Over my spring break, I spent time in Canada – specifically Montreal.
I was told I would be sightseeing, eating poutine and maybe even learning a little bit of French.
On a side note, a great way to learn French is attempting to translate highway signs as you hurtle past them at 80 m.p.h.
What I was not told is that I would be witness to what Canadian university students call “strike.”
Students from McGill and Concordia University, both in Montreal, arranged a strike for the week of March 18, in order to protest the 75 percent increase in their tuition, which is to occur gradually over the next five years.
The students agreed to skip class, wear red, dance in the streets — and the universities simply complied.
They cancelled classes, and looked on as the striking turned into rioting, resulting in outbreaks of fights and turned over cop cars.
The Canadian women I was staying with were amused by my reaction to the riots.
I was simply flabbergasted.
I tried to imagine Ohio Wesleyan students rioting over the endless amount of tuition increases we face. I tried to imagine how college life would be if we turned over cop cars every time the administration made a change that was not in our favor.
Strikes and riots are, apparently, a rather regular occurrence in Montreal.
Keep in mind that these students were protesting their $8,000 tuition increasing to $14,000 over the next five years – and most of them, if not all, will never see it at its highest.
To those of us in the United States who can pay up to $60,000 dollars a year for our education, this cause seems laughable.
However, despite the seeming triviality of the matter, the action being taken against it is something worth noting.
Would it really be a terrible thing if we stopped being afraid to get angry? Now, keep in mind I am not trying to encourage violence.
I am not even trying to encourage skipping class and rioting in the streets – unless there is something you absolutely feel needs to be noticed. Strikes are characteristic of Europe and places of European influence.
Whenever the governing body does anything the citizens do not like, they immediately publicly react, take to the streets, oftentimes shutting down entire businesses and systems within their communities.
They refuse to work under conditions that they see unfit.
How would our society be different if we refused to deal with the unpleasant conditions placed upon us?
It would seem as if because we, as Americans, know we have it much better than most, we actually take more abuse than others.
We rarely complain, turn tables, or rumble in unrest when things take a turn against us. Is it because we are afraid to do so?
Are we not prideful about our vast amount of freedoms, especially including that of criticizing the government? Have we been scared away from committing acts of sedition?
There are millions of people being oppressed in this country. They quietly suffer while advocacy groups step up and attempt to raise awareness about their plights.
They are not able to riot in the streets, or leave work, or cause a scene – because they oftentimes cannot afford to in one way or another.
What kind of free society makes it virtually impossible for its people to stand up and act out against what is oppressing and oftentimes killing them?
What I am trying to say is that I think Americans have become complacent and it is not always by choice.
This is a problem that goes directly against our founding principles as a nation.
Whether it is because of fear, lethargy, or simply ignorance, I do not know.
But, I think we can all take a note from the students of McGill and Concordia University, who stepped up not even for their own financial welfare, but for the welfare of those who will attend the universities well after them and have to pay the price for the 2012 tuition increase.
I think it is time for people to get angry.