There is more to say about Reynard and motifs, but all I can send my readers today are pictures of the women in the life of American-born London-based artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (July 10, 1834 – July 17, 1903). I have been sick with migraine for the last two days. The second part of my blog will be posted later.
Three Women: jO, Maud and Beatrice
The two loves of Whistler’s life were Joanna “Jo” Hiffernan (ca. 1843 – after 1903) and Maud Franklin (9 January 1857 – ca. 1941). Joanna had been Whistler’s model and helped him raise his son Charles James Whistler Hanson (1870–1935) the result of an affair with a parlour maid, Louisa Fanny Hanson. Whistler’s mother never learned about her grandson.
In 1888, Whistler married Beatrice (“Trixie”) Godwin (née Beatrix Birnie Philip). She had been his pupil and model. She was the former wife of architect Edward William Godwin. They first lived in Paris but returned to England when she was diagnosed with cancer. “Trixie” posed for Harmony in Red Lamplight, 1886. They lived in the Savoy Hotel until her death in 1896. Trixie was 39 at the moment of her death. Whistler himself died seven years later.
However the woman who dominates Whistler’s life is his mother, born Anna Mathilda McNeill (September 27, 1804 – January 3, 1881). James’ mother had Southern roots. Whistler enjoyed looking upon himself as an “impoverished Southern aristocrat.” James did not want to have been born in Lowell, Massachusetts. Later in life, when he sued John Ruskin for libel, he insisted he was born in Saint Petersburg.
After Whistler settled in England, in the 1860s, she joined him. She did not like her son’s bohemian lifestyle, so accommodations had to be found for “Jo.” Yet, the most famous of Whistler’s painting is the now iconic Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1: The Artist’s Mother (1871–72), a portrait of Whistler’s mother. When she died, he added her name, McNeill, to his.
It seems the human brain works 24/7. At any rate, mine does. So, yesterday morning, when I woke up, I was still tired but Madame Marois’ visit to Switzerland, London and Scotland, in particular, no longer seemed a complete “failure.”
Quebec is open for business
In the short-term, it may seem a failure. She did not receive the support of a higher political figure, but in her London meeting with businessmen, she played down sovereignty. There may not be a referendum during her years as Premier of Quebec, as Québécois and Quebecers will vote when they “are ready,” she says.
Madame Marois holds an MBA (Masters of Business Administration). Consequently, the person who addressed a crowd of businessmen (the term includes women) was credible. In fact, she was a colleague and she speaks English.[i] She could understand the persons she addressed and they could understand her. Quebec was open for business.
Secession: when Quebecers are ready
Madame Marois did not dismiss the Québécois’ “right” to disagree and secede. She said:
‘This, of course, is an internal debate and a decision regarding Quebec independence will be made only when Quebecers are ready.’” (See The Globe and Mail.)
Moreover, our London businessmen were not reading a newspaper. They were hearing a real person and a person with whom one can speak. Not only is Quebec open for business, but business is a subject matter Madame Marois is familiar with. The political party representing Quebec in Ottawa, a party now inactive, is the Bloc Québécois. What if it changed its name? The word “bloc” suggests solidarity, but it also suggests systematic opposition. Such is not the case.
I am certain members of the Bloc Québécois would not like to be compared to American Tea Party naysayers or Republican extremists now in Congress in the United States. Monsieur Gilles Duceppe (born July 22, 1947) having lost the last Federal election in his own riding (circonscription) the Bloc Québécois has a new leader: Daniel Paillé (born April 1, 1950). I am not suggesting that Monsieur Duceppe was a poor leader. I am simply noting that the Bloc has a new leader and that, usually, new leaders bring changes, however small.
Back Courtyard, Cabbies, Montreal, by Paul Caron, c. 1920
Lowering the voting age: maybe one day
As for lowering the voting age, Madame Marois gave the impression that she was postponing such a decision. For one thing, it is unlikely that members of Quebec’s Assemblée nationale(The National Assembly) would vote in favour of this motion. It has already voiced disapproval.
I should think that supporting the students earned Madame Marois many votes. But onlookers who knew that Quebec could not afford free tuition were not impressed. Many sensed that their leader was not respectful of the students and other voters. She, in fact, cultivated “entitlement.” The students are about to learn the truth. How will they react?
It would be my opinion that, in last year’s kerfuffle, Madame Marois hurt herself, her party and the students. For members of her cabinet, Pierre Duchesne especially, the Quebec Government’s Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology,[iii] last summer’s events are an albatross. However, in London,
“[w]hen asked whether she would like to drop the age for a referendum on sovereignty, [Madame Marois] replied: “Until now that is not the case, but maybe one day.” (See The Globe and Mail.)
Scotland is not Quebec
Madame Marois also stated that Scotland was not Quebec. It’s not. Yet, First Minister Alex Salmond saw a smiling face and a well-dressed, articulate, flesh and bloodQuébécoise. If the gift is what I think it is, an Inuit sculpture, Mr Salmond is no doubt very happy. Madame Marois may not have been in his agenda, but Quebec can no longer be an abstraction to him.
Travel broadens the mind
Moreover, “les voyages forment la jeunesse” (Michel de Montaigne [February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592]).[i]Travel broadens the mind. Madame Marois has now been abroad as the Premier of one of Canada’s ten provinces. This is not trivial. I would like to presume that she has become a more cosmopolitan figure, if only to a modest degree. The image she projected was not one of rigidity.
Michel de Montaigne was of the opinion that minds had to be brushed one against the other (frotter et limer notre cervelle [brain] contre celle d’autrui) and he wrote that the first step in educating children was to take them to neighbouring countries where other languages were spoken.
What I wrote on 30 January 2013 remains valid. Madame Marois was not listed in Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond‘s diary. He saw her between two scheduled events. Everyone knows. But he saw her and spoke with her.
La Symphonie du Marais
In the short-term, Madame Marois’ visit to Edinburgh may seem a failure. She would like to lower the voting age, but failed to enlist support from a greater leader. However, in the long-term, her traveling to Davos, London and Edinburgh may prove a beneficial endeavour. The leader of Québec’s Parti Québécois, an indépendantiste party, traveled to the United Kingdom.
The manner in which Premier Marois used students during the spring and summer of 2012 leaves to be desired and her wish to lower the voting age reveals fear and is criticized. Yet, in London, she spoke in a conciliatory manner: “but maybe one day.” It could be, therefore, that she has mellowed. Such would be my hope.
However, Marois is facing a moment of truth on Quebec soil. One cannot give what one does not possess and run up a police bill one’s government can ill afford. Will Pierre Duchesne, an accomplished politician and journalist, be able to contain the damage or are we about to face more disorderly demonstrations and/ or another General Election?
In 2012, voters survived seven months of shenanigans, thinking, perhaps, as did the students, that Madame Marois was telling the truth. This time, I doubt very much that Quebec’s National Assembly would allow seven months of disorderly and, as of 11 May 2012, the day Bill 78 was passed, unlawful conduct.
I should also mention that the Clarity Act, passed in 2000, is currently in the news, eliciting memorable phrases: one cannot be “half pregnant,” says Justin Trudeau. The ClarityAct protects Canadian unity and it makes sense. Secession should be negotiated. For instance, one does not simply walk out on a spouse or “conjoint-e.” There exist separation and divorce laws. The same is now true of Confederation. It seems English-speaking Canadians do not want to lose their French-speaking population. How very nice!
In Canada, many high schools (secondary education) and universities have debating societies and enter into debating contests. I have often been a “judge” in debating contests. They are very exciting. A group of people has to support views it opposes as well as views it supports and one has to respect rules of conduct. There are two judges. I remember one debate that started deteriorating. Both judges stood up at the same time and called off the debate. A group of debaters was clearly unruly.
Many fables illustrate the danger of acting without first reflecting on the consequences. Would that members of the National Rifle Association (NRF) could see the current consequences of bearing arms! Without a firearm, one cannot shoot anyone else. The streets are safer and so are innocent little children.
As for the Second Amendment, it was/ is about security at a time in history when settlers were travelling westward before law enforcement mechanisms could guarantee their security. As I wrote in former posts, the US has long acquired policemen, armed forces and the National Guard (Homeland Security).
The Second Amendment being about security, bearing arms is now a violation of the obsolete Second Amendment. Firearms, military firearms at that, are being used causing the death of children and every day Americans die by gun. Consequently the “security of a free state” now depends on very strict legislation in the area of gun-control.
My last posts were about Quebec, but looking at Quebec was a helpful exercise. I came to the conclusion that the students motive for going on strike and flooding the streets to protest had little to do with the increase in tuition fee: $325.00 a year over a five-year period. The current tuition free is $2,168.00. The real motive was entitlement or, perhaps better worded, self-entitlement.
In clinical psychology and psychiatry, an unrealistic, exaggerated, or rigidly held sense of entitlement may be considered a symptom of narcissistic personality disorder, seen in those who “because of early frustrations…arrogate to themselves the right to demand lifelong reimbursement from fate.”[i]
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was led to a pool of water by Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, saw his own reflection in the water and could no longer stop looking at himself, which caused his death.
We now leave Canada to travel to its neighbouring country, the United States.
It would be my opinion that members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) are also led by a sense of entitlement, not clinical, but nevertheless a group form of entitlement. They resemble the students who disrupted Montreal because of an increase in tuition fees of $325.00 annually from 2012 to 2017.
Moreover, in linguistics, the term fossilization is used to describe a person who, in the process of learning a second language, is suddenly detained and can go no further.
The same can be true of persons who cannot understand that times have changed and that firearms no longer ensure but endanger the “security of a free state.” They live in a “good guy” vs “bad guy” society, and must have a firearm at the ready because they are the “good guy” who may be shot by the “bad guy.”
Such individuals cannot be brought to reason. They live in their own world. To change them, one would require a magic wand, which, for instance, could be — this is awful — the actual accidental killing of one of their children by another one of their children: fratricide or sororicide (the killing of a sister). But even then…
In “the best of all possible worlds”[ii] (Candide, by Voltaire), it would be easy to convince an individual to surrender his weapon so that human lives are saved. However, for members of the National Rifle Association, it is not about saving lives. It is about entitlement, a “right” that has ceased to be a right, a fossil, even by virtue of the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment is about the “the security of a free state.” There has long been a “well regulated militia,” so the security of a free state is no longer for a “private force” to ensure.
The Second Amendment reads:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” (Second Amendment)
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state [in the absence of a well regulated militia], the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” (Second Amendment)
It is all beyond the realm of reason. Yet the time has come to put an end to a deadly form of entitlement: “we had this right and will not let go.” There comes a point when one simply steps away from the past. But if one won’t, the recourses are the will of the people and the rule of law. The NRA may be powerful, but a group of four million and a half individuals remains a minority.