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The Cardus Daily

Wisdom Cries Out in the Streets

Brian Dijkema  |  July 4, 2012  |  Economy, Education, Justice

Photo: Peter Stockland

Photo: Peter Stockland

I’m reasonably certain that when we read in scripture, “Out in the open, wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the streets”, we don’t think of the young lady pictured here. Most times we think of wisdom as modest, quiet, and clothed in a flowing gown. Even if you don’t picture her that way, I’m reasonably certain that you don’t think of wisdom wearing a cheap plastic hula skirt, a bare midriff, a red feather boa, and a party kazoo in her mouth.

But despite the cognitive and visual dissonance, the young lady above—whether consciously or not, and even fractionally—does exhibit wisdom on the streets. And, insofar as she is participating in that great mob of disaffected Quebec youth, there might be more wisdom in these street protests than one might imagine at first glance.

For those, like me, who have trouble interpreting the Queen’s French on her placard, allow me to pass along the translation given to me by a Quebecois friend (who also happened to snap the photo). It reads:

“Work, consume, and shut your yap. I can’t take it anymore.”

While one might interpret these words as yet another example of youth who want their future handed to them without actually having to work for it, there is something deeper at play in her placard. Something wise, biblical even.

Quebec youth live in one of the most secular places in the country. God has been thrown out of the public conversation in Quebec like a preacher who goes to a bar at midnight to preach temperance. But, people being people, a new god must be found. As Doug Farrow notes in Convivium, the strongest contender for that new god is the state. But Quebec youth know the new priests—those who work in the temple of the National Assembly—are as corrupt as the former priests they hate so much. They want something more than what their governments are giving them.

Much has been made of the socialist and anarchist tones of these protestors, but the youth have one key insight: it’s all meaningless. The models of the good life presented to them have been found wanting. They have lived the life of the teacher:

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun . . .

Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly.

What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done? Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.”

Is there any more apt description of this sentiment than “Work, consume, shut your yap. I can’t take it anymore!”?

Sadly, the one thing that might be of service to the students has been thrown out of the bar. Perhaps it’s time to tell the bouncers to let him back in.

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