Last night, I participated in a panel discussion on “the changing nature of power”, at the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montreal, a documentary film festival.
After a screening of a new documentary called “The Fourth World War“, four panelists sat up at the front, talked about the film and, then took questions from the audience.
To begin with, the film itself is awful. It is boilerplate antiglobalisation propaganda, treating economic and social disruptions and popular uprisings in Argentina, Chiapas, Korea, South Africa, and Israel as variations on a single global war being waged by faceless neoliberals. When the film ended, there was a lot of clapping and a few cheers, and I thought, “shit, here we go”, and got ready to play the village liberal in a room full of marxists.
My mistake. The conversation was entirely in french, and while at one point in my life I was more or less bilingual (I grew up in Trudeaupian Ottawa), a decade in central Ontario has reduced my vocabulary to that of a 10 year old. Talking in french, I feel like my IQ has dropped 30 points. (insert jokes here)
Still, I was extremely impressed with my co-panelists as well as by the audience. If this panel had taken place in Toronto, I am fairly certain that everyone would have fallen into line and adopted the obligatory Annex-anti-american-leftism that is the default social politics for Torontonians of a certain social class.
This was very different. The discussion was, for the most part, entirely non-ideological. I found all of the participants to be extremely thoughtful, critical-minded, and pragmatic. To boot, one of my co-panelists was a Bloquiste, who gave Jean Lapierre a run for his money during last summer’s federal election.
But this is where it gets a bit interesting. In Quebec intellectual society, separatism is the obligatory default political stance. Of course there was a separatist on the panel — in Montreal, that is as unremarkable as hearing anti-americanism on the CBC in Toronto. It’s the water in which we swim here.