Performing Québec

Old Con seems to be pretty predictably on script.

Actually, it crossed my mind to say about him what John does occasionally about black woke BLM types, that they are performing their static outrage, static because things are not going to change, and if things did their spiel would have to reflect it, in which case they would have little left to say.

The reason I allow myself this bit of ad hominen characterization is because Con knows that Canada is an elite accommodation, that the official version of the country is just that, the official version, that the mass of CDN Anglophones are never going to be bilingual (in French anyway), but that the surface of interaction must reflect the pretence that both languages are equal. This is because the processes of diglossia and bilingualism are not going to be deeply affected by legislation or by official pretence. Infrastructure vs superstructure.

In particular I disagree with his claim that the Québec elite made a good-faith promise to have a bilingual Canada, and that they have “betrayed” that deal.

No, Con: no one ever imagined by that all of Canada was going to become bilingual. That bit of work was intended for the hard-working elite interlocuters, translators among them, who grease the creaky wheels of officialdom. And whence the sudden concern for poor unilingual francophones in Québec? Crocodile tears, I say. Let them stay unilingual. That’s their business, that of Québécois on the street, not a constitutional issue. And my experience as an anglophone in Q has been that for a half-century is that it is a great place, not a source of oppression. In fact most of the young in Montreal, anglophones and allophones leading, are bilingual and comfortable with it.

Put another way, Québec is no more likely to change than say South Dakota, Wyoming or … Lousiana. The secret to successful governing is allowing for variegated accommodation among diverse constituencies (did I write that?). There is huge assymetry in Canadian society, but the Q seem to understand that, as far as language goes, and have learned to get the most out of it they can. Unitarian Canuck nationalists, who can be sometimes preoccupied with Québec, want instead to iron out imperfections and wrinkles, most of which are pro forma.

All this to say that I am not worried about Q becoming a renegade province within the orbit of the capacious Canadian constitution, a wad of sticky flypaper if ever there was one.

That Zemmour is certainly a nasty piece of work, alright.

I had forgotten about Ellison’s quip, so long ago since I read it. Beautiful.

Of course I can detect traces of Lasch in your disappointment about John having based the last Bears Mentioning with a SNL skit, rather than something real …. Certainly a “secular” tendency which is rampant these days, secular in the sense of “generational”. John is at least writing in that context as an editorialist rather than as an educator. What I too dislike is the mass infusion of popular culture into education, e.g. vampire movies serving as target of “cultural analysis” — a “hook” to use your word.

Snag the young and innocent with allusions to what they already know, unload your message, and send them on the way with no further effort to understand. What ever happened to having to learn new material? OK, it you want, talk about vampires but try to include some geography and history in the discussion. Where has that Stoff come from? Etc.

But I’m an old fart. Generations pass. The sun also rises. A sentiment which Con betrays in his last sentence.

Heidegger Is the Dubbyk of Twentieth-Century Philosophy

He and his vocabulary of charms haunt us, to the point that Dasein no longer needs the italics of a foreign word. The expurgation of Yiddish from German culture — admittedly a backhanded way to speak of the Holocaust — meant that a promising rival cognate of sorts was obliterated from wide currency. Doikayt could be translated as ‘here-and-now-ness” (Da-keit in German, as opposed to Da-sein, “being there”). It was a guiding principle of Bundism, the organized social democratic movement in eastern Europe whose focus was to seek alliances with other distinct and even sometimes hostile cultures, customs and religions in multicultural societies. After all, there is no escape possible from the principal contradiction, which is capitalism. So why go anywhere? Doikayt lost out to the escapist Zionist ideal of “somewhere-other-ness” (but a somewhere “we” once were). A relique of twentieth-century political nomencature, doikayt survived for only a few more decades, confined to the Yiddish-speaking diaspora, a seed without issue. As for Dasein, it has, alas, prospered, a fetish to wield within the English-speaking critical-theoretical academy, snaring us in convoluted tangles of speculative meaning from which there is no exit.

On the importance of Yiddish to high German literature, see Deutsch-Jüdischer Parnass: Literaturgeschichte eines Mythos, Willi Jasper.  As for the relation German once had with the Yiddish language: Was ist Deutsch?, Utz Maas. Finally, for bios and close-ups of the literary figures in the Canadian diaspora who wrote in Yiddish and Hebrew, there is Cents ans de littérature yiddish et hébraïque au Canada, Heim-Lieb Fuks et Pierre Anctil. In the mid-twentieth century, small cells of Bundist affiliation influenced Canadian social democracy, in the big cities at least. The history of the Prairies was entirely different, but no less an extension of ideology forged in eastern Europe, not necessarily, it goes without saying, in the Pale. 

— H. H. N.