The authorship of the Regina Cæli is unknown. It was composed in the twelfth century and was in Franciscan use after Compline a century later. According to Wikipedia, “legend has it that St Gregory the Great heard angels chanting the first three lines one Easter morning in Rome, while following barefoot in a great religious procession of the icon of the Virgin painted by Luke the Evangelist. He was thereupon inspired to add the fourth line.” (See Regina Cæli, Wikipedia.)
The Regina Cæli is one of the four Antiphons or Antiphonies (Anthems in the Anglican Church) dedicated to Mary. It is sung during the Easter season.
This may seem strange, but our fundamental texts are not limited to sacred texts, such as the Bible and the Quran. The Talmud and the Torah are also to be taken into consideration as are the great Epic poems or Epics: the SumerianEpic of Gilgamesh, Homer’s Odyssey, the Iliad, also attributed to Homer (Greek), Virgil’s (Latin) Greco-LatinAeneid and so many other texts. Rome borrowed Greece’s mythology, just as Christianity situated its feasts according to the seasons or to the varying degree of light and darkness the days possessed, which had been the case from time immemorial in a “pagan” world. Interestingly, Christians entered into a ritualistic darkness yesterday, but will burn candles beginning late Saturday night. Easter is a feast of lights, among Christians, as is Hanukka, in Rabbinic Judaism. Last week, Jews celebrated Passover, a feast closely related to the Christian Easter: Pâques. The First Council of Nicæa (325 CE) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the March equinox. (See Easter, Wikipedia)
Fables and fairy tales are also fundamental texts, but belong to another strand, a worldly strand. India is the birthplace of the Panchatantra, Pañcatantra, which features animals. It is a text we cannot ignore. Nor can we sweep away its Persian version, Kalīlah wa-Dimnah There is a Middle Persian version of the Panchatantra, written in 570 CE, by Borzūya.That versionhas been lost, but Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa was ordered to write the Persian and ultimately Arabic version of the Panchatantra, entitled Kalīlah wa-Dimnah and written in 750 CE. This version has come down to us.
As well, many genres are its progeny or developed at the same time as the Panchatantra. The most notable are the Buddhist Jātaka tales. Buddhism advocates moral wisdom and asceticism, butits Jātaka tales teach a wordly form of wisdom. Personally, I do not think that one precludes the other. They are simply different of a multilayered reality.
Jātakatales are about the former lives of Buddha and could be compared to the formulaic “Once upon a time” of fairy tales, an hypnotizing magic carpet that takes the reader or listener to the past. Most, if not all, cultures have a Golden Age, a Paradise, a Promised Land… Humans give themselves a glorious past and look upon themselves as the descendants of giants. This glorious past is mostly fictional, but it has shaped, to a lesser or greater extent, the collective mind of various civilizations and has therefore attained a form of permanence and truth, a poetical truth. In a sense, we are the authors of these texts.
The Panchatantra as nītiśāstra
The Panchatantra is a nītiśāstra.[ii] In other words, it contains advice for the “wise” conduct of a prince’s life. In his 1924 translation, from the Sanskrit, of the Panchatantra stories, Franklin Edgerton writes that:
The so-called ‘morals’ of the stories have no bearing on morality; they are unmoral, and often immoral. They glorify shrewdness and practical wisdom, in the affairs of life, and especially of politics, of government.[iii]
Shrewdness and practical wisdom are not necessarily Machiavellian. In Machiavelli‘s world, the end may justify the means, but the third son of the miller (Puss in Boots) is unlikely to find himself ruling a corrupt city-state. Moreover, all humans have to deal with other humans, beginning with members of their family, and may find excellent advice in such books as the Panchatantra and Kalīlahwa-Dimnah, its Arabic version.
A nītiśāstra could be described as a political science textbook and, as we know, Machiavelli is on that reading list. Baldassare Castiglione‘s Il Cortegiano (1528, begun in 1508) would be its courtly counterpart and very civilized. It is salon literature. However Reynard the Fox is a beast counterpart of Nicolló Machiavelli‘s Prince, distributed in 1513 and published in 1532. In short, we have salons, but we also have parliaments, or other forms of government and we have the religious and the secular. For a list of books and treatises on the education of the prince, see Wikipedia’s Mirrors for Princes.
With respect to secularism, I should mention the fabliaux, brought to France from the Orient by returning crusaders. These “fables” and characterized by their frequently scatological obscenity. And the same is true, to a lesser extent, of certain Reynard stories. Yet, the Roman de Renartand fabliaux are available as children’s literature. As for the Panchatantra, it may advocate worldly wisdom, but it is not offensive. Nor is Ramsay Wood‘s translation of Kalīlahwa-Dimnah. My readers who know French may wish to visit the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF),Roman de Renart Earlier versions of Puss in Boots would not have been acceptable to précieuses, no more than fabliaux, but Perrault‘s Puss in Boots and other fairy tales were extremely popular in salons and have become the reference.
(Please click on the images to enlarge them.)
— Kalīlah wa-Dimna
At any rate, the Panchatantra was extremely popular. It was, in fact, a medieval bestseller, which points to a significant degree of moral acceptability, a secular acceptability Edgerton writes that:
“…there are recorded over two hundred different versions known to exist in more than fifty languages, and three-fourths of these languages are extra-Indian. As early as the eleventh century this work reached Europe, and before 1600 it existed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, German, English, Old Slavonic, Czech, and perhaps other Slavonic languages. Its range has extended from Java to Iceland… [In India,] it has been worked over and over again, expanded, abstracted, turned into verse, retold in prose, translated into medieval and modern vernaculars, and retranslated into Sanskrit. And most of the stories contained in it have “gone down” into the folklore of the story-loving Hindus, whence they reappear in the collections of oral tales gathered by modern students of folk-stories.” (Quoted in Wikipedia’s Panchatantraentry.)
In the Introduction to his first volume of Fables (1668), La Fontaine compares fables to parables. Given their worldliness, the lessons of fables are not the lessons of parables, but both are stories illustrating a moral. Fables inform or/and delight, in which they are consistent with the Horatian ideals.
“The aim of the poet is to inform or delight, or to combine together, in what he says, both pleasure and applicability to life. In instructing, be brief in what you say in order that your readers may grasp it quickly and retain it faithfully. Superfluous words simply spill out when the mind is already full. Fiction invented in order to please should remain close to reality.”
I marvel at the degree to which East meets West on so many levels, i.e. from the lofty spiritual down to a cruder reality and I am enormously thankful to the scholars who have translated and/or studied the masterpieces of the East, scholars such asSir William Jones (philologist),Sir Charles WilkinsKH, FRS, and, in particular,Sir James George FrazerFRS, FRSE, FBA, OM(1 January 1854 – 7 May 1941) whoseGolden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion(1906 – 1915) has often guided me. I also marvel at the many ways in which the past informs the present. The fables of antiquity are the exempla (plural ofexemplum)of the Middle Ages, its proverbs, its sermons, and we still read animal stories rooted in the Panchatantra.
[i]Vishnu Sharma is considered the author of the Panchatantra, but there are doubts as to the authorship of Panchatantra. Doubts also linger as to the year of its publication. According to some scholars, it dates back to c 300 BC, but other scholars claim otherwise. It could date back to 1200 BC.
[ii]Nītiśāstra: Nītican be roughly translated as “the wise conduct of life.” A śāstra is a “technical or scientific treatise.” (See Panchatantra, Wikipedia.)
[iii] (George Allen and Unwin, London 1965 ) p. 13. Edgerton’s edition and translation of the Panchatantra is an “Edition for the General Reader.” (Quoted in Wikipedia’s Panchatantraentry.)
The Dalai Lama reads and tells a Jātaka tale (March 2011)
I also discovered that Wikipedia and other entries on fairy tales and fables are far more numerous and substantial then was the case when I first wrote about Puss in Boots and Beauty and the Beast.
First, I will write at greater length on the difference between fairy tales and fables a subject with which you are probably familiar. Second, I will make a few comments about Puss in Boots.
Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories, Gutenberg [EBook # 19993]
Bruno Bettelheim on fairy tales and fables
In his book, Bettelheim suggests that fairy tales are helpful to unhappy children because characters such as Cinderella have a fairy godmother who saves them. Cinderella has no recourse. Her father’s second wife has transformed her into a servant and one of Cinderella’s tasks is to clean up the chimney. “Cinder” means “ash” (cendre). Fortunately, the reader knows that her good looks, albeit hidden, will free Cinderella from her stepmother, her father’s second wife. Cinderella is an archetypal rags-to-riches fairy tale. So is Puss in Boots.
In most fairy tales, beauty is a major asset, even in the case of Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast is an exceptional fairy tale because Beauty falls in love with Beast when he is Beast, which would be comforting to a child who feels ugly. By falling in love with Beast, Beauty returns Beast to his former beautiful princely self. Beauty sees beauty beneath unsightly appearances, which makes her into admirable character, but in the end she marries a beautiful prince. The moral of that fairy tale, for there is a moral, is that one should look beyond appearances. But next to the moral is a forthcoming princely wedding.
Let us return to Cinderella. Alone, it would be difficult for Cinderella to escape her sorry fate. She has sought her father’s help, but he does not want to upset his new wife who prefers to look after her own two daughters. However, a fairy godmother comes to Cinderella’s rescue, a familiar device in fairy tales. So, given that a helpless Cinderella is saved by her fairy godmother, it would be Dr Bettelheim’s opinion that fairy tales benefit children, a notion that has been extended to adults. According to Dr Bettelheim, fairy tales provide optimism, whereas fables are pessimistic. Such may indeed be the case.
In Puss in Boots, revisited, I listed characteristics of fairy tales in general and Puss in Boots in particular. What follows is therefore somewhat repetitive.
Fairy tales have a happy ending, which is comforting. In this respect, Puss in Boots is very much a fairy tale;
The intervention of a fairy godmother, who is a magician, is also a characteristic of fairy tales. There is no fairy godmother in Puss in Boots;
Beauty plays a role in fairy tales, including Charles Perrault‘s Puss in Boots; Puss asks his master to disrobe, tells him to throw himself into the water and hides the clothes. As a result, the King who happens to be passing by, gives him appropriate clothes. Using a ruse is not a common device in fairy tales;
The use of magic or the supernatural is common in fairy tales. Puss is a magical or magic cat, but he is not a magician (see Puss in Boots, Wikipedia);
The number three is also common in fairy tales. There are three main steps to Puss’ master’s rise to power: the land, the river, and crafty acquisition of the Ogre’s castle, which is typical of fairy tales;
Fairy tales and fables may be retold. New versions are called retellings, a perfectly acceptable practice. There are several versions of Puss in Boots. The version I am using is based on Charles Perrault’sPuss in Boots and does not differ substantially from the EBook provided by the Project Gutenberg, Mark’s version. In earlier versions of Puss in Boots the cat is a female;
However, the father of fairy tales, including Puss in Boots, is the above-mentioned Charles Perrault (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703), a wealthy member of the French bourgeoisie who had worked at court (Louis XIV) and whose niece, Marie-Jeanne L’Héritier, had a salon. Perrault was familiar with salonniers and salonnières. In 1697, aged 67, Perrault published Histoires ou contes du temps passé, also known as Contes de ma mère l’Oye:Stories or Fairy Tales from Past Times with Morals or Mother Goose Tales. Note that the title includes a “with Morals.”
However, the fables we read to our children and which are read by our children are Æsop’s fables. Among translators of Æsopica into English, Sir Roger L’Estrange is the most colourful individuals. He published his Fables of Æsop, and other Eminent Mythologists: with Morals and Reflexions, in 1692. In the French language, many Æsopic fables were written by Jean de La Fontaine‘s (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695). However, there have been many fabulists. Click on Fable to see a list of writers of fables.
Puss in Boots
Puss in Boots is a fairy tale written by Charles Perrault‘s (12 January 1628 – 16 May 1703). Yet it has two morals:
« […] L’industrie et le savoir-faire valent mieux que des biens acquis »: “Hard work and ingenuity are worth more than inherited [acquis: acquired] goods.” And
« […] C’est que l’habit, la mine et la jeunesse, pour inspirer de la tendresse, n’en sont pas des moyens toujours indifférents ». Clothes, good looks and youth are means of inspiring love or “mere appearances and civility can seduce women and society.”[ii]
However, these morals are not very “moralistic.” One hopes, nevertheless, that the third son of the miller has learned that Puss’ ingenuity has taken him, the third son, from rags to riches and that he was lucky to be well dressed, good-looking and young. So, although a parallel may be drawn between the education of the prince, the earliest vocation of fables, and Machiavelli‘s education of his prince, Machiavelli and his prince inhabit the ruthless world of the factious city-states of the future Italy. Besides, the lessons are presented without the “obliqueness” that characterizes speaking animals. Animals speak and do not speak.
Æsop’s fables are brief lessons wrapped in a story in which most actors are animals, which could also be said of Jean de La Fontaine‘s (8 July 1621 – 13 April 1695) retelling of Æsopic fables (Volume One, 1668) and, to a lesser extent, of his retellings of a wider range of fables, including Fables by Bidpai (Volume Two, 1768). (See Panchatantra, Wikipedia.)
Animal stories also teach ways of getting oneself out of difficulty. In one Reynard the Fox story, Reynard plays dead (“faire le mort”) to his benefit. We do not know every version of Puss in Boots, but Marc Soriano,[iii] the author of Les Contes de Perrault, culture savante et traditions populaires, writes that in one retelling Puss also plays dead. This is an old motif. (See Stith Thompson [March 7, 1885 – January 13, 1976] and Aarne–Thompson classification system, a classification by motif, and Vladimir Propp‘s [29 April 1895 – 22 August 1970] Morphology of the Folktale, a structuralist classification by narratives and functions.
As for Puss, and all animals in beast literature, he is anthromorphic. Talking animals are humans in disguise and when humans are disguised as cats, they often serve as magic wands, not because they are magicians but because of their ingenuity and, ironically, their eloquence. So Puss is the denizen of a fairy tale, yet his main toosl are the tools foxes use: ruse and barat, Reynard’s talkativeness. He possesses within himself the resources that make him a fairy godmother and an agent of change.
Not that Puss is “children’s literature’s” only magical cats. Fairyland has other magical cats. However, with magical cats, we are faced with a paradox. Puss’ ingenuity places him above the human beings he uses to raise his master to the highest social rank. In fact, Puss civilizes the third son of the miller in order to take him from rags to riches, which is extremely ironic. He could therefore be considered the master. Puss in Boots is entitled Le Chat botté ou le Maître chat, Puss in Boots or the Master Cat. We have entered the topsy-turvy world of beast literature. Puss has made himself a human being.
Therefore, with Puss in Boots, we are in fairyland, but also find ourselves in the upside-down universe of speaking animals. Fred Marcellino‘s last illustration shows two little mice looking at a portrait of Puss, fully and beautifully dressed. Not only has he proven an invaluable inheritance, but in transforming his master into the King’s son-in-law, he has educated the prince and has also metamorphosed himself into little less than an aristocrat.
[i] Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, (Vintage Books, New York, 1989 [1976; 1975]).
[ii] Jack Zipes, ed., The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
[iii] Marc Soriano, Les Contes de Perrault, culture savante et traditions populaires (Paris: Gallimard, collection “Tel”, 1968), p. 176.
We are revisiting a post. It was first published on 9 November 2011 and it is about Puss in Boots, a “fairy tale” that may well be as old as the world, so to speak. A large number of fairy tales have come down to us either orally (the oral tradition) or in writing (the learned tradition). In fact, fairy tales and fables often weave their way in and out of both traditions, as do fables and they may be “retold.” So we do not now how old Puss in Boots is, and there are several versions of the tale.
As you probably noted, I have used quotation marks on both sides of fairy tale. The reason for my doing so will become clear as you read my humble blog. However, let me add a few comments.
Fairy tales have conventions: a few examples
Fairy tales have a happy ending and such is the case with Puss in Boots.
The use of magic is a characteristic of fairy tales. There is magic in Puss in Boots. The Ogre can transform himself;
A fairy godmother uses magic to take a Cinderella from rags to riches. There is no fairy godmother in Puss in Boots;
Most animals in fairy tales, are toads who return to their original princely self if certain conditions – usually three – are met. For instance, in Charles Perrault‘s Cinderella, a fairy godmother “turned a pumpkin into a golden carriage, mice into horses, a rat into a coachman, and lizards into footmen (see Cinderella, Wikipedia);”
In fact, animals are the denizens of fables, not fairy tales. But Puss in Boots is a fairy tale and it features a masterful cat in a genre considered “optimistic” compared to fables. Fables would be “pessimistic” because they are a story where animals are used to teach children a lesson.
The illustrations I used in my post dated 9 November 2011 are by Fred Marcellino‘s (October 25, 1939-July 12, 2001). Marcellino’s illustrations of Puss in Boots are delightful. To see other illustrations by Marcellino, see Images, Google. Unfortunately unlike medieval monks, modern illustrators seldom integrate image and text, nor can they reproduce the luminosity of illuminations, but Marcellino was, within the limits of modernity, an extraordinary illustrator. He truly deserved the Caldecott Medal for “the most distinguished picture book for children.” The illustrations of his Puss in Boots are beautifully.
Domenico Scarlatti (26 October 1685 – 23 July 1757) wrote a “Cat’s Fugue,” L.499/K. 30 (K for Ralph Kirkpatrick) which I enjoy playing, but in my post on Puss in Boots, I have used a Sonata by Scarlatti – one of his 555 sonatas – because it is beautifully played. It is Scarlatti’s Sonata L.366/K.1 (L for Alessandro Longo) played on the piano by Ivo Pogorelić (born 20 October 1958).
However, at the foot of this post, I have embedded a lovely recording of Scarlatti’s Cat’s Fugue, a sonata. As for Ivo Pogorelić, he is not in good health. So he goes to bed when the sun sets and rises at five-thirty in the morning.
I will stop here so you may read the above and my revised article. Next we will see the role a cat such as Puss plays in a fairy tale and ponder Bruno Bettelheim’s conclusions in The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. I will not contradict Dr Bettelheim, that would be silly. However I will use his conclusions, i.e. optimism (fairy tales) vs pessimism (fables), as a theoretical framework.
I had a cataract removed this week. The operation was successful, but I haven’t been able to post blogs for a few days and must limit the number of hours I spend in front of a computer. However, I will attempt to post a revised blog. In the meantime, I thought I should send a little update on Quebec.
I have news to relay. Madame Marois, Quebec’s premier, has lost considerable support because she has imposed further taxation on Québécois: $300.00, whatever one’s financial status. She is also planning to send back to work people who are disabled or live on welfare. Obtaining financial help from the Quebec government is very difficult, despite the taxes Quebec residents have to pay to “two levels of government.” See Pauline Marois’ Offensive. Individuals receiving benefits have to prove they cannot work to the extent that people who should be receiving disability benefits do not. Besides, where would they find employment? Is anyone interested in investing in a Quebec led by Madame Marois’ Parti Québécois? Moreover, people are leaving the province.
a new leader for Quebec’s Liberal Party
More importantly, the Liberal Party in Quebec has chosen a new leader, Dr Philippe Couillard. It was not a huge victory, but Monsieur Couillard seems a good choice as leader of Quebec’s federalist Liberal Party. Moreover, if an election were called, which could be the case, the Parti Québécois would not get sufficient votes. This would help the Liberals. Madame Marois leads a minority government.
In brief conversations with persons I met during my trips to the hospital, I heard many express considerable disappointment with Madame Marois’ government. They know she obtained votes by giving students the impression that, as Quebec’s Premier, she would not increase tuition fees and that students may in fact receive a tuition-free education, including those who are impervious to instruction. I hope they also know that if tuition fees will rise by a mere $70.00 annually, it is, to a large extent, at an unacceptable cost to the elderly and to the needy.
Philippe Couillard would Sign the patriated constitution
The truly good news is that, if elected to the Premiership of Quebec, Monsieur Couillard would probably sign the Patriated Constitution, honouring the contract Quebec entered into when Canada became a confederation: the British North America Act, 1867. For Quebeckers, the priority is employment. It is unfortunate that they should be unable to see that the creation of jobs depends, to a very large extent, on Quebec’s place among Canada’s ten provinces. There has to be stability in Quebec.
I am forwarding a little more information on the Book of Kells: calligraphy, the influence of the past, its history, the Chi Rho monogram, etc.
The Book of Columba
First, I should indicate that the Book of Kells isalso called The Book of Columba, which presupposes that there was a Columba. Columba means “dove,” and there was a St Columba (7 December 521 – 9 June 597). Although the Book of Kells is Irish, according to Britannica, “[i]t is probable that the illumination was begun in the late 8th century at the Irish monastery on the Scottish island of Iona and that after a Viking raid the book was taken to the monastery of Kells in County Meath.”[i]
The script used by the calligrapher(s) of the Book of Kells is called Insular Script. It developed in Ireland in the 7th century and was spread to England by the Hiberno-Scottish mission. The Insular Script is a Majuscule Script because only upper case letters are used. In the history of calligraphy, the upper case, the majuscule, precedes the use of lower case letters. (See Insular Script, Wikipedia.)
As used above, the word Gothic refers to the Germanic tribes that invaded the Roman Empire. It does not refer to medieval Gothic art and architecture, which followed Romanesque art and architecture and precedes Renaissance art and architecture (middle of the 15th century). There is a Gothic font. (See Gothic, Wikipedia)
(please click on smaller images to enlarge them)
Kells, f 309r, Insular Majuscule
Abstract Art: The Celtic Knot
Also important is the abstract art that characterizes Celtic manuscripts. The main motif is the Celtic knot or Eternal knot. (See Celtic knot, Wikipedia.) However, the Book of Kells features representational art, especially fantasized animals. At the bottom of this post, there is a link to a video showing how a Celtic knot is made.
Book of Kells, Celtic Knot
Book of Kells, Historiated Initial
Book of Kells, Monster
There is much more to tell about the Book of Kells, but I believe it is best to stop here or we may not see the forest for the trees.
It is also called the Book of Columba;
It features the Chi Rho symbol;
It uses Insular Script, Majuscule;
Images such as the Celtic Knot are abstract, but some are representational and often depict rather fanciful animals.
I have quoted Wikipedia abundantly. Photo credit: Wikipedia (all). For images contained in the Books of Kells, please click on Book of Kells: images Google.
Book of Kells, folio 34r containing theChi Rho monogram
I am forwarding a blog I wrote on 18 November 2011. It is about the Book ofKells, a Gospel Book. In order to read it you need simply click on the link below. In order to see the entire book, please click on the link that will take you to Trinity College Library, in Dublin. The Book of Kells is also called the Book of Columba, which means the Book of the Dove and is the name of a beatified monk, St Columba. The calligraphy is magnificent. It is one of the great masterpieces of Western art, and Irish.
You are now familiar with illuminated manuscripts. However I have provided more information.
I was delighted that so many of you read my last post and left a “like.” The tax I wrote about is mostly trivial, but it is a step in the wrong direction. Moreover, in an article posted below, Madame Marois claims that separation from Canada is an emergency, which is another step in the wrong direction. She bemoans the fact Quebecers have “two levels of government” and states that the solution is independence from Canada. Allow me to quote Madame Marois:
“Marois told a weekend meeting of Parti Quebecois delegates that it is “very important to explain” the benefits of making Quebec a country, which include the province making its own decisions and ending the duplication of two levels of government.” (Feb. 11, 2013)
To my knowledge, it happened the other way around. Quebec, not Canada, created a government within a government (i.e. a factious government). For instance, Quebec failed to sign the patriated constitution (1982). That gesture alone can serve as proof that the government of Quebec had initiated a separation from Canada and had done so without first obtaining from the people of Quebec a mandate allowing it to start negotiating the terms of a new relationship with Ottawa. There had been a referendum, but indépendantistes had not obtained sufficient votes. So, in 1982, the government of Quebec acted as if Quebec had separated from Canada, when such was not the case.
Ironically, in the 1960s, at the time the Quiet Revolution took place, Quebecers were lulled into thinking they would inhabit a welfare state, but they are now paying taxes to “two levels of government” because its own government put the cart before the horse. It acted prematurely. Moreover, because Quebec did not sign the patriated Constitution, there are limitations on the validity of Quebec’s health-insurance card. When I lived outside Quebec, my health-insurance card was valid from coast to coast.
“The latest outbreak of separatist grievance-mongering comes in the form of a new PQ-funded report that claims Ottawa is allowing Anglophone provinces to commit “soft ethnocide” on French speakers around the country. “We’re reminding people of the evolution of Canada when we systematically eliminated French at the start of the 20th century,” said the lead author this week.” (Feb. 5, 2013)
Regarding the “soft ethnocide” Madame Marois is imputing to Ottawa, need I remind Quebec’s Premier that, traditionally, it has been difficult for French-speaking Canadians to separate language from religion. They had been taught that language and religion were inextricably linked. So the reason why French-speaking Canadians living outside Quebec could not receive an education in French has little to do with resistance on the part of English-speaking Canadians and Ottawa. It has to do with the fact that provincial governments do not fund denominational schools. Such schools are private schools.
I saw my very own father rebuked and labelled a “communist,” because it was acceptable to him to separate language and religion, or faith and state. Fortunately, matters changed when Pierre Elliott Trudeau became Prime Minister. It is now possible for French-speaking Canadians to be educated in French outside Quebec and English-speaking students are eager to enter French-immersion programs. In other words, there is no “soft ethnocide” of French-speaking Canadians residing outside Quebec, at least not yet. But there may be an ethnocide if Quebec continues to act recklessly.
Let me address this matter once again. In Quebec, beginning with the Quiet Revolution, the government wanted to give students whose parents had not attended a university a chance to do so. Students were therefore spared a measure of screening. It is relatively easy for Quebec students to enter university. Besides, their tuition fees are half the amount Canadian students pay outside Quebec. The Quebec government cannot afford what the Parti Québécois peddled so Madame Marois would defeat Jean Charest’s federalist government. If a referendum were called in the near future, students would not support indépendance. As for other Québécois and Quebeckers, especially the elderly, they would remember that they are footing the bill so fees paid by students would not rise. Someone has to foot the bill and, among those who do, too many are living below the poverty line.
The Quiet Revolution took place fifty years ago. May I suggest therefore that the time may have come for Quebec universities to put into place more selective entrance requirements. May I also suggest that it is entirely possible for intelligent and hard-working students to obtain a university degree even if their parents have not attended a university.
My father is an intellectual, but my parents did not attend university. Yet, on the basis of an entrance examination, I earned myself a free education. Furthermore, when I entered graduate school, I did so at the doctoral level and by invitation. In my opinion, if a student’s performance warrants financial help, financial help should be available, as it was for me.
About Quebec universities
I took courses in musicology at a Quebec English-language university. The department of music had three full-time professors and twenty-two chargés de cours (part-time teachers). It needed part-time teachers because students were learning to play different instruments, but three vs twenty-two seemed too wide a discrepancy. Besides, other departments also hired more part-time teachers than full-time teachers. As a result, many Quebec university teachers have left Quebec and teach in other provinces. That is a loss for Quebec. In fact that is not-so-soft ethnocide perpetrated by the Quebec government.
It seems to me that in the interest of peace, growth, and the pursuit of happiness, Madame Marois and her Parti Québécois, should revisit their decision to separate from Canada. In particularly, they should assign members of the Office québécois de la languefrançaise, OQLF to more positive tasks. The time has come for a more significant number of Québécois to speak their language correctly. Québécois do have a territory and that territory is their culture. Asking restaurant owners to replace WC by toilettes on the door to a restaurant’s facilities is petty in the utmost and it threatens French-speaking Canadians living outside Quebec.
For forty years, I lived in complete harmony with my English-speaking neighbours as well as my English-speaking colleagues. Yes, I was overworked, which put a premature end to my career as a university teacher, but no one ever forced me to speak English or got upset if I used French words. On the contrary!
Moreover, the time has also come for Québécois to be taught the history of their country. They need to know that French-speaking Canadians were not harmed by Britain. In 1763, France could no longer afford New France so it chose to retain Guadeloupe as a colony rather than New France. However, under the new régime, French-speaking Canadians kept their farms, seigneuries, religion and their language. Moreover, in 1774, the Quebec Act put French-speaking Canadians on the same footing as English-speaking Canadians.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with living in a bilingual or trilingual country. But it is very wrong to foment dissent and unnecessary conflicts. Madame Marois is calling for an offensive, but I am calling for all Canadians to respect one another. I am calling for peace, growth and the pursuit of happiness.
A friend is doing my income tax report. In a telephone conversation, he told me that Madame Marois, Quebec‘s Premier, was demanding that tax payers provide her government with a new tax for medical care and medication. Such a tax did not exist in Quebec a year ago and it does not exist outside Quebec. To my knowledge, no one was told about this new tax. In my case, it will amount to a minimum of $300.00.
How will persons living on welfare pay this amount of money? Their monthly income is $600.00 and barely pays the rent. As well, how will the disabled survive, particularly men? If a man is disabled but was married at some point in his life, his former wife receives half of his disability benefits. So, he must live on $300.00 a month. This decision was one of Madame Marois’ victories. She was then courting the feminists. Finally, what about the elderly many of whom are working well into their seventies and early eighties, if they can find employment.
The Economy: 2008 & its aftermath
In fact, what about me? My pension fund suffered because of George W. Bush’s totally useless wars and it is not growing, not in this economy. So my current income is a combination of Old Age Security benefits and what little money I withdraw from my pension fund. I can let it grow until I am seventy-one, which is what I must do if it is to provide me with a decent living when I am older. Fortunately, I own my apartment and have accumulated good furniture, pots and pans, dishes, kitchen gadgets, books. My income is therefore adequate, but…
From House to House
As you probably know, I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, since February 1976 when I had a flu which took away much of my energy. I could teach despite this illness, provided I was assigned a reasonable workload. However, the Chair of my department worked me out of my position by asking me to teach a new course: Animals in Literature, i.e. World Literature. I wish I could have said ‘no,’ but I couldn’t. He had lost his temper before causing me to faint and I was afraid it would happen again. Later, when I started feeling extremely tired, he would not allow me to leave the classroom and the results were catastrophic. I told that story in a post entitled From House to House, but I am trying not to remember.
Back to Madame Marois
To my knowledge the above changes were not announced. Everything was done behind closed doors. But I have now learned how Madame Marois will not increase tuition fees. Quebecers pay higher taxes than other Canadians, 15% instead of 10% of their income, and, beginning now, they must pay an extra tax.
The poor in Quebec are not the students who get a nearly free education compared to Canadians living in provinces other than Quebec. Besides, the students have a future. The poor in Quebec are the elderly, those who were not members of a powerful syndicate and those who did not have a position that provided fringe benefits, such as a pension plan. Among the elderly, some find jobs, but indépendantisme has taken its toll. Quebec could be a very rich province, but who wants to invest in a province that threatens to separate from the rest of Canada.
At any rate, the students are now paying $25.00 more than they did last year or will pay, next year, $25.00 more than they do at the moment. The money will be taken from tax payers and, among them, needy persons and the elderly.
The truth is as follows. I wondered why Quebec’s mighty unions, les syndicats, had not supported the students in their last bid for a tuition-free education. The reason is that the Unions needed the students to get rid of veteran political figure Jean Charest‘s Liberal and federalist government. This goal was attained on 4 September 2012, when Madame Marois was elected to the premiership of Quebec.
My dear readers, I wish I could write more today. We have one more bestiary to look at and there are so many fascinating subjects to discuss, but everything has to wait until tomorrow.