and Liquid Paper really were the highest of high fashion as regards ExerciseBook Trendiness… oh man, the amounts of that stuff I got through (and never ever had a go inhailing it, which seems inconceivable all these years later…)… well I just wanted to say Hi!, Zhu and howzit going??!?

    Hopefully I’m getting my own home computer soon with mobioe broadband so I’ll be able to come a-visiting like I always used to ~~ I can’t wait!!
    .-= Gledwood´s last blog ..Desparing… =-.

  2. You have revealed your genetic French love for debating politics.

    I am not sure what you mean by “liberal”. Most in the US would say that Government activism in the form of regulation of corporations and Wall Street are Democratic liberalism. Certainly the current debate over expansion of the US health care system is the work of liberal democrats and is ferociously opposed by conservative republicans. You seem to have a somewhat different idea of what liberal is.

    Regardless of labels and based on reading your blog for quite a long time I imagine that we agree on the majority of issues. I do take exception to your claim to be a hippy. You are much too young to be a hippy although you have the spirit. I hold you in great affection.
    .-= Tulsa Getleman´s last blog ..Sunday Jigsaw Puzzle =-.

  3. Never stop questioning – never stop believing that another world is possible. Without the believers and the doers, change will not happen.
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Q&A =-.

  4. I think there irreconcilable cultural opinions between Europe and North America about economic theories.

    When in my French University class a student began examining a problem with a communist outlook, I tried hard not to laugh ! It’s so foreign for most North Americans like me, I guess we all think that communism is somewhere buried in a grave beside Nazism.
    .-= Cynthia´s last blog ..Le plus grand espace vert appartient aux morts =-.

  5. I’ve always found it so interesting how one topic can be taught in a variety of different ways depending on the country/culture. And if you’re upset about the U.S. health care system, imagine how we feel! I’m one of the lucky ones, and I still can’t stand it.
    .-= Tanya´s last blog ..Belated Birthday =-.

  6. I am a believer in a regulated capitalist system. I also think that the world doesn’t work with an even playing field at the moment. Developing countries should be allowed to have some protectionist policies (as the US did when it was starting out) so that developing countries can grow their industries. Right now we leverage our power, pushing for free trade not because it is right (although we use that moral argument), but because it makes US richer. We have an incentive to have free trade, because we have the strongest most developed industries.

    Another major problem (which drives me crazy and I am sure I’ve commented on before) with the world today are the subsidies Americans and Europeans give their farmers, allowing them to sell for cheaper prices and pricing out farmers from developing nations who can’t afford to grow their own food. It’s pretty scandalous, but the big corporate farm lobbies in America and Europe are extremely powerful.
    .-= Seb´s last blog ..Lightning Boy =-.

  7. The American use of “liberal” is more akin to “social democracy” than what europeans mean as “liberal” (or “neoliberalism”). Liberalism in the rest of the world is the classical unregulated economics of adam smith, Ricardo and Hayek. It’s free market/laissez-faire economics.
    e.g. “liberal” parties in europe or S. america are like “libertarians” in the USA.
    The Democrats in the US as the “liberals” are a center right to center left quasi social democratic party. (Gore vidal actually said america has one party with 2 right wings-I agree!)
    As far as the health care debate goes in the USA, it was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt (darn progressives!) who first proposed a system of national health insurance and a social safety net. Now it’s painted as long lines and hammers/sickles. Ridiculous.
    50 percent of americans have “socialized” insurance already: Medicare, medicaid, Child health insurance, Tricare (military veterans), and the Veterans health care system. Anyhow, if nothing changes we’ll be bankrupted soon by it.
    cheers

  8. One thing I learned when studying…every class is a process of indoctrinating you into thinking in a certain way. Their way. I am always aware of this. Sometimes it is valuable to be able to analyse situations from different modes of thought, just be aware that you are doing it. As I see you are.

    Further it always upset me when socialism, or social capitalism is used as if it is a dirty word. I live in a country where HELLO it is working quite well. Free Health care, high life expectancy, National pension system which you can actually live on, free education – also University, partially public supported preschool and we didn’t get whacked when the global economy went bad. We had a little lull and many had hiring stops but very little unemployment…there are other ways to run economics and still enjoy liberty and free trade…
    .-= DianeCA´s last blog ..Traveling back in time at the Norwegian Folk Museum =-.

  9. Indeed, globalisation is a very interesting topic.
    Have you read “The World is Flat” written by Thomas Friedman?
    It’s quite good! Worth reading.

    Re: Ancient pharmacy / 古老的药房 / Farmasi yang lama / 古い薬屋

    Ha ha… Is that one of your fetishes?!

    Re: Life in the water / 水中的生活 / Kehidupan di dalam air / 水中の生活

    That’s clownfish for you. Nemo is their misnomer.

    Re: Magic smoke by the sea / 海边的魔术烟雾 / Asap ajaib di tepi pantai / 海辺の魔法の煙

    Ha ha ha! I guess so. Then, rain must be its copyright, which other countries are free to copy. Come take our rain away. Ha ha
    .-= London Caller´s last blog ..Life in the water / 水中的生活 / Kehidupan di dalam air / 水中の生活 =-.

  10. can i tell you, zhu, that i love you? you articulate great thoughts; this is exactly why i keep coming back to read your blog.
    the thing is, the world changes. something works for a while, then somebody figures a way to scam the system and then it doesn’t work as well as it used to.
    and wealth– i read somewhere fairly recently that great fortunes are lost within three generations. nothing, even wealth and power, lasts forever.
    the recent economic trouble doesn’t mean capitalism can’t work. it means, somewhere along the way, fewer and fewer people were benefitting from the system. reducing taxes indeed helps the economy, but cutting them too far leaves too many people disenfranchised and without the hope of opportunity.
    it’s an ugly word in america: income redistribution.
    but you can’t have a functioning economy where the rich get richer and the middle class grow poorer.
    there has to be balance in everything- ecology, love, power, economics– balance in what you eat, what you believe, what you breathe.
    so when you see imbalance and unfairness, you *should* speak up and say something.
    the world holds great promise, but prosperity (and happiness) depends on doing the right thing: ultimately a society is only as strong as the protections it affords its weakest members.
    .-= Seraphine´s last blog ..Fountaingrove Winery: Part 2 =-.

  11. @Gledwood – Hi there, nice to see you around! 🙂 So, what makes you feel you belong in a museum?

    @Tulsa Getleman – You’re right, I’m too young to be a hippie…! I guess to French, “liberalism” is a synonym of lack of welfare state, prominence of multinational companies and economic imperatives over social ones. I agree though, the word can be interpreted in many ways.

    @Beth – I guess I’m a believer… where do I sign up to be a doer?

    @Cynthia – This is exactly what I felt the first time I heard the prof gloryfying capitalism! Few French will admit we do live in a capitalism era (except maybe people in business). Communism is still seen as an okay alternative, and socialism is of course THE alternative. I can imagine your surprise though, because indeed, “communism” seems to be a bad word on this side of the Atlantic ocean.

    @Tanya – Yes, it is fascinating indeed. I guess it’s a good way to truly understand the foundations of a culture!

    @Seb – I’m pretty critical of subsidies myself and we had many issues around that regarding the battle between France and the European Union. I have to point out I don,t hate capitalism, it seems to work okay in some countries… yet, it can hardly be considered as perfect, the way some would like us to believe.

    @Tulsa Gentleman – Thank you 🙂 One hockey medal and we will be happy Canucks 🙂

    @Rich B – Funny that liberal is a bad word overseas, and that yet it has two meanings! As for the U.S. healthcare system, I truly feel for you. Things should change… but what can I say, I’m Canadian AND French, so double-socialist! 😉

    @DianeCA – I still don,t understand why “socialism” is a bad word for some. Communism can be argued because some associate the theory with the way it was used (and misused) as a state theory. But like you say, socialism can work very well for some countries… okay, maybe not in the USA.

    @London Caller – No, I haven’t! I’m going to try to find the book.

    @Seraphine – You can say you love me anytime, I take all the I love yous I can take these days 😆

    Income redistribution… yep, I can almost hear two two little words being hissed on Fox News. Sounds bad for some indeed!

  12. OMG… you are “one of those” 🙂 I have never participated in loud protests or demonstrations except for a couple of silent marches. I like this post, but honestly… I am very pessimistic about the behavior of human beings. 😛
    .-= Priyank´s last blog ..Veliky Novgorod =-.

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