Eternal vigilance : Un appel aux citoyens engagés

By Beryl Wajsman on May 1, 2008

"The condition upon which man hath received liberty is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."  

~ John Philpot Curran, Dublin, 1800


« Chaque fissure dans l'ordre établi n'est jamais le résultat du hasard. C'est le résultat des efforts des gens déterminés, et engagés, à rendre compte à la vie. Alors, mes amis, trouvez-moi les citoyens engagés! »

~ André Malraux, Paris, 1950


Montrealers are metropolitan. For the most part the citizens of this island, the pearl of the St. Lawrence, get along with not just a special joie-de-vivre but with an unparalleled savoir-faire. They reject the parochialism and prejudice that has characterized so much of the public agenda for so long. For too long their voices have been marginalized by the politics of mediocrity and mendacity. A cheap public discourse of division and discord with the single goal of electoral profit. A public discourse – and public policy – driven by socially engineered nanny-statism  that reduces everything – and everyone – to the lowest common denominator. A public policy driven by a prohibitionist mentality that demonizes and penalizes citizens as a deflection from elected officials inability—or unwillingness—to deal with the core responsibilities of governance.

 For too long this island has been the champ-de-mars of the culture wars. Wars based on an organizing principle of the big lie. The lie that some unique injustice was done to a native people in its native land. And that one of those peoples have a superior moral claim on its sovereignty. Nothing of course could be further from the truth.

Nous sommes témoins d'une direction sans véritable gouvernail évoquant celle du politicien qui, lors de la Révolution française, est allé voir dans la rue quelle direction prenait la foule, pour qu'il puisse la mener. Le leadership implique l'audace. Le leadership s'astreint à la décision. Le leadership exige le dévouement. De nos jours, nous ne pouvons plus tolérer des dilettantes dans notre vie publique simplement parce qu'ils sont agréables et présentables.

 But more than the damage to our institutional memories, this big lie has convinced too many, that only the state can be the protector of their interests. What started with measures to protect a language, quickly morphed into  a mentality that denigrated individual ability, ambition and consequence. Successive governments—regardless of party or level—legislated on the basis that we had to be protected. Protected from the big, bad world; protected from our fellow citizens; protected even from ourselves. We who have come together in The Métropolitain reject this mentality and this attitude.

This paper will seek to raise the public discourse. We want dignity back in our lives. We want an open, as well as a just, society. And we want our cite to be vraiment libre again.

Il ne suffit pas que les grands partis de pouvoir et de principes voient le succès électoral comme l'ultime fin. Leurs fonctions ne sont alors pas pleinement remplies ainsi. Cette question est sans doute insolite au sein de la politique Quebecois. Pourtant, notre époque est insolite. Les défis intérieurs et étrangers sont insolites. Et ils appellent une vision et une vigueur renouvelées.

We will celebrate individual spirit and initiative that seeks to free itself from the suffocating constraints of the culture wars. We will advocate for the restoration of the sovereignty of the individual over domains which the state should not have entered and on which it should not have legislated. We will oppose rule and regulation aimed at social engineering. We will condemn politically-correct nanny-state intervention. And we will remind Montrealers—so long imprisoned   in Quebec’s mentality of self-doubt driven by a jealousy of others      self-belief—that our unique multiculturalism and multilingualism practiced by a population with more post secondary students per capita than even Boston, needs a broader international vision that does not reflexively reject the liberal pluralism of those western nations from whose philosophical and historical traditions  we sprang.

 Notre époque exige le constat des dures réalités et le courage des grandes décisions. Elle nous invite à des tâches déconcertantes et stimule nos volontés. Nous devons songer à un programme radical pour une réforme authentique. Radical n'insinue pas révolutionnaire. De nos jours, alors que Camus écrit  « qu'il est dur, qu'il est amer de devenir un homme, » radical ne signifie même pas nouveau. Cela signifie vrai. Et juste. Et la vérité et la justice ne connaissent de frontières ni dans le temps ni dans l'espace.

We will tackle all these taboos. And one other. We will not be limited by the stilted mindset in this country that seems afraid to express itself in both official languages. We who have come together in common cause on these pages are dedicated to the proposition that in Montreal we are indeed one community with no solitudes.

Our community cannot be defined merely by parameters of the “quartiers” where some feel most comfortable. Our community is the whole island of Montreal and indeed the entire province of Quebec. But on this island—in this city—whose population is more than 50% non-francophone, though we be anglophones, allophones or francophones, we can no longer afford to be angryphones - of whatever language. Montreal has demonstrated that people of diverse cultures and origins can build a dynamic “city on the hill” and more than anywhere else in Canada have not only realized that vision of Pericles of Athens but have also demonstrated that we are greater than the sum of our parts and that what unites us is greater than what divides us. In order to cement that unity we have to understand what our neighbours are thinking and what they are saying in both official languages.

 Notre plus importante contribution, notre plus grand défi, sera de traduire les passions publique en plaidoirie puissante auprès des sphères du pouvoir. C'est avec transparence et courage que nous devons hisser notre vision nationale au-dessus des pressions politiques quotidiennes faites de banals procédés et munir le peuple de la force dont il a besoin pour répandre sa générosité d'esprit inhérente. Cette démonstration de discipline s'avère un précurseur nécessaire aux sacrifices exigés pour réaliser une culture de courage.

 Our society of free and critical thought has turned feckless through the bodyguard of lies protecting politicians from one election to another. A society of good and brave people has abdicated the courage to challenge, and accepted the pandering of empty promises in exchange for lives of delayed gratification and quiet desperation choked by the bankrupt and foolish notions of moral relativism and political equivalency. We claim to be a liberal society. In truth we are not, though we should be.

We need a liberalism of inclusion not exception. A liberalism of expanded opportunity, not low limitation. A liberalism based on the equity of just consideration, not the inequality of narrow circumstance. A liberalism that is the shield of the vulnerable and the staff of the unempowered. A liberal society whose leaders do not exercise power merely as a two-edged sword of craft and oppression.

 D'après nous, plusieurs ici croient que les objectifs vers lesquels nous tendons et les politiques que certains proposent, amorceront la tranquille régression du progrès auquel notre nation doit demeurer attachée. Ce ne sont pas de nouveaux problèmes. Plusieurs d'entre nous se sont débattus avec ceux-ci au cours des dernières années. Le temps du renouveau est arrivé. Il nous appelle à renouveler notre engagement avec vigilance et exige de nous une fidélité sans compromis envers ces idéaux qui reflétent l'aspiration transcendante de l'humanité à un changement regénerateur.

 In that spirit it is our profound hope and faith that the time is now to tear down the walls between tous les solitudes. To end the smugness so many comfort themselves with that merely hides the worn prejudices of social orthodoxies that they believe justify their own complacency. We need to listen to each other, and in listening come to understand that there are people of good will on all sides who will work in common cause to prevent our community from continuing to be exploited in the battles of petty prejudices over parochial particularities. We can and must do better.

Better, means a society where hope is not extinguished through humiliation. Where justice is not compromised by expediency. Where truth is not mortgaged to timidity. Where honour is never cheapened by avarice. This resolve is our only surety of a society grounded in compassion and conscience and not one petrified and paralyzed in the icy frost of indifference.  Bien que le programme soit long, les tâches redoutables et les journées éphéméres, nous ne changerions pas notre place avec un quelconque autre peuple ou génération.

Bien que le monde soit devenu un endroit périlleux, nous chérissons notre plus grand présent en tant que peuple libre… celui de l'espoir. 

For even while remembering the distortions of power, and the failed enthusiasms of any given moment, when we, the people, dare to care - in hundreds of ways and in hundreds of places - we can make better the life of this place. But it takes leadership. Et le leadership ne reste pas au pied de la montagne. Il conquiert les cimes. Et de ce mirador, il demeure vigilant car, la justice n'est ni au paradis ni au-delà des océans, mais bien dans nos cœurs pour que nous la convoitions et dans nos mains pour que nous la forgions.


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