People in Montreal are understandably weary of student protests that have gone on for more than 100 days.
But after walking and talking with marchers for more than two hours late last week, I came away with the sense that this is both a richer and more nuanced discussion than I had understood.
Yes, people are painting their faces and banging pots and pans. But they’re also asking big questions about their society. What values matter? Education? Health care? The right to gather in protest without government oversight?
And when people do see certain public services as essential, as an integral part of any moral community, who should pay for them?
I wonder sometimes at the lack of a similar “conversation” in New York, where we’re making decisions (selling off public nursing homes, raising student tuitions, laying off teachers, and so on) without a big-picture debate over where it’s all taking us, and what our society will look like when we’re done.
I’m not suggesting that New Yorkers need to take to the streets. I’m not even suggesting that the students in Montreal are “right” in their views. A lot of smart people in Quebec think their government is too big, too unaffordable.
But I do think it makes sense to have a fundamental debate over how our our communities should look five, ten, twenty years down the road.
As always, your comments welcome.