Revolution: the dress rehearsal


Imagine my frustration—reclined in shaded grass next to Redpath Museum, newspaper folded in hand—at being subjected to the croaky, amplified ramblings of some student “leader” exhorting the loyal troops to, say it with me now, “Stand up, fight back!” I couldn’t concentrate and, with no classes in the afternoon, decided to take the agitator’s suggestion. With vaguely martial curses in my head, I stood up to walk home.

At the crossroads, I walked behind the speaker and around his audience of cross-legged comrades—truly a herd of individuals, as they say. The group seemed excited to be sitting in the middle of the street, even though it’s not really a street, and I imagined one guy noting it in the mental diary in which he memorializes his random acts of dissent. 

Despite the fact that they’d ruined my perfectly good reading spot in the shade, I didn’t really mind the protesters. Everyone has extracurricular activities: theirs is apparently an absurdist play about revolution, which never advances beyond dress rehearsal; I like reading the Sunday Book Review. While I think mine perhaps has the advantage of not inflicting itself on thousands of my fellow students via bullhorn, to each his and her own, I say.

Rounding the corner by Macdonald Engineering came a McGill services truck, inching towards the sitters at the intersection. Finally, a confrontation! An opportunity to show that rascal Mendelson that McGill’s students are mad as hell, and are not gonna take it anymore! 

Emboldened, the fiery student leader spurred his fellows onward, to new heights of defiance and obstruction: “C’mon guys, we have to move aside.” And so they did, resuming their positions only after the driver, presumably giggling to himself at least as heartily as I was, had passed through the intersection.

I’d like to think that Heather Munroe-Blum specifically sent that truck to test the protestors’ mettle. She would have known how they’d react.

Especially given the unique social environment at McGill, protesting feels a lot better than, say, not protesting. I look forward to the day when I too can contribute to a meaningful protest that doesn’t wear casuistry and inauthenticity on its sleeve like so many chic armbands. But as I survey the scene right now, I see people who aren’t serious about themselves and ultimately aren’t serious about the placards they hold.

I was baffled by a the McGillDaily headline last week: “Demonstrators barred from Senate.” That’s the takeaway? I had a class in Leacock while they were banging bloody hands on drums (nice pic, dude) and shouting. It was extremely annoying. From what meeting would angry, shouting, protestors not be prohibited entry? From the Daily‘s editorial board meeting? 

Imagine a conservative standing in the Daily‘s doorway thrashing to “Sweet Home Alabama” on a Gibson. I doubt he’d be welcomed in. These activists (or whatever) want to see themselves and have themselves be seen holding placards, marching, being angry, transgressing minor rules—basically all the catchings of rebellion—with none of the commitment. They make way for the truck inching through campus. They make a massive ruckus and disturb classes while trying to enter a formal meeting, and when they are denied entry—OUTRAGE. Who do these adults think they’re dealing with? Somebody call The Hague.

Have your sit-ins, have your protests. But if you can’t respect yourself enough to accept the consequences without immediately surrendering or complaining that the grown-ups are so mean, I really just don’t want to hear it.

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