“Liberate us from the Liberals”: A play in one act

“Liberate us from the Liberals”

A play in one act

A shallow light reveals four characters. The light brightens whenever a character speaks. To the far left is Lex the Neoliberal, an older, middle aged man, wearing a suit; to the right of Lex is Betty Baby Boomer, a middle aged woman sitting on a recliner; to right of Betty is Our Hero, a young, twenty something woman; finally, at the far right, dressed all in black with a bandana covering his face is Black Block Guy. Guy carries a casserole and bangs it whenever he speaks.

Lex: Ladies and Gentleman, these are difficult economic times. As such it is only fair that we raise tuition rates. Presently, we are spending more than any other province on our students and as such they enjoy the lowest tuition in the country. All we are asking is for our students to pay what every average Canadian is paying, which, of course, is only fair.

Guy: Mais non! Pas de tout! We shouldn’t have to pay for anything! That’s what taxes are for! It’s the government’s job to take care of us from cradle to the grave! Vive le Quebec libre!

Betty: I can’t believe this! What a bunch of entitled brats! Why do they think they can get away with paying for nothing? It’s only right they pay what’s fair.

Our Hero: Wait! Who determines what’s fair? The Quebec government is going to raise tuition fees 75% over the next five years, which means that tuition costs will have risen 127% in ten years. How is it fair that new students will have to pay record costs that are over twice the rate of inflation? In 1978, a student only needed to work full-time at minimum wage for four weeks to afford tuition costs. Now, it’s almost seven weeks, and in 2015, after the increases, it’ll be eight weeks. And that only includes tuition, not housing, which has also gone up in comparison to inflation, and the costs of books, also on the increase. Never have students had to pay so much for an education. How is that fair?

Betty: Well, there are student loans…

Lex: Yes, that is correct. The financial assistance program will help offset these costs.

Our Hero: Not it won’t! The financial assistance program only entrenches us further in debt. When they raised tuition costs in the UK, students had to work more hours in order to address their debt problems, which meant cutting more classes and studying less. These tuition hikes will deter young, middle class and less affluent citizens from attending university out of fear of personal debt. All we want is to join the workforce, yet we are being saddled with colossal debt before we are even allowed to contribute to the economy.

Guy: Oui! Oui! Society is the problem. The government is trying to make us into their slaves. Down with capitalism! Down with society! Down with the government!

Lex: Do you see, Ladies and Gentleman, what we have to deal with? The students are unwilling to speak with us rationally. We must therefore take the appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the public.

Betty: What a bunch of entitled brats! They’re like the Greeks of Canada!

Our Hero: How can you say that? The baby boomer generation benefited from rock-bottom tuition and housing rates. Now, with the economy in a recession because you didn’t understand debt, we’re expected to foot the bill. As recently as 1988, 87% of a university’s income came from the public sector, 7.5% from the private sector, and the remainder was the individual. By 2015, the public sector’s contribution will have shrunk to 63.4%, and the private sector’s and individual’s will have risen to 19.7% and 16.9%, respectively. At our current rate, we are moving towards the American model of post-secondary education; a model that greater entrenches personal debt. As neoliberalism grows, government is increasingly trying to privatize education. However, while they treat education as a commodity, they insist that raising the price of said commodity won’t decrease its demand. This doesn’t make any sense. What’s more, whenever we try to debate, the government deals in bad faith. They refuse to budge on their position, and instead of attempting to negotiate with students, they try to curtail our right to protest.

Guy: Oui! Oui! Oui! That is right! We must protest! We must break glass and burn cars!

Lex: But this is precisely the measure you protestors and students resort to! How are we supposed to negotiate with people like this?

Our Hero [addressing Guy]: Why do you act like this? You only weaken our position. Why not stick to facts and argument when we already have the higher ground? If we continue to deconstruct their points, we will win the day.

Guy: Never! [Takes out Molotov cocktail and lighter]

Betty: Oh no!

Our Hero: Wait! [She walks over to Guy and is now under his light] Stop this! Violence will not help. [She lifts her arm towards him but her hand goes straight throw him. Perplexed, she tries again. Guy shimmers and then vanishes] He was a hologram? Did you have something to do with this? [She asks Lex]

Lex: …

Betty: I don’t understand.

Our Hero: Don’t you see? Guy was a fabrication of the main stream media trying to de-legitimize the protest movement. Instead of focusing on the content of the argument, they’re trying to stereotype protestors and students as greedy, violent anarchists.

Betty:  That doesn’t make any sense…

Our Hero: Of course it does! The tuition hikes benefit private interests because now they can position themselves as the major contributors to universities, thus seizing control of their mandate. Universities can now be increasingly geared towards research and development – with a special focus on private interests and agendas – instead of instruction, lecturing, and developing critical thinking skills. Our neoliberal, capitalist discourse perpetuates the myth that raising tuition costs will improve the quality of education when it actually reduces universities as accessories to the market, breaking from universities’ public service culture.

Betty: What are you suggesting? That tuition should be free?

Lex: The idea is preposterous! We are in debt and this would only perpetuate the problem. STUDENTS MUST PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE!

Our Hero: But it isn’t so preposterous. Quebec is in the red because of its own egregious policies. In 2007 alone, the government denied itself $950 million in revenues by granting households tax relief. By comparison, providing free education would cost only $700 million. If we funded education through taxation, we could have a crop of students leaving school debt free, immediately prepared to contribute to the economy, thus creating a sustainable cycle. Instead, by increasing tuition, the government neglects any future socioeconomic problems caused by crippling personal debt.

Betty: Well…that doesn’t sound too bad, actually.

Lex: I regret to inform you that this exchange has exceeded the allotted word limit for intellectual discussion and must be stopped immediately.

Our Hero: What are you talking about?

Lex: It says so in the law we passed this morning. No intellectual discussion may pass one thousand words. I’m afraid that you must now be placed under arrest. You will face potential jail time and your student union will be folded. Good day.

[Police now storm to the stage and surround Our Hero]

Our Hero: How can you do this? You have to help me! [speaking to Betty] You see the strength in my argument! This is not right!

Betty: I’m sorry. It is the law. But you did get your message across and I think that’s enough.

[Our Hero is dragged off by cops in riot gear. Betty turns around and the back of the stage is turned into a television screen. On it, police are shown being assailed by protestors wearing black masks. The news anchor describes how Our Hero, a dangerous political radical was arrested and taken into custody.]

The End

*      *      *

Phew. That one’s been in the pipes for over a month now. The idea for this piece came to me while I reading up on all the protests were going on in Quebec. However, I had recently finished my thesis and the joy of writing had dried up. Also, this was a style of writing that I hadn’t tried before and wasn’t up to the task.  While at this point the protests are no longer the center of attention it was when I came up with the idea,  I figured I’d go ahead and write it anyway since it was pretty much fully-formed in my mind. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to writing it, I feel motivated once more and hopefully updates will coming more regularly, and at a higher quality then I’ve been writing lately.

Pretty much all the information that Our Hero presents came from this pdf.

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~ by braddunne on July 2, 2012.

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