Please Advise! Burgess Thanks Marois for Crushing Progressive Politics

Advisor Steve gets a lesson, courtesy of Quebec's values charter.

By Steve Burgess 19 Sep 2013 | TheTyee.ca

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Read his previous articles.

[Editor's note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a Ph.D in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Greetings Citizen Burgess!

I, Pauline Marois, First Citizen of Quebec, bring good news! Thanks to my proposed Charter of Quebec Values, you can slip the surly bonds of religious dogma and breathe the air of égalité. A ban on all religious symbols and garb in public service positions is a key step to the glorious future Quebec where all will hold hands and sing non-denominational songs in French, without subtitles. Throw off your chains, citizen -- this will change everything!

Now go forth and spread the new gospel. (Is that le mot juste?)

Yours in secular liberty,

Pauline Marois

Dear Premier Marois,

Stop. I'm begging you. This is too painful. It is just as you say -- your new charter is rocking my world. All of my fundamental beliefs are being challenged, all of my comfortable dogmas overturned. Thanks to your new charter, I don't know what to think anymore.

For instance, I used to think that the political left was progressive. I considered it the natural home of the broadminded, the tolerant, the inclusive -- the big tent that welcomes everyone, recognizing and respecting the inherent dignity of all cultures. Now I see that my outmoded beliefs have not kept up with modern times. In Quebec, the left is now the party of reaction. Like a political Creationist, I am faced with a new theory of left-wing evolution -- except in reverse. The stink raised by your proposal has spread across the nation. Your charter is a veritable Origin of Feces.

This bold challenge to my core beliefs goes beyond politics. As an agnostic, I believed that all dogma is delusion. My philosophy was best summed up by Albert Camus: "Trust those who seek the truth and mistrust those who find it." I have long argued against the petrified certainty of scripture in favour of the open spirit of enquiry. Yet thanks to your proposal, I now find myself focused on preserving the rights of religious believers. A commitment to liberty now requires a public defence of religious practice. You are messing with my head, premier. Knock it off.

Your proposed charter claims to deal fairly with all religions by banning all religious symbols in public service. This is a weaselly dodge, since there is no Christian doctrine mandating a personal display of crosses, or stigmata, or cute little Jesus fish earrings. Meanwhile Sikhs, some Jews, and many Muslims are required to dress in particular ways. The practical effect of the charter would be to prevent those and other groups from teaching in public schools or joining the civil service.

Quebec has long been a political topsy-turvy land thanks to the marriage of the political left and the sovereignty movement. Progressive politics in Quebec has been channelled toward fierce protection of the Quebecois identity against the encroachment of English. Thus in la belle province the progressives become the conservatives. But you, Madame Marois, have made Jacques "Money and the Ethnic Vote" Parizeau look like a Peace Corps volunteer.

Consider, premier, this awe-inspiring fact: your current position on the political spectrum places you well to the right of the Miss America Pageant. Those people who took to Twitter following the recent victory of Indian-American Nina Davuluri, howling that the new Miss America is an Arab terrorist? They're your people. Those are your new best pals. The good news is that, thanks to the typical tweeting mouth-breather's weak grasp of both nationality and geography, you can probably convince them to vote in the next Quebec referendum.

Nod to Big Putin

Admittedly, there is plenty of historical precedent for your plan. Russia's Tsar Nicholas I issued an edict in 1845 banning most traditional Jewish garb. Today Tsar Putin is still on the cutting edge of prescriptive social legislation with his anti-gay campaign, and look how well it's working for him. Vladimir is Big Putin' these days, a major international player who can stymie President Barack Obama and wrap the United Nations around his finger. This winter he'll be proudly hosting the Olympics. Pretty sweet.

And yet, Mme. Marois, your mentor has taken a different approach to the religious question. The same recent Russian law that punishes overt homosexuality also decrees penalties for "hurting the feelings" of religious people. That might seem to be the opposite of your proposal. But relax. Either way we're just talking about interfering with the basic freedom of religious expression. You say poutine, I say Stolichnaya. Same diff.

So I think I see where you're going with all this, premier. Infringing on rights can be a ticket to the political big time. But where does that leave disillusioned lefties like me? Events in Quebec have left my familiar world view in shambles. Religious dogma is freedom; progressive politics is reactionary. You have left me befuddled.

There's only one thing to do. I must rid myself of the all clothing and symbols of outmoded belief. Off with my peace symbol medallion. No more tie-dye shirts. Delete my U2 playlist. Change my Al Gore screensaver. Out goes my Che Guevara poster, my Che Guevara mug, my Che Guevara cat-scratching post, and my Bart Simpson-as-Che Guevara ball cap that says "Eat my shorts, comrade." I must expunge all visible displays of leftism. Goodbye, pinko gang colours -- henceforth I will be clad in the bland garb of neutrality.

Perhaps my new style will lead to a fresh approach. In the glorious future, I may come to consider each issue on its own merits without regard to political cliques and ideological solidarity. If so, I will certainly know whom to thank. Merci, Marois, merci!  [Tyee]

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