I'm a loser, bebe
Date: Sunday, January 22 2006
From Montcalm to Rene Levesque to Lucien Bouchard, Quebec's historical figures and politicians have known more failure than success. Some French-Canadians writers think this losing record has spilled over into the psyche of the province's male population
Jan. 22, 2006. 03:47 AM
The word "loser," when it is used in English in Quebec, has a much more powerful resonance than the French word "perdant," even though it means the same thing.
It sounds like a buzz saw in the middle of a French sentence: "loo-zzzz-errrr."
Canada's Foreign Affairs minister, Pierre Pettigrew, walked into that buzz saw two months ago when, on the eve of the federal election campaign, he reacted to Andre Boisclair's election as leader of the Parti Quebecois by saying Boisclair's victory speech was that of "the next loser."
It stung, in part, because of an ongoing debate about whether Quebec is hampered by a loser's complex.
By saying that Boisclair had given "le discours du prochain loser," Pettigrew had rubbed salt in a wound that several nationalist Quebec intellectuals and political figures have identified.
"It is true that many of the great politicians in Quebec have a pretty negative balance sheet at the end of their career," he says in an interview. "Obviously, having leaders like that who fail can have consequences in our collective personality."
"We are perpetual losers," Sauve quotes Parizeau as saying. And he recounts a cultural and political vista marked by weak, failed or absent fathers and leaders in Quebec literature, theatre, film, history, government, and even advertising.
And voting for the Bloc Quebecois, a party that can never form a government, is another way for Quebecers not to engage themselves, he says.
Sauve has catalogued the many examples of how the defeat on the Plains of Abraham translated into a neurosis about being losers.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on January 24, 2006]