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June 10, 2004


Le blog de Polyscopique reports the crocodile tears of a union leader fretting about the foundations of a "democratic Québec." Laurent's post demonstrates two profoundly different uses of the term democracy.

In the first month of my life as an undergraduate the student newspaper announced our school fees included a contribution to a political action group based on campus. The charge was voluntary but, thoughtfully, imposed in advance. Anyone who did not wish to support this particular political action group had to go to their offices in the student centre for a refund. To be clear, we are talking about three or four bucks. Not a lot of money and I imagine many people could not be bothered to get their money back. To be clear, I imagine this was precisely the point of imposing a levy in advance.

My personality being remarkably consistent down the years, I trooped off to the office to get my money. Sure it was three or four bucks but it was three or four bucks that had been taken without my permission and applied to an organization whose political philosophy was not known to me. Suffice to say this was not a campus Monarchist Club. I was told I had to read a pamphlet and sign off - literally check boxes - on which of the hundreds of worthy causes pursued by this organization met with my ire and to write an explanation of why I was going to deny them their much needed funds.

The ensuing argument with the director is irritating to relate even ten years later. I will leave it to you to imagine the steely fanatic staring contest... this gig was a full time job for her after all. I refused to debate the finer points of my hatred for bunnies and light that had lead me to wanting my three or four bucks. "But you voted for this!" No I didn't. "Yes you did. The students voted for this fee last year." I am a first year student. I was not at this university last year. "But you voted for it anyway. The students voted for it!"

So spoke the voice of the beehive.

Communists invariably refer to their dictatorships as democracies. To folks like this the will of the people is only ever expressed by the whim of intellectuals and never by the people themselves. I see this as being directly analogous to media studies scholars who offer a sneering denial when I ask them if they ever, like, watch television or cultural studies profs who would not be caught dead eating breakfast at McDonald's. It is astonishing to me that so many intellectuals have such evident contempt for the opinions of the people for whom they claim to speak.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 10, 2004 08:35 AM

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Not surprising at all, if you consider that "cultural studies" exists as more of a "tribal marker", marking off the communicant as special (above the common herd of humanity), rather than as a real science describing the real world. It exists primarily to boost the self-esteem and superiority of the cultural studies majors themselves; any correspondence to the real world is purely coincidental.
If this be conspiracy theory, then make the most of it:)

Posted by: Jim at June 10, 2004 12:38 PM