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.