Chris DeWolf emailed me about this blog post on the two solitudes from Voir’s François Parenteau. In it, he argues that anglos are zombies (then he argues that we’re not zombies) and that we’re coming to get francophones so we can enslave them, or other such nonsense:
Et c’est vrai aussi que, d’un point de vue strictement francophone, les anglophones sont des morts-vivants. Ils sont vivants, en ce sens qu’ils marchent, travaillent, mangent, dorment, votent et font des enfants. Mais comme ils font tout ça en anglais, ils sont morts au regard de la communauté francophone. Ils ne créeront jamais rien en français. Ils ne consommeront aucun produit culturel en français. Ils ne retireront rien et n’amèneront rien à la sphère culturelle francophone. Ils la “compétitionnent” même avec la leur propre, indépendante, nourrie à même la culture majoritaire de ce zombie-land qu’est l’Amérique du Nord. Et pire encore, on le sait, ils transforment automatiquement en zombie les francophones avec qui ils entrent en contact. Il n’y a qu’à voir les communautés francophones hors-Québec pour s’en rendre compte.
My problem isn’t that he’s paranoid, or that he spews vitriolic hatred and xenophobia, painting hundreds of millions of people with one gigantic brush. My problem is how familiar this kind of language is, leading people to believe that such opinions are valid.
I wonder if I should even point out that the entire premise for the post is wrong. He says census data shows that French is the mother tongue of less than 50% of Montrealers (which is true), and that this is because of an increase in the number of English speakers. A quick look at the census data shows that almost all the change in percentages comes because of an increase in immigration and the number of allophones (who speak neither language at home). What’s more, a majority of these immigrants to Quebec are choosing French over English for the first time.
Of course, facts are irrelevant. What matters is what’s in his gut. And the irrational fear is there. Just like Americans think they’re going to get swarmed by illegal Mexican immigrants and have to speak Spanish, people like Parenteau think there’s an organized anglo conspiracy to rid Quebec of the French language, and that the percentage of francophones, now around 80% province-wide, will drop to zero.
I’m not suggesting that being surrounded by a population 50 times your size doesn’t put a melting pot pressure. It does, though nowhere near as big as alarmists make it out to be. And the shrinking population of francophones outside Quebec should be of concern as well to anyone who wants this country to promote bilingualism.
But it’s not equivalent to South African apartheid, as one commenter (who wants everyone to know he has a bachelor’s degree) suggested.
Facebook and YouTube have to change
Parenteau points to the English-only Facebook as an example of the assimilation of francophones into anglophonia. I think it’s annoying that Facebook is only now considering creating versions of itself in other languages. YouTube, which launched an English-only Canadian site despite already having translated versions, is even moreso.
But the blame for this should rest on Facebook and YouTube, not anglophones in general. And the suggestion that francophones should boycott these sites (yeah, good luck with that) is exactly how it should be dealt with.
Blaming anglos doesn’t solve anything
Even if we ignore all of that, the fact remains that Parenteau and company don’t put forward any serious solutions for the problem of “zombies” eating their brains. Some suggest sovereignty, which wouldn’t stop Quebecers from using Facebook, nor would it make French more common elsewhere in Canada. Restrictive legislation like Bill 101 just makes companies look for loopholes, which is why Momma’s Pizza House is now Maison de Pizza Maman but Burger King is still Burger King. Boycotts and popular campaigns don’t work.
And most importantly, blaming all us anglos for the problem and calling us names won’t do a thing for the cause. It’s not going to make us all run away to Toronto or start speaking French. It’s just going to get us riled up and start writing blog posts.
But I’m not going to stoop to François Parenteau’s level. I’m not going to pretend like he represents the majority of francophones. I know better than to suggest that 80% of Quebec’s population are ignorant xenophobes who want to rid the world of everyone who isn’t like them.
Why aren’t we happy with bilingualism?
Montreal is the most bilingual city in North America. It’s a place where it’s not uncommon to find people switching languages in mid-sentence. But rather than embrace that, the two solitudes are at each other’s throats. Yes, that means we have some unilingual anglophones, but they represent less than 5% of the population. Is this really the end of the world? The alien invasion? The apocalypse?
We should be celebrating the fact that we can speak two languages here. We should be promoting it as an economic strength. Instead, we have people like François Parenteau who believe refusing to speak another language makes him a better person.