|Unity, Solidarity and Hugs|
When you glimpse the figure of the costumed giant panda and possess even just an ounce of curiosity, you ask: "Who's that?"
The answer is: "That's Anarchopanda. He marches with the student protesters and gives out hugs to everyone."
The paradoxical pairing of Anarchy and pandas seems jostling at first. For many, the exploration of anarchy is little more than punk rock bands courtesy of the Sex Pistols. It is also disseminated through the Anarchy logo printed on black t-shirts. This is far from the legacy of French politician Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who argued, in 1840, that worker associations and co-ops were favourable over capitalism or the nationalization of land and workplaces.
Self-managed workers in co-ops joined together through federalism.
His wariness of both capitalism and Marxism stemmed from the his belief that power corrupts.
However, he also believed that social revolution is possible through peaceful means.
The rise in tuition, in many ways, could be seen as a move towards high voltage American-style capitalist approach to post-secondary education. Already in the US, health care is seen as insurance issue and not a social priority while post-secondary education is seen as an investment rather than a public good.
How's that working out for them? 1 trillion in student loan debt which is more than the country's total credit-card debt. The corrosive effect of such a system on the psyche is that it limits your possibilities. Instead of seeing post-secondary education as opening doors to a more fulfilling life, it's simply seen as means to earn a higher salary. After all, you need to pay off all that debt so make sure you study something useful like finance!
God knows financiers display sound judgment with money.
This is about values, about choices and about refusing to accept less from our government. Time and again, Quebecers have had to accept less from our political class. Corruption from the construction industry, corruption in subsidized daycare, quid pro quo with political supporters, recently resigned Minister receiving a plum job within the Plan Nord project.
We didn't even touch on F-35s, prisons and the gun registry at the federal level...
So on the streets of Montreal, there is a lot of anger at the government.
Anarchopanda shares this dissatisfaction but reminds us to remain true to our values and our ideals. The cultural signature of Montreal is that of outdoor festivities and celebrations. In all this turmoil, a giant costumed panda is a calming presence for both protesters and police officers alike. Everyone loves pandas! Everyone loves hugs from a panda!
So if anyone asks you what a giant costumed panda is doing in a tuition fee protest, simply answer "How could there NOT be a giant Anarchopanda in this protest?"
It's emblematic of the protest specifically and generally, who we aspire to be as Quebecers.