Thursday, April 13, 2006

Les Heretiques

In every field, there are certain opinions that every member is expected to hold simply by virtue of membership, and if their opinions change, their membership must perforce cease.

Thus the end of atheist priests, pacifist soldiers, honest lawyers and federalist Quebec artists:

Artists have always been in the vanguard for Quebec independence. So when two of the province's artistic luminaries questioned their sovereigntist faith this week, their remarks fell like a bombshell.

Michel Tremblay, the world-acclaimed playwright whose works have helped capture Quebec's soul, declared that he was no longer a separatist. It was as if the Pope were renouncing Catholicism. Mr. Tremblay's words were front-page news.

Then another light of the Quebec stage, Robert Lepage, enjoined that he, too, was "less convinced" about independence. The theatre director even admitted to ambivalence about his Quebec identity, since he considered himself Canadian when he travelled the world.

"When I'm here in Quebec, even in Ottawa, I don't feel Canadian," Mr. Lepage said. "But when I travel abroad, I don't know what happens, I feel that Canada is a reality, and I'm part of it."


The firestorm led a columnist in the daily La Presse to note that it was less taboo for Mr. Tremblay to acknowledge he is a homosexual -- something he'd done decades ago -- than a federalist.

For a group that prides itself on creativity, free expression and its willingness to ├ępater le bourgeois , the artistic community can be as rigid and intolerant of dissenting political opinion within its own ranks as Stalinists.

But think about it. If your role is defined as shocking ordinary sensibilities--the pursuit of truth and beauty being out of fashion these days--expressing or defending them is heretical in itself.

An artist who didn't toe the political line in art school, or amongst his fellow artists, would soon find galleries and stages closed to him and his works.

How many well-known artists can you think of who haven't been reliably leftish in their public political pronouncements lately?

The message is clear: You must shock public sensibilities, but not ours.

Source: Globe and Mail

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