Catherine Dorion, Antigone and “my heart tells me”
You have certainly seen (I hope!) The film Antigone by Sophie Deraspe with the powerful Nahéma Ricci in the title role. A punchy film that has also shone in all the major festivals in the world. What marks the character of Antigone is his desire, or rather, his search for the absolute in a gray and complex world. Her fight transcends her and resounds in her entourage, who suddenly sees in her the strong symbol of a revolt against the functioning of the system.
For me, Catherine Dorion embodies the same kind of symbol.
Don’t get me wrong, I consider Catherine to be a much more complex and nuanced being than a character in Greek mythology, but I would like to approach, from another perspective, the narrative that is often told to us about her.
To do this, I allow myself to borrow from Deraspe the edifying slogan of its Antigone: “My heart tells me”.
My heart tells me that the territory of speech in Quebec is sadly inoperative. Public debates, when they are not trivial, have become the site of permanent anger. In several traditional media, acerbic chronicles abound and mostly follow the same line of thought, governed by a sprawling empire. The aggressiveness that emerges exacerbates the tensions on social networks. We insult each other, we threaten each other, we no longer listen to ourselves, we impose our truth. (I admit, however, to be one of those who are sometimes contaminated by ambient anger and drift towards the abyssal pit of the who-better-better.)
In the National Assembly, we talk for nothing, we read scripts, we practice protocol dodging full time: enough to remind us of Kafkaesque nonsense. And what shocks the power in place is the impressive skill of Catherine Dorion to crack the show.
My heart tells me that our identity has frozen in a memory of what we think we have already been. In a spectacular moment of blindness to the society he heads, Prime Minister Legault said during his visit to California that all French Canadians were Catholic. Of course, that is the subject of many derisions: “tokébac icitte”, “OK boomer”, etc. It’s funny for a while, then it isn’t anymore. The joke wears out and becomes the symptom of a sad reality: the generational divide is widening and the dialogue is crumbling all the more.
Catherine, she invites to dialogue. She has the courage to testify to our difficulty in dealing with complex matters. She faces the worst and calls it loud and clear, demanding clear answers. However, we don’t bother to listen to it. It is better to criticize your physique, your clothes and your tone than to think and answer the confronting questions it poses. Pierre Karl Péladeau did not answer his question; he is accused of “performing”. François Paradis omits for a year to establish dress rules for the Assembly; we tear each other apart on his hoodie. The Minister of Culture skates for two hours instead of offering an answer, which could have stood in one line; it is still Catherine who pays the price.
She is rebellious, provocative, perhaps. She is certainly unconventional. She does not hesitate to respond to the blows she receives. She is also aware of the media altering filter and seeks to divert it. So she chooses, helped by her team, to speak directly to people, to explain, to denounce. And, of course, it bothers.
But beyond all that we can see or hear about her, she does it, her job as an MP. In her riding, she campaigns for public schools, defends heritage buildings, supports public transportation and works actively to feed the growing number of downtown residents. She does not hesitate to take to the streets in support of taxis, to defend the press and journalists and to crack the third link.
As for the sovereignty project of Québec solidaire, it is not a fantasy for her, but the union of a territory and a people. And the people, she often says, “It is not of the world all the same, but of the world all together.”
It is time to tell Catherine and the whole solidarity team that they are not alone and that in these uncertain times of climate crisis and terminal capitalism, their voice is essential in public discourse and political.
But whether or not we agree with all of this, I sincerely wish us to restore a healthy space for dialogue for the coming decade. I personally commit to it.